Thursday, April 19, 2007

Computus Paschalis

Ever wondered how the date of Easter is calculated? I have, ever since I was a kid. The grownups didn’t seem to know and I couldn’t find it in any book. But now that I have the enormous power of the internet at my disposal, I did some ‘research’ on Google and finally found the answer.

The Jewish Passover is celebrated starting on the 14th of Nisan. So the Last Supper was on 14th Nisan, the Crucifixion was on 15th and the Resurrection on the 17th. Since the Resurrection was on a Sunday, Jewish Christians celebrated Easter on the first Sunday after the 14th of Nisan. But the Jewish calendar did not fit well with the Julian calendar used in much of the Roman Empire.

In 325 AD, the First Council of Nicaea in decreed that Roman calendar shall be followed and formulated a set of tables to calculate the date. These tables have been revised over the centuries eventually resulting in the tables constructed by Dionysis Exiguus, the 6th century Abbot of Scythia. In the 16th century, Pope Gregory XIII of the Roman Catholic Church introduced the current Gregorian calendar and revised the tables accordingly.

The date of Easter is the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon on or after March 21st. The ecclesiastical full moon is calculated from the tables mentioned earlier and not necessarily the same as the astronomical full moon. This means that Easter falls between March 22 and April 25.

Unlike us here in India, most Orthodox Christians continue to use the Julian calendar and determine the date accordingly. Fortunately, this year both dates coincided and everybody celebrated Easter on April 8th. But often the two dates are a week apart.

The Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac provides a simple algorithm (attributed to J.M. Oudin, 1940) to compute the date of Easter according to the Gregorian calendar.
c = y / 100
n = y - 19 * ( y / 19 )
k = ( c - 17 ) / 25
i = c - c / 4 - ( c - k ) / 3 + 19 * n + 15
i = i - 30 * ( i / 30 )
i = i - ( i / 28 ) * ( 1 - ( i / 28 ) * ( 29 / ( i + 1 ) ) * ( ( 21 - n ) / 11 ) )
j = y + y / 4 + i + 2 - c + c / 4
j = j - 7 * ( j / 7 )
l = i - j
m = 3 + ( l + 40 ) / 44
d = l + 28 - 31 * ( m / 4
Where the input is y=year and the outputs are m=month and d=date, all variables being integers. Go code!


Channel surfing on lonely afternoon I chanced upon Titus, a surreal adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus staring Anthony Hopkins as the unfortunate Roman general. The storyline does not deviate much from the original. But Julie Taymor, better known for her biographical Frida, has taken more than a few anachronistic liberties with the sets and costumes. Swords, crossbows, 18th century pistols and modern machine guns work together to bring about some of the violence. The military uniforms are like something left over from a World War II movie. The emperor and senators look like they’ve stepped out of Star Trek. The humor is dark with a generous helping of irony and cynicism. Titus is a refreshingly different twist to an old tale and definitely worth watching.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Which MBA?

A few months back, I was sitting in my office and for some reason I cannot recall at a this moment, it occurred to me that I should go for an MBA. The realization came as a bit of a surprise because until then I had never seriously considered myself to be the management type. But then again, an MBA is more than just about management. Its about other things too. Leadership, for example, and brand and a well connected alumni network. But more about that later.

So I set out to survey what was out there. In India we have the 2-yr MBA at the IIMs, the 1-yr ISB, and then there is the two and a half year weekend MBA at IIM-B. On the international front, there are all the 2-yr US MBAs and 1-yr European and Asian degrees. Since my post-MBA objective is an international career, an international MBA is the obvious winner although a good number of IIM/ISB students do manage to get international placements. So I went hunting for international rankings. Because although finding the right fit is what matters, rankings tell you where to start looking. And this is what I found:

Financial Times
The Wall Street Journal
US News

For one, I realized an international MBA would be a very expensive proposition. And not just in terms of money. Post-MBA salaries weren't significantly higher than what you could get with a graduate degree in technology. But then again, the good news is that the returns are also not just in terms of money.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Book Summary: Family Happiness

There is something special about sitting outdoors in the shade on a hot summer afternoon. Perhaps only because it brings backs childhood memories of long summer vacations and the bliss of having absolutely nothing to do for the next two months. If that be the reason, so be it. What matters is that it feels good. And with an interesting book to read, it is even better. Makes one want to reconsider going back to spending the afternoon in an air conditioned cubicle.

The book, in this instance, was a collection of short novels by Leo Tolstoy. Its starts with Family Happiness, the story of Masha and Sergei. How they fall in love and get married. And after some time the magic wears off providing space for ego clashes and distrust. And how they fall in love once again, 'a different kind of love' as Sergei puts it.

Tolstoy's mastery over the description of human emotion is plainly evident. And being inspired by his own experience, the story is both very intense and very real and yet universal in its appeal.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Palm Sunday is probably the only chance you’ll ever have of seeing people smile during an Orthodox service. Children of course have a great time throwing flowers petals in the air and waving palm leaves. Sometimes using a carefully aimed marigold to settle an old score. Most grown-ups manage to keep their usual solemn composure. A few, like me, have to struggle with an uninvited smile.

In Orthodoxy, the Church encompasses all of creation, both animate and inanimate, the physical world that we see and the spiritual world that we do not see. The palm leaves and the donkey remind us of our relationship with the creatures who share this planet with us. They are joined by the stones along the roadside, waiting to shout out aloud, should someone cause the children to to stop. And together with the angels in heaven and the prophets of the Old Testament we sing, “Hoshannah to the Son of David”, as Jerusalem welcomes her king.

Bright red bougainvillea petals and the scent of freshly cut palm leaves mix with incense and music as the procession goes around the church. And for only a moment before it is reined in, a little smile manages to show itself.