Friday, June 29, 2012

Different reading habits

After my stroke, I got books on religion and spirituality. For eg., there was a book called 'How to find God everywhere'. I wonder how people read these kinds of books from cover to cover and bawl for more. (To be fair, that is also what many people say when they see the kinds of books that I do read. They are hardly bookspam but peole seem to be underwelmed.) I would be more interested in reading about The Most Astounding Fact About The Universe than God's blog.

For the first couple of years after my stroke, I used to listen to the budget speech of the FM. This was because I was supposed to nod and smile intelligently when people talked to me about taxes, duties and stuff.(MBAs are required by law to listen to the Budget speech and pontificate about it afterwards.)  The papers will be full of acronyms like GST, DTC (apparently it is not Delhi Transport Corporation), MODVAT etc. I gradually lost interest in these things.There used to be lively discussions even in my halcyon days about how much I really knew about these things. I am now more interested in things like NS, RGD, PE, etc. Take that you finance freaks!

(Using acronyms is a good way to illustrate profundity. For eg.:
  1. Ads use them all the time. Some paint has no VOC while some drink has DHA. What do they mean? Your guess is as good as mine.
  2.  When I was in Bajaj Auto, I was told that 'RTZ' in the bike name Kawasaki RTZ  doesn't stand for anything. It just sounds cool.
  3. I was looking at a problem in Sujit's notebook regarding congruent triangles when I was baffled by the last line - 'By c.p.c.t.c.' I found the explanation in his textbook - 'The Corresponding Parts of Congruence Triangles are Congruent is represented in short form as c.p.c.t.c. Hereafter this notation will be used in the problems.'
  4. You often come acroass internet acronyms like LOL, IMHO, FOAF, etc. (Have you heard of this study on LOLcats?) IHTOASMTIATCOTYHABYWABOL.)
My heroes these days are not guys like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. They just do normal things a bit better than others. Now it is people like The Man Who Dreamed He Was A Beetle or Al Gentry:
Al Gentry, a gangling figure in a grimy T-shirt and jeans frayed from chronic tree climbing, was a botanist whose strategy toward all hazards was to pretend that they didn’t exist. At one point, a tree came crashing down beside him after he lost his footing on a slope. Still on his back, he reached out for an orchid growing on the trunk and said, “Oh, that’s Gongora,” as casually as if he had just spotted an old friend on a city street.
I just completed reading The Making of the Fittest by Sean B. Carroll and I loved the tales about the icefish, fossil genes, convergent evolution, etc. I like reading about say, the chicken-eating cow. Or about why manta rays need forests.  Or about how snails cross continents by flying inside birds(At this point, I am sure you are thinking, 'Of course that is the way snails get around. What was this guy thinking?') Here are some things I find interesting.

The kiwi has the largest egg relative to body size among all birds, being abouta quarter oj the female body weighht. (This will end soon, I promise you.) In Bully for Brontosaurus, Stephen Jay Gould writes:
A study of the general relationship between egg size and body size among birds shows that average birds of Kiwi dimensions lay eggs weighing from 55 to 100 grams (as do domestic hens). Eggs of the brown kiwi wigh between 400 and 435 grams (about a pound). Put another way, an egg of this sixe would be expected from a twenty-eight-pound bird, but brown kiwis are about six times as small.
The obvious question, of course, is why?
This the kind of essay I like to read while many people will think that I should spend more time pondering over Pascal's wager. What to do, I am like that only (sic)! Perhaps they didn't whisper enough into my right ear. Or do you think it is the fault of a parasite?

PS: While on the subject of eggs, I can't resist quoting from The Canon by Natalie Angier:
The largest egg in the world, and thus the largest cell in the world, is the ostrich egg, which measures about eight by five inches and weighs three pounds with its extracellular shell, two pounds without. (Interestingly, the ostrich egg is also the smallest bird egg relative to the size of its mother, amounting to only 1 percent of the female ostrich's body mass.  The she-birds most deserving of every mother's pity are the kiwis and hummingbirds, which lay eggs that are 25 percent as big as they are - the equivalent of a woman giving birth to a thirty-pound baby.
You must be getting 'eggsasperated' with my 'eggcentricity' so I will sign off without delay.

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