Where did the Maldives people come from?

Anthropologist Clarence Maloney's monograph "People of the Maldive Islands" is a heavily cited and recommended source when it comes to the topic of early Maldivian history. Sadly, the book was originally published in 1980 and has long been out of print. I had tried getting hold of it several years ago without success and I've still yet to locate a copy. Anyway, I got reminded of the book last night after stumbling across an article from the same author that I had read back then. The article addresses a very important question that all Maldivians should ask: "Where Did the Maldives People Come From?". Have a read, it really is a fascinating few minutes of reading...

"What was not known previous to my research in the early 1970s, is that there is a strong underlying layer of Tamil population and culture. So far, most Divehis have not shown themselves interested in accepting this finding, as it does not suit their sense of their prestigious origins." - Clarence Maloney

Blogger to Serendipity importer script v2

I had occasion last night to revisit the Blogger to Serendipity importer script I wrote a few years ago, while helping someone move from Blogger to something that packs a bit more punch.

Serendipity has been carrying the script I wrote bundled as part of the importers available in its core package, thanks to Garvin Hicking (lead developer at the Serendipity project) who had done the dirty work of integrating my code into the project. Anyway, last night when I got about to importing the blog on Blogger into a fresh install of Serendipity, I found myself annoyed by the tediousness of the process required by the very importer I'd authored. Blogger didn't have any export feature back then nor did it provide API access. As a result, the (popular) method for exporting a blog from Blogger had involved setting a special template as the blog's layout and tweaking around a few other settings, after which the blog is published and the output parsed to extract what is needed.

Things have, of course, changed dramatically and for the good in the years since, as Google has continued to open up its services for developers via public APIs. Encouraged by the simplicity of the API, I ended up spending a little bit of time to rewrite the importer almost from scratch. The highly desirable "export blog" feature in the Blogger Data API allows obtaining an XML based dump of the entire blog, which can then be moulded however to fit ones needs.


- Download s9y-bloggerimporter-v0.2.zip (3.3Kb)


- PHP 5


- Extract the contents of the Zip file.
- Upload (or copy) the file "blogger.inc.php" to the folder "include/admin/importers" under the main Serendipity installation path. Make sure the old file is replaced with the new.


The new importer script can transfer posts (both published and drafts), comments (including comment moderation settings) and authors, without breaking sweat. The process for importing a blog is simple:
1. Login to Blogger/Google and login to Serendipity Administration Suite.
2. Navigate to "Import data" using the menu and select Blogger.com as the type of import.
3. Click the "Go to Google" link to jump to a special authorization request page that allows the importer to access the blogs. [Image 1]
4. Click the "Grant access" button and wait to be taken back to Serendipity. [Image 2]
5. Select the blog to import from the list. [Image 3]
6. Optionally, select the category for the imported posts, set desired trackback behavior, select a charset. [Image 3]
7. Click "Import now!". (see Image 3]
8. Posts (and its comments) are processed and import results displayed.

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3


Update (17-Feb-2009): This has been adopted into the Serendipity code base and would be available bundled-in with future releases from the project.

Maldivian Science Society screening Carl Sagan's Cosmos

I got news today from Ajmal that the Maldives Science Society had finally received permission from Druyan-Sagan Associates to go ahead with its planned screening of Carl Sagan's award-winning science documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. MSS has been, far as I know, planning this event for well over a month now and was to be their very first event before the lecture on astronomy event slotted in. I think it is admirable that they went about obtaining permission before screening it, especially since it's all too common a practice in Maldives to hold no regard whatsoever for intellectual property rights.

Cosmos is truly a brilliant series; a bit aged (first broadcast in 1980!) yet still very relevant and informative. It tells the story of the universe and us humans through a wide range of scientific topics. It's content is not at all technical and is extremely accessible to everyone, which, I think, makes it a very suitable choice to jump-start conversations in the science-cafe'ish type of informal event MSS is after. MSS is only screening episode 1 out of the 13 episodes that make up Cosmos. The event is scheduled for 8:30pm, 12th Feb at Bankai Coffee Shop (see the MSS announcement).

Carl Sagan was and still is perhaps one of the best science popularizers the world has seen. The famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth snapped by NASA, at the suggestion of Dr. Sagan, using the Voyager 1 spacecraft when it was a mind-boggling 6.4 billion kilometers away from Earth is one of the most moving and humbling things I have ever seen. It really does give a sense of our place in the universe, as a planet, as a species and as a person. At that distance, so far away from Earth, the Earth is seen as nothing more than a mere insignificant speck of dust, occupying less than 0.12 pixels, set against the darkness of the rest of the universe. The fact that a man-made object made it that far, snapped a picture and sent it back to its home (taking on a journey almost 6 hours travelling at the speed of light!) makes me shudder with excitement. Even more exciting is the fact that the Voyager 1 spacecraft is still operating, currently located around twice the distance Pluto is from the Sun, and ready to exit our solar system into the interstellar space! I can't imagine a more fitting choice of words than Sagan's to describe the picture...

Geo-mapped visualization of political party member distribution in Male'

Here is a quick mashup I cooked up today, displaying the geographic distribution of political party membership on the map of Male' on Google Maps. To view the distribution for a party, open the link for the visualization, select the name of the political party from the drop-down menu at the top right. The addresses of members of that party will then be flagged with a little red marker. You will be able to zoom in-out, pan and do all those other things typically seen in Google Maps. Click a red marker to see more details about that address, like the number of people belonging to the selected party that are registered under that address.

The party membership information used for this is a snapshot of the data (taken 7 February 2009) published on the Members of Political Parties web portal by the Elections Commission. There were a total of 4,447 people belonging to 2,711 addresses in Male' listed in the Elections Commission data. Each party had membership numbers (given in brackets) in Male' as follows: Adhaalathu Party (175), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (261), Dhivehi Rahjeyn Fageerukan Nahthaalumah Masahkaikuraa Party (650), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (243), Gaumee Ih'thihaadh (592), Islamic Democratic Party (89), Jumhooree Party (246), Maldivian Democratic Party (507), Maldivian National Congress (386), Maldivian Social Democratic Party (25), Peoples Party (476), Peoples' Alliance (422) and Social Liberal Party (375). The maximum number of persons listed on a single address for a party was 12 and the average was 1 person per address (per party).

The geo-location information for the addresses was derived from the excellent services at Male-map.com and EAtolls.com. A total of 1,928 addresses were successfully mapped using these services, leaving a difference of 783 addresses which were then discarded. It is worth noting that of these addresses left out, 478 were just Dhaftharu numbers.

Please note that I neither claim nor guarantee the correctness or the completeness of any of the information used. That said, I did my best to ensure data integrity throughout the whole process of generating the visualizations.

- Click here to view the visualization

Adhaalathu Party
Snapshot: Adhaalathu Party

Dhivehi Qaumee Party
Snapshot: Dhivehi Qaumee Party

Dhivehi Rahjeyn Fageerukan Nahthaalumah Masahkaikuraa Party
Snapshot: Dhivehi Rahjeyn Fageerukan
Nahthaalumah Masahkaikuraa Party

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party
Snapshot: Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party

Gaumee Ih'thihaadh
Snapshot: Gaumee Ih'thihaadh

Islamic Democratic Party
Snapshot: Islamic Democratic Party

Jumhooree Party
Snapshot: Jumhooree Party

Maldivian Democratic Party
Snapshot: Maldivian Democratic Party

Maldivian National Congress
Snapshot: Maldivian National Congress

Maldivian Social Democratic Party
Snapshot: Maldivian Social Democratic Party

Peoples' Alliance
Snapshot: Peoples' Alliance

Peoples Party
Snapshot: Peoples Party

Social Liberal Party
Snapshot: Social Liberal Party

Dhiraagu e-Directory data for download (2009-02-04)

The Dhiraagu e-Directory service as of today lists 421,198 entries (made up of 370,880 mobile numbers, 35,403 landline numbers and 14,915 island/resort numbers). Compare that with the 338,371 entries (made up of 305,198 mobile numbers, 24,423 landline numbers and 8,750 island/resort numbers) from October 2008. That works out to what seems a very impressive growth (mobiles 22%, landline 40%, island/resort: 70%) in the past 3 month period, especially given there is an economic crisis underway!

Anyway, here's the data as a Tab-Separated Values (a.k.a CSV) format file that can be opened in Excel, OpenOffice or imported into Access or any other database.

- Download edirectory_2009-02-04.zip (6,397 KB)


Snow white is here

This winter is turning out to be quite a remarkable departure from the past 3 winters I've experienced here in the UK. Last year's winter was pretty tame with there being, from what recall, only very light snow fall a few days out of the entire winter. Contrast that with the past two days of nearly continuous snow fall giving everything around a white covering. According to the news reports, it has been the worst, most widespread snowfall in the UK in 18 years! Also, apparently this is all consistent with global warming.

Anyway, I like that there's a bit of snow. The pretty white topping takes a bit out of the gloomy UK winters...

View out of the room.

International Year of Astronomy event by the Maldives Science Society

As you may already know, this year is being celebrated worldwide as the International Year of Astronomy. The effort, an initiative of the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO, intends "to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery". And now, thanks to the hard work from the newly formed Maldives Science Society (MSS), Maldives will be joining in too.

MSS has organised for Dr. Kavan U. Ratnatunga, a Sri Lankan astronomer and Senior Research Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University (US), to travel to the Maldives and deliver a presentation. His presentation titled "The Universe as viewed through the Hubble Space Telescope" will center around the Hubble Space Telescope. It is a topic he is very much qualified to lecture - he has worked at NASA and has authored numerous research papers on various analyses and investigations of Hubble's snapshots of the universe.

The presentation is scheduled for 8:30pm - 11:00pm, 11th of February at the MCSE Seminar Room, Male'. If you are in Male' and interested in science and astronomy then it probably will be worth your while to attend the presentation. More details of the event are on the MSS Facebook event page and I presume updates will appear on the MSS website as well.

I commend the guys at MSS for putting so much of their time and their own money into making this event a reality. I hope they can make arrangements to participate in atleast some of the IYA cornerstone projects. The IYA Galileoscope project, which has developed a high-quality low-cost telescope kit, holds a lot of promise for MSS to make it possible for the public, especially kids and teens, to truly experience the universe through the lens of a real telescope. I, for one, had tears well up in my eye the first time I saw the rings of Saturn up close on a telescope... how will you react?