Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Run, Forrest, run!!

In another day and age, I used to be a runner. Even used to have a running log. Dimly remember crawling across the finish of the Marine Corps Marathon in 2003, with my all but dismembered left leg in tow.

Desultory running has happened since, but now, finally, a target to shoot for: The Bangalore Marathon on May 15. Well, not all of it, but at least the 7 k.m. wuss race! Got to train like crazy. Have downloaded the ultimate running song and all that remains is to drag the soporific carcass out of bed every morning and hit the roads...

Whither blog?

And before you can say Sivasubramaniam Chandrasegarampillai, another week has elapsed. To paraphrase Inspector Sydney Wang from Murder By Death, "Confucius say, 'Maintaining this blog, like train without wheels. Soon get nowhere.'" Be that as it may, one forges on. The list for this week:
  • Visited Navadarshanam. Not quite Timbaktu, but worth a gander. Many experiments in alterative lifestyles have been tried at Navadarshanam, the website says it all. Interestingly, Navadarshanam is located near Gummalapuram, and apparently the two hills are mentioned in The Spotted Devil Of Gummalapur, from "Nine Maneaters And One Rogue" by Kenneth Anderson.
  • More money spent on books. In this instance, two volumes by Murakami, Prey - which apparently has something to do with a previous post, and James Clavell's Shogun - for old times' sake
  • Finished the empire book. Turns out that most of the book is devoted to describing how the empire grew and expanded, in a very non-judgemental way (if anything Ferguson is critical of various imperial policies). In the final couple of chapters, there is a sudden jump from, "OK, so the British Empire was bad, as we've seen. But your alternatives were the French, German or Japanese empires, and we all know that the Brits were saints compared to those foreign johnnies, ergo the British Empire was a good thing in that it prevented said johnnies from taking over the world." Somehow leaves one with an unfinished taste...
  • Am now proud owner of my first Apple gadget. The heavens be thanked for mildly insane kid sisters.
  • Got some more music. Getz, Cale, and Hey Baby Hey Baby Yeah.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ants To The Rescue

Strictly for people with mathematical and operations research inclinations. Someone introduced me to the notion of "Ant Colony Optimization" (ACO) today. First proposed by Marco Dorigo in his Ph.D. thesis, this "metaheuristic for combinatorial optimization problems" is inspired by the behaviour of real ant colonies.

ACO is just one of many techniques that are part of the fields of "Nature Inspired *", includingBees, the flocking of birds, the schooling of fish, are all grist to these mills apparently. Very intriguing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Empire Strikes Back

Borrowed Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Niall Ferguson from a friend this weekend. Have not yet started it, but desultory flipping through has happened. There is a long review available, possibly more.

The thrust of the book is that on balance, the existence of the British Empire did more good than harm. According to him, it is responsible for the spread of liberal values and parliamentary democracy around the world, the English language, the industrial age, globalization and free trade (in its modern forms). He does not deny that horrible things happened, but constantly reminds us that things would've been a lot worse if say, the Japanese or the Germans, had been the great colonial power of the 19th and 20th centuries.

So far, the problem is that he constantly presents the Japanese (and German, French, or Dutch) empire as the only alternative to the British empire. As in, "If India had not been part of the British empire, it would've been under the Japanese. That the Japanese were butchers, we've seen during the Second World War. Therefore, India was better off under the British." Not much consideration is given to the idea of, "Hey, what if India wasn't part of any empire? What if parliamentary democracy and liberal values and other such things had taken root on their own here? What if there had been agricultural and industrial development independently here?"

Should be an interesting read. The book seems to have divided the world into three camps. Those who support the thesis, those who oppose it, and of course those who have not read it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Mythical Weekend

It is narrated in the Kishkindhaakaanda of the Raamaayana that the monkey king Vali
...swings to eastern ocean for his daily bath, and from there to southern sea, to make aachamana, sipping water for self-purification, and then to western oceans to give arghya, water oblation, and from there to other ocean for japa and suuryopasthaana, meditation and welcome to daily sun...
All this, on a daily basis. I feel like I've had a similar weekend. At 4:00 a.m. on Saturday, I had a bath in Hyderabad, and "swung" to Chennai on the "eastern ocean". Spent a good part of the morning transferring tsunami traumatized caimans from one sandy pit to another, took a dip in the Bay Of Bengal and ate fish curry with rice for lunch on the beach.

Evening saw us "swing" to Kochi, on the "western oceans" where food was had, family members were met, a wedding was solemnized. Come Sunday evening, and I "swung" for points north, and spent the night in Bangalore eating paan and talking. And now its Monday morning, and I'm back in the northern parts, sleepy and exhausted.

This Vali dude was quite something.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


Money has been blown this weekend.

  1. The Great Hedge of India: Been eyeing this one for a while, finally caved in when it cast its lascivious looks at me from the Crosswords bookshelf. The subject is bloody interesting, but the book isn't all that great a read. The author skips between first person 'detective' style narrative, and third person colonial Indian history, and somehow it doesn't all gel together (though John Keay had good things to say on the back cover).
  2. Collected Poems, Vikram Seth
  3. Jeans
  4. Food and drink (Angeethi, Fusion, Eat Street)
  5. Kalyug, Mandi (both by Shyam Benegal) Saath Saath, Umrao Jaan, The Desert Rats.

    Philip Lutgendorf, incidentally, writes some of the best reviews of Indian popular cinema. Upperstall is also quite a treasure trove.

    "The Desert Rats" is highly romanticized, and the writer/director have taken artistic freedom to a new level. Ostensibly about the siege of Tobruk, the movie is full of the most unacceptable distortions. The most annoying (so far - have only seen one of the 2 VCDs) is the elevation of Rommel to Generalsfeldmarschall (to make the Allies look that much better?) about a year too early (he wasn't promoted until the battle of Gazala, and the subsequent capture of Tobruk). And Rommel speaks English in this movie. Oh well...

Friday, April 08, 2005

A bus too far?

The papers have been full of a certain bus ride. Fills one with hope and trepidation at the same time. This could boomerang so easily, or go on to become a watershed moment in Kashmiri history. There have been other watershed bus trips before...

Early days yet.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Story Thus Far (Part Deux)

10. Popped over to the watering holes of the Garden City.
11. Gawked at ruined cities.
12. Checked out Karl's Own Country
13. Took another interesting train
14. Watched elephas maximus gambol in her element. [Lost the fingernails on my right index and middle fingers, when the window of said train landed on said fingers, reducing them to an interesting looking pulp.]
11. Recuperated.
12. Headed northwards.
13. And northwards.
14. And northwards. At this point, one runs out of nation-state. So had to stop.
15. Gazed on the Bodhisat, at Leh, Shey, Thiksey, Alchi, Diskit...


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What's in a name?

CHOULTRY (p. 211) , s. Peculiar to S. India, and of doubtful etymology; Malayalam chawati, Telugu chawadi, [tsavadi, chau, Skt. chatur, 'four,' vata, 'road, a place where four roads meet]. In W. India the form used is chowry or chowree (Dakh. chaori). A hall, a shed, or a simple loggia, used by travellers as a resting-place, and also intended for the transaction of public business. In the old Madras Archives there is frequent mention of the "Justices of the Choultry." A building of this kind seems to have formed the early Court-house.

Seems like a nice mix of my own roots. Ergo...

The Story Thus Far

Is this the fate of all blogs? They start with doubt. Then they die. About 345767 years later, the blogger finds herself in front of a computer once again for days on the end. And the blog is reborn.

Anyway, we owe our eager readers, who have been waiting with bated breath for the post Reichenbach version of this blog. Between the last posting here on March 02, 2004 and today, the following has happened:

1. Quit work
2. Locked up house, and left the People's Republic on cold, blustery May 9, 2004 for The City That Lost.
3. Ended up at a railway station, having passed through a university town, and the Urban Conglomeration of Fraternal, Deep, Tender, Ineffable Feeling of Affection and Solicitude toward a Person, Such as That Arising from Kinship, Recognition of Attractive Qualities, or a Sense of Underlying Oneness.
4. Took a train to the Hog Butcher for the World...
5. Took another train to the other People's Republic.
6. Flew off into the Blue Yonder. Actually, ended up in
a rather interesting place.
7. Spent time

8. Ended up for a few days on a hammock in the land of creepy crawlies via another techy marvel.
9. Went home.

This is getting way too painful. Almost 6 months of peregrinations to list, and we aren't even started properly yet. To be continued. See you next year.