Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cracking The Maya Code

`If a script has 20 to 35 signs, it is probably alphabetic, representing simple sounds. If there are 80 to 100 signs, it is probably based on syllables. But if a script has several hundred signs, it is surely logographic, or based on signs for whole words.`

But how do you decipher is an ancient language, which, after surviving 1,500 years, was systematically obliterated by over-zealous conquerors?

Here is the amazing story of some amazing individuals (German, American, Russian) and their effort to decipher the Maya logographic-script.

Transcript of the PBS program telecast in 2008 -

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Denial of Service

It is really fascinating how the Wikileaks issue is playing out...After spending decades lecturing the Russians and the Chinese on the joys of a free press, the US government has now doing everything it can to kill the messenger - Assange.

It started out with 'distributed denial of service' (DDOS) attacks on Wikileaks sites, then forced governments to hunt him down with an Interpol lookout, and now, it is forcing private companies to sever links with Wikileaks.

And then, over the past week, faceless netizens started fighting back. A group calling itself AnonOps brought down Visa Inc’s site throuh a DDOS attack. Another group called Anonymous has targeted mainly companies which have decided for whatever reason not to deal with WikiLeaks, and their hit-list includes Amazon, MasterCard, Visa and PayPal. Some of these "hacktivists" called this Operation Payback.

How do DDOS attacks work?

According to CERT, denial of service attacks can take three forms:
  1. consumption of scarce, limited, or non-renewable resources (usually bandwidth)
  2. destruction or alteration of configuration information
  3. physical destruction or alteration of network components
In the case of Operation Payback in support of Wikileaks, new tools are being adapted to make DDOS attacks easier. One of them is called the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) software available as a free download from SourceForge (Hive Mind LOIC). This one, according to the Register, can be used to launch attacks even from an iPhone!
Today, the Dutch police arrested a 16-year-old for such an attack on MasterCard and Visa. So the hacktivists are changing is one that was published yesterday by BoingBoing:

Wonder where this will lead to...


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Gems from the Pali Canon

I have always wondered...what is it that inspired Chiense scholars like Fa Xian (c.337-422 CE) and  Xuanzang (c. 602-664 CE)   to undertake that ardrous trek across the Tibetan plateau, and over the Himalayas to the monastic universities of Bihar? What was so great about getting an education at Nalanda?

 A part of the answer can be found in the Pali Canon, in documents like the Samannaphala Sutta. It gives you a glimpse of the great depth and power of ideas; of concepts communicated in a language acessible to kings and slaves alike; of prose that cuts though 'eternal questions' with startling simplicity.

The Chinese walked thousands of kilometers to understand the Pali Sutras. Some of these documents are now available online, in English translations that also reveal much about life & times of ancient Magadha.

Documents from
This Sutra describes Buddha's response to King Ajatashatru's question:
"Lord, there are these common craftsmen: elephant-trainers, horse-trainers, charioteers, archers, standard bearers, camp marshals, supply corps officers, high royal officers, commandos, military heroes, armor-clad warriors, leather-clad warriors, domestic slaves, confectioners, barbers, bath attendants, cooks, garland-makers, laundrymen, weavers, basket-makers, potters, calculators, accountants, and any other common craftsmen of a similar sort. They live off the fruits of their crafts, visible in the here and now. They give pleasure and refreshment to themselves, to their parents, wives, and children, to their friends and colleagues. They put in place an excellent presentation of offerings to priests and contemplatives, leading to heaven, resulting in happiness, conducive to a heavenly rebirth. Is it possible, lord, to point out a similar fruit of the contemplative life, visible in the here and now?"

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Discovering Ozu

Classics from the Japanese film director, Yasujiro Ozu:

Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story, 1953)

And a few more:

Higanbana (Equinox Flower) - - Death Poem

Floating Weeds-
Tokyo Monogatari (1953)

Early Spring -

Tokyo Boshoku (Tokyo Twilight, 1959) -



Setsuko Hara -