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Date:2012-02-15 01:00
Subject:Change of address

While this will remain, I am planning to use a different blog more regularly. Please drop a comment or a mail for the blog link.

Thank you for your patronage.

Bheema V.

Please note that this will remain, and when I am really feeling angry, I will probably post here.

Also note that I may not be able to respond immediately. This has become a spam magnet, and I don't always pay attention to the comments.

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Date:2011-12-03 22:34
Subject:Adultery law and gender bias

Previously I had occasion to take a quick look at the adultery law in India. [Please check the link.]

As I understood it, the law punished the adulterer (the man who had sex (not amounting to rape) with the wife of another man, without the consent of the second man) as well as the wife who had sex outside marriage. Thus, the law provided some relief to a man whose wife had an affair without his consent. However, there wasn't any symmetrical relief to the woman whose husband has an affair without her consent. From my reading of the law, I thought the bias was against women.

Given that background, I was surprised when I saw a ToI headline screaming 'Adultery law biased against men, says Supreme Court'. My first instinct, given that it was a ToI report, was that they had made a mistake.
However, as it turns out, I had made a small mistake in my previous post.

ToI reporter got it right, when he wrote that 'Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code .. punishes a man alone for adultery for having consensual sex with a married woman'. So, in the case of adultery, only the man who had sex with someone else's wife is culpable. The unfaithful wife, on the other hand, cannot be punished.

But it still didn't change my basic argument, since Section 497 seems to treat the wives as chattel. There isn't any adultery if it is with the consent or connivance of the husband. Moreover, as I mentioned above, if a married man has sex outside marriage, neither he nor his sexual partner in the affair commits a crime, as long as that partner isn't married.

This second point is relevant to the current article, because the appellant cannot be accused of adultery because of this precise reason.

The point I am trying to make is that unlike the claims of the ToI article, the Court doesn't seem to say that there is a bias against men.

The full text of the judgement is available online [Criminal Appeal No. 2232 of 2011]. The key passage is quoted below. In the passage, the judgment quotes the Section in question, mentions that there is criticism of the section on grounds of bias against women, mentions that only a man can be punished for the offence of adultery, and then mentions that the appellant, as a woman, is immune to the charge of adultery.

7. So far as the appellant is concerned, she is charged under Sections 341 and 497 of the Penal Code. Section 497 deals with the offence of adultery and provides as follows:
"Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor."
The provision is currently under criticism from certain quarters for showing a strong gender bias for it makes the position of a married woman almost as a property of her husband. But in terms of the law as it stands, it is evident from a plain reading of the Section that only a man can be proceeded against and punished for the offence of adultery. Indeed, the Section provides expressly that the wife cannot be punished even as an abettor. Thus, the mere fact that the appellant is a woman makes her completely immune to the charge of adultery and she cannot be proceeded against for that offence.

At best, the argument can be made that the section is deeply flawed providing no relief to the wife of an unfaithful husband, and always considering the unfaithful wife as the victim even though the crime can only be carried out only with her consent (if that were not so, then it would be a case of rape). A more detailed discussion of question can be found here.

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Date:2011-10-16 14:03

Apropos (and I do love that word) the previous post on "Rascals", marut asked:

I doubt it would compare with Janasheen ?

Did you leave the movie mid-way?
To which I say:

I actually watched Janasheen in the theatre with marut, and yes, Rascals doesn't quite have the same claw-your-own-eyes-out kind of painfulness that characterised Fardeen Khan's first movie (or, most of his movies since). I watched Janasheen after getting drunk, and it still was a sucky movie. I probably would have enjoyed Rascals more if I were drunk (but can't be sure - those screechy voices and the background score and the songs might have instead turned me completely mad.)

However, 'Rascals' currently has 3.5 on IMDB (though I am sure that would go up over time as more brain dead morons rate it), while Janasheen currently has a 3.7.

[Spoilers ahead, but then do you really care? Go ahead, ask yourself, do you really care?]

The worst thing about Rascals is that it is not quite so bad that you would actually walk out, and it had a couple of scenes that weren't too bad (i.e., scenes that I kind of liked, for example during a bank robbery, a note is passed on to the teller, who then passes it on to her colleagues, who all misread it as 'Give us all the money, we have gum' - yes, Ladies and Gentleman, that is about the best this movie could do). You would know how '3 Idiots' used tons of old jokes from email forwards, and somehow most of them seemed to work. Here nothing worked. Abysmal execution all the way around.

For example, there is an extended scene in a church, where people keep using euphemism. When someone else invariably responds by providing the actual swear words, the first person reply by saying that yes, that is what he meant, but he couldn't say it directly because they are after all in a church.

Now, while I probably haven't done a good job in explaining the setup, I hope you would agree that repeated use of this setup does provide a nice opportunity. You could play it out in multiple ways. You could play it at unexpected times through-out the movie, you could play it out straight a couple of times and then subvert it. But, however you play it, it would require some sense of timing in the actual execution. And they suck at that. The scene is as flat as a super-smooth surface used for 3D holographic projection.

Or consider, for example, the physical comedy. Recently when Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie met to discuss their old collaboration (Fry and Laurie Reunited), Fry mentions that one of Laurie's skills is his ability to take a fall and that 'it is much easier to hit than be hit'.[Go ahead and watch a bit of that: Starting around 3:00 minutes in this video for the context and starting around 4:00 minutes for Fry's answer.] With the ex-macho heros doing comedy, apparently getting the timing right with hitting is difficult, and getting the timing right getting hit is impossible.

And then there is the story. As you know I have been reading some geography these days, and so I will use a geographical metaphor. You might know about inland deltas - like Okavango Delta - where a river, trapped in an large valley might give up all pretense of effort and disappear after breaking up into increasingly smaller branches away from a lake or sea. That is what happens with this story, it meanders over pointless territories, gives up arse and turns into an inland delta. Well, almost, except that since they really couldn't really figure out what to do with the story, they tell us that the whole thing was an extended con. [And a truly frightening pun: woh 'Con' thi. - Who was she? or, She was a Con!]

Of course, it is a bloody con. They should have just given us all our money back.

And I could talk about how even the presence of Kangana and Lisa couldn't save the movie. And about how Kangana spends most of the time walking around in a bikini, but when she wears a short skirt, she has a great huge pair of black shorts on under her skirt - What The Fuck Was That?

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Date:2011-10-14 17:14

I don't usually watch movies in the theatre any more, but today a friend passing through town dragged me to a screening of 'Rascal'.

It might be possible to make a worse movie, but it would be difficult.

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Date:2011-10-04 20:59

Of all the successful mangakas, Mitsuru Adachi is probably the laziest. Among other faults of his, he seems to use stenciled character designs (I can never tell the characters apart), and boiler plate story outlines (the flavour is always the same). But, even more practically, he regularly uses pages with minimal art to pad out a chapter. He also tends to use a lot of panels full of environmental incidentals that have nothing to do with the story proper.

That also makes him one of the best with story pacing. Somehow between very short scenes and padding panels he manages to play out infinite variations on the standard Adachi outline.

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Date:2011-09-27 13:38

I found Akon singing 'Chamak Challo' on the music player that I had lent to my brother. It is the perfect song to keep playing on a loop as I try to read. In a moment of indiscreation I thought I would try to check out the video for the song on youtube. Fortunately I stopped myself once I saw the thumbnails for the search result.

That is the best reason for not watching TV.

Now I can play 'Chamak Challo' on a loop without having the image of SRK dancing pop up in my mind.

BTW, I have kind of drifted over to G+. No one there - kind of like LJ 2003 and not like LJ 2011 - and it feels much more roomy than twitter. [Since brevity is the soul of wit, everyone on twitter desperately tries to be witty - not a pretty sight.]

A discussion in last week's QI turned me towards the series 'Columbo'. So far I have just seen the first installment - and it was pretty good.

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Date:2011-08-22 12:29

Semi famous bloggers regularly put up posts of the view from their hotel room. Which goes to prove that even self-proclaimed paranoid bloggers aren't as paranoid as me.

I would always worry about people being about to find out my hotel and room number from the photo. It shouldn't be too difficult, and then some stalker could land outside my room. Or some deranged fan could decide to send a rpg my way.

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Date:2011-07-24 11:32

Why the Hebrew spam?

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Date:2011-07-23 01:29

I recently identified something that has crept into my response to any news these days, and I hate it.

As my friends in particular and youngish middle-classish Indians in general have started having stronger opinions about everything from corruption and terrorism to land acquisition and large dams, and as newspapers have started giving more play to these news items, my response to such news has changed. I no longer have an opinion on these issues, and instead find myself speculating about why exactly the various players in these public dramas act the way they do.

Recently, The Atlantic's James Fallows in a number of his blog posts pointed out that a lot of focus of MSM in US is on the politics of the issues (if choice A is taken up, will the party B suffer in elections), partly because MSM does not have the depth to tackle the fundamentals of the issue. But, on the other hand, general public seems to care deeply about the policies of the issues (will we be better off if choice A gets through, or should choice A get through).

So, recently I have found myself wondering more about the politics than about the policies.

I don't think I like this change in me.

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Date:2011-06-16 01:12

I keep registering for all kinds of sites, and unless I use a throw away password, I keep forgetting the passwords.

I have been logging into livejournal so rarely these days, that sometime soon I'll forget the password I have used on this site.

Till then:

run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run...

I haven't watched Blue, but I think I want to like the movie. Watching the sun recede as you sink deeper through the darker blues while you steadily grow every more desperate for air must be spectacularly beautiful.

Been diving, serially, through forty years of series by David Attenborough. I will try and write at length about it, but it has been a wonderful insight into progress of technology in TV, especially given that David Attenborough has apparently been an early adopter for a lot of technology.

I don't know if I have mentioned this, but I have become a huge Stephen Fry fan. Some[1] believe he is a pretender. I however think that he is one of the most intelligent, and, more importantly, funny persons around. Having said that, I believe that, while he is not as lazy as his friend Douglas Adams, Fry hasn't created enough lasting works[2].

There is a magnificent moment in the 'Bat' episode of Series B of QI, where he narrates two anecdotes about the Attenborough brothers, the first about David's encounter with some bats, and the second about Richard's assistant director in 'Gandhi' who beautifully captured the mood at Gandhi's funeral.

The most beautiful thing about the internet in general, and search engines in particular, is that fact that accidental connections appear that you may never have, in your normal life, encountered.

While trying to find a clip of Fry mimicking the Attenborough brothers, I searched for "Attenborough gandhi bat", which lead me to the website for a very promising movie: Gandhi at Bat with a promising 9.5/10 on IMDB.

1: This is not wikipedia. Weasel words are welcome.
2: The fault lies, probably, in my appetite, and not in his production volume.

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Date:2011-04-30 00:26

Yesterday, I had a chat with a friend after ages, and as we both used to be busy on LJ, we talked about how we and everyone else on our friends circle don't post anymore.

For me this means that logging into LJ now feels like walking through an abandoned house.

I have been thinking about moving out of LJ, starting over somewhere else,.Don't think I would ever get around to doing that. Someday in the far future, livejournal.com would stop working, and even after I learn about it I would still try to load my friends page.

Back when I was an undergraduate student, there were these 'dhabas' - low cost open air restaurants - all around our college. Well, I think when I joined the college, there was just one dhaba, and over the next four years a lot of entrepreneurs recognized that dhaba was the great growth business in the town.

All these dhabas had a very similar menu, featuring food that were principally cooked with red chillies and red food coloring. The food used to be so vibrantly red, that eating Paneer-Butter-Masala (or PBM for the initiates) would turn the tips of ones finger red for days.

The food featured could be broadly (and with some loss of accuracy) be described as Punjabi (butter masalas, and all), Andhra (Hyderabadi Biryani, Chicken 65, etc.) and Chinese a-la India (Chicken/Gobi/Mushroom Manchurian, etc), all of which had be heavily adapted to satisfy the demands of students from across India.

The dishes were not exotic and were variations on what is available in dhabas across India. Over the years, as I slowly crawled across a number of major Indian urban centers, I have had similar preparation appear on my table.

However, the dhabas from back then did have an offering that I haven't encountered anywhere else. They labeled it 'Special Chicken Biryani', and it cost, I think, Rs 5 or Rs 10 more than the standard 'Hydrabadi Biryani', which was probably Rs 40 or Rs 50. After all these years, those prices feel ridiculously cheap, but back then the difference was huge. The Special Chicken Biryani was a small extravagance.

Now, the standard Hydrabadi Biryani was very good, as it often is all over that region, and I do dearly love it. As a matter of fact, Hydrabadi Biryani is a totem for me. I don't think I would every get tired of a well made Hyderabadi Biryani.

But, it is also something that I eat on, something like, a regular basis. On the other hand, the Special Chicken Biryani is an elusive beast. I haven't found it anywhere else, and it was so damn good. I wouldn't be surprised if I find out that MSG and Opium were used liberally in cooking it.

I don't know if I have always carried this memory of that dish, but at least over the past few years it has been a regular companion. I have asked a few others who were in the college around the same time, and half of them seem to remember the beauty that used to be Special Chicken Biryani.

As I have got better at cooking, I have thought about re-creating it. I believe it involved Biryani Rice and possibly a heap of Chicken 65 pieces piled on top of it. Of course, there must be more to it. The Mirchi-ka-salan, the gravy offering with the Biryani, probably was a key catalyst. But that can't possibly be the entire story.

With each passing year, my obsession with the dish grows. I try to remember what it felt like, and because memory is a poor substitute for experiencing that whole thing again, I dream of going back. When I am really idle, my mind starts weaving plans about how I could be at one of those familiar dhabas by the next Friday. One of these days, I might actually go through with the plan and find myself ordering a Special Chicken Biryani.

Or not.

Last week, I had to change my primary computer in a hurry. Tonight, I decided to go through the music folder that I salvaged off the old machine. I enqueued all the files in VLC and set it to pay in shuffle.

The most important thing that I found was that I had most of the stuff backed up, and so I could delete the folder. I also found that it wasn't all music, and had a couple of collages of Indian television advertisements from the late nineties and early naughties.

Those ads reminded me that even five or six years ago, Indian TV used to be blanketed by motorcycle advertisements, and nice ones at that. Then suddenly, the quality of the ads fell, and then the proportion of these advertisements.

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Date:2011-03-13 01:59

I used to be able to write - type right into the text area on the update page on LJ - and get something out. It would rarely be coherent, but at least I could get out some of what I wanted to say. Unfortunately, I have a cluttered mind, and it creates untidy texts.

This clutter has got worse. Today I find myself unable to type out any of what I want to speak of.

If I could, I would talk about ninety year old recordings. I would talk about story telling in the recordings.

I would talk about a more recent and more vulgar Hyderabadi comedy sketch that I know of as "Mamu ki Naak". I would talk about how I first happened on it, and what it means. I would talk about the absence of more recording in the same vein.

I would talk about why I once read everything Gladwell used to write, back in the days before his first book. I would talk about how, for me, he worked better through magazine essays than through books. I would talk about my initial bias against Michael Lewis, and how he seems to work so well for me. I would talk about the pleasure of reading Errol Morris.

I would talk about finally reading Darwin and Smith, and how they are quite unlike what I thought they would be. I might also talk about finally re-reading Alice and Holmes after years and years, and hating it.

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Date:2011-02-10 12:17
Subject:Too Late?

I had started reading an Atlantic article about the "Loebner Prize"1, when the first paragraph threw this up:

I wake up in a hotel room 5,000 miles from my home in Seattle. After breakfast, I step out into the salty air and walk the coastline of the country that invented my language, though I find I can’t understand a good portion of the signs I pass on my way—LET AGREED, one says, prominently, in large print, and it means nothing to me.
Unlike the author, I do have an idea about what 'LET AGREED' means, or rather could mean, and therein lies another false turn in my early adventures with English.

Long ago, when I was a little bitty boy in school, still in short pants, conceited as ever, and convinced about my mastery of the English Language, we used to stay a fair distance from the center of the town - all of five Kilometers.

While the distance might seem trivial, for all intent and purpose, in my little provincial world, I might as well have been living in a far distant suburb. The school bus would start at school, packed beyond comprehensible limits - all arms and legs and occasional torsos - but would disgorge most of my friends within fifteen minutes. And then for the rest of my ride home, the bus would be almost empty.

So, I spent a lot of my time staring out of the window on these homeward trips. There wasn't much to look at: rice fields, occasional houses, bamboo groves and fishing ponds. So, when one day a sign was posted outside a house, I quickly noticed it.

"To Let", it said, a message perhaps as compelling as Alice's "Eat me", an imperative call to action. But, what did it mean? As the days flowed, and the sign didn't disappear, I started making my own stories about what it meant.

Perhaps it was a revolutionary slogan by people who wanted to be let to do whatever it was that they wanted to do. Perhaps it was a misspelled sign, and it should have read "Too Late" - a sign to doctors and visitors attending upon a patient, to tell them that it is now too late, and the patient has passed away.

It was truly mysterious, I considered getting off the bus at the stop near the house, walking up to the house, knocking on the door, and then when someone responded, I asking them, "That sign that reads 'To Let', what does it mean?" However, I never did get down there, or walk up to the house, or ask the question, because, for one, the house was too far from mine and I wasn't going to walk all that way home, and, secondly, the sign was taken down after a couple of weeks.

Some time later, I saw a second sign somewhere, which triggered a chain of now forgotten events (possibly involving someone making fun of my fanciful explanation), and I found out what the phrase means. It, of course, means that there is a place for rent. And so, the "LET AGREED" that confused the author of the Atlantic piece, probably means something like, there was a place for rent that we have agreed, on principle, to let someone have, but we are still fishing for alternate lessee.
You really should read the Atlantic article.
1: Loebner prize is an annual competition that implements "Turing test"2. The conversations are carried over a period of five minutes over a chat interface.

2: Turing Test, named after Alan Turing who introduced the concept, is a test of a machine's intelligence capability. A judge has a conversation with one (unseen) machine and one (unseen) person. The machine and man communicating with the judge try to demonstrate that they are human. If it is not possible for the judge to separate the machine from man consistently, then the machine is deemed to be sufficiently human.

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Date:2011-01-21 00:09
Subject:Milgram's nurses

Warren Ellis posted a drawing by Brandon Graham (royalboiler) which is quite exquisite and which has Fucking Flying Whales.

I love flying whales. I am sure that in one of my more fevered dreams, I was chased by a flying whale through the halls of a decaying palace.

In fact I am sure I wrote it up, and I want to read that.


Unfortunately, Google doesn't index my lowly blog in all its glory.

So I was browsing through my old posts, and I spotted this old (and flying-whale-less post). That post does little more than quote from a piece by one of the participants in Milgram's Obedience experiment. Rereading the article by the participant in Milgram's experiment, I spotted this line:
   "Results were worst (that is, the highest percentage of testers went all the way to 450 volts) with a group of nurses in Bridgeport."

Which is tremendously interesting. Why, you might ask, would nurses, those angels of mercy, be the ones with least empathy and have a keen sadistic streak.

Is it because
   A) Nurses regularly have to force the bitter medicine down people's throat
   B) Nurses, to a large extent, do not have independent authority and have to follow doctor's instructions
   C) Nurses, like soldiers, do not have the time to question orders - a seconds delay, in their normal working life, could lead to someone's death

I first read about Milgram's experiment when I was in my early teenage, while flipping through one of "Science Today" issues in my uncle's collection from the 1970s. As you might guess that has left a huge lasting impression.

"Science Today" was this really nice Indian popular science magazine, published by Bennett, Coleman & Co before they got into the business of wholesale distribution of toilet paper.

Edit: Regarding flying whales, found a post that just links to a post of "Life in whale falls", and another post which had this bit:
Whales fall from the sky. With their guts full of Helium they are lighter in air, but getting their massive bodies moving takes way too much work. Most of them once they push off into the skies, never stop till the end, for in the end, the act of stopping and inability to get started off again is enough to send them slowly spinning down to the ground.

I believe there should be another post somewhere, but I haven't been able to find it.

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Date:2011-01-03 21:37

Things I quit in 2010:
a) Working
b) Smoking

Things I managed to do in 2010:
a) Do nothing useful
b) Read

Things to do in 2011:
a) Figure out what to do next
b) Do it

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Date:2010-12-05 16:19
Subject:Quick Gun Murugun - Eat my dosa or die

[Note for the two people following on Google reader: The post contains the embedded video of a clip from the movie Quick Gun Murugun.]

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Date:2010-11-18 23:00

Blast Wave, a webcomic. Funny, very funny. (Would have put it on twitter or something, but can't be bothered.)

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Date:2010-10-26 12:55

My moral compass is probably orthogonal to most other people, and that is probably why I am deeply disturbed by things that most people don't really seem to think about. Why, for example, do people find it easier to accept euthanasia for pets than they do for humans? Consider that a person asking for 'assited suicide' is making the decision on their own, while the pet really doesn't have a choice. This is specially strange because people most invested in their pets, for whom their pet are family and friend, accept that "putting to sleep" is preferable to long periods of pain. Is it that we are not heavily invested in keeping pets in painkiller haze? Or is it that we do not expect there to be huge jumps in veterinary surgery?

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Date:2010-10-25 02:10

Jay ignored the security and ran right into the airport terminal. He took a moment to orient himself before making his way towards the security holding area.

'Aditi!' he shouted out as he tried to jump over the security check counter.


"Damn! He could have lived, if only he had stopped," said the officer.

"Jaane tu ... Ya Jaane na" should have ended with Jay bleeding to death on the white marble (from Ranjhor) tile of छ्त्रपती शिवाजी अंतरराष्ट्रीय विमानतळ.

True Story, or so Barney tells me.

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Date:2010-10-20 13:27
Subject:Things from Microsoft that I love the most

The big difference between Microsoft and Google is that while Google starts off with toys and builds them up, Microsoft is always off building suspension bridges and intercontinental liners. The clever bit in a toy is obvious, the cleverness in stringing the suspension cables is less obvious.

One of my all time favorite Microsoft creation is Photosynth, which uses a technique for stitching together a lot of photos to create gigapixaletd multiperspective or panaromic view.

When I first heard about the WorldWideTelescope it was described as the Google Map of the space. It is way way beyond that.

Tuva [requires silverlight] was apparently created because Bill Gates bought the writes to the videos of Feynman delivering the Messenger lectures. And not only are the lectures themselves awesome, but the whole delivery system is beautiful too. Unfortunately it doesn't look like the technology is being used anywhere else

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