Sunday, April 19, 2015

More on that Doniger review - NSFW

Of all the major world cultures, the Hindus have been, on the average, the least prudish about sex.   From temple carvings to sacred and secular literature, sex has its place, so much so that prudish Europeans have termed it oriental licentiousness.  But it is only one part of life.  Artha, Dharma, Kama, Moksha - these are the four purusharthas - if you like, the main goals of life.  Sex falls in the Kama bucket, though Kama is encompasses more than just sex.   Hindus also write about Artha, Dharma and Moksha; and the great epics and Puranas teach about all four buckets. To take an example from the Puranas, when things go out of balance, towards the end of this story, also on my blog, the preceptor to the Devas, Brihaspati has to take steps to restore the married life of Indra and Shachi.

The problem with a commentator on the Hindus like Wendy Doniger and her school is that they are out of balance - they find sex even where it isn't.   The review I've referred to previously goes into this a little bit.   It is a gross distortion that Doniger and co. consistently do; and their apologists constantly let them get away with it.  Anyway, now I have a witness that this is not something that only Internet Hindus are imagining, the obsession with sex is real.  The witness is Prof. C. Christine Fair, whose analyses of Pakistan have been featured on this blog.

Incidentally, you can listen to C.C. Fair on the subject of sexual harassment, and Pakistan here:

Below the fold, Not Safe for Work.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Project Euler
Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems.
If you are looking for problems to help exercise your newly acquired skills in a programming language, then this is a place you could try.

To date, I've solved 47 of the 511 problems posted there, mostly the easy initial ones.  The hardest one, per their difficulty rating, that I've solved, is problem 259.   The next hardest problem, by their rating system, that I've solved is problem 110.  The rest that I've done are way easier.

I'm using mostly LISP.   I'm currently working on problem 201, I have an algorithm, I'm quite sure that it is correct; but it is slow (I estimate O(n^5) where n is the number of terms in the set)  so I need to put more thought into it.  

By the rules, I cannot say any more in public than what I have written.

I learned so much solving problem XXX so is it okay to publish my solution elsewhere?

It appears that you have answered your own question. There is nothing quite like that "Aha!" moment when you finally beat a problem which you have been working on for some time. It is often through the best of intentions in wishing to share our insights so that others can enjoy that moment too. Sadly, however, that will not be the case for your readers. Real learning is an active process and seeing how it is done is a long way from experiencing that epiphany of discovery. Please do not deny others what you have so richly valued yourself.
 PS: My slow solution to problem 201 gives the correct answer.  Further,  I now have a faster variant, that completes in 9 minutes instead of 9 hours!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

D. Abbott: The Reasonable Ineffectiveness of Mathematics

I have considerable sympathy for the point of view expressed by D. Abbott in his IEEE paper, The Reasonable Ineffectiveness of Mathematics (hattip a commenter on Peter Woit's blog).

"Mathematics is a product of the imagination that sometimes works on simplified models of reality."

Denial of the Platonist position does not mean that Mathematics becomes an arbitrary cultural construct.

An aside:
"A genius is merely one who has a great idea, but has the common sense to keep quiet about his other thousand insane thoughts."

PS: you may also like this comment on Peter Woit's blog.

Bangladesh's Struggle and America's continuing shame

Shashi Tharoor outlines the struggle between the secular and the Islamists in Bangladesh here.

The United States under Nixon and Kissinger ignored the genocide that accompanied Bangladesh's birth (see "The Blood Telegram" by Gary Bass).

And today, the United States essentially sides with the Islamists in Bangladesh.  E.g., when in 2013 the Bangladesh High Court deregistered the Islamic fundamentalist party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), thereby banning it from participating in future elections, the United States was officially unhappy.

Here is some background on JeI.

The historical fact is, apart from the Islamists who take up arms against the US, there is not an Islamist that the US does not love.  This is, incidentally, a long standing Anglo-US strategy.

As Gary Brecher wrote in this recent piece on Yemen, in the 1960s,

Arabs were getting very “modern” at that time. It’s important to remember that. You know why they stopped getting modern, and started getting interested in reactionary, Islamist repression?

Because the modernizing Arabs were all killed by the US, Britain, Israel, and the Saudis.
...the West put its weapons and its money in on the side of “Allah and the Emir” over and over again, against every single faction trying to make a modern, secular Arab world, whether on the Nasserite, Ba’athist, Socialist, Communist, or other model.
Arabs are reduced to choosing which Allah and which Emir to support because a half-century alliance between the worst oligarchies in the West and the most reactionary elements in their countries wiped out the alternative.

If you do bother to read Gary Brecher's article, you can place what is written above in context of his style of writing; but the truth is there beyond the poetic exaggeration.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On Wendy Doniger's book

So much for an alternative history. Now, how about some mundane, regular history stuff? Let’s go back to the Mahabharata, an epic that Ms. Doniger brings up dozens of times in her book (she even calls the Mahabharata “100 times more interesting” than the Iliad and the Odyssey). Let’s ask two questions: When did the main events of Mahabharata occur? And exactly how long is the epic?
Ms. Doniger mentions the years as: between 1000 BCE and 400 BCE, most likely 950 BCE, or around 3012 BCE, or maybe 1400 BCE. That narrows down the chronology quite a bit, doesn't it? Really, there is more to writing history (particularly the alternative kind) than looking up the reference books and throwing in all the numbers one could find. But in Ms. Doniger’s defense, she is not a historian per se (and she clearly tells us so), so let’s let this one slide by. I’d even say she does deserve some credit here for at least bothering to look up things. On the next topic, she fails to do even that.

Ms. Doniger says the Mahabharata is about 75,000 verses long. Then she helpfully adds, “sometimes said to be a hundred thousand, perhaps just to round it off a bit." My goodness, 25,000 verses is some rounding error, don't you think? Most sources put it between 75,000 and 125,000. It took me all of two hours to find a very detailed account (not on the Internet though), compiled in the 11th century, putting the total at 100,500—and I’m not a researcher, not by a long shot. And yes, the exact number of verses is secondary to the big picture. What bothers me is the offhandedness with which Ms. Doniger brushes off 25,000 verses as a rounding issue. Why this half-baked research?

Oh well, maybe we expected too much from the bestselling book on Hinduism and it’s our fault. So, let’s try again, one last time. Where is India located?

Ms. Doniger states, very clearly, without any ambiguity, on page 11 (footnote): “Most of India… is in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Puranas, Mahakavyas and Modern Business

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Shekhar Gupta on the Pakistani National Security State

This is a must-read for anyone even remotely interested in Pakistan: We respect all, we suspect all, until proven ok.

It is remarkable how much free speech and criticism even this security establishment allows the mostly western-educated intellectual class. But with one unwritten condition: it must remain confined to English, which is a marginalised discourse here. Follow some of Pakistan's finest, most courageous minds—many of them young women—in the new media. They have enormously more spunk than us in India. But all in English. Urdu is a different matter altogether. English publications' circulation is minuscule compared to Urdu and there isn't even one news channel in English, though they have in Mubashir Luqman someone who can by himself outshout all our English prime-time warriors, including the champion of champions. My friends tell me the story of Raza Rumi, a fine, brave liberal commentator and patriot. He was ignored as long as he confined himself to English. Then one day he succumbed to the temptation of TV, obviously in Urdu, and continued speaking the same honest truth. His car was attacked, his driver died and he escaped with a bullet and is now exiled in Washington. Do Google his writings.

PS: Raza Rumi's writings can be found here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Shiv Tandav Stotra by Om Voices