The Advisory Boar (page 2)
Last year, during a particularly frustrating period where our MTNL DSL
kept getting disconnected every few minutes, we subscribed to the Sify
Broadband service (the only other ISP in the area at the time; this was
a few months before Airtel DSL became available).
Sify claims to provide "wireless" broadband, but that's a bit of a
misnomer. I gather there's a wireless router of some sort on the roof of
the neighbouring apartment block, and they string Ethernet cables from
it to people's desks. The people (from the local Sify franchisee) who
came to install this giant lightning conductor through our study window
cut the cable too short, and spliced(!) on another length to reach our
Sify requires you to run an "authentication client" that talks to their
web server before you get IP connectivity to the outside world. They do
provide a Linux client, but it took some hackery to make it run on our
machines; and the web site it sent us to ("new user registration") did
not like Firefox at all. So the cable-splicers went back to
their office and registered the account for us using their Windows
machine, and we got it all working eventually.
We meant to use the Sify connection only as a backup, and our MTNL line
started working again, so it was a while before we noticed that we had
massive packet loss to the gateway (i.e., the thing on the roof). The
authentication client couldn't talk to its server, so we couldn't talk
to anyone. The cause was obvious to us: the spliced cable. But the
cable-splicers blamed the fact that we used Linux, and said they would
have to call in a Linux expert from Sify central to "check" the problem.
The expert never arrived. I tried to follow up a few times, but I ran
out of time and energy eventually (and unfortunately, we pre-paid for
the entire year). The upshot is that the service has never
worked for us after the first day.
So I was rather amused to receive this SMS the other day:
Dear Sify Customer, due to heavy rain you may face disruption in
service. Regret for inconvenience.
Regret for inconvenience, indeed.
The James Beveridge Media Research Centre at the
Jamia Millia Islamia University in
Delhi offered a summer course on "Film and the Historical Imagination",
conducted by Ranjani Mazumdar (an Associate Professor of Cinema Studies
at JNU). The course ran on alternate
working days for the two weeks between July 27–August 7, and comprised
five illustrated lectures followed by film screenings, with the sixth
morning reserved for a round-table discussion. Participants were charged
INR650 for admission.
Quoting from the invitation for applications:
Film is an archive of sensations, of emotions, of images and of
sounds. As a powerful recorder of life and its events, Film lends
itself to organizing not just historical knowledge but also commenting
on the nature of historical narration. This two week introductory
course on Film and the Historical Imagination will map the specific
ways in which history and ideas about the past get constructed through
the medium of cinema. Issues related to questions of evidence, memory,
historical catastrophe, nostalgia, myth and heritage will be discussed
and analyzed in relation to world cinema.
Hassath remembered attending and liking Ms. Mazumdar's lectures during a
film appreciation course at FTII
some years ago; this course sounded interesting too, and the schedule
and charges suited us perfectly (we would not have been able to attend
if either had been notably different). We applied for admission, and
were both accepted (to my considerable surprise, since the course was
advertised as being for "graduate students and media researchers").
Speaking of broken hardware, I
tracked down the source of my most recent random lockups to a flaky old
The card in question is an ATI Radeon 9200 (RV280) card that I bought,
based on a friend's recommendation, when I built the system I'm using.
It worked well enough—that is, I didn't have to think about it—until a
couple of weeks ago, when playing video for any length of time began to
freeze the system. Hassath's computer is having motherboard trouble, so
she let me borrow her nVidia GeForce FX 5200 card to check if that made
the lockups go away.
I swapped in the nVidia card and braced for a fight with Xorg, but to my
surprise, all I needed to do was to install the "xserver-xorg-video-nv"
package. X started up with no complaints whatsoever, and the system has
been stable ever since. That's definitely not how my average adventure
with hardware goes.
I remember having to hunt a long time in the Nehru Place market to find
the Radeon card (the 9200 chipset was already quite old then). Replacing
Hassath's nVidia card today was a similar adventure. Every video card in
common use these days has a fan, and we had to look very hard to find a
plain old AGP card with a heatsink instead.
But we found a suitable replacement in the end; and now our only
remaining source of entertainment is the motherboard problem.
Update: Things have been stable since I started using the nVidia
card, but it came with a curious side-effect. My system will no longer
reboot cleanly. It pauses right before I would expect it to restart. I
have to shut it down and restart it every time. I know it's the card's
fault because Hassath's machine did (or rather, didn't do) the same
thing, but works fine now with the new card. And she won't let me switch
the cards around again.
I started using Blosxom a few weeks
ago. I liked the basic idea (that each post is one file) very much, but
I found the code hard to read and poorly documented. Plugins varied
widely in quality, and I had to jump through hoops to implement some of
the things I wanted. By the time I got everything working the way I
liked it, I ended up with a complete rewrite.
The code is well-documented, supports tagging and pagination, generates
an RSS feed, works nicely with Git, and lets me publish URLs like
(Disadvantages: it isn't quite plugin-compatible with Blosxom, and it
doesn't support static generation.)
I'm sure I could have used a more modern, featureful program to achieve
the same effect, but I'm glad I didn't have to. I was happier to spend
a couple of hours writing something worse than a few days trying to fit
something better, like Wordpress,
into my head.
I wrote this code for my own use with no intention of releasing it, but
a few people have expressed an interest in using it, so here it is.
No longer maintained
Update (November 2013): Loathsxome never had more than a handful
of users, and only two who regularly contributed code
(Arnt Gulbrandsen and
myself). Arnt wrote
plusxome, and I wrote
something else using Mojolicious without even pretending to maintain
Loathsxome is still here. It works as well as it ever did, and none of
what's written below is untrue, but nobody uses it any more.
Many years ago, someone sent me the URL to a short opinion piece
The Telegraph, by the
sociologist André Béteille, about how religion and society
cannot be studied independently. I liked it very much, and forwarded it
to many people, but at some point the URL stopped working, and I had to
dig up the text from my archives each time I wanted someone to read it.
Today, I noticed—while preparing to forward the article—that the URL
works once again. Kudos to The Telegraph for bringing it back to life.
Here's an excerpt.
Just over 50 years ago, M.N. Srinivas, who was to emerge as India's
leading sociologist, published his book Religion and Society among
the Coorgs of South India. The book introduced a new approach to the
understanding of Hinduism, and it established its author's reputation as
a sociologist of the first rank. In it he used the distinction between
the book-view and the field-view of society and the contrast between the
Indological and the sociological approaches to religion. It may appear
in retrospect that the contrast was overdrawn; but it expressed an
insight of great significance.
Srinivas became the leading advocate of the field-view and the
sociological approach, by which he meant an approach based on a careful
and methodical examination of observed or observable facts. It does not
treat religion as being either completely autonomous or as invariant,
eternal and unchanging. Religious beliefs and practices vary and change,
and this has to be examined in relation to variation and change in the
structure of society. No religion operates independently of specific
social arrangements, and Srinivas set out to show the two-way
relationship between religion and social structure. This approach does
not always find favour with religious believers who are inclined to
regard religion as pure and society as corrupt.
The believer seeks out what he sees as the invariant and unchanging core
of religion, and when he does not find it, he tends to put the blame on
external material and historical forces for it. The Hindus in particular
have lived with the idea of Kaliyuga since time immemorial, and that has
helped them to explain many things away. The sociologist, on the other
hand, recognizes that religious beliefs and practices are embedded in
the social order, and tries to see how they are refracted by it. For
him, Hinduism is not single and indivisible. Thus, Srinivas spoke of
local Hinduism, regional Hinduism, peninsular Hinduism and all-India
Hinduism. He also showed how religious beliefs and practices were
refracted by the structures of joint family, caste and village.
M.N. Srinivas's book
sounds pretty interesting
The heat and dust in Delhi are extremely unkind to computer hardware,
and the fifteen years that I've spent here have been punctuated by the
failure of many generations of components. My current computer has been
in operation for five years, thanks to a double-converting UPS that
protects it from flaky mains power, but each passing summer exacts its
toll in random breakage and frayed nerves.
But I realised the other day, while removing dust-balls that had choked
up my CPU fan, that one component in particular deserves my gratitude
for never once having gotten on my nerves since I bought it five years
ago: my Chenbro PC-611 tower cabinet.
I had forgotten the model number, and had to look through ancient email
to find it, but I remember that it was recommended by a friend, and that
I had trouble finding one in Nehru Place. With its power supply, it cost
me more than five times as much as the generic cabinet I had been about
to buy, but I have never once regretted the decision.
My exposure to high-end cabinets has been limited to this one, so I have
no real basis for an evaluation, but it is so much better than any other
cabinet I've seen that the comparison seems unfair. Every single time I
have had to open up another computer in the last five years, I've missed
mine. I like the way drives get mounted on rails, the precise and solid
construction without rattling, the rounded metal edges, spacious layout,
"tool-free" disassembly—and it's not even hideously ugly, as are most of
the cabinets I see these days!
Best of all, other than the dust, it shows no signs of age. I expect it
will outlive every other component in my computer.
Update: In fairness, I should mention that one of the two chassis
fans began to stutter a few years in, and the power switch has become a
little unresponsive because of accumulated dust… but there's no getting
away from dust in the end.
We cook on a stove that burns
stored in a 30Kg metal cylinder under the kitchen counter. Yesterday,
the cylinder ran out of gas while we were cooking pasta, with guests
expected to arrive in a few minutes.
Whenever that happens—which is every couple of months or so—we rotate a
second cylinder into use, call up the distributor to place an order, and
wait, often for several days, until a new cylinder is delivered and the
empty one taken away. To our horror, we discovered last night that both
our cylinders were empty (no doubt because I had swapped one out some
months ago and forgotten to order a replacement). Waiting without gas
was not an option.
We happen to live across the road from the depot at which all three LPG
distributors in the area store cylinders. They are delivered to nearby
houses by people on bicycles, or further away in little three-wheeled
carriers (like auto-rickshaws, but with a container for cargo). There
are always some delivery people hanging around on the road outside the
depot, and fortunately for us, that stretch of the road is the centre of
a thriving black-market trade in LPG cylinders.