Via Sepia Mutiny and Metafilter: Tamil in a Stand-up Comic act. Not *very* funny, but it involves a highly obscure south-east asian language…

I completed my first GoogleMaps hack. I feel so proud.

Another birthday passed by. The ones who remembered, remembered out of habit. This year, I wanted it this way.

I got news from my friend who moved to Canada. The youth there were just as drunk and rowdy as those in any US college town. I wonder how the weekend booze-bingeing, foul-mouthed youth of America will turn out. I sometimes feel I should’ve done things like that when I was in college. And that’s when I begin to feel old.

Anti did a round-up of racism against desis, and teenagers figured prominently in the demographic (at least Canadian teenagers seem to be non-prejudiced for now…). Living in a Christian state has its advantages — people are much more tolerant, if you can get past their church talk. I’ve had strange glances once in a while, but an explicit instance of prejudice hasn’t happened to me yet.

But take a quick mental survey — how many desis you know have voiced opinions generalizing all african-americans as people with lesser morals? In the racist ladder, we happen to be in the middle rung, and crying foul will not change anything.

When I joined my job a year ago, a big,black man walked into my cube, introduced himself and started talking. He was the janitor, and he said the mandatory office ‘Hi, how are you?’ with genuine warmth. Since I stayed in the office after everybody had left, I met him several times when he was doing his evening rounds.

When I was ‘promoted’ from 1/4th of a cube to my own room, he popped in and said, “I’m really happy to see you moving forward fast, man”. His idea of spending a relaxing weekend was playing with his grandchildren.

Two weeks ago, we crossed each other once again, when I was leaving the office late. He said he needed to be more careful, and he needed all the prayer he could get. (That I don’t ‘pray’ was something I didn’t tell him.) He had a weak heart and the doctor had advised him to stay off junk food and pop. He declared he was going to make changes and stop drinking a lot of Coke. In short, he was looking forward to making amends and living some more.

He didn’t. He died two days ago, but not of a weak heart.

Konard was a real human. Konard was a good man.

Thanks to AOL (now that’s not something you hear everyday), I could listen to Pink Floyd’s reunion at Live8. Gilmour’s still got his chops, Waters seemed to be singing off key. ‘Comfortably Numb’ still sends shivers down my spine.

Bjork isn’t too bad either.

I probably don’t blog as much as others, but one of the main reasons I started was because I was curious to see how memes and personal communication methods worked. I wouldn’t call myself an early adopter of the Internet in India, but I certainly was fortunate enough to have a dial-up (blech) when not many others had it in the neighborhood.

Good times were had, chatting on the internet with babes on Yahoo! and IRC. I got quite a few long-term e-pals that way. I also became an early A/S/L impostor, when my Dumb-C teammate and I pretended to be a 16-year old girl and played havoc with the emotions of a young Romeo. And all this from our slow-as-heck college computer…

But I digress. Here’s a link to a websurvey, inviting bloggers to participate. It’s not your average chain-mail hoax, it’s from MI-freakin-T.
Take the MIT Weblog Survey

I had always maintained the view that the ethos of a country represents the ethos of its people. A very simple example : The acts of Germany in WWII were tacitly supported by its people. When the majority of people in a country stand for something, the country itself stands for it. Although a broad generalization, it captures what each nation represents in a global arena. Another simple example: When the U.S. invades Iraq, it is because a majority of Americans supported the invasion — representative democracy in action.

A while ago, I was speaking to my friend from Serbia. An inevitable discussion came about the Serbians and the ethnic cleansing. My friend told me about the days of constant shelling of her city and the meager supplies of food. I raised the question that was bothering me, “So why didn’t you do something about the genocide?”. Her reply was : “Do you think the average person cared about what her government was doing? Making ends meet was an ordeal by itself. Not all of us are evil.”

I could see the validity of her position. A few minutes later, we started talking about the Albanians and their insistence for their own land carved out of Serbia. And then she told me,”Those Albanians – they are an uncultured bunch. They multiply like crazy and now they want their own country”.

The dichotomy of her position didn’t escape me. She could divest herself of her national identity when the situation required it and use it when she needed to. I realized that I too am guilty of this convenient separation.

And thus my realization, that a country’s people are not always representative of the country as a whole. This might seem a trivial fact to some, but it always seemed to me that those who are proud to call themselves Indians and Serbians should take responsibility for India’s and Serbia’s shames too.

Twelve years ago, I got my first glimpse at satire. It came in the form of a book called Prince Harry’s First Quiz Book. My father, who knew about my interest in quizzing and quizzing related activities, brought this home one day, thinking his son would eventually learn enough about Brittania to participate in the original BBC Mastermind.

I started reading through it and began to wonder where all the trivia about british royalty was hidden. All the content seemed to be poking fun at the monarchy through subtle wordplay and not-so-subtle profanity. Understandably, my father gave me a strange look when I quoted my favorite line from the preface of the book :

“Shall I be plain? I want those bastards dead.” – Richard the Fourth.
(The line was obviously made up.)

I haven’t read much in satire since then, other than the occasional Internet article. So when I got the chance to read “America – the Book”, I was happy to see satire again in its most unadulterated and concentrated form.

The book takes aim at almost all branches of American politics, and I learnt about the political process more than I could have imagined. The best parts — and the most eye-opening ones — were the chapters about the lobbyists and the media.

Give it a read if you can find it somewhere. It makes excellent coffee-table reading if you’re only midly cynical.

Some of you might have seen today’s post on /. about ChicagoCrime , a GoogleMapHack, developed by Adrian. Adrian is one of the team members at Lawrence.com (Yes, that Lawrence, my home for 3 years).

NPR recently carried a story about the company that owns pretty much all media at Lawrence. The Simons’ family owns the cable, internet, phone, local TV and newspaper of Lawrence. The service, for a small town in the mid-west, is pretty reliable and hassle-free.

As a web-developer (though not the kind that Adrian is), it’s good to see your town and its geeks being recognized throughout the technological blogosphere.

Arkansas, May 2005

Maybe this is what Drew Barrymore meant. It must be really liberating to take a dump right in front of Highway 71 in the morning.

(In all fairness, Arkansas is so beautiful, taking a crap in the Oauchita woods would be totally zen.)

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