Monday, April 14, 2014

Sheep, Crows and Certainty

Overheard at Mudchute Farm – a boy (about four years old) thoughtfully surveying the sheepfold:
I am ninety-nine percent sure I like sheep.
My childhood views about sheep are not recorded, but today my mother discovered, in the pages of an old diary, this unambiguous statement scrawled when I was two or three years old:

It says (in Bangla) We do not love crows. 'Crow' is misspelt and the letterforms are far from perfect, but as you can see from this example, I was a kid who was seldom < 100% sure about things.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Ex-God

This post is the second in a short series about religion and my grandmother(s).

When my brother and I were kids, if our mother scolded us, our grandmother (our mother's mother) would tell her to go easy because – so our grandmother said – children younger than five were like gods, in the sense that they could not (knowingly) do any wrong.

Here is an old photo of my brother on his fifth birthday.

He is crying because he is no longer a god, and he is worried that his sins will now catch up with him.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

2 + 2 = 5

When I was in first year of college, a senior who was preparing for a competitive exam asked me to help him with his maths. For each hour of tuition he would treat me to biryani, which I considered an excellent deal.

In our second lesson, I explained how to solve quadratic equations by factoring by inspection.

Then I derived for him the general solution for ax2 + bx + c = 0, the quadratic formula which in Indian textbooks is often called Sridhar Acharya's formula after the 9th century Indian mathematician who described a general method for solving quadratic equations:

I advised my friend that if a and c are integers with relatively few factors, factoring by inspection is quicker, so he should try it first before using the quadratic formula. He rejected this suggestion with an argument of such staggering irrationality and misplaced patriotic pride, that I could think of nothing to say in reply: "When there is a perfectly good method discovered by an Indian, why should I use another method?"

The incident came to mind because I noticed an amusing photo on the Guardian (online edition) front page today:
The teacher(?) is factoring a quadratic polynomial 2x2 + 5x + 2, but the expression in the second line is incorrect: (2x + 2)(x + 1) actually equals 2x2 + 4x + 2. The second line should read (2x + 1)(x + 2).

And yeah, there also should be a full-stop after 'charts'.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shunbun no Hi: Llamas

Elsewhere on this blog I have extolled the virtues of the Isle of Dogs. But that list had one glaring omission: it made no mention of the llamas of Mudchute Farm. For this must surely be one of the top reasons for wanting to live in the area: when you're on the Isle of Dogs, no matter how bad things are, you can always take comfort from the fact that you are never more than 2 km from a llama.

* * *

The polite way of saying in the showring that a llama is overweight or fat.
Overconditioned! I am so going to use that about humans.

* * *

Last year I wrote:
If, as is not unlikely, Web 3.0 is created to allow people to share pictures of llamas, my llama photo will get its place in the sun.
Web 3.0 is still in the works, but while we wait, here is a llama photo taken by Sujaan at Mudchute Farm:

Monday, March 17, 2014


My first attempt at a timelapse video of natural phenomena: clouds over my patio on Saturday morning. Click on the photo below for the video (0:18).

The video is composed of stills taken at 15-second intervals played at 15 fps, for an effective speed of 225×. Next time, I'll pick a shorter interval (and hopefully, more interesting clouds and scenery).

Several aircraft appear in the video, some only for the space of a single frame (less than 67 milliseconds). Still you can spot them if you look real carefully, e.g. near the end there are two specks in the 1st quadrant and a white streak in the 3rd quadrant.