Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our Baby is One Month Old!

You know what I mean.

4000+ visits, 3 newspaper articles, 150+ facebookers, 90+ volunteers. Not bad :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Some Must-Visit Pages

Coming soon: A post about where Indian politics might very well be in the coming years.

For now: Some pages that deserve your attention.

1. If you like g33ky comics [or not] check out Abstruse Goose. [ref: B]

2. If you are a woman [or not] make sure to check out this must-read post on the red-colored blues.

3. If you are into poems [or not], check out my mom's blog with her newly posted poetry [pretty good, I must say]. And there is much more in that poetry-diary of hers I tell you :).

4. If you live in bangalore [or not] make sure to read this harrowing account of moral policing by local hoodlums. [ref: C]

5. If you know about Never Forget [or not], see our second newspaper coverage! [yes, my mugshot is there :)]

And for the nature video of the post, here is one about sea-turtles and sharks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On Fundamental Similarity [and a Nature Video]

As part of my usual Feb 14 ritual, I ventured to my favorite extreme-right-wing Hindu website to see what the guys there had to say, and I must say, I was not disappointed.

Blended with the parts about the niceness of Hindu culture, and the horrors of public display of affection, were attempts at "rationalizing" their arguments using supremely incoherent arguments. For example, in a segment where they want us to be wary of "western influences", the "Hindu yuva" is shown wearing kurta-pyjama!!! Certainly a "western dress", for those like our beloved lord rama only wore dhotis. How dare they show a kurta pyjama as "Indian"!!

Moving on, they talk about how "The saint himself was involved in the anti-national acts at his time, then how one can get any good result by celebrating the day on his name ?"

while the truth is that he was opposing a roman king who wanted him to denounce his faith. Interesting how those who want all Indian/Hindu youth to uphold their faith reserve such disdain for someone who died to protect his own.
BTW, there were more than one St. Valentine [ref: this page]

There are more examples in their detailed post.

Note that I am not a super pro-V-day activist, and I know many westerners who think that V-day today has become a charade to sell greeting cards and chocolates. However, I fully support the freedom of expression to those who _do_ want to celebrate it, and completely oppose those who seek to curb this freedom.

More so, while I disagree with my right-wing friends, I sincerely hope to be able to have a decent conversation with them, based on actual facts, and following the rules of reasoning. But when I read articles such as the one above, where in one breath they claim that the catholic church is evil, and in the next use the church's deletion of V-day from its list to prove their point, I feel very sad for those who write these posts.

The other funny[?] part is how their rabid anti-west sentiment mirrors those of the fundamentalist muslim groups that are supposedly responsible for _all_ of the world's terrorism, or the abortion-clinic-bombing fundamentalist Christians who hate the "modern immoral influences".

But then, I came across this wonderful piece by M.J.Akbar, where he shows how all fundamentalists are the same, aptly titled All religions are not same, but fundamentalists are

From the post (emphasis mine):
All religions are not the same; but all fundamentalists are. They share an aversion for modernity and a hatred of gender equality. It is entirely logical that the Ram Sene should find an ally in the Jamaat-e-Islami; their ethos is not dissimilar, no matter how different the imagery their rhetoric might contain. The same mindset persuades some maulanas to issue a fatwa condoning divorce through triple talaaq even when the husband is drunk. The very clerics who will damn you to eternal hellfire for touching alcohol are ready to rationalise any diktat that amounts to subjugation of women. Eminent Islamic scholars have repeatedly proved that instant triple talaaq is bad in Islamic law, and such variations even worse. Islam institutionalised the rights of women; such distortions are at variance to its liberating spirit. But the issue is not law: this is conservative, male domination over women.


India is one nation among the many who emerged from the ruins of the British empire capable of claiming the mantle of modernity. This is not because Indians are superior to their neighbours, but because the idea of India is better. Democracy, secularism, equality and freedom are an Indian's non-negotiable birthright. There is only one serious weakness: poverty has to be reduced at a much faster rate than the growth in prosperity. As long as we are burdened with this wretched malaise called poverty, we cannot call ourselves a modern nation. Economic equality is a fantasy; but an equitable distribution of national wealth is a compulsion. A civilised nation cannot divide its people by a hunger line. Citizens must live in various categories of a comfort zone, and the most basic comfort is a full stomach. Freedom is incomplete without freedom from hunger.

The poor are never unreasonable. They do not believe that there is any magic wand that can suddenly make them wealthy. But they have every right to economic justice. When they find India rising, but they are not rising along with their country, there is envy and anger. The young men who become the club-wielders of socially regressive organisations are motivated by more than one reason, but a principal cause is denial of the liberties and pleasures that a disposable income brings. They may not realise it, but they want what they seek to destroy. It is a familiar paradox.

Seriously, read the full article!

And as an aside, I think I will start sharing interesting nature videos I come across. Today's video is that of the bull frog, apparently a ferocious predator!

P.S. If you want the above as a pet, make sure you take care of it, as shown here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy T-E day!

T-E for la Tour-Eiffel, that is.

I celebrated my singles-awareness-day hanging out with S, introducing her to the wonderful city that Paris is, and the wonderful desi food that one can find there :).

First, we met up at La Défense, and on the walk from there to the metro stop, took in the sight of Fall .. [my first ever 'real' Fall, unlike the fake one in LA :)]

Then, we proceeded to the Indian quartier, only to have the current cut off in our metro, and then walking some distance due to over-stuffed buses :). But some sights we saw were good, like this one of Sacré-Cœur

And after lunch [yummy Lahori-Thali at Bhai-bhai], went to the Eiffel Tower! It was S's first time ever, and my first time in 6 years! [barring the fog-filled day I went with M to the E-T on her transit trip through Paris].

Of course, there was some fauna which enticed me.

And then, there was me :).


P.S. Bonus Special V-day link on explaining love in a dry [but interesting] manner using hormones here [ref: J]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mugshot in the Papers!

The residents on Pune who opened their "Pune Mirror", the supplement to the city edition of The Times of India, were shocked to see the be-spectacled image of your's truly in it yesterday :). The fact that it was on page 4 helped to mitigate the effect :-). Also, Varun's soothing smile helped :).

On a more serious note, never forget was covered by the Pune Mirror yesterday [a huge thanks to Anupama for the connections]. The teaser is to the left, and the main article is to the right. Click on the images to enlarge.

More at our blog.

And yes, we have crossed the 3000 visits mark!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Why it is Time for an Indian Daily Show

When I was in India this past December, I noticed a couple of things on TV:

  1. India now has a C-SPAN like TV channel called Lok Sabha TV, with recordings of discussions in the parliament, and good, informed, and cultured discussions by experts.

  2. Doordarshan news (DD News) is pretty much the only channel which will give you actual _news_, without the extra sensationalism and crazy-talk that pretty much all major news channels in India suffer from. In some way, it has the potential to become NPR or PBS

And I believe that the above two features --- constant video record of statements made during sessions, and the utter failure of the mainstream media to actually focus on real issues and have decent discussion on them --- makes India a ripe place to have its own version of The Daily Show (TDS), an award winning show in the USA which I and many others happen to love, and consider to be one of the few sane voices of information there.

Sure, India has The Week that Wasn't, but in my opinion it still lacks the professionalism that TDS has, and is currently more of a buffoonary show, much like TDS was in its early years.

But we do not need to take as much time as the Americans did! How hard is it for Cyrus to create a segment that shows the blatant hypocrisy that politicians show before and after they have lost power?

Exhibit A. Jon Stewart pointing out how the dems and the republicans are switching sides now, and negating themselves. [the best part is at 5:20+]

Exhibit B. And then, maybe you can also, in a humorous way, tell people the other side of the fallacious arguments our leaders make, such as the one Dick Cheney made in his "who's responsible for that?" speech. Watch the video below for more.

[a more serious rebuttal of Cheney is here]

But seriously, why don't we have a show of the caliber of the daily show in India yet?!! The time has come. Is anyone listening?

P.S. NeverForget crossed 2000 hits! Have you seen it yet?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A week of personal good news

This past week, I must say, will count as one of the most packed-with-good-news in recent memory, for the sheer _number_ of good things that happened. Here they are:

1. My toolkit, Srijan, which can be used to graphically and quickly design sensor network applications, finally started working again, after some long-pending bugfixes. [videos here]

2. I was invited to be a part of the technical program committee of the established SECON 2009 conference.

3. The paper based on the last part of my PhD research was accepted [with minor revision] in the IEEE Transactions on Computers, one of the biggest journals in the area!

and last but not the least

4. Never Forget has gotten off to a good start in its first week since its announcement. From visitors, and enthusiastic, action-oriented sign-ups, to getting responses from iPhones of elected representatives, it has been good.

But the work, in all the 4 items above, is far from over. Here's to more work-and-good-news-filled weeks!

P.S. Sadly, the week was not great for everyone, Leesa had a brush with danger, and of course, the Mangalore lets-beat-girls-who-drink-alcohol craziness happened. More about those coming later.