23 July 2005

Saleswoman at my door

It has been raining all morning and all afternoon. I have been sitting at my computer downloading all kinds of important software after lunch. I am even looking at the websites of various property developers in Bangalore. Then all of a sudden ding dong dong. I look through the peephole. A tired looking woman. I open the door. One of those sales people, I tell myself and reluctantly open. Now this time she is selling some handicrafts from Calcutta. I cheerfully tell her that I don't want anything. The last time I gave in to a door salesman was several weeks ago, for a little boy who came selling pappads. He probably was doing his first round. When he rang the doorbell, I could not even see anybody. He was not even waist high. And he was nearly in tears that I didn't want pappads. I melted immediately. He said his mother had made them. I quickly gave him ten rupees for a packet of pappads. His sweet face brightened up and dabbed the note on both his eyes in a mark of reverence to the day's first earning. Then he looked at me - with an expression that easily beat a thousand thank you-s he may have said. Anyway, I don't want to be a softie this time, despite getting convinced that she was the breadwinner for her disabled husband and that I am like a daughter to her. I insist that I have no need for TV covers and that I don't own a television. She gives up after a while. Picks up her two bags and walks out the gate with a bend, owing to the weight of her wares and towards the bell of the opposite house. I watch her for a second wondering thinking I have done okay in not taking anything from her. I close the door. The rain is pouring down heavily and the smell of the wet earth drifts in along with me as I latch it shut.

20 July 2005

Good Grief ! All interview questions!

...are available on this site ... http://www.techinterviews.com Whatever is happening to the world?

19 July 2005

A story on Thinking that amused and inspired me

Some time ago I received a call from a colleague who asked if I would be the referee on the grading of an examination question. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed he should receive a perfect score and would if the system were not set up against the student. The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.

I went to my colleague's office and read the examination question: 'Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.'

The student had answered: 'Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower the barometer to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.'

.. read the rest

17 July 2005

Too Many Things To Do

I've been reading a bit the last few days and I am restless and eager to do a lot of things but there are just way too many things to be done ! I want to make the Kolam book for Amma. I bought sketch pen and realized that like a moron, I've forgotton to buy an empty notebook. Must do that in the afternoon tomorrow at lunch.

Then I have Jhumpa Lahiri's book - Interpreter of Maladies - to be read. I am overwhelmed with each story I read. Just get completely absorbed into one of the characters and feel happy, sad or in the same dilemma along with the character. Then I go lost in thought when the story ends. Keep thinking about the minds of each one in the story. Then I marvel at the author for having come up with this. Long after yesterday's play, I continued to think of Miss Manjula Nayak and her mind mixed up with victory, hate, fame, and vengeance, the silent Pramod Rao and the dead girl Malini. Oh, I still need to finish my Emotional Intelligence book, before I can go on to my next reading which is either Nehru's Glimpses of World History, a book I bought to teach my ignorant self about the world around or William (slurp).

An important agenda is to refresh my mathematics. Jayaram was making a presentation to the BA Twig, on internal audits. One of the methods to detect fraud in numbers was to use the Benford's Law. So its like this.

What's probability of the first digit of a number to be, say, 1? I would say 1/9. Well, I am so wrong! Apparently in nature, there is no such randomness. So if I study and arrive at a set of numbers, say the population of a country over a few years and list them, I'd find that 1 is the first digit of around 30% of the numbers. Surprising, right? The simple semi-mathematical explanation for this phenomenon is that for a number to start with 2 instead of 1, means that it has doubled. A 100% increase. But for a number that changes from say 9xx to 1xxx means that it has increased only slightly. So for any such data studied, the variations are not likely to be as much as double or triple. In more mathematical terms, the probability is a function of the logarithm of that number, n. More specifically, the probability is Log(1 + 1/n). So for the digit 1, it is Log(1+1/1). If I remember my college maths right, the logarithm of 2 is 0.3010. Hence the likelihood of 1 to be first digit is 30% ! I was all amazed and impressed and excited. So I called up Sreesh and told him about it!

Then, next thing on my mind is to learn a few of Ghalib's Ghazals. Harish Goel has given me a wonderful collection and I am always happy when I listen to them!

I also need to prepare for my presentation on Technical Writing and on South Indian Classical music.

Oh yea I know my mother is not going to be very pleased to know this - I have to throw out this cockroach that's been lying in the corner of the room the past week. I was hoping that at least the ants would come for it ..

The Lizard

A tiny lizard has just landed itself into my kitchen sink. I was just about to rid the sink of the the shining steel vessels which are submerged in dilute murky turmeric water with curry leaves floating, and smeared with potato peels and shredded cabbage. This is enough proof for the fact that I have been occupied manufacturing various dishes all morning. So this lizard offspring. Its tiny and squiggly. Sand coloured, less then two inches long and half a centimeter any other way. I stare at it for a few seconds and decide to ignore it. I have work to do and can't be bothered to rescue unwelcome lizardlings.

I turn on the tap. Evidently this creature is not prepared for the cold sprinkle. So it springs around inside the sink and tries to get out. Huh, but the water is fast and the walls of the sink don't have the grip that the climber needs. I continue in my engaging chore of cleaning vessels. Scrubber, soap, vessel. I tell the child-of-the-lizard by both verbal and non-verbal methods to leave. The lizard does not take the hint. Then I pour out the water from the cooker. This time the water is warm. So the lizard leaps in shock, I think, and lands plop on the plate that I am now cleaning. I tell the lizard that I don't like it hopping around on my plate and then politely tip the plate. The lizard falls down on the floor and waits suspiciously for a minute and then runs off in a familiar direction. I smugly smile at the scrubber and adjust the halo behind my head.

16 July 2005

RangaShankara, Rohit and Vishy

So it was my idea to go the play by Girish Karnad. I managed to convince Rohit, Vishy and Gazal and their folks to come along too. Hitched a ride with Rohit to JP Nagar. On the way we talked about the traffic and congestion. While I gave a dumb opinion, that we should stop any more people from coming to Bangalore, Rohit said that we should probably think diverting any traffic whose destination is not Bangalore and also of developing the hub-and-spoke model - increasing the number of hubs with shorter spokes. Seemed a sensible thing. But by the time he finished explaining how the air traffic follows this model, we realize we needed directions to reach JP Nagar.

At Vishy's home, we came to know from his mother who had already watched the play, that there was only one actor. Uh! What! I had specifically chosen this play against another one where Vasanthi of Radio City, Good morning Bangalore fame, had announced was a one-man-play. I had been pretty certain this was not the one. Well, Vishy's mother said it was a one-woman-play, if that was any consolation. Rohit exclaimed away about how a person could talk for a whole hour and still make sense. That was the least of my worries. So while Gazal served us delicious dosa, chutney and sambar and nice hot coffee, I worried what would be the case if the whole thing got dry and monotonous. I still let my hopes live while the others threatened to clobber me after the play (others being Vishy, Gazal, Vishy's friend Swapan and wife Lopamudra). I whined that they should not have gone ahead with the booking if they had known this.

Yogi and his wife were also at RangaShankara. Hello! Judging by appearances and costumes, it looked like a lot of clever people in society had turned up. I was just beginning to look around some more, and they rang a bell, a fierce school-ish bell. So I ran out of the bookshop where I was peacefully in. I came out and started reading the notice boards. There was another event later in August which was again, a solo play. I wondered aloud whether a solo play was some type of cost cutting measure. Hmm. The next bell rang fiercely again, and we went off to find our seats. The girl handed out some brochure about RangaShankara and the play. I read it. It said 'Lead Actor: Arundhati Raja'. See, I looked around hopefully and said - it does not say Only Actor. Hmm. Gazal was amused that I had not lost hope. Meanwhile Vani Ganapati had strode in with a glittering costume and was sitting in the front row just ahead of us. See, I told Gazal. This increases our chances of appearing on Page 3 tomorrow.
* * *
The play was brilliant! All of us enjoyed and were glad we watched it! Had dinner at Vishy's, cooked by his dad. Very tasty! The return ride was also fun. Rohit moaned about having left his scooter in Vishy's place because of the rain. Am so sleepy! Look forward to another play!

14 July 2005

My New Hobby On The Net

I have suddenly changed loyalties from Internet Explorer (IE) to Firefox since the last two weeks. I had got so used to the IE shortcuts and was stubbornly unwilling to look at another browser. But that was back then, when I was young and foolish. So let's hear me sing praises of Firefox.

This browser is neat and stacks up all the different URLs in tabs within the same browser so my desktop looks uncluttered. It has the very same shortcuts as IE, so I did not have to relearn anything. In fact, it imported all my favourite bookmarks too. It remembers my passwords more fashionably.

Okay, Firefox has this really creative plugin called Stumble. And it takes the shape of a little button. You tell this plugin all the topics of interest to you and then it lets you Stumble on websites of related topics. It randomly picks a topic and presents you a page. It was so much fun ! I think I was awake till around two in the morning Stumbling upon information and fun stuff on mathematics and science. I got pretty interesting things to read.

There was a site that explained the Kaprekar constant. Apparently it goes like this. Take any 4 digit number which may have repeating digits. Arrange them into the largest and smallest number and find the difference. The difference, which is also a 4 digit number and treat it the same way. Arrange it into largest and smallest digits and go on. Finally, one reaches a point where the difference will come to a constant value of 6174. This is the Kaprekar constant. The reason is that this process follows a sequence which is finite.

Another thing I found was that IBM has this monthly puzzle (and I found them truly puzzling) and most certainly makes for cerebral-wake-up. Oh yes, and before I forget, some passing reading on origami, mentioned that unfolding the paper would reveal a complex geometric pattern.

Oh well, I am getting so addicted to this ! This morning while I was having breakfast, I decided to read the Net instead of a book, like I usually do, so I didn't have to turn the pages. And I did a random Stumble. I got a dump of inconsequential facts like 2 out of 3 who voted for Bush go to Church although Bush is not a believer, that some sued someone else who was already dead, despite knowing that the second someone was dead, that 7% of Americans claim that they don't bathe, that a bar in London sells vaporized vodka so people smell, sorry, inhale instead of sipping it, that the Bible has been translated to Klingon - which is (an imaginary) language of the Star Trek characters, and that polar bears are left handed. Now did that matter to my existence ! Ah well, but it was an enjoyable breakfast alright !

12 July 2005

Reading on Lateral Thinking

Quite by chance, I read The Leader's Guide To Lateral Thinking by Paul Sloane over the weekend. What stood out in that book for me is - you won't find anything new if you look hard in the same direction.

I thought the examples used in it were quite powerful, since I still remember them. One is the fish bowl example (separating the small fish from the one large fish that eats them with a glass partition) - that the brain becomes complacent after a while and stops questioning. The other one was that of Henry Ford - who fired a senior manager who salted his soup before tasting it. Ooh ! That was apparently because he "prejudged situations" and Ford didn't want someone like that. IMHO, it was very unfair on Ford's part - I might have also probably salted my soup, if I was familiar with the restaurant :-) but then, run the risk of being fired by someone like Ford! Well, I think that did happen in my job interview at ThinkPad when Salam asked me what Objects were. I had rattled off what I knew and then when quizzed more, got stuck for significant answers. So I said OOPS and got away with it!

Okay, now back to the book. There was also a list of quotes by famous people and how we've progressed so much more that such as why would anyone want a computer at home, and that TV has very little significance in one's life, and heavier-than-air flights were impractical, and one by Bill Gates in '81 where he said 640k would be more than enough for anyone. . While we are at it, I also remember Edward do Bono's thinking hats being used somewhere in the workplace too. Though this book didn't have any On a serious note, that book put me (back) on a higher frequency and I am all excited about reading books again. Now going back to where I left of from Emotional Intelligence

06 July 2005

A nice thought

Everyone can be an artist. Some of us paint with words, others with musical notes. Some do it with equations while others use bricks and mortar. And some even do it with paints. No matter what medium we use, if we've poured our soul into it, the result is bound to be a masterpiece

04 July 2005

Do you know who Samuel P. Huntington is ?

"West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."
---------- Samuel P. Huntington