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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat


OK and Not OK Durable Link to this BLOG
Pictures worth a thousand words

A picture woth 1000 words
This month's addition: Hand-to-Mouth Cobbler

The Word "OK" -- America's Contribution to the World

I've always wondered the origins of the word "OK". It is perhaps the only word spoken in all the nations of the world (and in space!). It is such a short word and conveys so much.

Turns out OK stands for "All Correct" (disputed, see link below).
I get it now.

NPR: The Origins of OK

Not OK -- Israel's Excesses

In case you didn't know, a ghastly war has broken out in the Middle-East and Arafat has already claimed martyrdom.

If the leadership of Israel thinks it can crush terrorism via terrorism of its own, it is so wrong. It is precisely acts such as the one Israel is currently engaged in (the state as terrorist) that breed suicide bombers.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, April 1, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003


Fabled Transport of Palanquins Durable Link to this BLOG
The Fabled Transport of Palanquins

Modern Painting by M.F. HusainPalanquin Rider

Long time before luxury cars, and corporate jets, there were Palanquins.

A new section explores the history and romance of the palanquins.

What's New

BBC: Great News for Bubble Boys -- Isn't science great?

What's Old

Gandhi on Jews and Jewish Settlements

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, April 3, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003


Who is a Terrorist? Durable Link to this BLOG
Just Who is a Terrorist?

Everybody agrees terrorism is bad, but nobody seems able to define terrorism.

Discussion over dinner in a restaurant:

He: Are Kamikaze pilots suicide terrorists?
She: No, they were soldiers fighting war.

He: So, if you bomb civilians it is terrorism, if you bomb military targets, it is war?
She: You are mostly correct; the attack on Pentagon is the exception, because civilian plane/passengers were used.

He: The Palestinians might be refugees, but aren't they civilians?
She: They are indeed civilians, but they patronize terrorists making it difficult for law enforcement to distinguish between terrorists and non-terrorists. Don't you recall the Palestinian celebrations after the Sept-11 attacks?

He: I want to change my definition of terrorism. Can I say rather than using target (military or civilian), can I use the origin instead?
So if soldiers fight it is war, if civilians fight it is terrorism?
She: Wouldn't that exclude the State as terrorist? By your definition, even Gandhi would be a terrorist!

He: Mumble, Mumble...
So, are you saying supporting a cause, the fight for which becomes violent, makes one a terrorist? I supported African National Congress during their violent protest against the apartheid. Does that make me a terrorist?
She: Mumble, Mumble...

Links for the day

• BBC: Rice has more genes than humans.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, April 5, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003


Fortune Telling Durable Link to this BLOG
Fortune Telling Tomorrow's Headlines
(rather, reading out what's written on the wall)

  • June of 2002 -- Pervez Musharaf wins landslide victory in Pakistan elections.
  • December of 2002 -- Carly Fiorina fired after morale and revenue take a dive at HP-Compaq.
  • April of 2003 -- Palestinians stage a massive ant-Israeli rally protesting the occupation.
  • January of 2003 -- New security holes found in Microsoft's .NET implementation

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Saturday, April 6, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003


Educating U.R. Ananthamurthy Durable Link to this BLOG
Educating Ananthamurthy

U.R. Ananthamurthy (portrait) might be a literary genius (his Samskara is one of my favorite books), and an a Jnanapeeth awardee, but he sure sounded shallow when he said the other day "...American girls make fine secretaries, but Indian women make fine engineers, writers, and intellectuals". (see: Report at

First, Ananthamurthy somehow thinks a secretary's job is an inferior one to that of an engineer's.

Second, Ananthamurthy thinks that in America, everybody has secretaries. By any count, there are more secretaries in India than in America.

Third, he is very sexist. He might not know that there are many male secretaries, even in India (my mother had one).

Fourth, he is generalizing the progress made by a small percentage of Indian women as the progress made by all Indian women.

See Related Links:
• Kannada Writers &Poets
• Women of India -- Frequently Asked Questions

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, April 8, 2002
Last Modified: 4/8/2002


What's Next Durable Link to this BLOG
Stuff I've Been Working On

Here's a list of some of the projects I have been working on:

  • Anonymous Payment System for Web -- Walmart doesn't ask your name when you check out, why should e-commerce sites?

    Anytime you try to buy something on the web, first thing you have to do is create an account, create a password, and confirm the password, by which time you perhaps have decided not to buy the item! I think that being able to anonymously buy stuff (especially content) is the next frontier in e-commerce.

    The solution is a two pronged approach; first allow the sale of an item even when the surfer has no account with you. This is exactly how mail order (by phone) companies operate. The account is created without a burden on the customer. Second, seperate the payment collection logistics from order fulfilment logistics.

    See the prototype of the Kamat Pay-per-view System at Amazon.

  • My Own Private Bangalore -- A new section at Kamat's Potpourri on the City of Bangalore.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, April 10, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003


Indian Names Durable Link to this BLOG
Understanding Indian Names

After reading my essay The Trouble with Indian Names, many have written asking about various details of Indian nomenclature and the meanings of names. I regret that I am unable to respond individually.

When in middle-school I had acquired a huge vocabulary of tatsamas and tadbhavas (the original words and their corrupted derivatives), and it is a field that fascinates me, especially how the history of towns and families can be traced by studying the proper names.

So I am continuing my effort this week to spread the understanding of Indian names by answering a very frequently asked question on why some Indians do not have last names.

Also, read this hilarious phone call transcript illustrating the complexity of explaining the Indian names to Westerners.
• How I became Dinesh Nettar (Link to Google Cache, suggested by Dinesh Nettar)

See Also: Pronounce This!

History the Names Tell

  • My last name, Kamat is derived from Kammatiga or a farmer. We know that my great-great-great-grandfather was a farmer in the village of Bhaskeri, and it makes sense.
  • The name of my community is Gowda Saraswats (GSB). It indicates that my ancestors once lived on the banks of the Saraswati river. (The river dried up centuries ago.) It tells that my ancestors were influenced by the teachings of Gowdapada (c. 8th century), who was also a teacher to Shankaracharya (picture - biography).
  • The name Bangalore is derived from Bendakalur, which means the town of the boiled pulses. The history of
  • Hoysala king Ballala getting lost in a hunting expedition, and finding an old woman who fed him the boiled beans is thus beatutifully kept alive in the name of the city.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, April 11, 2002
Last Modified: 7/14/2003
Tags: india


New Year, Old Life Durable Link to this BLOG
New Year, Old Life

Today is the New Year's day according to the Hindu calendar.

The festival Yugadi (a.k.a Ugadi and Baisakhi) supposed to signify the good (sweet) and bad (bitter) parts that constitute life. It is symbolized by exchange of bitter and sweet edibles with elders, friends, and even with those you've had a fight during the past year.

This joyous lamentation is depicted beautifully by poet Bendre in his Song of Yugadi:

As the flowers of Yugadi rejoice
in their daily birth, daily death

Man laments his only one childhood
only one youth.

Yugadi is also the day the construction of the town chariot begins in Honavar for the annual Car Festival.

Revenge Killings Lead Nowhere

As the Government of Israel and people of Palestine engage in revenge killings, I am reminded of a profound message:

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
-- Mahatma Gandhi

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, April 12, 2002
Last Modified: 1/26/2003


M$ Wishlist Durable Link to this BLOG
An Item for Microsoft Wish List

Slash-dot has a thread on integration of a text-editor with a browser, with the <textarea> tag of HTML being editable with an editor of choice. (First pointed out by ScriptingNews)
For an illustration:

I know, I know, the Microsoft coterie will jump and say you can already do this with client-side ActiveX. Remember, this is a feature desired by the client, not a feature imposed by the publisher (which is ActiveX solution)

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, April 15, 2002
Last Modified: 4/15/2002


Kannada & Konkani Conferences Durable Link to this BLOG
Kannada Conference in Detroit

Many friends are asking me to travel to Detroit for the 2002 Kannada Conference (I'd put a link to it, if the webiste did not autoscroll and damaged your eyes).

Although I want to meet them, I'm reluctant to go because of a bad incident I had with former (the 2000 Kannada Conference held in Texas) organizers of the same event.

Still pondering....

Konkani Conference in Houston

My family has been referred to as the link beween Kannada and Konkani languages, and I am fluent in both languages. This years' Konkani conference is being held in Houston (details), and I am pondering that too....

FYI: During the last Konkani Conference, we were honored for Contribution to Konkani Language and Heritage.

Links Related to Above:

• History of Konkani Language
• Konkani Heritage Album
• History of the Kannada Language
• Jai Karnataka -- Index of Topics

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, April 16, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003


Classic Software Durable Link to this BLOG
Preserving Classic Software

Grady Booch (of Booch methodology) wants to preserve classic software (link to Tim O'Reilly's blog).
I fully support the initiative.

Here's my list of top ten classic software products.

  • Unix -- I have the original system 7 source code, with commentary written by well known experts on programming. It is a pure joy to read. How can a computer program that is about 5000 lines long, can embed so many ideas and tricks?!
  • TeX -- One of the greatest pieces of software ever written
  • NeXTStep -- The object oriented operating system that died; portable distributed objects, object oriented file system, OO-IPC (Inter-process communication) etc., I say bring it back!
  • NFS --The network file system
  • The Netscape Browser
  • The original AOL Instant Messenger
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Visual Basic 3.0
  • SQL -- Yes, the query language for relational databases.

A Street in Malleswaram Neighborhood
The Neighborhood of Malleswaram

The old Bangalore neighborhood of Malleswaram hosts traditional people, spiritual people, and interesting people. A new section on the home-turf of Kamats.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
Tags: tech


Overcoming Blogger's Block Durable Link to this BLOG
Writers often suffer from Writer's Block What's This? , and bloggers are no different. I have compiled here some practical tips on overcoming the blogger's block.

Tips on Originality

  • Use your own content -- dig family albums, college essay book, sketch book, childhood stamp collection (stamps are public domain images), or buy a digital camera.
  • Don't just go with the flow, go against the flow
  • Nature inspires. Nature inspires a lot.
  • Great leaders inspire. Read their biographies.
  • Develop new ways of discovering interesting websites. Everybody knows about SlashDot and Metafilter, but few know about specialty websites or websites large enough to require their own search engine.
  • Write a review of a recent book you've read or a movie that you saw. If you did research buying a big ticket item, share it so others can benefit from it.
  • Interview your professor, your role model, or your neighbor via email. Everybody has a story to tell...
  • Associate one news story with an interesting old story

"Follow the Leader" Ideas

Tips on Using Borrowed Ideas

  • If you find an original idea, link to it. Remember that fair-use clause of the copyright law allows of excerption, critique, and satire, as long as you credit the original. The thumb rule I use is, it should be clear to your reader which idea is yours and which idea is borrowed.
  • Surf a lot, and surf in new ways. I often use the Reverse Surf which is finding related web pages using Google or AltaVista.
  • Old is Gold -- hidden in old blogs, newspapers and magazines might be a brilliant idea. Recycle it.

See Demos of the Advice Above

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, April 19, 2002
Last Modified: 1/26/2003
Tags: ideas


Blogger's Block Durable Link to this BLOG
Blogger's Block

I hereby disclose where I get ideas for my blogs; includes tips to overcome what I call Blogger's Block.

Of course, many many ideas come from readers of this site (readership for March 2002: Million and a half), and I encourage you to suggest (Contact Kamats) your idea for a new feature.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, April 19, 2002
Last Modified: 1/26/2003
Tags: metablog


Plesk is Pretty Cool Durable Link to this BLOG
Plesk to the Rescue

Most bloggers are what I call Amateur Webmasters, and could use help in all technical aspects, because they also have jobs, families, and lives.

So when I recently discovered that I had to play with the DNS and Relay settings of my server, I was overwhelmed. Fortunately, my server came with a system administrator tool called Plesk and let me perform most of what I wanted through point and click interface via a browser. I recommend Plesk to anyone who has to manage a server and doesn't want to be consumed by its administration.

Bharatanatyam Dancer
History of Indian Dance

The long and interesting history of the Indian dance form. Also see pictures of some of the classical and folk dances.

History Potpourri

If you are a history buff, you've come to the right spot. We have histories of bathing, drinking, art, and education

Heck, we even have the history of underwear, and history of history!

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, April 22, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003


Ada and Linda Lovelaces Durable Link to this BLOG
* CNN: Ex-Porn Star Linda Lovelace is Dead

Lovelaces and Computer Sciences

I met David Gelernter in 1990 (before the Unabomber sent him a mail bomb), when he was producing groundbreaking research in the area of distributed computing at Yale. Someone asked Dr. Gelernter why the distributed language he had created was called Linda.

See, Ada Lovelace was an assistant to Charles Babbage, the father of Computer Science, and is hailed as the first computer programmer ever. The computer language Ada is named after Ada Lovelace.

Gelenter was a young graduate student when he created a new distributed programming language and the another Lovelace, Linda Lovelace, was in vogue, so he called it Linda.

Now you know.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Last Modified: 8/1/2003


AnthoBLOGy Good or Bad? Durable Link to this BLOG
To Endorse or not to Endorse AnthoBLOGy?

A small battle of wits has broken out among the Indian bloggers after Just a Little Something complimented this blog.

• Deep Link to the discussion (cached copy)
• Sins of Bloggers

In her comment, Anita Bora makes a special mention of my blogging engine. For sometime now, I have thought about making my blog software available to the public. However, I am hesitant as the support questions that would arise would take away all my time. For, it is designed for me, with tight integration with our CMS, and there are no themes, tools etc., that other bloggers would expect. However, it has so many super-cool features that even other so called advanced tools do not have. I did not realize that till I looked at the features of Blogger Pro and CityDesk.

Most importantly, I have closely embeded SQL and Rules into the blogging engine. So if you know a scripting language (PHP or VBScript) and know something about Relational Databases, it is a great tool for writing blogs. I can seamlessly write SQL, Script, English and HTML, in addition to my own short-cuts that I call rules.

Perhaps someday...

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Last Modified: 1/29/2003
Tags: reviews


India Exhibit Durable Link to this BLOG
India Exhibit at Rutgers University

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers University is showing Contemporary Art of India collected from private collectors in Northeastern USA. The exhibition includes more than 100 works of art emphasizing the post-independence era. Information, Samples.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, April 25, 2002
Last Modified: 4/26/2002


When the Tiger was Killed Durable Link to this BLOG
A Gem from Kamat Family Album
When the Tiger was Killed...

The only available photograph of my maternal grandmother Sharadabai Burde(in the center) is from this group picture taken in the village of Hirekerur in rural Karnataka, after a neighbor hunted down a menacing tiger. To her left (third from right in the picture) is my mother.

Name of the original photographer is not known. We didn't know the existence of this picture till 1973, when my mother visited the village as a historian to study the temples, and recalled having lived there as a child.

Also notice in the photograph : the 18 yard sarees worn by the ladies, and the bare feet of everybody.

See Also:

• Kamat Family Album
• The Bengal Tiger
• Never Been Photographed
• Indian Attire Through the Centuries

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, April 26, 2002
Last Modified: 1/24/2003


Body Art Durable Link to this BLOG
Mehendi Art
The Body as Canvas

We continue our series on the Living Arts of India, by featuring henna, tattoos, piercings and other forms of body art.

• Here Today, Gone Tomorrow - The Living Arts
• Say it with Flowers - Pictorial Exhibition

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, April 29, 2002
Last Modified: 4/29/2002


How to Migrate MS MailBoxes Durable Link to this BLOG
A Microsoft Outlook Express Surgery

I have complained in the past about how difficult/impossible it is to preserve email messages in Microsoft Outlook Express (MOE) on a long term (decades) basis. See Joys of Plain Text.

I got a rude shock today after doing a repair on my Windows NT operating system: I'd lost all my email because MOE stores the messages under an operating system folder (and I can't seem to change that).

Fortunately, the programmer in me had backed up the Inbox.dbx and Sent Items.dbx folders. But turns out there is no way to import these files into the new installation. I tried to import it from Microsoft Outlook, the full blown email client from Microsoft, and apparently it is not supported.

So I undertook the following surgery.

  1. Created the a new user account and password to match the old account
  2. Reinstalled a fresh copy of MOE
  3. Performed a search for *.dbx and located the folder where MOE puts its files.
  4. I overwrote the old *.dbx files with the backed-up files -- ignoring the fact that they came from different folders.
  5. Launched MOE -- it repeatedly crashed. Upon inspection, I found that the dbx files had a permission problem, which was reset by turning off the read-only and archive properties.

That did it. And now you have a documented (and unsupported) trick to back-up email messages in Microsoft Outlook Express.

Still soliciting ideas (Contact Kamats) on how to archive messages from MOE for durable access. I just want an Export to ASCII function/trick.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
Tags: microsoft

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