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 .

"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 "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, 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 .

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

An aesthetic question?

At I spoke of the attention to beauty of archaeological work in India. After the original post, I wrote...

Here is the annual report on many archaeological sites' gardens (see other post about how they're common on already-excavated sites here): Re each, it was "well maintained…maintained properly…kept in a presentable condition…kept neat and clean throughout the year." Re apparently the worst of the lot: "Efforts have been made to keep the garden in a presentable way." Better-sounding were "maintained nicely." Another site had the labor-intensive addition of 7,000 plants! The best-sounding said that they were creating a "pleasing environment" after clearing a "jungle" (around Agra Fort, which is surprising).
Current time travel apparatus location: New Delhi, India

Archaeological code words and other work

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

Since the century (actually 2 weeks) ago I was able to post I've done a lot of very complex archaeological sites with unusually large numbers of excavated houses, plus other sites. There were even lots of wonderful floorplans, including of stone houses I think even modern-day people would find fascinating to live in. I had fun with some 1800s journals showing how things were gradually figured out, including through good-natured arguments among linguists. One site though literally took days not so much because of much info but because it was reported by a kook who fudged evidence including dating so I had to redo a lot. When researching another site, I ran across a history book published in 2004 called Prehistory and [some Indian period of history] -- which gave new meaning to the term "prehistory"-- the author only used archaeological reports and other writings from the 1800s and very early 1900s, though far later sources are readily available. I also got back into my Sanskrit work. I also started a list just for myself (and my husband who's planning some historical fiction) of how different terms are used very differently by some archaeologists here (eg, a "bathroom" in very long-ago India in their reports is almost always only a bathing room, not a toilet-sink-bathing place combo, even when all those items exist in that time).
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India
 Update from 2017! You may have noticed the page in this blog featuring my very much updated list of archaeological "code words" from South Asia:

Work and play and snakes

A glimpse at life in India, as chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...

In the past couple days: Have been doing a lot of complicated archaeological sites, though some are complicated only because the writing is unclear or unreliable. Also studied French. Yesterday cleaned the library quite a bit and organized a just-for-fun reading project. Also ran errands. Today indulged for a few minutes in my favorite hobby: rearranging furniture! And in my 2nd-favorite hobby: iTunes playlists! Feeling great possibly because of so much fun stuff! Also did really fun writing this morning and will try some more this evening. Not fun: yesterday the water delivery guy spied near the front porch possibly a KING COBRA and a smaller snake my husband thinks the huge snake wanted for lunch. 
Current time travel apparatus location: The Round Library, Bangalore, India

Sabbatical time, 2009

From September 2009 in my old Diary of a History Writer...

I'm going to be going on a sabbatical trip; my writing gets boring and I get fewer ideas when I'm not having enough variety in my "real" life. I think I'll take a look at other Asian history just for fun...which fits in with some quick stops in Japan and Singapore...

Getting there!

Thank you so much for your patience. I just finished going through page proofs this morning for Lifestyles in Early South Asia...and hope that volume I (of III) will be available to you soon. An extremely dear loved one has been in the hospital, however, which of course may slow me down in what I still need to do...

A 1931 trek through England by a non-fabulous author

English SummerEnglish Summer by Cornelia Stratton Parker
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I wondered why I found my fabulous copy of this book for such a low cost, and now I know: Mrs. Parker takes turns looking down on and swooning over England, complete with jarringly flowery language and unreliable history....My favorite bit of this book by far was that my copy had been owned by someone who followed Mrs. Parker's itinerary and had penciled in her own impressions, such as re the Feathers Inn in Ludlow, that she agreed it had a charming dining room, "but the BEDS -- awful, window wouldn't close -- FROZEN."

View all my reviews

Very miscellaneous thoughts on learning -- and typing -- a foreign language

As chronicled in your researcher's journal as I researched my history of early lifestyles in South Asia...Sorry, it's long, but may be of interest to anyone starting out learning another language.

Gleaned from a talk with a fabulous grad student in history.

I've been TERRIBLY distracted with a sick kitty, but of course a sick loved one really trumps everything else, doesn't it. Though actually I started studying more German to get my mind off my worries, though of course not off caring for her....There's a lexical tool at (hmm, not working in 2017 so far...) with conjugation stuff that sounds SO helpful! In French I finally had to buy a Starter French Dictionary by Oxford which had some things like that, but computerized is so much better. Now I finally don't need that French thing, but it really helped! has vocabulary podcasts that sound absolutely perfect! I'm trying to restrain myself for a couple more lessons before diving into German podcasts, but the prospect will keep me going....Before our little old lady got sick, I felt like my brain was finally adjusting to learning a new language, much more quickly. Somehow I just could get into a better learning frame of mind. I could feel when I could take in new stuff (best in the AM for me). Though it could also be, one gets to a point when a language really makes sense, and it's easier to build on it then. But I think it was more than that; somehow my brain opened up and was happy to take in new words or whatever. On our patient's good days I'm able to do this again....Though one thing that definitely helped me was -- I used to have stacks and stacks of flashcards, but I would find it so hard to get the info into my head. Finally I realized (everyone's different!) that I needed to see words in context, and then they stuck in my head AND were ever so much more interesting then. Also -- and this has ALWAYS helped me IMMENSELY -- I choose a very manageable number of high-quality resources and use all of them, so they're teaching me some of the same stuff in different ways. I used to read, e.g., 3 biology textbooks for high school biology, and the same time spent studying 3 texts 1x worked much better than 1 text 3x....Flashcards still work for some things for me, though. (My old problem was I put everything I didn't learn in a day or two onto a card, and that was frustrating -- now my much-loved reward for learning is not needing to make a flashcard.) I had a sample flashcard software that was flaky so I didn't buy it and now it's gone, but it'd be nice to find a great one....Lastly -- I used to have lists of things to learn and would go merrily down the list without mastering the earlier stuff. Now -- trained actually by how my French for Reading textbook is set up -- I don't go on without learning whatever it is I have to (plus I occasionally review, at the very beginning of a new lesson, anything from earlier I marked as needing help, or whenever I am really bad at something). The only exception is, e.g. when I've been studying a certain conjugation and it's just not getting into my head and I need a break, I will go on just to the next thing on the list, but then will go right back. If it's still difficult I'll approach it differently, look for help online, whatever. Or just sleep on it and tackle it the next day.

Lastly, he taught me how to make umlauts! He writes, "they are SUPER easy to do on the Mac.  Just press ALT + u (that is, hold down the ALT/OPTION key while pressing 'u'), then release both keys, and then type whatever vowel you want to put the umlaut over (a, u, o).  Check it out: ä, ü, ö.  Simple!!" AND other stuff: "also, did you know you can do all of the letters for French/Spanish, etc, similarly?

I don't know all of them, but... ALT+e + a vowel = é, ALT+i + vowel = â, ALT+~(the tilda) + vowel = è, ALT+n + letter = ñ

And I forgot the esset!! ALT+s = ß

And I think French uses this, right? ALT+c = ç

Anyways, pretty much any letter you need is really easy to type on the Mac.  just google it if there is something i'm not showing you that you need."

Oh dear, now I don't have an excuse to be so sloppy in my typing!
Current time travel apparatus location: New Delhi, India

English word du jour

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

(from Jataka No. 535)
Current time travel apparatus location: New Delhi, India