Nov 192010
 

Shatapatha-Brahmana, I, 8, 1-6.

1. In the morning they brought to Manu water for washing, just as now they continue to bring water for washing the hands. When Manu was washing himself, a fish came into his hands.

2. The fish spoke to him: “Protect me and I will save you!” “From what are you going to save me?” Manu asked. “A flood will carry away all everything: from that flood I will save you!” “How am I to protect you?” said Manu.

3. The fish said, “As long as we are small, there is great destruction for us: fish eat fish. You will first keep me in a jar. When I outgrow that, you will dig a pit and keep me in it. When I outgrow that, you will take me down to the sea, for then I shall be beyond destruction.”

4. It soon became a ghasha (a great fish), one that grows largest (of all fish). The great fish said, “In such and such a year that flood will come. You will then attend to me and by my advice prepare a ship and when the flood has risen you will enter into the ship, and I will save you from it.”

5. After Manu had reared the fish this way, he took it down to the sea. And in the same year which the fish had indicated to him, he followed the advice of the fish and built a ship. And when the flood had risen, he entered into the ship. The fish then swam up to him, and to its horn he tied the rope of the ship, and by that means he passed swiftly up to the northern mountains.

6. The fish then said, “I have saved you. Fasten the ship to a tree; but do not let the water cut you off while you are on the mountain. As the water subsides, you may gradually descend!” Accordingly Manu gradually descended and since then the slope of the northern mountain is called ‘Manu’s descent.’ The flood then swept away all creatures and Manu alone remained here.

Matsyavatara (The Fish Incarnation) [From the Bhagavata VIII]

There was an intermediate deluge. Brahma slept for a while and the demon Hayagriva stole the Vedas. Lord Vishnu noticed this and took the form of Fish. In the Dravida country, there was a pious King, Satyavrata by name. As he was making an offering of water in the Kritamala river, the Lord appeared as a tiny Fish in the water of his palm. The Fish began to grow, and wondering at this, the King went on transferring it from one container to another. The Fish, which had finally to be deposited in the sea, told him: “On the seventh day from now, all the worlds will become completely flooded; on the flood waters, a boat will come to you; embark in it with manifold herbs and seeds and surrounded by the seven great sages and every class of living beings; a strong gale will rock the boat, but tie it to my snout with the great serpent, and as you ask me questions, I shall expound to you then the glory of Myself, the Supreme Brahman.”

Accordingly the sea swelled as huge rain-clouds poured down incessantly, rolled on and engulfed the world; the boat appeared, and also the great Fish; to its single snout, Satyavrata tied the ark. Dragging the ark over the waters, the Lord as a Fish imparted to Satyavrata the teachings about Truth which were collected in the Purana known as the Matsya (Fish). After the waters of the deluge had subsided, the Lord slew the demon Hayagriva and restored the Vedas to Brahma, who had awoke from his slumber.

 Comments Off on Ancient Indian Flood Myths
Nov 192010
 

Here are five different translations of a poem by Sappho. New discoveries have resulted in a nearly complete poem from fragment 58 and these poems are based on this new text.

The Beat Goes On

You, children, be zealous for the
beautiful gifts of the
violetlapped Muses
and for the clear songloving lyre.

But my skin once soft is now
taken by old age,
my hair turns white from black.

And my heart is weighed down
and my knees do not lift,
that once were light to dance as
fawns.

I groan for this. But what can I do?
A human being without old age is
not a possibility.

There is the story of Tithonos,
loved by Dawn with her arms of roses
and she carried him off to the
ends of the earth

when he was beautiful and young.
Even so was he gripped
by white old age. He still has his
deathless wife.

— Translation by Anne Carson. Published in NYRB, October 20, 2005.


[You for] the fragrant-blossomed Muses’ lovely gifts
[be zealous,] girls, [and the] clear melodious lyre:

[but my once tender] body old age now
[has seized;] my hair’s turned [white] instead of dark;

my heart’s grown heavy, my knees will not support me,
that once on a time were fleet for the dance as fawns.

This state I oft bemoan; but what’s to do?
Not to grow old, being human, there’s no way.

Tithonus once, the tale was, rose-armed Dawn,
love-smitten, carried off to the world’s end,

handsome and young then, yet in time grey age
o’ertook him, husband of immortal wife.

— Translation by Martin West


Those violet-wearing Muses’ lovely gifts
and tuneful lyres enjoy, O maidens dear!

My own once tender body’s hard with age;
this hair once ebony is changed to white.

A heavy heart – and slow, these faltering knees
that once would whirl me, dancing, like some fawn.

But why complain, when nothing can be done?
Necessity decrees we all grow old.

Tithonus, loved by rose-armed Dawn, we’re told,
was carried by his love beyond the world:

comely, young – but Age still found him there
in time, despite his deathless wife’s intent.

— Translation by Noetica, 2005


Sappho to Her Pupils

Live for the gifts the fragrant-breasted Muses
send, for the clear, the singing, lyre, my children.
Old age freezes my body, once so lithe,
rinses the darkness from my hair, now white.
My heart’s heavy, my knees no longer keep me
up through the dance they used to prance like fawns in.
Oh, I grumble about it, but for what?
Nothing can stop a person’s growing old.
They say that Tithonus was swept away
in Dawn’s passionate, rose-flushed arms to live
forever, but he lost his looks, his youth,
failing husband of an immortal bride.

— Translation by Lachlan Mackinnon


Sappho and the Weight of Years

Girls, be good to these spirits of music and poetry
that breast your threshold with their scented gifts.
Lift the lyre, clear and sweet, they leave with you.

As for me, this body is now so arthritic
I cannot play, hardly even hold the instrument.
Can you believe my white hair was once black?

And oh, the soul grows heavy with the body.
Complaining knee-joints creak at every move.
To think I danced as delicate as a deer!

Some gloomy poems came from these thoughts:
useless: we are all born to lose life,
and what is worse, girls, to lose youth.

The legend of the goddess of the dawn
I’m sure you know: how rosy Eos
madly in love with gorgeous young Tithonus

swept him like booty to her hiding-place
but then forgot he would grow old and grey
while she in despair pursued her immortal way.

— Translation by Edwin Morgan

 Comments Off on Sappho: A quintet of interpretations of a “new” poem (Fragment 58)
Nov 192010
 

Dina Mehta says, “My blog is my Social Software and my Social Network“. Many bloggers, including Lilia Efimova, seem to share this feeling. Dina cites the richness of content of a blog compared to a profile pages on a networking cite as the primary reason. She also points to the various back-end tools that allow her to carry on an extended, public conversation with other bloggers. Lilia sees a balance between the two, appreciating the immediacy of information that a profile on a social networking site provides, but also the depth that comes from reading someone’s blog. She summarizes it by saying: “I’m thinking about YASNs and weblogs in terms of contact management (knowing whom and how you can reach) and relation management (knowing why you do it and why they would react). For networking you need both…”

I, too, appreciate the role of both. I do, though, see some limitations to blogging, particularly for the impending mass of mainstream users:

  • While blogging itself is fairly accessible, many of the back-end tools that allow that connectivity are not. Every new blogger will most surely end up pinging weblogs.com and blo.gs, but how many will learn how to properly use Trackback, properly join and ping the Blog Network, or set up different categories in their blog to ping the proper categories at Topic Exchange? The basics of posting and linking are easy enough, but the stuff that enables blogs to be really useful as social networking tools are still somewhat exclusive to the digerati.
  • Blog conversations are NOT egalitarian, as has been discussed recently by Joi Ito, Clay Shirky, Marko Ahtisaari, et al. I’m not saying that’s “wrong”, or “bad”, just “inaccessible” for most users, compared to the openness of a discussion forum or mailing list. With blogging, you simply have to work a lot harder to be heard by anybody.
  • Reading and writing blogs can be enormously time consuming. I appreciate the rich picture I can get of someone from reading their blog, but do I really want to do that with every single person I meet? It’s completely impractical. As we point out in our book, The 5 Keys to Building Business Relationships Online, the number of people in your network and the average strength of your relationships with them are inversely proportional, constrained by the time one is willing to spend building relationships. Furthermore, different people need different balances between numbers and strength of relationship. Someone selling $15 e-books needs more people at a much lower strength of relationship than someone selling $150,000 enterprise software. Blogs are great to have there to provide the depth when wanted/needed, but they’re not as useful as a purely exploratory tool.

Bottom line: I, too, see the role both can play in building a rich and diverse social network. If you’re primarily interested in deep, long-term relationships, then your blog should be your focal point, and the profiles in the various social networking sites merely additional points of presence to invite people into the richer communication of your blog. On the other hand, if your needs are more towards a broad visibility, not just among the blogging technorati, then less frequent blog posting and more time spent in group discussion in the social networks is a better strategy. If your relationship needs are far more focused, i.e., wanting to meet people, or people in specific roles at specific companies, then business-oriented social networking sites, not blogs, are the place to do that.

They can all be part of the mix, but the portion of your time and energy spent in each platform should be aligned with what your objectives are for social networking.

 Comments Off on Blogs as social software and social networks
Nov 192010
 

Seamus Heaney

in memory of Czeslaw Milosz

His instruction calmed us, his company and voice
Were like high tidings in the summer trees.
Except this time he turned away and left us.
He walked to where the stream goes underground
And a steep bank paved with flagstones
Leads down to a lintel in the earthwork.
And there he stood, studying what next.
Between a stone cairn and a marble plaque
To the dead of our late wars.
Other wars and words were in my mind,
Another last look taken upon earth—
Roads shining after rain
Like uphill rivers
—so that I all but
Wept for his loneliness.
                        He loosed the girdle then
Off his scarecrow rags, called for his girls to fetch
River water for him, find a place
Where overhanging grass combed long and green
And dip their pitchers there. So off they went
And came with overbrimming vessels back
To pour a last libation and to wash
Their dear departing father, hand and foot,
Prepare his linen garment and do all
According to the custom for the dead.

And when all was done, and the daughters waiting,
There came a noise like water rising fast
Far underground, then a low blast and rush
As if some holy name were breathed on air,
A sound that when they heard it made the girls
Cry out, and made blind Oedipus
Gather them in his arms. “My children.” he said—
And the rest of us felt that we were his then too—
“Today is the day that ends your father’s life.
The burden I have been to myself and you
Is lifted. And yet it was eased by love.
Now you must do without me and relearn
The meaning of that word by remembering.”
Then the waterfall of sound behind him grew
Into an overwhelming cavern-voice
Shouting shouts that came from all directions:
“You there. What are you waiting for? You keep
Us waiting. It’s time to move. Come on.”

And now he was a stranger. He groped in air
As the daughters went to him, heads on his breast,
And he found and kissed their brows, instructing them
One final time: they were to turn and go
And (these were his words exactly) not look upon
Things that were not for seeing, nor listen to
Things not for hearing.
                        And what he said to them
We took again as meant for all of us,
So turned away together when he turned
Away, with the king accompanying him.

But after a few steps I and other ones
Halted to look hack. He was gone from sight:
That much I could see, and against the sky
The king had his arm up shielding his two eyes
As if from some brilliant light or blinding dread.
Next he was on his knees, head bowed to earth
In homage to those gods who dwell in it,
Then up again with his arms spread out to honour
The gods on high, like a windlass being turned
By every power above him and below,
Raised out knowledge into knowledge, sole
Witness of what passed.
                        No god had galloped
His thunder chariot, no hurricane
Had swept the hill. Call me mad, if you like,
Or gullible, but that man surely went
In step with a guide he trusted down to where
Light has gone out but the door stands open.


(adapted from Sophocles,
Oedipus at Colonus, lines 1586-1666)

 Comments Off on What Passed at Colonus
Nov 192010
 

I had talked about this with friends in the past. It is basically the citation format equivalent of a vCard. It should allow simple swapping of citation or citation-like information. It should be built on open standards, perhaps using the Dublin Core as the basic semantics. It might also use something like the Netscape RSS.

vCite must be XML-based. It should be able to hook into a hypertext link (perhaps as a XLINK or in some extension of ANCHOR tag) that allows a vCite block to be “grabbed” by another application. This might be things like:

– an automatic citation scanner used to compile link directories (useful for collaborative filtering)
– bookmark manager
– enhanced subject gateway or hypertext link display (cursor over and see a structured catalog entry for the link).
– exchange of vCites between a range of applications, for example, sending a catalog URL to a customer PDA much like the vCard allows a user to send a business card.

One can imagine going into a store with a PDA and then allowing a user to have selected items automatically forward their descriptions for later review and comparison shopping.

Students would be able to grab vCites from library catalogs as a simple transportable and interoperable set of semantics that they could then use for creating bibliographies.

Promoting this development would allow a user to catalog a link or some record and then share it more easily. Since users and automated tools would be the ones disseminating the vCite, the onus is on the originator to ensure a useful, accurate vCite. This helps encourage stronger linkages and fewer transcription and other errors in sharing citation information.

IDEA: CITATION ANALYSIS and NOTETAKING

Citation analysis seems underutilized for information retrieval to me. Why don’t organizations use citation analysis to figure out what important things were referenced in their particular area of interest and use this information to help determine things like digitization priorities (like making sure the most important and cited articles/texts are available to their users) or to create secondary “survey” products like annual compilations of important stuff.

Now if only we had a mechanism to clearly identify what portions of documents that people stop and reference, then we have something interesting. Too bad electronic highlighting is so crude. It would be useful if we could have highlighting in browsers and have it used for automatic notetaking or summarization. Rather than just saving links (which are terribly unstructured) the objective should be to capture anything and summarize and/or catalog.

Here again is where my idea of vCite would really be helpful.

Citations online. Why have programs like Endnote/Procite on the desktop? Why not make them accessible from anywhere on the web and allow users to have a variety of outputs (HTML, PDF, .doc, RTF) and let them chose the citation style as well.

This would be a useful service and allow notetaking from anywhere.

It would be useful to be able to upload a local file and to download one as well. Import from Procite/Endnote would also be a great feature to have. Work with ISI to develop the product?

One objective is to support scholarly and educational work.
Another is personal subject trees: how to manage links better is the objective here.

Another twist might be to make this an online bookmark manager. Allow users to move their bookmarks to a central repository (saves them in the event of an accidental overwrite) and to make all or portions of their links accessible. If this were matched with vocabulary tools online for creating personal heirarchies
and automatic linkchecking, and even metadata cataloging, then I think there is a nice application environment here.

How to make money? It must be a subscription service purchased either by single users or institutions. Viral market by providing a limited service for users (100 citations/200 links, etc).

Existing citation management tools are lame and have not advanced significantly.

Performance must be great.

It would be useful to allow users to define access for various parts of their personal bookmarks, subject trees,

 Comments Off on Idea file – vCite (2003)