Weird things from my past that I don’t remember

Today, while purging the Downloads folder of my main computer, I found a file titled Library_Catalogue_contents.xlsx. As the name suggests, it is an Excel file listing the contents of some library somewhere. It is 17.5 MBs, and it was downloaded a month ago, on 22nd of October, 2018.

It is a list of some fifty-six thousand books, I have not checked how many – the last row is row 56,438, but that includes blank rows and the title row. That is a very respectable number of books. When I was in my early teens, I used to have access to the library at the local university, where for the first time I saw more books than I could possibly read in my life. The library had the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and in one of the books of the year supplements from the EB, I found a list of libraries of the world, which included the library that I was in, the local university library. The EB book of the year said that the library had a hundred and fifty thousand books, which might have been a dated number, but probably not off by a magnitude. The library should have had more than a hundred thousand books, but well below, say, five hundred thousand books.

So, a collection of fifty-six thousand books sounds pretty good.

The first row of the catalog lists a book titled Friction and wear of materials by Ernest Rabinowicz. A column titled ‘Abstract’ has the following entry for the book: “Chapters are as follows; Surface Interactions, Friction, Types of Wear, Adhesive Wear, Abrasive and other types of wear, Lubrication, Adhesion and Sample Problems.” Another column in the excel, titled ‘Subject’ has the following entry against the book, “Shipbuilders; Ship repairers; Engine Builders; Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij.”

[The Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij, wikipedia informs me, “was the largest pre-World War II shipbuilding and repair company in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, existing from 1902 to 1996.” I haven’t been able to discover what relation Ernest Rabinowicz or the book has with the Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij.]

The last row of the catalog lists a book titled The Penance way: the mystery of Puffin’s Atlantic voyage by Merton Naydler. 252 pages, published in 1968 (ISBN number blank, since it pre-dates ISBN) and sold for fifteen pence. That surprised me a little because I hadn’t realised that the puffin was a migratory. Turns out the subject of the book according to the catalog was “Named ships ; Puffin”, and not about the bird. Further study reveals that it is a report on a failed crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a row boat.

The other books listed are also mostly nautical. Books about shipbuilding, ship yards, engine building, steam engines, welding, yachting, & c.; histories, biographies, nautical periodicals, registers, rules and regulations, bulletins, atlases, wreck books, studies, presentations, and museum records. There are small sections on aeronautics, concrete, coal mining and trade, and law. But, by and large the focus is on whatever floats their boats.

So, that was the weird thing from my past. And though I must have downloaded it just a month ago, I don’t remember why I would download the catalog of a library of some nautical society.


Edit: I remember wondering if there was any shipping register available online – I wanted to chart the highest tonnage ship afloat on a given year for the last few hundred years, and must have downloaded this at that time.

Sins

“This is placing the burden of a men’s celibacy on women.”

I have this vague memory of an old Hindi talk show – probably Tabassum’s – where the guest had this story about going to visit a guru recommended by a friend. So, she sits in front of the baba, and then realises she can’t see his face. So, out of curiosity, she leans to catch a glimpse. And the baba moves his face. Then someone tells her, Baba is celibate, so he doesn’t look at women. And then the lady being interviewed says, “Why should I follow a guru who doesn’t have control over himself.”

This always reminds me of a buddhist story. Two monks, one old, one young, were out in the secular world where they met at the banks of a river a woman who wanted to cross but was hesitating. The monks were forbidden from touching women, but the older monk, offered to and then carried the woman across the river. Then they parted ways, and the monks started walking onwards. After a while, the younger monk said, “We are not permitted to touch women, how could you pick her up?” “I left her at the banks of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

Anyway, in one of George Carlin’s comedy pieces on Catholicism, he said that in Catholicism, “Mortal sin had to be a grievous offense, sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. Ya had’ta WANNA!” Another point he made is that, one could sin, and as long as one confessed really truly seeking forgiveness, and did the penance, it wasn’t not a biggie.

So, if I got this right, you couldn’t commit a sin by mistake. And you couldn’t be absolved of one by accident either.

I half remember this story from Indian mythology where a person ascends to heaven because at the moment of his death he calls out for his son named Narayan and thus dies with the name of a god on his lips.

Similarly, at the end of the Mahabharata, there is this brief period when the younger Pandavas are in hell and the Kauravas are in heaven, surprising Yudhisthir. The point was that even the evil had moments of good, and the good had moments of evil.

Thus in Hinduism, you could perform a great act of veneration by accident, or commit a great sin by mistake.

So, I have been wondering if the attitude to sin in Hinduism is the exact opposite of that in Catholicism. That in Hinduism, it doesn’t matter whether you wanted to or were aware. As long as you sin, you sin.

Of course, there is some point to this long piece of text. Though I am not sure what.

From today

I love the song, “Aaj se teri” from Pad Man.

For a hindi love song, it starts of with comparisons that remind me of other songs, before it reaches the sublime through the ordinary. A loose literal translation of the first few lines:

From today, your streets are mine; From today, my home is yours.
From today, my happiness is yours; From today, your sorrows are mine.

The mole on your shoulder; The heart in your chest;
Your electricity bill; From today are mine.

The skies of my dreams; The ocean of my happiness;
My pin code number; From today are yours.

I find the (mixed) metaphors interesting. If they are going to live on the same street and house, wouldn’t they also share postal address and electricity bill.

Something about the references to the prosaic aspect of the relationship, reminds me of something that I read once. A couple meet at a graveyard, and the boy asks the girl, “Do you want to have my name on your tombstone?”

And, for the longest time I was vexed because I couldn’t find the source of that line. I guessed Wodehouse, and I checked the quote collections that I could find, but got nowhere.

Initially, googling only found me this line from the 1941 noir I wake up screaming: “I’ll follow you into your grave. I’ll write my name on your tombstone.” The line is said by the cop in the movie, so there is no romance in the words.

Then I spotted a “song about a marriage proposal” by Alec Wilder, “How d’ya like my name on your tombstone?” Shortly after, I finally found this short announcement in a newspaper from 1937:

Kenneth Carlson was walking through a cemetery with Miss Rose Shannon, the lady of his choice. “How,” he asked, “would you like to have my name on your tombstone some day?” The wedding was set for September 5.

There was instant recognition when I read the piece, this had to be the source of my memories, thought I have no recollection of how I might have happened upon these words from half a century before me.

Alec Wilder wrote the song in 1933, so Kenneth was probably inspired by the song. He played it smart.

Now that I found where I encountered this incident of proposal in a grave, it vexes me that I haven’t been able to find out whether Rose Shannon become Rose Carlson on September 5, 1937. She would have been about 100, if she is still alive. If she is not, does her gravestone have his name on it?

Philip Larkin had mused on the changes to the name of girl after marriage, writing a whole poem, ‘Maiden Name’, which starts:

Marrying left your maiden name disused.
Its five light sounds no longer mean your face,
Your voice, and all your variants of grace;
For since you were so thankfully confused
By law with someone else, you cannot be
Semantically the same as that young beauty:
It was of her that these two words were used.

Times have changed, and a few of my friends have kept their maiden names. But, in the context of Pad Man, I am surprised, that they didn’t have a line is the song about her taking his name.

This won’t hurt a bit

Back from the dentist, the left side of my jaw numb, I do what I had been advised: I eat an ice-cream, pop a painkiller and swallow a mouthful of water to chase the painkiller down.

Ten minutes later, I drink water again, and as the water moves about in my mouth, I suddenly feel a cuboidal something in my mouth. WTF. Did my teeth come loose?

Turned out, it was the painkiller, with my mouth numb, I didn’t do a good job of swallowing, and then didn’t notice while the pill nested itself in the far back of my mouth.

Sorry, I tried twice

A few months ago, I had to spend a fair amount of time everyday just waiting. So, I needed things to read. So, I thought, let me try reading the Harry Potter series again.

I had stopped after book 4, or at the beginning of book 5, when the series had come out. Now, with time in hand, and the series on offer on Kindle Unlimited, I started reading it again.

I tried. I really did. But eventually, I stopped. The chapter or two at the beginning of each novel where there is a series of unfortunate events at the home of Harry’s aunt, what the fuck was the point of that? Was it supposed to be comedy? And, why the fuck was the sent back to stay with them anyway? Was it some deep plan to help develop some moral character? Because, from what I can see, he learns fuckall from it. Harry has zero empathy and is a me-me-me-me character.

And let us not talk about Ron, whose role in the series is to be what? Other than being Harry’s friend A, playing a game of chess, pissing off Hermione and being a fount of bad judgement, he contributed nothing.

How does the interaction between muggle world and the wizard world take place? They have some nifty things, but why the fuck don’t they adopt some of the modern conveniences? They adopted a steam train. Could have adopted something else that was not from the 19th century. The reason it drives me wild is people are wired for convenience. If it isn’t religion, people will not do NIH forever.

Anyway, in the interest of cutting this rant short, let me come the thing at the beginning of book 4 that killed the series for me this time. And from what I remember, I had hated this even when I read it the last time around.

Quidditch. It is a badly designed game. The snitch is too valuable. And it is the game ender. And irritating as it is, I had still read three books with Quidditch.

Despite the fact there the Gryffindor team had no reserves, and had the same team for three years. What the fuck is that? So, when Harry was in the first year of school, the captain was Oliver Wood. And there was no one from the two senior years. It is not that they were barred from playing, apparently, no one qualified. Which sounds mighty unlikely.

What was the point of the entire world cup sequence at the beginning of book 4? It introduces Krum and the Dark Mark appears. It could have a thinner a better book without it. Mangaka add panty shots for fan service, and Rowling adds a hundred page of nonsense of the world cup.

But what really pissed me off was that game with Krum. Why the fuck did Krum capture the snitch? Even if the chasers were weak, at the point Krum gets the snitch, they were trailing by 160, so, Krum’s team lost by 10 points. At least, block the opposing team from getting the snitch, and wait to see if your team can get the deficit down by 10 points. Why grab the snitch at that point and lose the game. What kind of “I Krum. I grab snitch.” neanderthal nonsense is that.

nightmare: the hatchet job

A few days ago, I woke up from a nightmare. It wasn’t one of the more common social embarrassment ones, and was one of the rarer cold terror in the depth of my heart kind.

It unrolled like a TV show – in sharp high definition, high frame-rate, high brightness, high California. I was in a town in sunny TV land. I remember that there were high walls topped with barbed wire along both sides of the road. I remember knowing that beyond those walls there were wild things.

I was leaving a shop when a man, hung limp, like a zombie without a hope of brain, came in. He browses through the small accessories section, before leaving. Later, from across a street, I saw him in an empty lot, being stopped by a patrol car. And he exploded into action, bringing out a pair of hatchet, driving them on the upswing into the jaws of the cops.

With the men down, he stopped, scalped a strip of hair each, and put them up over the butt of the hatchets, like wigs for his hatchet. I think that is what he was looking for in the store. Satisfied with what he had done, he looks up and sees me across the street.

The whole mad scene couldn’t have taken too long, but it didn’t happen in a moment either. Why was I still standing there?

Because, it was a nightmare.

I woke up at that moment, scared. My heart was racing. The room, and the rest of the house were as dark as a moonless, overcast night in the mountains.

In the next street over, I could hear the bunch of stray dogs barking. And then howling. I was convinced that the man from my nightmare had managed to escape and turn up in this world. I wanted to go to the toilet, but more than that I wanted to barricade myself in, to keep out the terror.

I had to remind myself of how old I was before, I could get up and go to the toilet, and later, return to sleep.