Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Explosion

In memory of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, and also of the countless massacres ongoing over the world.

The Explosion
On the day of the explosion
Shadows pointed towards the pithead:
In the sun the slagheap slept.

Down the lane came men in pitboots
Coughing oath-edged talk and pipe-smoke,
Shouldering off the freshened silence.

One chased after rabbits; lost them;
Came back with a nest of lark's eggs;
Showed them; lodged them in the grasses.

So they passed in beards and moleskins,
Fathers, brothers, nicknames, laughter,
Through the tall gates standing open.

At noon, there came a tremor; cows
Stopped chewing for a second; sun,
Scarfed as in a heat-haze, dimmed.

The dead go on before us, they
Are sitting in God's house in comfort,
We shall see them face to face -

Plain as lettering in the chapels
It was said, and for a second
Wives saw men of the explosion

Larger than in life they managed -
Gold as on a coin, or walking
Somehow from the sun towards them,

One showing the eggs unbroken.

-Philip Larkin

Even when we have no clue where we are going with our lives, and I sometimes do get the feeling I am making up the story on the go, there is a feeling that it will all make sense at the end, years, perhaps decades, from today. I have no idea what it must feel like, if some lunatic comes out of nowhere and picks up this story you are writing, tears off the last page, and says, sorry but it has to end right here. How unfair that must feel, and how helpless.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Breaking news

A daddy's disappointment to beat Abhishek Bachchan and Julian Lennon.

It appears that the closest living relative to Tyrannosaurus Rex is the humble Gallus domesticus.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The answer my friend...umm, nevermind!

Robert Lucky recently had a short opinion piece in Spectrum, where he confirms an uncomfortable feeling I've had for a long time:

'Many questions following technical talks seem intended more to show the expertise of the questioner than to elicit information.'

I am glad I am not the only one who thought so. Lucky has a few other observations:

'The (typical) question goes something like this: “Are you aware of the work on this subject by Professor John Blutarsky at Faber College in 1962?”...“Oh, yes, that Blutarsky,” you say, playing for time. “It’s been some time since I studied his work, but I believe that his assumptions were quite different, and we all know how much technology has changed since then.”...There is an uneasy stirring as people crane their heads to view the questioner. Who is this expert who is familiar with Blutarsky, whose obviously important work the speaker seems not to know?'

There is another category of questioners: those who don't want the speaker to leave with the impression that no one was listening. So a few questions are raised about obvious drawbacks/extensions to the work, something along the lines of 'have you considered the case when k=0', or 'how will your approach do if conditions z hold'. The speaker might then explain that they were not really focusing on the k=0 problem, though with some modifications, it might be possible to get reasonable results. Of course no one really cares what those modifications might be: they are just relieved that the talk did not end in the question-free zone. That would be bad karma.

You can read Lucky's article here.