Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Succulent Bowl

For the last two years, we have mostly grown vegetables on our balcony garden – tomatoes, courgettes* and onions, for example. However, this year we are diversifying into flowers, herbs and – heaven help us – decorative plants. (But perhaps this is not such a radical shift; after all, the first ever plant I ever bought on was a decorative palm.)

The new additions include five small succulents...

...which we used to make a succulent bowl.

We chose an arrangement that we thought looks aesthetically pleasing (for now). I will be interested to see how it develops as the plants grow and change their shape.

*Five pedantry points if you were about to point out that tomatoes and courgettes are technically fruits.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Teenage Album Art

My first audio CD, if memory serves me right, was Def Leppard's Euphoria, purchased soon after its release in 1999. Before that, barring three or four secondhand LPs, my music collection was entirely in the form of audio cassettes. And about 90 percent of that was blank cassettes, recorded over with music I had borrowed from Dipanjan.

Dipanjan was my classmate. His brother played in a band, and as a result he had an enviable music collection. This was a time when music stores in Calcutta mostly stocked two kinds of albums: recent releases, and much older music (Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Nat King Cole). Dipanjan lent me the first Beatles album I ever listened to (Rubber Soul – to this day my favourite Beatles album) and introduced me to many of my favourite artists and bands.

I would only keep a cassette for three or four days before returning it and borrowing another. In that time, I had to decide which songs, if any, I wanted to record and keep. Blank cassettes were cheaper than pre-recorded cassettes but still fairly expensive, so only a few albums got the honour of being recorded in their entirety. Mostly, I made mixtapes, and for some of the mixtapes, I made album covers. My father recently scanned two of them for me.

I was 13 or 14 when I made the first one. We were studying metamorphic rocks in Geography, and I thought I had made an exceptionally clever pun. The Gothic watercolour drawing might suggest a heavy metal mixtape, but I only went for that look because I thought listening to heavy metal was cool. In reality, the album is filled with the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Bon Jovi. The second, made a year or two later, was named after a Pink Floyd song.

While I was still in my wannabe metalhead phase, I heard the phrase acid rock somewhere and assumed it was a particularly extreme version of hard rock. Accordingly, I asked Dipanjan if he had any acid rock albums, and Dipanjan, in his infinite wisdom, gave me The Worst of Jefferson Airplane. The album name and cover did nothing to dispel my illusions about acid rock, but when I put it on, it was all folksy ballads and gentle psychedelia. I loved it. The Worst of Jefferson Airplane is one of the albums I recorded in its entirety.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Shunbun no Hi: Bees

For the past two years I've been an active member of our college beekeeping society. Actually, 'active' may be putting it mildly: I talk about bees incessantly, to the point of alienating my friends and family. Somewhat surprisingly, bees haven't featured prominently on this blog, save for this six-year-old post, written when I had no beekeeping experience whatsoever.

Our hives are on the rooftop of one of the campus buildings, smack in the middle of London. The first time we went up to check on them this year was on January 24. Luke, a professional beekeeper was just saying shouldn't expect much: he had not seen any active bees so far that year. Much to our surprise, our bees were buzzing about like it was springtime – a sign of the good health of the colony.

Happy equinox, everyone!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Class Consciousness

Yesterday on the train back from Cambridge I overheard some interesting conversations between a small boy and his grandfather.
Boy (noticing the first class section of the compartment, just behind him): So there's a first class and a second class? Like the Titanic?
Boy: That hill would be great for cheese rolling.
Grandfather: What's cheese rolling?
Boy: It's a sport!
Grandfather: Like, on PS3?
Boy: No, in real life!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tenderness is Relative

From the defendants' statement in Hughes v The Ester C Company (317 F.R.D. 333), a 2016 case before the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York:
At the tender age of 35, Mr. Weir deems himself an "expert" in all of the following fields: statistical analysis, regression analysis, conjoint analysis, contingent valuation, business economics, business accounting, survey research, consumer behavior, consumer marketing, and some areas of business finance.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Talking to Yourself

One of the many things I like about learning a new language is the unexpected social and cultural insights. Japanese for example has different levels of politeness: verbs and even nouns change their form depending on whether you're speaking to, say, your friend, a stranger or your boss.

A conversation from my intermediate Japanese class:
Japanese teacher:
If you're talking to yourself, it's better to use the polite form.
Fellow student:
What! Why??
Japanese teacher:
Because a senior person may overhear.

Monday, November 21, 2016

D7 Bus Stops

The names of bus stops on the D7 route in London are straight out of an Enid Blyton book.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Slightly-Larger-than-Average Moon

The term 'supermoon' may be mostly hype, but it's as good an excuse as any to go out and look up.

Of late my posting has been even more irregular than usual. I have however been writing about bees on the LSE Bees blog, and book reviews for the LSE Review of Books. On the off chance that either of those interest you, go take a look!