Monday, April 25, 2011


I am sure you are not looking forward to an adventure like this.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Second blogiversary

It is two years since we started blogging. There have been times when I have got tired of dictation and flirted with the idea of calling it quits. Then I will think, maybe a couple of posts more. And then, maybe one more post. And what do you know? It has been two years! 'Will I?' is not a bad way to go.

For the past few months the nurse has been typing part of the blog thus reducing the load on Jaya. She doesn't know English. I look at the required letter on the keyboard and she guesses the correct letter after a few iterations.It has been working quite well and has improved with practice. Sometimes she will press the key too hard and the letter will get typed multiple times but that is part of the game. She doesn't know that some characters require two keys to be pressed simultaneously and I don't know how to convey it to her. So Jaya will type characters like !, ( ), ?, etc. and do cut and paste. Jaya will also type the passages from books, which she can finish in a few minutes. This is my favourite part where I just have to point out the relevant passage and relax.

For typing capital letters, I ask the nurse to press Caps Lock. The problem with this is that I sometimes forget to turn it off with the result that some letters get typed in capital. If a I am lucky, I will notice the error early but sometimes I will notice my goof-up only after a while by which time quite a few letters would have been typed in capitals. Having to delete them all and retype them doesn't put me in a good mood. I can't glower at anybody since it was my bad so I will satisfy myself by glaring at the monitor.

The single quotes have been typed by the nurse and the double quotes have been typed by Jaya. That is all there is to it. I don't know if it qualifies for some peeveblogging but now you know how the sausage is made. If there is some spelling mistake, I don't immediately correct it because it will take too much time for the nurse to position the mouse-pointer correctly. I will make all such corrections when Jaya does the editing or wait for a Spell Check. Sometimes I will miss an error which will not be caught by Spell Check. For example, in this post, the original sentence was:
REPORTER: Will it be right if I put it this way - "Professor Dirac solves all the problems of mathematical physics, but is unable to find a better way of figuring out Babe Ruth's bathing average"?
Obviously the Spell Check did not correct it. I later noticed the error by accident and corrected it. I must have made many such errors for which you would have maintained a diplomatic silence. For all acts of omission and commission, mea culpa.

So thanks to Jaya and the nurse, this blog has entered its third year. And thank you to all readers who have dropped by.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

I came across the term eudaemonia, the classical Greek term for human flourishing in an old NYT article about a happiness conference. It had some other interesting terms like nachas, "Happiness entrepreneurs" and "Happiness Makeover". But what particularly interested me was that one of the participants was Robert M. Sapolsky, whose book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers I had read some time back. So why don't zebras get ulcers but humans do? Sapolsky writes:
If you are that Zebra running for your life, or that lion sprinting for your meal, your body’s physiological response mechanisms are superbly adapted for dealing with such short-term physical emergencies. For the vast majority of beasts on this planet, stress is about a short-term crisis, after which it’s either over with or your’re over with. When we sit around and worry about stressful things, we turn on the same physiological responses - but they are potentially a disaster when provoked chronically. A large body of evidence suggests that stress-related disease emerges, pre-dominantly, out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological system that has evolved for responding to acute physical emergencies, but we turn it on for months on end, worrying about mortgages, relationships, and promotions.
A zebra doesn't have all these problems to worry about.

I know, I know you are familiar with all this matter. But methinks it did no harm if you had to read it again.

Friday, April 1, 2011

'Indian culture'

I am currently reading The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen.I was interested to read that 'Indian culture' includes a lot of heterodox views which are often neglected in the current popular discourse.He writes that it is a composite of many influences:
Not only did Buddhists, Jains, agnostics and atheists compete with each other and with adherents of what we now call Hinduism (a much later term) in India of the first millennium BCE, but also the dominant religion in India was Buddhism for nearly a thousand years. The Chinese in the first millennium CE standardly referred to India as 'the Buddhist Kingdom'.
Among classical languages, Sanskrit has the largest volume of religious literature as well as the largest body of agnostic or atheist writings. Indian texts not only contain disputes among various schools of religious thought but also contain debates among defenders of religiosity on the one hand and promoters of scepticism on the other. The Carvaka school of thought had space over the centuries to express their views and was one of the groups invited to attend Akbar's conference of religions in the late 16th century.While analysing the reasons why Western writers tend to give short shrift to Indian achievements in astronomy, mathematics and other secular fields, focusing instead on religious and spiritual aspects, Amartya Sen writes:
Even on religious subjects, the only world religion that is firmly agnostic (Buddhism) is of Indian origin, and, furthermore, the atheistic schools of Carvaka and Lokayata have generated extensive arguments that have been seriously studied by Indian religious scholars themselves. Heterodoxy runs throughout the early documents, and even the ancient epic Ramayana, which is often cited by contemporary Hindu activists as the holy book of the divine Rama's life, contains dissenting characters. For example, Rama is lectured to by a worldly pundit called Javali on the folly of his religious beliefs: "O Rama, be wise, there exists no world but this, that is certain! Enjoy that which is present and cast behind thee that which is unpleasant."