Saturday, September 5, 2009

Measure for Measure

Today's bit of entertainment from Sukhada Tatke of the Times of India. In an article titled 'Rain spells good news for city', she writes: "Between Thursday 8:30 am and Friday 8:30 am, the city received a total of 364 mm of rainfall, with Colaba receiving 194 mm and Santa Cruz receiving 160.6 mm."
How did the city get 364mm if its two measuring centres recorded less than 200mm each? My best guess is the reporter added the Santa Cruz score to the Colaba one to reach her final tally. That would come to 354, not 364, but if she actually believed this method would provide a figure for rainfall across the city, I'm not surprised a further error crept in during the calculation. The same edition of the Times carries an article by Vasundhara Vyas Mehta about the salary demands of professors at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. It includes this line: "The memorandum says an assistant professor (AP) at Harvard gets $140,000 as annual starting pay, equivalent to Rs 23 lakh." At 49 rupees to the dollar, $140,000 is actually three times the rupee figure quoted.
The Times of India's method of measuring rainfall reminds me of those slimming centres which, having promised to help clients lose 20 centimeters, dehydrate the gullible fellows before totting up measurements from a dozen different places on the body. They proudly announce success to the bewildered customers, who feel lighter only in the wallet.
Come to think of it, this could be a great solution to the drought and flood problems India faces. If there's too little rain, open a few new measuring centres and voilĂ , rainfall will rise to normal levels in a matter of days. If it's pouring down excessively, the solution is even easier: simply shutting down a few Met offices will suffice.

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