Monday, March 31, 2008

Better than worse, but worse than better

So I've made a bunch of half starts on sessions and a few minor place-keeper sessions (that actually turned out pretty good mind you), but perhaps it's time to address things a bit more head on.

I've been having trouble with this blog (the war against the word blog is over, get over it). Firstly, it has massively failed in my original dream of becoming madly popular, granted I didn't assign much probability to that dream, but that's still annoying. What makes things even more annoying is unlike last year when my view count was steadily increasing, my views have currently hit a static low. So it's annoying, but not unexpected, and non critical.

What has been more critical has been my investment of worth into my work in these sessions. Because I invested worth into it, certain parts of me have been working against it, and prompting anxiety and depression to surround it. Yeah, so it's been annoying.

But that's the way things go.

Sometimes life gets a little annoying...

But it's still damn beautiful.

It's a gift from God.

And it is imbued with His glory.

So anywho, I suppose the course is to keep on carrying on.

That's right... CARRY ON, CARRY STRONG!!!

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

God Bless!

Friday, March 28, 2008

We need a long-er burn

Yeah, fire is cool.

I'm still in (got to get on track with all my school stuff and I'm on and off side-tracked by personal stuff can't post as much) mode and so I'm not promising lots of posting soon, but here's something I've been playing around with.

Disk space and bandwidth seem to be the big obstacles to a lot of my cooler internet plans (also I don't have a satellite but I think I can make do without it, for now...), I think the former isn't as big of a problem as it might be if I can solve the latter, so...

all you out there in internet land, Deliver Your Bandwidth unto ME!!!

Or something like that.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks!

Goodnight Folks!

God Bless!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Soviet History: More enigma than you can shake a stick at

If I might make a generalization of Soviet History, and bear in mind that I am a man who hates generalizations unless they are poetic or get at the essence of the human experience.

Soviet history is an enigma, an enigma wrapped in a cipher, and smothered in secret sauce.

However, we are still invited from time to time to contemplate it in a manner which defies Mr. James' assertion.

And so I did some time ago in an essay about Soviet foreign policy between the end of the Russian Civil War and the beginning of World War II. However in the brutal process of editing (it is a brutal, brutal business, editing is), I had to shave off a very elegant block of text. However, I have this alternate forum just for such elegant blocks of text and so I thought I might share it with you:

In the Preface to his book, The Soviet Tragedy, Martin Malia writes “With the collapse of 1989-1991, the world that Lenin and Stalin build was no longer even a secret. The intimate record of seventy-four years of utopian experimentation is an open book for all to read.”1 Given that many records have been destroyed and many eye-witnesses killed without note, Malia's assesment is questionable, but it is undeniable that the fall of the Soviet Union unleased a tidal wave of new historical material for Western scholars to page through. However even if we are to assume that the new material constitutes the whole of the “intimate record” of the Soviet Union, understanding the history of the Soviet Union is still a challenging task. Soviet history might now be an “open book” but it is a book written in the language of opaque personas, official and unofficial lies, self-deception and hidden truths, and above all else the intense relationship between the state and the Communist ideology. This language is not translatable by mortals, even if we can see the lines that make up its symbols.
Thus even if the history of the foreign affairs of the Soviet Union between 1921 and 1939 is mostly known, and even if the history of the domestic policies of the Soviet Union between 1921 and 1939 is mostly known, deciphering the relationship between the two is a matter of speculation rather than fact. Still speculation can be made. What need not be speculated is that the Soviet Union was built on the idea of war between capitalism and communism. The USSR was designed to be the first in the world revolution. This precept can be found publicly in all the ideologies of the Soviet leaders, and more privately in their planning and geopolitical thought. However, what is less certain is whether this war was a matter of immenent conflict or far away victory for the Soviet leaders.

A nice little paragraph or two non?

Even Mathimoto Loves Quotes

Now man can subsist on Math alone, after all is not math the word of God?

(More or less)

But it does not harm things to check out the literate world, especially when it deals with Math. Now while I may have recommended you, my dear readers, to this site before, I'd like to make a second strong recommendation for the site, the site with the might of what's right:

Professor Matthias Beck's Mathematical Quotes Page!!!

And let me share with you a couple of the highlights:

"It is my experience that proofs involving matrices can be shortened by 50% if one throws the matrices out."

E. Artin (Geometric Algebra, p. 14)

"If things are nice there is probably a good reason why they are nice: and if you do not know at least one reason for this good fortune, then you still have work to do."

Richard Askey (Ramanujan and Important Formulas, p. 32, in Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920), a Tribute, K.R. Nagarajan and T. Soundarajan, eds., Madurai Kamaraj University, 1987)

"Quapropter bono christiano, sive mathematici, sive quilibet impie divinantium, maxime dicentes vera, cavendi sunt, ne consortio daemoniorum animam deceptam, pacto quodam societatis irretiant."

("Thus the good christian should beware of mathematicians and all those who make false prophecies, however much they may in fact speak the truth; lest, being in league with the devil, they may deceive errant souls into making common cause.")

Augustinus (De genesis ad literam, Liber 2, Caput XVII, Nr. 37)

"If a 'religion' is defined to be a system of ideas that contains unprovable statements, then Gödel taught us that mathematics is not only a religion, it is the only religion that can prove itself to be one."

John Barrow

"Obvious is the most dangerous word in mathematics."

E. T. Bell

"Mathematics is a collection of cheap tricks and dirty jokes."

Lipman Bers

"We all agree that your theory is crazy, but is it crazy enough?"

Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

"5 out of 4 people have trouble with fractions."

Board in Danby, NY

"There are three kinds of people: those who can count and those who can't."

Bumpersticker on a car in Ithaca, NY

"The essense of mathematics resides in its freedom."

"To ask the right question is harder than to answer it."

G. Cantor

"Alice laughed: 'There's no use trying,' she said; 'one can't believe impossible things.' 'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.' "

"Where shall I begin" he asked. "Begin at the beginning", the king said, "and stop when you get to an end."

L. Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

"I'm a mathematical optimist: I deal only with positive integers."

"The hardest thing being with a mathematician is that they always have problems."

Tendai Chitewere

"I saw, as one might see the transit of Venus, a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly how it happened... but it was after dinner and I let it go."

Winston Churchill (My early life, 1930)

"The mathematical phenomenon always develops out of simple arithmetic, so useful in everyday life, out of numbers, those weapons of the gods: the gods are there, behind the wall, at play with numbers."

Le Corbusier

"A mathematician is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn't there."

Charles R. Darwin

"The grand thing is to be able to reason backwards."

Arthur Conan Doyle (A study in scarlet)

"Apu: In fact I can recite pi to 40000 places. The last digit is one!

Homer: Mmmm, pie."

"Homer: This time tomorrow, you'll be wearing high heels!

Ned: Nope, you will.

Homer: 'Fraid not.

Ned: 'Fraid so!

Homer: 'Fraid not.

Ned: 'Fraid so!

Homer: 'Fraid not infinity!

Ned: 'Fraid so infinity plus one!

Homer: D'oh!"

"Internet Guy: Your stock is at zero.

Bart: But I have 52 million shares! What's 52 million times zero?! And don't tell me it's zero!"

"(Homer has disappeared into a wall in the living room.)

Lisa: Well, where's my dad?

Frink: Well, it should be obvious to even the most dimwitted individual who holds an advanced degree in hyperbolic topology, n'gee, that Homer Simpson has stumbled into...[the lights go off] the third dimension.

Lisa: [flips the light switch back] Sorry.

Frink: [drawing on a blackboard] Here is an ordinary square....

Wiggum: Whoa, whoa--slow down, egghead!

Frink: ... but suppose we extend the square beyond the two dimensions of our universe, along the hypothetical z-axis, there.

Everyone: [gasps]

Frink: This forms a three-dimensional object known as a "cube," or a "Frinkahedron" in honor of its discoverer, n'hey, n'hey.

Homer's voice: Help me! Are you helping me, or are you going on and on?

Frink: Oh, right. And, of course, within, we find the doomed individual."

Matt Groening (Be sure to check out Andrew Nestler's Guide to Mathematics and Mathematicians on The Simpsons!)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter!!! Wooo!!!

Sorry for the gap between posts, but I'm going to have to make you wait a little longer. Because it's Easter! Wooo!!!


Sorry for the long time with no post, but various matters have kept me busy on various things.

Easter, however, is another matter where I am tempted to stay busy, so for right now, I don't have time to post more than to say:



Christ has risen!

He has risen, indeed.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Be yourself is all that you can... but who is you?

So more or less I'm back together again.

And what have I learned?

Not much really. Little things here and there. Mainly that disease is something that should not be ignored, and people are things that should be engaged, and stuff is stuff that should verb. I think you get my drift.

Big question remains the future.

I think I have that one figured out. I no longer have a grand design for my life, but my hope is that I get a nice easy-going 9-5 job at decent pay which allows me to have a life on the side. Not too much to ask no?

What might be too much to ask is for that life on the side, which for me would include all sorts of random projects but especially my writing, to be my real life whereas my work is just something I do 8 hours a day. Is that a delusion?

I'm trying to be realistic but not to give up my dreams, but is that necessarily possible?

It's a balancing act sure... but is it possible?

I think so. For me, I'm not sure of any other way to really live. Well, no I know of other ways, but they don't especially appeal to me. I could for example concentrate on my friendships or focus primarily on getting a wife, but those sorts of things, it's hard to imagine for me that being my life's focus.

I guess I still feel I'm something of a man of destiny, but more than that I feel like I have to try to be a man of destiny. And I think that can be enough, even if it looks pathetic and delusional from all angles except mine.

I mean I still want family, friends, etc. and maybe I'm flexible for those dominating my life if things change, but for now, for right now I suppose I still have got too much rock in my soul.

But the fact still looms large in my mind, it IS a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll...

Is that distance more than my legs can take me?

Screw that, Let's Jam!

No one jams like the Bebop! - I'm working on some special theories for a new session on Cowboy Bebop.

After that, I thought you could use some more trumpets and anime, so here's Cake with Neon Genesis Evangelion.

But if after that you think it's easy to rock and rhyme, well, let Run DMC remind you that It's Tricky

And you should listen to Run, because he's a Reverend, but if you don't listen to a preacher man, perhaps you'll listen to his son, in Accapella! (kudos Acquire Accapella).

Very beautiful eh? Just like Axel Rose thought his subject was in Sweet Child of Mine.

Except that it's his girlfriend and eventual wife, which makes calling her Sweet Child of Mine a little odd, don't you think? Well Rock and Roll will do that to you, but still I got to say, as Twisted Sister would "I wanna rock!".

But like I said it's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll, also School of Rock = Awesome Movie.

Anyways, that's about all I got for now...

So take it to your heart, take it to your head, and remember... Rand Rocks!

Goodnight Folks!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Because I can't, I won't and I don't stop

In the morning I get up and do the getting up sort of thing... but alack, alack, alack, despite the whole getting up thing I have not been doing the whole blogging thing (that's right, I'm giving up my war against the word blog, while I think webpost is superior it is tougher to verborize and adjectivize and it has shown no sign of taking over the market yet... oh well, alack, alack, alack).

Perhaps because of anxiety and depression massive problems, or the massive amount of stuff I have to do in the aftermath of it all.

So it goes.

But I deny the impulse to fail and say Hurrah!!!

As Barney always says,

"When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead."

Exactly, man, exactly.

Friday, March 7, 2008

When history's being abused, who you going to call?

I have a low tolerance for history abuse. That is when people misquote or misinterpret history especially when they think they know a lot. Yet I try to restrain myself from being too self-righteous because self-righteousness is usually the first step towards history abuse, and my love of history is pure and unblemished.

Still there are times when I can clearly and without reservation identify an act as history abuse, and one act I can identify as thus is the casual throwing around of Hitler references. There is nothing casual about Hitler. Depending on how you view him, he might be a man of an extraordinarily monstrously twisted mind, a man of exceptional evil, a force of horrible tragedy, or perhaps just a product of the absolute worst mankind has to offer.

BUT HE IS NOT CASUAL! And he cannot be causally referenced. And yet Hitler references are just always, always thrown around. It used to be only liberals would throw around Hitler references but now conservatives, centrists and the apolitical do as well. A casualization of the horror of Hitler is coming over the world, and that fact holds the potential to begin a forgetting of the greatest of evils mankind has been capable of, the Holocaust. But if I sound too serious, and I might, let me punch it up a little by saying that I usually just find people who throw around Hitler references more silly than anything else, and a good reply to that is one that has a bit of that silliness.

So thus, with no further ado, I present Mr. Jon Stewart's utterly perfect reply to the explosion of Hitler references in the world today:

A Relatively Closer Look at Hitler - The Daily Show

So remember kids, whenever you're thinking about saying someone's like Hitler, remember who's really like Hitler... Hitler.

It's time to come down

So it seems fears of a Venezuelan-Columbian-Ecuadoran War have come to naught.

This article from the AP summarizes the rather vague details of a deal made between the countries leaders. The core of the dispute, the ideological and possibly material support to FARC by left-wing governments, and the US-backed war against FARC rebels by Colombia, has not been settled, but prospects of war are for right now little.

That's damn good in my book.

But after the talk of war, it is difficult for me to make a post about anything else really. What can compare in terms of gravitas? What can make a good transition to a post of less gravitas?

So instead of transitioning from this talk of war to a logically and atmospherically connected subject, I am going to share with you one of the worst puns EVER!!!

Now at some point in middle school I heard this from a friend, so I can say for certain I didn't think about it myself, but here it goes...

What did Tonya Harding bring to the 1994 Olympics in Norway?

A little hammer.

You get it? Because the 1994 Olympics were in Lillehammer, Norway and because Tonya Harding was involved in a conspiracy to attack a competitor with a blunt object.

Get it?

Not only is pun lame, it is also excessively topical and in generally poor taste.

It is in fact THE WORST PUN EVER!!!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

That's what I'm talking about

I've got to read this guy's book now, because this is exactly the right answer to any Indian who is surprised that I'm a history major instead of a science major or anyone else who's surprised at my history major.

This is an interview with William Dalrymple in the Hindu.

See that's what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cause Math don't stop

Now I will admit I have been somewhat negligent about posting. But let that not deter you from seeking the great works of Math yourself. Because even when I slow or stutter, the Math don't stop:

And here's some places to get more math between my most informative posts:

Here's a nice source of Math Quotes with some cool comic excerpts to boot!

Here's a nice little blog from a Math undergrad (although not as nice as this blog):) called Me Or My Maths.

Beautiful thing about math is it transcends languages, so while there's a lot on this site (let's call it Germanio-Math) which I don't understand (including its title), there's still a lot an English-speaking pursuer of math can take from it.

Here's a quite useful site especially reference-wise:

And if you want to get even more official-ianated with your math, here's the homepage for the American Mathematical Society

They also have a nice run down of Math in the News in their Math Digest

And there's so much more. For math is limitless in its potentials, and while this blog is limitless in its own ways, I hope for the true seeker of math this blog and all these sites are only the beginning.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Let's pray for peace

First let me get you up to speed with the particular could be war situation I'm talking about:

Colombia bombed a FARC camp a few miles within the territory of Ecuador. Initially, Ecuador's response was calm, but Venezuela saw this as an affront to Ecuador's territory and part of a US-backed plan to dominate the region. Ecuador then agreed and now both countries have moved their armies to Colombia's borders. Colombia has held its army back but has said that documents it recovered from the FARC camp (which also indicates there was a brief ground mission into Ecuador) show links between Ecuador's government and FARC and more substantial links between Chavez and FARC.

In short, it's a tense situation.

Here's some articles:

Here's the basic situation
Here's an AP News Analyst saying war is unlikely puts the raid into the context of the US-backed war against FARC
The Colombian raid killed an important FARC leader, which Colombia is saying is the #2 rebel in FARC.
Ecuador is claiming that the Colombian raid blocked a hostage release.

There's a lot more out there, but be cautious. There are definite biases when dealing with Colombia and FARC. More right-leaning people tend to be pro-Colombian government, anti-FARC. More left-leaning people tend to be anti-Colombian government, but anti-FARC as well. Strongly left-leaning people (mostly Communist sympathizers) tend to be anti-Colombian government, pro-FARC. I personally tend to be pro-Colombian government, with some reservations, and anti-FARC, with a few reservations.

Now for me.

I'm by no means a fan of war. I'm by no means a pacifist either. During the run-up to the Iraq War I did a lot of thinking about when war was justified, overall I vacillated back and forth over whether the Iraq War was justified in particular, but I'm the kind of man who takes a particular circumstance and uses it for some general thinking.

After all, at the time there was very little I could do about the war if it happened. I suppose if I was solidly against it or for it, I could protest. But even if I was that solid in my opinions about the war at the time, which I wasn't, events were moving too fast. For real wars, events always tend to move to fast. I suppose that's why I doubt we'll go to war with Iran, even in tense moments like several tense naval encounters last year, things have moved slowly. With the current Latin American situation however, things are moving fast.

My ultimate conclusion was thus: Governments can be justified in going to war for self-defense or defense of an ally. Pre-emptive war is unjustified. Humanitarian war... is an iffy concept.

But to get back to this particular situation.

I think Colombia made a mistake. Its war with FARC is perfectly legitimate in my mind since FARC is a rebel army that regularly employs terroristic tactics (like massive kidnapping), on the other hand previous Colombian gov. paramilitary backing was massively bad, since those paramilitaries tended to commit many atrocities (while many of the current gov. have alleged links to paramilitaries, I think that these links are not a fatal infection, and this current gov. is one of the first to take concrete action against the paramilitaries). Now FARC has been crossing borders, and Venezuela and Ecuador, who have ideological sympathies with FARC are likely providing the group at least protection (but I'm unsure if the reports of active and significant monetary and military support are true), so Colombia striking within Ecuador's borders (especially since the original reports said Colombia informed Ecuador about the strike, although Ecuador said it was misinformed) is not I think completely outside Colombia's rights. But it's a bad move. If it does not violate international law, it violates international rules of decorum. Colombia was inviting raised tensions with a strike like this.

However raised tensions are one thing. Moving troops to the border and cutting off trade is another. And that's what Ecuador and Venezuela are doing. And that really is unacceptably pushing near war. Again, this isn't beyond international law, but it's beyond international common sense. This is a bad situation.

So let's pray for peace.

The Beginning of an Empire

One of the topics that's always intrigued me is the colonization of India. That's not too surprising considering my Indian lineage, but in fact my family experienced little of the colonization directly. My grandparents lived in areas of India that were either princely states or lightly governed, and the major impact of the independence movement on S. India, that is the impact it had on the caste system in S. India was also removed from my grandparents given that they were Christian. That is not to say my ancestors were removed from history, there were probably some indirect effects of the independence movement on my grandparents, but the bigger historical influence on my forefathers was the reunification of a branch of the Malankara Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church. Of course, with my parents themselves the post-independence history had an effect, but I am digressing in a majorly fashion.

As I said how a joint-stock company crafted a major empire over one of the most ancient areas of civilization on earth while the only other major area of colonization was in the Americas is an oft wondered question for me.

I hesitate to offer a speculation just yet, especially since I have been around professors who have speculated much better about the matter. But I offer this:

The rise of the British East India Company must be taken within the background of the decline and disintegration of the Mughal Empire.

Now up to 1707 the Mughal Emprie was one of the most powerful empires in the world.

Yet within a decade later, its decline had become epidemic.

1717 is often cited as one of the dates marking the beginning of the British East India Company's rise, but I think it would be useful to put this date in context.

In reference to the British East India Company, 1717 marks the date when the Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar completely waived trading dues (well, in exchange for 3000 rupees a yr.) for British East India Company trade in Bengal and gave them a grant of 38 villages near Calcutta. This would firmly establish them in the Bengal trading/military scene which would lead to their first major conquest, the Presidency of Bengal.

Yet let's take a look at 1717.

This was also the year the Mughals signed a treaty acknowledging Maratha Empire rule over the Deccan in exchange for nominal overlordship and annual taxes. Considering a little more than 30 years earlier the Mughal Empire had executed the Maratha Paramount Ruler who was then considered a rebel, 1717 is a year marking the incredible decline of Mughal authority.

A little more context:

Emperor Farrukhsiyar was to some degree a puppet of the more able, but less legitimate (as imperial legitimacy goes) Saiyid Brothers, major power brokers of the Mughal court whose struggle for dominance was a key factor in the weakening of Mughal rule.

This era also saw the Mughals struggling to repel advances by the Sikh Confederacy, the Sikhs were repelled by 1716 but even afterwards Sikh rebellions and eventually independence would fatally weaken Mughal strength in NW India.

Furthermore, in Bengal itself Mughal authority was questionable.

Thus while the East India Company got a grant of villages near Calcutta in 1717, despite the orders of the Mughal Emperor, their grant of duty-free trade was ignored by many of Bengal governor who would later become Marathas with only a nominal allegiance with the Mughal court.

Thus the decline of the Mughal Empire must be seen as vital in the circumstances that allowed for the rise of the British East India Company. But is that enough of an explanation?

Doubt it.

I hope to go into more of this in my chronology of India, but here's another factor:

The Maratha Empire, which supplanted the Mughal Empire as India's dominant power, was never able to establish a firm centralization and is often called the Maratha Confederacy. Furthermore, even before coming into major conflict with the British East India Company, in 1761 the Maratha Empire was dealt a huge blow to its stability by an invasion from the growing Durrani Empire, the predecessor to the modern state of Afghanistan. The Afghanis did not keep their advances, but they did do a pretty major pillaging job.

This has been a classic NW India problem, being right next to a major imperial area (Persia whose influence on Central Asia often caused imperial rises or destablizations, India itself was often an imperial player in Central Asia). NW India was in somewhat better shape but often had to deal with the impact of the changing fate of the Burmanese Empire.

But all this information is a bit thick and a bit speculative, which is why I shall continue work on my chronology to hit both those fronts.

Only then can the history cometh.