Monday, December 25, 2006


Coninuing discussion(rather continuing quoting from) on John Fowles's "the frech lieutenant's woman" ...

-------------(pages 51-52)
He would have made you smile, for he was carefully equipped for his role. He wore stout nailed boots and canvas gaiters that rose to encase Norflok breeches of heavy flannel. There was a tight and absurdly coat to match;...and a voluminous rucksack, from which you might have shaken out an already heavy array of hammers, wrappings, notebooks, pillboxes, adzes and heaven knows what else. Nothing is more incomprehensible to us than the methodicality of the Victorians;...

Well, we laugh. But perhaps there is somethign admirable in this dissociation between what is comfortable and what is most recommended. ... If we take this ... as mere stupidity, blindness to the empirical, we make, I think, a grave - or rather a frivolous - mistake about our ancestors; because it was men not unlike Charles, and as overdressed and over-equipped as he was that day, who laid the foundations of all our modern science. ... They sensed that current accounts of the world were inadequate; that they had allowed thier windows on reality to become smeared by convention, realigion, social stagnation; they knew, in short, they had things to discover... We think (unless we live in a research laboratory) that we have nothing to discover, and the only things of the utmost imporotance to us concern the present of man. So much the better for us? We are not the ones who will finally judge.

But here I find something that contradicts what I quoted before about how intelligent, lazy people set their sights are set too high. But then may be not. One describes the attitude of a generalist and the otehr describes the actions they do( because their sights are set too high).

------------------Page 53
Just as you may despise Charles for his overburden of apparatus, you perhaps despise him for his lack of specialization. But you must rememeber that the natural history had not then the pejorative sense it has today of a flight from reality ....

Now this is certainly in contradiction. :-)

---------------Page 53
...but think of Darwin ... The origin of Species is a triumph of generalization, not specialization; and even if you prove to me that the latter would have been better for Charles the ungifted scientist, I should still maintain the former was better for Charles the human being


Thats something I agree with. Its after my own passions. I am not a practisisng scientist and I tend to condone a breadth of view than a deep specialization. Specialization in anything has never appealed to me.

A small diversion for my almost non-existent readers:

A surgeon was met by an old lady in a party. The old lady asked "What are you?". The surgeon said "I am a naval surgeon".
"Oh, the way you people specialize these days!".

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Madeira - Madira

Continuing this ,
--------Page 40
...he called, sipped madeira, and said - and omitted - as his ecclesiastical collegue had advised.

This word caught my eye. A look into my Webster's dictionary told me that this refers to amber or white wine from Madeira an island near spain. (This is not as good as my Webster's, but its something handy)

And a simple google search will show you a lot of that.

But then this word is used in hindi, kannada etc as madira to mean intoxicating drink. And sanskrit has words like madya to mean an intoxicating drink.

A brief study of Monier Milliams showed that madira indeed exists from the time of Mahabharata (unless, of course, one chooses o argue that this is from a prakshipta part, that is, a part that has been added to Mahabharata by someone down the line.) . If you dont have the hard copy , you can see it for yourself at

It would be relaly interesting to know how that island got that name(assuming this word is from sanskrit/india). My hypothesis is that the Arabs (Remember? some time in the past they were the most open of cultutres and learnt a lot off Indians and Europeans. I refer you to folks like Al Beruni who translated sanskrit works into Arabic, and whose works now tell us about some lost works of Sanskrit :-) ) took this word with them to spain which they ruled.

Aside: The distillations by Arabs were very popular with indian kings (Moghals included).

Why read literary fiction?

This is a discussion I have had with friends many times over.

I am now reading "The French lieutenant's woman" by John Fowles. So some thoughts based on the first 40 pages. (This is also a nice use of this idiom to gather together bits of the work into a statement on what I liked in a work of literary fiction).

-----------------------(page 21-22)
[Period 1850s-1860s]
Laziness was, I am afraid, Charles's distinguishing trait. Like many of his contemporaries he sensed that the earlier self-responsibility of the century was turning into self-importance: that what drove the new Britain was increasingly a desire to seem respectable, in place of teh desire to do good for good's sake. He knew he was over-fastidious. But how could one write history with Macaulay so closely behind? Fiction or poetry in the midst of the greatest galaxy of talent in the history of English literature? How could one be a creative scientist, with Lyell and Darwin still alive? Be a statesman, with Disraeli adn Gladstone polarizing all the available space?
You will see that Charles set his sights high. Intelligent idlers always have, in order to justify their idleness to their intelligence.

----------(Page 26)
["her" in the following is Mrs Poulteney, who was "like some plump vulture, endlessly circling in her enless leisure and endowed in the first field with a miraculous sizth sense as regards dust,infigermarks [and immorality]"]

In her [Mrs Poulteney] fashion, she was an epitome of all the most crassly arrogant traits of the ascendant British Empire. Her only notion of justice was that she must be right; and het only notion of governament was an angry bombardment of the impertinent populance

------------------- (page 37)
(Vicar is trying extract a favour from Mrs Poulteney)

Vicar: "...the french barque was driven ashore ... . His leg had been crushed at the first impact, but he clung o a spar and was washed ashore. You must surely have read of this?"

Mrs Poulteney: "Very probably. I do not like the french"

(The dots in the following are form the original - not my omissions :-) )

Vicar: "Captain Talbot, as a naval officer himself, most kindly charged upon his household the care of the ...[sic] foreign officer"


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

URA Miscellany

The title is lifted from an anecdote narrated by Dr BGL Swamy in his "mysore diary".

Ha Ma Nayak: U R A Miscellany
BGL Swamy: you say all my life's work in botany, literature, history etc is a miscellany?
Ha Ma Nayak: No I mean U R Ananthamurthy's miscellany ...

Having said that , going by news paper reports, he is becoming ever more overbearing.

In the past he has said "until every child in karnataka can attend an English school, no one should be allowed to". This is just him posing as a socialist. I call upon him to say
* "until every man(person) can wear nice coats"
* "no one(meaning HIM) should wear a coat ...
* "until everyone in karnataka has been given a site by the government, I wont accept mine (apparently he has been granted a site for his "scholarly" achievements)
* ... until everyone can become a university teacher (can become - need not become - but equal opportunities must exist): I wont draw salary/pension from such posts
... HA

And recall what he did with the dattajayanti etc some time back.

Latest is that he refuses to attend Kannada sahitya sammelana as some politicians might attend it and he never participates in a public function along with a politician. Nice try. How do you define a man to be a politician My Ananthamurthy? What must a man do in order to become one? (Is what you did to bairappa politics? How did you get the gyanapeetha ? Without any politicking, eh?)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

TWiki Checklist plugin

The TWiki checklist plugin (v1.018) caused some problems with my TWiki version 1.1.

The problem was that when I went to the InstalledPlugins topic of my TWiki web: the Checklist plugin would not show up as na installed plugin at all. Nor would it work: things like %CLI% would simply show up as themselves.

I had to edit LocalSite.cfg file and add
$TWiki::cfg{Plugins}{ChecklistPlugin}{Enabled} = 1;

to get it working.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

musicindiaonline and greasemonkey

musicindiaonline has tons of indian music. The problem is that on linux, their javascript does not work well (I see some errors in the JS console).

I went ahead and wrote some greasemonkey based code that finds the links that point to music clips, performs some transformation on them(this, I learnt from their scripts) and finally pops up a popup window that works well with realplayer 10 on linux (you will still face the code problems with some of thier clips. That is beyond this solution).

Here is the code

function scanForMusicLinks()
var menuDiv = document.getElementById('divMenu');

var musicRE = /\/p\/x\//;

var anchors = document.getElementsByTagName('A');

var nLinks = 0;

var anchorData = [];

for(var i = 0; i< anchors.length;i++)
var href = anchors[i].href + 'play.smil';

href = href.replace('/p/x/','/g/r/');

var content = anchors[i].innerHTML;



if(anchorData.length > 0)


function playThis(index)
var playerSpan = document.getElementById("playerSpan");

playerSpan.innerHTML = '<EMBED TYPE="audio/x-pn-realaudio-plugin" NAME="RAPlayer" SRC="' +


function processAnchorData(anchorData)
var html = '<HTML><HEAD><SCRIPT language="JavaScript1.2">';

html += 'var anchorData = [';

for(var i = 0; i< anchorData.length;i++)
if(i > 0)
html += ',';

html +=
'{href:"' + anchorData[i].href +
'",content:"' + anchorData[i].content + '"}';


html += '];';

html += playThis;

html += '</SCRIPT></HEAD><BODY>' +
'<SPAN id="playerSpan">' +
'Player will appear here</SPAN><OL>';

for(var i = 0; i< anchorData.length;i++)
html += '<LI><A href="javascript:playThis(' + i + ');">' +
anchorData[i].content + '</A></LI>';

html += '</UL></BODY></HTML>';

var popup ='','Play list','width=200,height=500,toolbar=0');;





To get this working for you:
  • install greasemonkey
  • save the above content into a file (say musicindiaonline.user.js) : make user the name matches .*\.user.js
  • in your browser(firefox, of course) type the address of that file like 'file:///home/foobar/tmp/musicindiaonline.user.js' and hit enter(or simply browse to that file using file browsing capabilities of firefox)
  • greasemonkey pops up some controls on the top of your window - click Install.
  • Map the newly installed script to http://www.musicindiaonline.come/music/* and you are ready to go.