After a long hiatus from doing perl stuff, I feel the urge to start some projects again. As today is the New Year day of Vikram Samvat 2062, it is an auspicious time to restart DateTime::Calendar::Indian. As the name suggests, it is a set of modules that implements classical Indian calendars with the DateTime API.
Earlier today I uploaded this to CPAN. This version fixes an off by one error in the conversion of St. Tib's Day to an RD date.
The last book of Neal Stephensons "Baroque Cycle" trilogy entitled "The System of the World" is coming out soon and I realized I hadn't read the second book yet despite having enjoyed the first volume "Quicksilver" immensely. So last week I borrowed "The Confusion" from the New York Public Library. Although it's been out for a while for some reason this book was still on the one week book express shelf. And weighing in at 800 pages, that's a lot to read in one week. I managed it but I really will have to read it again sometime as I'm sure I missed some bits.The plot is as densely packed as in Quicksilver.
I'm going to try not to spoil the plot for those who haven't read it yet but I must mention "Half-cocked" Jack Shaftoe, who at the end of Quicksilver was raving mad from syphilis and bound for North Africa as a galley slave, turns up sane in Algiers. (The pox having been purged from him by the desert sun.) He and some of his fellow slaves concoct a daring escape plan which eventually takes them around the world with many ups and downs along the way.
In 1693, one of the places Jack ends up in is Gujarat brought there by one of his companions named Surendranath. That detail rang a little hollow as Surendranath is not a typical Gujarati Vania name. We find him in Ahmedabad which Stephenson notes was also named by some Guerdabad -- the place of dust. Today it is one of the most polluted cities in India. He is a living insect trap at an hospital run by Brahmanas for the relief of sick animals. There's another mistake. Those hospitals (They still exist.) are run by Jains.
He travels to Div which was then a Portugese colony passing en route through my ancestral land of Kathiawad. (Stephenson spells it Kathiawar. Actually in Gujarati it is a retroflex sound somewhat like saying r and d together with a little l mixed in.) This period, the last days of the Mughal empire, were something of a golden age for the area. Trade with European outposts (Div and Daman were Portugese. Surat which was a bit further away was English.) was making a lot of people rich and there was peace and plenty in the land.
All this would change a generation later when the Mahrattas would begin dismantling the Mughal empire and setting up their own which alas failed to achieve an equivalent amount of stability. It was that time when the founder of my family Kai. Shri Jagannath Vyas was staying in the house of a minor chief on his way back from performing some religious ceremony and was murdered for the gold he was carrying. Eventually it got so bad that the British East India Company which hitherto was only interested in making money behind the scenes began taking over the functions of government thereby beginning the British Raj. Though interestingly Kathiawad was never officially part of British India. Up until 1947, it was in the hands of some 202 local kings (well that's a kind way to call them. The Gujarati term rajvi or "princeling" more accurately describes the situation.) Of course there were British "advisors" at each court to ensure they didn't get out of line but atleast nominally they were independent.
Of course there is a lot more to the book than this. Stephenson again provides many fascinating glimpses into the trends that began the modern world like how the English and the Dutch overtook the French as world powers by moving to a cash-based economy. And he drops a few amusing anachronisms here and there. (Somehow I don't think synergy is a 17th century Armenian word do you?) There's sex, treachery, revenge, and reunions. All in all it was a really good read and I look forward to the concluding volume.
Now I have one week to read "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell" by Susanna Clarke. It's another "England is secretly full of wizards" type book. I've heard it being described as Harry Potter for grownups.
Kerry actually committed to specific (or at least several degrees less vague) policies which is going to help rid himself of the indecisive waffler stigma.
On the other hand, Bush managed to avoid totally screwing up and only had a couple of "deer caught in the headlights" moments.
So I declare Bush the winner.
I've spent a good amount of time today reading Ray Bradburys classic novel Fahrenheit 451. The title refers to the temperature at which paper burns. You see in the future, houses are completely fireproof. So firemen have been repurposed as book burners. The story concerns a fireman called Montag who has a crisis of conscience and becomes a saviour of books instead.
Bradburys observations make this a dystopia which seems more apropos to the present day situation in America than those of say Orwell. Montag is denounced to the authorities, and forced to flee. But it turns out the ones who betrayed him, are not the sinister agents of the surveillence state but his own friends and loved ones. And unlike in 1984, the reason they rat him out is not "thoughtcrimes" but because books make them uncomfortable. How did it get to this stage? special interest groups each vying to impose their own brand of political correctness had rendered literature so muddled and useless, they were effectively destroyed long before the burning started. No wonder society turns to the soothing immersion of non-stop, action-packed but totally soporific TV which continues the cycle of deadening genuine feelings and making thinking hurt even more.
Isn't this whats happening in politics? Both parties today are just conglomerations of pressure groups with disparate and often contradictory agendas. So much energy must be spent on keeping the base together, the candidates have to be as bland and non-comittal as possible. Making scapegoats of those who point out problems becomes more comfortable--for both the elected and the electorate--than actually dealing with the problems. Third parties won't help, on the contrary they make it even less necessary for zealots to compromise. It is the sheer scale of politics in a large and diverse country like the US which is the problem. The answer I think (and Bradbury may not agree) is to bypass the government altogether on important matters. Let it be gridlocked, as long as it is toothless, it won't be in a position to hurt.
On a cheerier note, the BBC has resumed the radio adaption of The Hitchhhikers Guide To The Galaxy. The first episode of the tertiary phase aired on Tuesday on Radio 4. It will be repeated again on Thursaday. If you are outside the listening range as I am, you can tune in via the web by using Realplayer or a compatible player. (I used kaffeine the KDE frontend to Xine.)
W00 now I am a 9th level Perl monk. No new superpowers with this level though.
I'm in North Haven (not Northaven) Ct, teaching an introductary class in perl for Innovation Software Group who you may remember as the fine people who helped Debian out so much at Linuxworld. It's an all day class. Yesterday was the first day, it continues till wednesday, then we break for a week and do another Monday-Wednesday session.
The students are mostly professionals from nearby Yale university so they're very bright and motivated people. We're having fun.
Apparently David Lee Roth is going to become an Emergency Medical Technician in New York