Friday, March 14, 2008

On The Road - Funda, The Second

Which is a random roundup of the peregrinations including weddings, campuses, fundamental problems, poultry farms, Satyajit Ray, and how we were almost duffilled

It is a very bad thing to have 200+ blogs in your feed reader, and to go away for 10 days. Had to wade through industrial quantities of posts to clear up the queue somewhat, and the whole "science" category is still waiting...

While we're at it, random facts about the trip. Circuit was Hyderabad-Vizag-Madras-Bangalore-Hyderabad.

In Vizag, went to one wedding and one wedding reception. The wedding was huge. Groom was a hostel mate, and bride happened to be daughter of a Member of Parliament. The entire playground of a Zilla Parishad high school had been commandeered, partitioned in two, and what looked like the whole constituency was invited to the party.

There was a live band ("the Young Stars from downtown Amadalavalasa, Srikakulam Dt."), CCTV cameras monitoring the hordes, fireworks (some exploding dangerously close to the car park), and screens showing videos of the engagement ceremony. Somehow made way through the throng, blessed happy couple, gorged, and scooted out.

The reception was altogether more low key, walking distance from home, and relatively more peaceful and quieter. Alas, had to scoot out early thanks to being self-assigned driver to 2 of the spunkiest little girls in existence. The bride claims that she has no memory of our blessings! Cheating...

5k run on the bestestestest stretch of runnable road in the world (i.e. the esplanade at Vizag), 2 cricket matches, and we were off to Madras on the Guwahati-Bangalore Exp. The train was crawling with people from the northeast. Almost felt apologetic about having to disturb the community atmosphere on board. Nevertheless, bravely soldiered onto upper berth, and got some work done (i.e. played Tetris until the battery ran out on the laptop).

Rajahmundhry happened in the evening, and we stood at the open compartment door, ogling at the splendiferous Godavari, feeling very superior to the northeasties, seeing as it is the longest rail bridge in India and all. Then remembered that where these folks come from, they have a river that is so wide that it's probably impossible to build a bridge across it. At this point, Ludwig saw the approach of Kovvuru and discreetly fell silent.

Madras was a blur of meetings and greetings, including some quality time in ye olde campus. Hung out at the swank Coffee Day that has sprung up next to the old library, and was scandalized by a couple of students coochie-cooing in the middle of the afternoon. Since when? My God, this is the campus where our class of 360 had 20 girls (and that was a record high), where the general algorithm was "boy treats, boy treats, boy treats, boy retreats". What's with the PDA?!! Bah.

The Bangalore train trip was supremely interesting, because we were set upon by one gentleman, who happens to be the head priest at the Andal temple in Srivilliputhur. Said gentleman cornered us as we stood near the door per usual, and launched into a long diatribe against various ills in the world. Much of it was in Kameswaran (of Michael Madana Kama Rajan fame) lingo, and somewhat unparseable.

From Bangalore, scooted by bus to Puvidham where Gaseous Beyondus teaches nowadays. Fundastic place, photos follow. Did some walking, birding, astronomy 101, eating, and lazing about. Some fundamental problems were discussed, including:

* How to teach a child about why negative multiplied by negative is a positive? A related question was why the hell do we need negative numbers? No satisfactory answers.

* What is the fundamental difference between conventional (allopathic) medicine and complementary and alternative medicine (homeo, siddha etc.)? Does it matter?

* Will olives grow in Dharmapuri?

* What are the key differences between amphibians and reptiles?

And so on... As you can see, we were very jobless.

Drove back to Bangalore, met the pink person for an altogether too brief coffee and discussion on chicken and egg problems, and municipal porcine management, borrowed and watched "Snatch" and "Farewell, My Concubine", celebrated the sibling's 30th b'day by having a suitable sombre wake, watched "Aranyer Din Ratri" the next day, and caught the Kacheguda Express back home.

The side upper berth effectively prevented all sleep, so in the middle of the night when the train stopped in some forsaken town, we got off and were stretching our legs. Thanks to iPod booming in ear canal, didn't hear the train whistle, didn't hear the rattle of couplings being jolted out of stasis, and the next thing we knew, the bloody thing was on its way. A very small sprint and nimble, gazelle-ish leap later, we were thankfully back in the confines of S1. Reminded very forcefully of Paul Theroux's "The Great Railway Bazaar" where a certain sad old individual named Duffill is stranded on some obscure Italian railway platform as the Orient Express buggers off, thereby leading to the word duffilled entering the vocabulary.

Back in Hyderabad at a ghoulish 5:30 a.m., and promptly fell back into our cheapskate ways by taking the MMTS from Kacheguda to Begumpet and walking home, instead of taking an auto. What to do, public transport ki jai!

Rebooted home. Defrosted fridge. Got the whole dosai batter thing going. And here we are...

“A beginning is a time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct”
- Bene Gesserit coda, "Dune", Frank Herber


kbpm said...

oh ludwig, welcome to the real world and smell the coffee in coffee day dude. comfy couches. diro sanctioned c(r)appuccino. what did you expect? self and family cast major gloom on patrons in that place. brought down the cool quotient..were ushered out pretty fast. if its PDA they deserve, thats what they get, I told myself, for next time...

Negative numbers are required so we can then have imaginary numbers (as square roots of neg. nos.) and move from the too simplistic number line to the 2-D XY plane.

rest in next. public transport rocks. beats riding in an ambulance at least. which counts as part of my adventures of the past week.

Anonymous said...

thanks for making it like my areas of interest range from animal husbandry to poultry.

What is the fundamental difference between conventional (allopathic) medicine and complementary and alternative medicine (homeo, siddha etc.)?

what about the beautiful alchemy of the latter vs. the asepticism of the former.

da blackmamba

Ludwig said...

> if its PDA they deserve,
> thats what they get, I
> told myself, for next time...

this is all very fine for you to say, seeing as you didn't do so badly with your time on campus! but what happens to us hapless sambar-thayir saadam blokes?

> Negative numbers are
> required so we can then
> have imaginary numbers

ah, i wasn't being clear. i can see why someone involved in more abstruse maths needs negative numbers. they are like that only.

our question was more around why a child needs to know about negative numbers. think it through, try imagining what it is like to explain it to a school goer, and the problems will soon crop up. the -ve * -ve = +ve is especially vexed. mathematics begins at home, try it on the monstar!

> beats riding in an ambulance
> at least.

yechh. hope this was something minor like someone sucking lignite into their mouths through a pipette or whatever it is they do. and hope this has nothing whatsoever to do with home.


> thanks for making it like my
> areas of interest range from
> animal husbandry to poultry.

not a problem, glad to be of service. you forgot urban waste management. it surely adds a dimension to you that no one had ever suspected before, neh?

> what about the beautiful
> alchemy of the latter vs.
> the asepticism of the former.

hmm... once again, we have been muddled in our original description of the debate (blame it on KachegudaExpress-lag).

so here's sort of the gist of the conversation. my contention was that alternative medicine is about "correlation", i.e. you try the medicine, do the exercise, swallow the fish, whatever... and it helps you. perhaps there are 100s of 1000s of data points to show that these therapies "work". but there is no attempt within the systems, to go beyond correlation (i.e. it worked x million times) and get into causation (i.e. why did it work?).

with the caveat that the causative (is that a word?) explanation has to be "scientific" (in the usual sense of the word), i.e. you can't say that, "the exercise works because it wakes up a serpent that lives in the base of your spine and it starts climbing into your head, mopping up impurities on the way." or whatever.

there's no denying that the treatment works in many cases, but i would be a lot happier figuring out why exactly it works. so if eating xyz herbs mixed with pqr metals cures you, i am hopeful that we can analyze the xyz and the pqr and perhaps extract/synthesize the essential agents and that should work just as well. my understanding is that many practitioners of alternative medicine will tell you that this approach is just not possible or relevant with their system, because of some "holistic" fundas, and i think i have some problems with that.

this is not to say that evidence-based medicine (or "conventional" medicine, the pill popping, cut-paste variety) always has answers or is infallible, just the fundamental approach is more palatable (to me).

we also talked about the (yet unexplained) effect that the brain possibly has on healing, i.e. the placebo effect. maybe we heal better simply when we think we're healing better, and the alternative medicines offer you that hope that you're trying something different that has a better chance of working. but if this could ever be conclusively demonstrated, that would put an end to all of it, because once you know that what you're trying is as good as popping sugar pills, won't that knowledge negate the effect? which is why it might be important for the alternative systems to fight scientific/reductionist analyses! :PP

anyway, along those lines. basic funda (mine) being that alternative medicine systems are possibly on solid ground as far as correlation goes, but evidence-based medicine goes beyond correlation into causation type areas.

all very muddled, but it was like that!

That Man Keynes is Procrastinating said...


talking about woo-check out this hilarious article by Achal Prabhala-- a friend of mine.

kbpm said...

now i was just kidding about imaginary numbers because in passing i encountered them in class after a loooong time. i hear you tho somehow math is maintained as too abstract a thing (although that is something I loved about it, the logical algorithmic way of doing things and not worrying a damn about what is meant.. :-) :-))

ambulance - oh some crap. nothing to worry. at work. led in part to my rants on parents. you are, of course, as yet exempt from my ire in that direction. as far as i can tell, your parents are exempt too.

kbpm said...

and yes, i did not do badly on campus, despite the absence of such locations. my butt is still sore from those culverts, comfy couches would have been so much more, err, comfortable. but, just so you know, i did not play the field. some of my compatriots did. it sounded like fun but after all, i am as thayir saadam as they come, at the end of the day. how about paruppu podi saadam by the way. there was a time in grad school when the tradition was PS-TS (P=Podi S=Saadam T=Thayir) in my fuppton village apartment.

Anonymous said...

send me a note with your mailing address and I will return it with some more nice fundaes ram dot tekumalla at gmail dot com

csm said...

nice work lud.
am envious.

Ludwig said...

[tmk] thank ye kindly. the man has written well. why does he have aunts who "...came from Bombay and Delhi and Vishakapatnam..."? strange are links in the world.

[kbpm] i hear ya, re: imaginary numbers, and rant. rant was timely and well written.

> i did not play the field.
> some of my compatriots did.

did we even go to the same college? such a sheltered (and wasted) life...

> i am as thayir saadam as
> they come

don't let anybody, anybody tell you that you're thayir saadam, kenny. you're so not TS.

PS-TS days in fuppton village were something. later, there even used to be this thing called dhideer that you could mix in boiling water, not allow it to precipitate, and get a passable kozhambu...

[ramtek] wot?

[csm] it was mostly work, da. there have been better, and more jobless trips!

Chimera said...

i almost forgot how good it is to read your blog...
'am coming back this time via google reader. ;)

Ludwig said...

[chimera] welcome back, stranger :) and now that you're Google Reader enabled, you will never be lost :P