A diary entry

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

Finished up the handful of secondary sources I wanted to look at about now. Only one was useful, and I've mentioned it. One other would have been useful; it was done well for its time. But I'd already looked at all her archaeological and written ancient sources and more, and her work is old enough that more archaeology and more translation has been done since then, so her conclusions were based on too few sources so would have just messed me up. Just started on my first Chinese source (translated, yes) for an ancient outsider's perspective.

Also feeling much more peaceful about the German question. I'm learning things I think the textbook should have already taught me, and things are making more sense. One of my graduate degrees is in education so it really really annoys me to have poor teachers!
Current time travel apparatus location: New Delhi, India

Time traveler in an alternate universe

...or perhaps just a reflection of the rationality in England even in those days.

The days of religion (or, as now call'd, of superstition) are past; and in a few years, all the cathedrals must tumble down: how they have lasted so long appears to me a miracle!
                          - John Byng, Torrington Diaries, "A Tour in South Wales, 1787"

Betcha this never happened to YOU

"Last night the deity that dwells in my parasol asked me 4 questions."

(Jataka Tale No. 546)

Aujourd'hui / Heute / Adyadina

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

Enjoying the Chinese guy. Especially oh-by-the-way mentions that there was a dragon here and there. Spending a lot of time on my languages lately, but they're tools I need to acquire ASAP...and they're so much fun! Excuse me French/German/Sanskrit scholars if I'm misusing those words for Today...I don't expect to be able to actually write intelligently in these languages.
Current time travel apparatus location: Pondicherry, India

French thoughts du jour

from study in 2010...

From the granddaughter of Ingrid Bergman, the beautiful Elettra Wiedemann you may have seen in Lancome ads: "La Beauté: C'est une question de ressenti. Une femme de passion qui a confiance en elle est toujours rayonnante....Le beauté n'est pas seulement dans l'harmonie du visage, mais aussi dans l'humour et dans la spontanéité."
(And now for a very brave try at translation: Beauty: It's a question of feeling. A woman of passion who has confidence in herself is always radiant....Beauty is not only in the harmony of a face, but also in humor and in spontaneity.)
-- from Mai 2010 of Clin d'oeil (Canadian French)

Helpful secondary sources

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

I should mention a book that so far has been very useful. It's written well and -- what I adore -- very concisely and carefully. It's Gavin Flood, editor, The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), written by various scholars. (Of course it includes the important point that Hinduism is really not one religion nor is it a collection of sects...) And I would also like to mention that both Blackwell and Routledge publishers have been very reliable for me so far.
Current time travel apparatus location: New Delhi, India


As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

How helpful, Mr. Archaeologist cum Historian. "These finds are from Gupta and later times." Well, that would include the day you found them, wouldn't it? At least tell me why you're being vague, if you actually have a reason other than carelessness, like someone -- or the weather -- messed up everything. It's especially annoying because it's very few finds, but very interesting ones, but I can't use them for my work because I very much try to avoid anachronisms and who knows if these are Gupta or later...
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India

A word on my complaints

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

I know, no one is perfect, and as I've mentioned here there are many fabulous archaeologists and historians working in South Asia. But the non-fabulous ones, especially those published by purportedly scholarly publishers, annoy me. I know how hard it is to do a decent job, but perhaps because I (most days!) work so hard on it I really find it annoying when someone else stops working far far short of a decent goal -- and some publisher thinks it's worthwhile to publish them.
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India

Another discarded secondary source

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

Yikes. I hope my next secondary source offers something useful. The one I tried just now tries to say stuff about ancient India by using writings about ancient Sri Lanka from ancient Sri Lanka, completely ignoring the fact that they were separate entities (though of course by this time they were having some contact and mutual influence). The writer also had the audacity to reference some reliable sources that I happen to have in my library; when I checked the references, the reliable author was saying nothing of the sort. It's like writing "The planet Mars is 20 miles across" and referencing a specialized astronomy book on Mars which of course does not say that.

I've heard so many painfully polite, oblique references to the deplorable state of history in certain groups in India, and I'm seeing 'way too many examples of that.
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India

More secondary source problems

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

OK, that's nice, Mr. History Guy. You're listing your sources, and they're primary sources. But you're abbreviating their names without a List of Abbreviations, and the abbreviations are ONE LETTER long. What is M? Manu? Mahabharata? Megasthenes? -- to name 3 of the extremely common sources for looking at some early South Asian thought. Or are they less common? Maitrayani Samhita? Mahaitareya? Mundakopanisad? The many Minor or Major Rock Edicts? Milandapanha? Manava Grihyasutra? Mahavastu? Mahaprajnaparamitashastra? Muduraikkanri? Malaipadukadam? Maitreyavyakarana? And those are just some of the sources starting with M in translation that I already used. Of course, I just would need to check those; hopefully one of them is what you mean. But really why be like this?

You see my problem.
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India

Be careful with Indian-published books

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

Not again. I learned years ago that many Indian publishers -- including some highly respected ones -- put whatever the year is that they are PRINTING a book on what I would call their copyright page, even if it were really PUBLISHED a century or more earlier. Occasionally they'll just reprint the original, sometimes they'll slap in a new introduction. I always try to figure out the real date before buying a book, because in some areas scholarship really has progressed. Well, I just learned that a so-called 2004 book purporting to be from Oxford India was written in 1920! 1920! I know, it's just different front-copy norms, but when it specifically says "First published 2004" as well as "Copyright 2004" on the copyright page, I expect the book to be 2004-ish, not something I could quite frankly get free on the internet, and which much worse is far behind in its scholarship. The introduction was done in 2004, but even the introduction's author's contribution to the work was written in 1991 and published elsewhere. That's a long while ago in this particular field, unless all one is interested in is the history of history. Please, Messrs. Publishers, consider saying things like "an historical collection" or "an historical work on x" and mentioning dates on earlier works in your front matter, like the permissions you would surely need for some of your reprints -- hey, I've never seen permissions in these books either....I never ran across this in America. Could it possibly be connected to some very different idea in India, which has had such terrible problems with international piracy stuff? The no-permission-mentioned is highly suspicious to me.

Sorry I'm sounding like such a dreadful curmudgeon these days! So many secondary sources do this to me! But others make me very happy...

PS -- I asked a friend of mine who worked for Oxford University Press in New York, and he pointed out a VERY important point -- how do I know Oxford India books I'm getting aren't pirated? I don't even look at obviously pirated books being sold on city streets, but still....That would explain a lot of the breathtaking typographical problems too. Some Oxford India books I've bought -- AT A DIFFERENT STORE than these with problems (Landmark is the good store) -- are fabulous, such as the very talented Patrick and Suman Olivelle's translations of Manu and of major Dharmasutras. Though I do notice they typeset their own books!!
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India

Of different cultures

From an hilarious article "Why I Would Make a Perfect Alien Liaison" at http://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/10/alt-text-alien-liaison/ .

"I am nonjudgmental and not inclined to make assumptions. For instance, if aliens descend upon the planet, incinerating the trees and crops with a wave of fire before sending out screeching flying drones to pluck people from the streets and drag them off to labor in the mercury mines of Pluto and the plutonium mines of Mercury, I will consider the possibility that it’s what their culture considers a ceremonial message of peace."

...I often said when I lived immersed in a violent culture -- hmm, and now when I am immersed in a country with an evil "leader" -- that culture is not always neutral as I was taught by some, that it can be evil...

Hotel fun in the 1930s plus...

...was had by reading the delightfully designed, written, and of course illustrated book by Barry Zaid, Wish You Were Here: A Tour of America's Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Post Card. Most I enjoyed were from the 1930s, though it goes into the 1950s...

By the way, Mr. (Dr. perhaps) Zaid's degrees are in ARCHAEOLOGY and architecture and literature!! No wonder I love his work! Wow, and he lived in Pondicherry at one point, a beautiful-in-many-places though very challenging-to-live-in city.

Does anyone actually read this stuff?

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia, during one of the rare times I was looking at a secondary source...

That's a cliche question, but now I think I know why people ask it. The secondary-source purportedly scholarly book I'm reading now, from a purportedly scholarly press (though I've run into many problems with them before), is nonsensical in parts! I know what she's trying to say in general, though so far she could have said it in about 2 sentences, especially since she's citing no decent sources, and even included a very popularized type of history book for a point she thinks is crucial. But what bugs me even more than her longwindedness and lack of sources -- this is terribly common in this field -- is the frequency of sentences that have absolutely no meaning. I seriously think no one did read this book before it was published -- and that either her English is abominable or the typesetters left out random lines from her manuscript. Well, I'll keep trying for a while...

And now it's almost an hour later and I'm editing this. I have given up on this person because of what she DOES say relatively clearly. She actually states there was no agriculture until (her term) "medieval" times in India, and says that a tribe of 2004 CE is the same as a tribe of c900 BCE. Right. Much more telling to me, she believes that the Indian epics are historically accurate. That explains a lot.
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India

French past participles

Again from 2010 work on languages...

Wow, they aren't kidding when they tell you to be sure to learn your past participles. You're lost after a certain point without them. So, of course, here's a wordle.net "poster"!

Français du jour

From 2010 studies again...

Favorite new word today: approfondir, to go into more detail about.
Favorite sentence today, in that it is something good to know: On s'aimait guere l'entendre parler parce que sa voix etait si aigue. (One did not very much like to hear her speak because her voice was so shrill.) (I am still not able to put in the accents, though now I've learned many of them...)

Wow, how generous

Someone offered to sacrifice not only himself but his mother, wife, brother, and friend. I wonder what they thought of that. (Jataka 546)

Thoughts on learning vocabulary, especially re flashcards

From 2010 while I was doing intensive language work for my ancient history research...

In general, I try to learn in context, and to read as much as possible so the words just seem normal. To build a larger vocabulary, I use a variety of vocabulary books or other lists, trying either to finish one spread or placing a bookmarker where I've gotten to. I also listen some, preferably with subtitles etc, though my focus is on learning to read. Also, I don't even try at times when nothing is getting through, because of stress or tiredness or whatever; if this happened continally of course I'd need to make some changes in my life.

I only use flashcards when I've tried for some time and the words just aren't sticking; NOT making a flashcard is a wonderful reward for having learned a word.

I investigated yet again software for learning some French and some German words, but...I don't like the work of putting in the words. Premade flashcards or stacks rarely have what I need. I don't like how ugly a lot of them are. I don't like the guessing games that some software features such as multiple choice; seeing wrong answers just teaches me wrong. I don't like my past experience that one software I worked with stopped working and even before had all sorts of bugs. I don't like that I can't review when my computer is off (though that is not super often anymore, and many do let you print pretty cards).

I've decided to stick with my paper flashcards solution: I cut paper (preferably attractive but consistent, and also a bit thick) into strips the width of the paper, using up the whole sheet and ending up with strips maybe 8-1/2 by a bit under 2 inches. I fold them in half so they're now 4ish inches across. On the left in a color of waterproof ink I like I write the foreign word, on the right the English word. I do not give myself clues like using blue for verbs or whatever. (However, I do use different colors of ink and/or paper for different languages.) Then I use them: I review them, making stacks of Definitely Need to Review Again, Don't Need to Review for a Couple Months, and Don't Need to Review for a Long While If at All. If I still am having trouble, I open up the strips (THIS is why I prefer this method to normal flashcards) so I can see both the foreign language and the translation, and study them that way for a while. Eventually maybe I'll play games with them like Concentration or something??

(I also gave a couple samples of a now of course defunct software I used for making "posters" for study:)


As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia, during one of the extremely rare times when I was checking out secondary sources...

People! Writers! If you say your book is about a certain date, please please please do not make it about dates 300 years later. That is rather misleading! And please if you're halfway scholarly PUT IN YOUR REFERENCES!

Yes, I just spent an afternoon tracking down references, only to find that some of them were not for my current period.

That's interesting though. I always complain about the few misleading archaeologists, but this was some guy specializing in Buddhist religion.
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India

Bad fairies

From my notes as I researched my volumes on the history of lifestyles in ancient South Asia...

Today I discovered to my amusement that there were HERETICAL fairies. (Jataka Tale No. 40)

(More seriously, I also learned that that Pali term kinnara is of course more complicated than just possibly meaning fairies. E.g., sometimes it's translated as elves. The Pali-English dictionaries I consulted just said it was a little being with a body like a bird and head like a man, though...so it's not exactly like any European fantastic creature I know of, though I've not read much more than Grimm's and Andersen's.)

German fun

Notes after an emergency trip in 2010 when my very dear dad was in the hospital -- in 2017 he's doing fabulously!

At least one happy work-related thing happened on the trip: The only seat available from India was through Germany, and I found a couple great books there to help me with my studies. That and French were all I did work-wise on my emergency trip.

One book I got was the first German dictionary I can actually read -- I bought my other dictionaries (a huge and a portable) about 20 years ago and my eyes have aged! This is one made for Germans to learn English, so it has some interesting features for me. I read somewhere that it can help to have such a dictionary, as explanations themselves give you reading practice.

I also found with these books that I could start dipping into real magazines! I tried the German wellness magazine Vital whose June (Juni) 2010 issue came with all sorts of free stuff like a booklet on relaxation -- something I found useful in that stressful time!

Reds and greens

Another instance of a breathtaking lifestyle from the 1903 Homes and Their Decoration by Lillie Hamilton French:

One country house, used in winter, has been treated with reds and greens....All the floors are covered with a rich red velvet carpet, a sweep of splendid color, lying across the drawing-room floor, the much-divided hall, up the stairs to the bedrooms above, down the flight of a dozen steps or more to the library door, and on across that floor to the fireplace at its end, some forty feet away. The walls of the drawing-room are covered with a large red figure on a white ground. The hall is green, a better background for the pictures; the library, red. No sense of confusion is conveyed by the breaking up of the wall-colors. That splendid sweep of red in the carpet, when the doors are thrown open, brings everything together. An unbroken stretch of wall-space could never have done this.


Very "modern" thoughts on religions

Buddha in a legend c300s CE had some very modern-sounding things to say about a certain religion of his time: "These greedy liars propogate deceit, / And fools believe the fictions they repeat; / He who has eyes can see the sickening sight; / Why does not [the head god] set his creatures right? / If his wide power no limits can restrain, / Why is his hand so rarely spread to bless? / Why are his creatures all condemned to pain? / Why does he not to all give happiness? / Why do fraud, lies, and ignorance prevail? / Why triumphs falsehood, truth and justice fail? / I count your [head god] one th' injust among, / Who made a world in which to shelter wrong. / Those men are counted pure who only kill [animals] – / These are your savage customs which I hate, / Such as [a northwestern Indian tribe's] hordes might emulate.… / Let [the adherents of this religion] [adherents of the same religion] kill – so all were well! / And those who listen to the words they tell. / We see no cattle asking to be slain… / Rather they go unwilling to their death / And in vain struggles yield their latest breath. / To veil the [sacrificial] post, the victim, and the blow / The [religious leaders] let their choicest rhetoric flow… / But if the wood thus round the victim spread / Had been as full of treasure as they said, / As full of silver, gold, and gems for us, /…They would have offered for themselves alone / And kept the rich reversion as their own. / These cruel cheats, as ignorant as vile, / Weave their long frauds the simple to beguile.… / The offerer, simple to their hearts' content, / Comes with his purse, they gather round him fast, / Like crows around an owl, on mischief bent, / And leave him bankrupt and stripped bare at last, / The solid coin which he erewhile possessed, / Exchanged for promises which none can test.… / No law condemns them, yet they ought to die." What he didn't seem to notice was that he had begun his own religion, which according to these Jataka tales often had completely respected people who took all sorts of riches from others, though unlike a certain major religion of the time it did not make animal sacrifices. It however also made promises no one could test (as does any religion of which I am aware), including detailed various hells and heavens. (Though I still need to learn the history of the development of the Jataka Tales; e.g., if it's possible the writer of this particular piece believed differently from other tales' writers.)
(quote from Jataka Tale No. 543, part VIII)

What a life!

From the 1903 Homes and Their Decoration by Lillie Hamilton French:

I saw mahogany in a pink and white morning room the other day, among satin couches, and I felt it added a note of distinction....This particular morning-room had a wainscoting of white wood running from the floor to a four-inch border of white rose-wreathed paper enclosing a paper imitating pink watered silk. The windows were hung with satin similar to that covering the couches. It was a room strictly adapted to the needs of its beautiful owner, who used it only for the writing of letters and the reading of light literature after breakfast.

Tips on flirting, c300s CE

From Jataka Tale No. 536: "ways a woman flirts with a man. She...scratches the ground with a stick, she exposes her...armpit,...makes her tongue loll out." Hmmm.

Probably not your #1 choice for entertainment

A king said on a festival day, while he was dressed up and standing with his 3 ministers on a terrace, watching the moon rise, "Pleasant indeed is this clear night. With what amusement shall we divert ourselves?" He was answered variously,

Let's have a war (a real one!);

Let's eat and drink and enjoy "dance and song and music";

Let's listen to sermons.

– Guess what he decided on? Sermons, of course! This is a religious story, after all. (Jataka Tale No. 544)

Aesthetic update

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

Just ran across at least one Archaeological Survey of India writer with a sense of aesthetics (cf. recent-ish post on gardens) -- "New varieties of roses, cannas and several other ornamental trees and plants were introduced to add to the beauty of this newly developed garden" over an archaeological site they've covered back up. Moreover, "The entire area...has now been developed and profuse flowering of annual and perennial plants is indeed a sight to enjoy." It's interesting that this was in an area not far from the other (Agra) site that spoke some of beauty; also, it's mentioned that a committee got together to discuss improving the landscaping, and also that they were able to get a good water pump which "has improved the water supply to a great extent." As so often here, it has much to do with finances. Of course I really shouldn't read too much into quick comments such as these; I just find them interesting while doing my "real work."

Current time travel apparatus location: Pondicherry, India

Time traveling in one's own home

What a wonderful life Steven Keylon and John de la Rosa have crafted for themselves -- they have gradually collected a home, car, and complete furnishings from the 1940s, even rebuilding and restoring a wonderful old stove, beautiful car, etc etc....They are profiled in the Winter 2018 (yes, 2018! hmm, time traveling in the future too!) issue of Vintage Style, whose official site is simply through http://amglifestylestore.com/p-2218-vintage-style.aspx .

Perhaps those who follow us will envy us

Or not.

Anyway, an interesting quote from 1785! By John Byng the Viscount Torrington, in "A Ride Taken in 1785" in The Torrington Diaries, about a visit to already-long-respected William Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon:

I...enter'd the White Lion Inn,...where in the yard is the [bust] of Shakespeare....I order'd dinner from a bill of fare...and then [since it took a while to get dinner prepared, I] went forth to pay my obeisance at the shrine of our immortal bard: but first the house of his birth, next door to the Swan and Maidenhead (the old sign), still in the possession of the Hart family....If I had been born in an earlier time, I had done wonders as an antiquary, being self-inspired, and not catching manners from fashion and conversation; but my ideas are, that if I was born 150 years too late, I was, however born 100 years before those who will follow me; and who perhaps will envy me for what I saw and possessed. How do you, Mrs. Hart? Let me see the wonders of your house. 'Why, there, sir, is Shakespeare's old chair...'

Please be specific

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

Oh, how helpful. "An object" was found in an archaological dig, I just read. What size was it, what was it made of, what was its context, etc.?! 
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India


As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

Why do some archaeologists -- very few -- lie about their "finds"? It makes me ignore all of their writings, because I don't want to repeat potential fabrications. It would be much more useful if they must indulge their religious or whatever leanings if they just admitted they're speculating and have fun with that, but meanwhile clearly present the actual facts. Perhaps like a few sad people I've met around the world, some of them hallucinate so much they don't realize they're presenting fiction.
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India