of Accidents

My friend, Shirin was recently in an accident. Hope you get well soon! She says she was passionate about driving her own car.

Now, come to my point, my passion for cars increases only when I put a dummy in it and crash it against a wall. Have been doing it, since I was a kid.  Hopefully, there is no ‘Prevention of Cruelty against Dummies’ yet. I also like it when you take a plunger and just destroy the car. After all, destruction is the apex of creation.

What really drives me are airplane. My way of taking interest in them is to not learn about them at all. It’s all strange. After all, I am from a strange land – India. A land where a group of snake charmers managed to take over industry and give a 9.2% GDP growth p.a. Cool no?

Communicating Science and what not…I’m sick

Two posts have made me write this. This one and this one.

The first one deals with science writing. Communicating science to people. The second one deals with, well in a tangent sort of way the old rivalry between science and religion.

On the first point, there is one site which you shout visit, The Institute for Figuring. The first post deals with the fact – how do you cover science or rather how do you communicate science? Do you do it with a beautiful girl of 21 wearing a bikini saying,”The effect that you had when you saw me was similar to the impact of a nuclear bomb”, which makes you want nuclear bombs fall or do you do it with a much more official way. The Director of the Institute explaining how the neutrons are bombarded into the nucleus etc. and all the rest of it in style.

My friend once said to me he believed that the Indian epics were way to communicate science. I would add to it by saying, it was also the way to communicate some common sense. Some of the descriptions actually tell you of the development of science in India. Quotes like – “I will beat you just as surely as the sun rises in the east”. It’s a cool way to tell the kid that the sun rises in the east. Try telling that to him more directly and he would say, “What the hell for?” More on this when I’m feeling better.

The second one….just read both.

I’m sick right now. I have what doctors call – “viral diarrhea”. But, I describe it more unscientifically as going to the bathroom hundreds of time….er, have to rush.

Nothing is Permanent but Change

I’m trying to reflect this philosophy in my blog. How? I’m changing the theme everyday.

I understand it’s not a very intelligent way of doing a blog, but who says it has to be intelligent? The thing is – even if I don’t post anything on my blog, I change the themes. So, there’s something to watch out for everytime you’re here.

We all face problems because we need security – we need to return to the same space again and again. Remove that security and you’ll realise that half the problems of the world dissolve. Think about that.

The “b” key of my keyboard isn’t working too well.

Tragedies and Safety

India faced two tragedies back to back. One, with the twin explosions in Samjhauta Express, run between India and Pakistan. The second happened when a boat capsized killing about 19 10 year-olds.

The first incident is getting national coverage since it involves an international dimension – most of the victims were Pakistani nationals.

The second happened because the boat carrying the children was not water-fit. This is not the first time. Will it take the death of these 19 children for the administration to act?

What further action will be taken? Will the administration atleast act now? Accidents are almost an everyday event in Kerala. Safety is requireed in land, water and air. I was wondering what sort of a catastrophe will it take to move the administration to implement safety laws?

GIS in India

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://blogs.seds.org/pradeep. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on February 20, 2007 as per the timestamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

The NSDI has been trying for a long time to implement GIS in India with the aims of “to ensure that departments open their trove of information maps and data on forests, minerals, town planning, rainfall, archaeology for being placed on a proposed Geospatial Information System (GIS) backbone”.Yesterday, they must have had the happiest day of their life (I’m just thinking here) when they read this half-page report.

The Indian Government has finally decided to release data stored in files, cans and what not to the modern GIS. This comes as a surprise even for the NSDI. GIS will also provide imagery.

As the report goes on: “The NSDI web-user interface will provide open access of the information processed by the project. But further access to its metadata, data about data or a cataloguing system, will be secure. The metadata server will be the brain of the system and guide access and use of the NSDI agency server which contains the spatial data.”

There are also talks of releasing .8 m resolution satellite images available thanks to CartoSat 2. Let’s see how thinks go. The Defence establishment has already given the green signal.

of TV

It’s been wonderful to read blogs from different countries from across the globe. Some, over at WordPress.com (which hosts this blog) and some through other blogs. They all talk about the wonderful stuff that they can achieve using computers today.

But, the sad fact is that the computer is least of the worry for atleast 20% (as a very minimum estimate) and 50% (as a very maximum estimate) of the population. These people can’t catch up with the speed of today’s technology train. They have to worry about things like food, water, shelter and clothing. Things, which the other half of the world does not even need to think about.

That’s why I appreciate this post by Robert Scoble. It’s not only that some people are not ready to leave analog TV. In some places, people can’t afford either HDTV or flat-screens. Here, in India, there’s a TV at almost every home – slum, apartment or bunglow. But, that’s because of cable TV. The revolution happening right now is DTH (direct-to-home TV). The local Government telephone provider, MTNL, is also thinking of introducing IPTV here.

But even then, you can’t beat the pricing of an analog TV.

The Ant and the Grasshopper

I don’t get too many email forwards. So, when I got one, I decided to post it. No other intention behind this post. Thanks for the forward, Nupur. 

OLD VERSION…

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant’s a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

MODERN VERSION…

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his  house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant’s a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed   while others are cold and starving.NDTV , BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

The World is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house. Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other grasshoppers demanding that grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter.

Amnesty International and Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary General) criticize the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the grasshopper.

The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the  grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance) . Opposition MP’s stage a walkout.Left parties call for “Bharat Bandh”  in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry.CPM in Kerala   immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among ants and grasshoppers.

Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly named as the ‘Grasshopper Rath’.

Finally, the Judicial Committee drafts the Prevention of Terrorism Against Grasshoppers Act [POTAGA]“, with effect from the beginning of  the winter.

Arjun Singh makes Special Reservation for Grass Hopper in educational Insititutions & in Govt Services.

The ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by The Government and handed over to the grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV.

Arundhati Roy calls it “a triumph of justice”. Lalu calls it ‘Socialistic Justice’. CPM calls it the ‘revolutionary resurgence of   the downtrodden’

Ban Ki-moon  invites the grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly.

MANY YEARS LATER…

The ant has since migrated to the US and set up a multi billion dollar company in silicon valley.100s of grasshoppers still die of starvation despite reservation somewhere in India…

Ryszard on India

India was my first encounter with otherness, the discovery of a new world. It was at the same time a great lesson in humility. I returned from that journey embarrassed by my own ignorance. I realized then what seems obvious now: another culture would not reveal its mysteries to me at a mere wave of my hand. One has to prepare oneself thoroughly for such an encounter.My initial reaction to this lesson was to run home, to return to places I knew, to my own language, to the world of already familiar signs and symbols. I tried to forget India, which signified to me my failure: its enormousness and diversity, its poverty and riches, its incomprehensibility had crushed, stunned, and finally defeated me. Once again, I was glad to travel around Poland, to write about its people, to talk to them, to listen to what they had to say. We understood each other instantly, were united by common experience.

But of course I remembered India. The more bitter the cold of the Polish winter, the more readily I thought of hot Kerala; the quicker darkness fell, the more vividly images of Kashmir’s dazzling sunrises resurfaced. The world was no longer uniformly cold and snowy but had multiplied, become variegated: it was simultaneously cold and hot, snowy white but also green and blooming.

Those are the concluding paragraphs of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s essay, “The Open World“, translated from Polish by Klara Glowczewska and published in the February 5, 2007 New Yorker.

This from Ethan Zuckerman’s blog. Thanks, Ethan.

Yuri’s Night

Well, some sort of order has been done. All the things that I wanted sorted are sort of, sorted.

We’d like to hold an event called Yuri’s Night in India. Any ideas? Any thoughts?

Yuri’s Night is an event held across the globe  to commemorate the first man in space – Yuri Gagarin. Any ideas, anyone ready to give us a place to do the event, that would be great.