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Just Shoot Me

Bala, 28, Gordon Gekko in the making, pseudo-intellectual, cynic, bibliophile, obsessive compulsive ranter...

All politics is local

April 13, 2011

I voted for ADMK for the first time today. For someone whose first political impressions were formed during 1991-96, this is a very difficult thing to do. After all as the newly emerging SUN TV did teach us that JJ is the embodiment of all things corrupt and bad in TN politics. But Mu.ka family's antics have pushed even me, who wouldn't normally touch ADMK with a ten feet long pole, into amma's hands. First world tender-contract corruption is perfectly acceptable (who is pure these days - certainly not me), But to go the african banana republic "my family eats everything" route is too much.

Even with all this, i almost pushed the button for udhaya sooriyan out of reflex. But the proverbial final straw was DMK's candidate - they guy is our current panchayat board president. There is bad blood between us and him - he has been pissing our family off for the last ten years by doing everything in his power to deny our street tar topping, water and street lights for the past ten years and that was enough to convince me to vote ADMK. What 6 hours a day power cuts, the prospect of azhagiri becoming CM and 1,76,000 crores couldn't do, the personal grudge did. All three votes in our house went for ADMK - another first. Even my coddled by karunanidhi-govt servant/pensioner mom has went against DMK today. Doesn't bode well for the ruling party.

If amma wins, we are in for five years of constant culture wars instigated by hindutva right wing assholes (meat ban anyone?). I hope admk doesnt win outright and gaeb10 gets enough MLAs to make a nuisance of himself.

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posted by Bala, 2:22 PM | link | 8 comments |

A grand project

April 05, 2011

For the past seven months, i have been involved in a gargantuan undertaking - writing about WW2 in Tamil wikipedia. Books and materials on wars are few and far between in Tamil and the few that exist have been written by people with no clue about military history. So i have set out to remedy this by covering WW2 i some detail. yes i know, i am no proper military historian, but i have been reading on this subject for the past twenty years and know enough to write a decent article without mucking things up.

The target is to write a 1000 articles covering all the major issues and happenings. I began in September 2010 and have completed about 200 articles so far. Have finished two major fronts - Western Europe and North Africa. It will probably take a couple of years to finish this project

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posted by Bala, 2:22 PM | link | 2 comments |

Bala MAMA

March 21, 2011

The results came out today and i am officially a double MA now. The strange thing, i have got "good" marks in the linguistics paper, which i had believed was a definite fail. But int the feminist writing paper, in which i had the impression i had kicked ass, i ended up barely passing. Anyway all water under bridge now. B

TWENTIETH CENTURY ENGLISH LITERATURE 68
SHAKESPEARE 61
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS 57
PRINCIPLES OF LITERARY CRITICISM 53
FEMINIST WRITING 50

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posted by Bala, 3:55 PM | link | 2 comments |

Calvin And Hobbes in Tamil

October 26, 2010

Sometime back i finished writing the article on Calvin and Hobbes for Tamil Wikipedia. It was begun couple of years back by Sundar. He had completed the difficult parts and i filled up mostly the character descriptions and plot sections.

Writing about Calvin in tamil is more difficult than writing about WW II!. The first hurdle is the encyclopaedic manual of style (If it doesn't feel like watching paint dry, you are doing something wrong) and the second hurdle is to produce a Tamil article that is understandable. I mean, how does one write about choclate coated sugar bombs or Spaceman Spiff and make sense to the Tamil reader at the same time? And then there is the cultural barrier - while's calvin's antics are enough to turn any parents' hair white, they don't come across well in Tamil. A kid who bugs his mother to buy him cigarettes and spouts opinion poll ratings for his dad simply doesn't exist in Tamil mindscape (well maybe in the demented adhigaprasangi world of Manirathnam films). The worst part was translating the theme song for Calvinball. I am no poet (suttalum kavidhai varaadhu) and the translation came out like a cross between Junoon Tamil and Vijay TV's dubbing efforts for hong kong kung fu films:

மற்ற குழந்தைகள் விளையாடும் ஆட்டங்கள் அலுப்பூட்டுகின்றன
விதிமுறைகளும் எண்ணிக்கைகளும் யாருக்கு வேண்டும்
கால்வின்பந்து எவ்வளவோ மேல்
எல்லாவற்றிலும் வித்தியாசம், எப்போதும் வினோதம்
குழுக்களும் தேவையில்லை நடுவர்களுக்கும் வேலையில்லை
என் பேரை வைத்திருப்பதால் இந்த ஆட்டம் எப்போதும் கலக்கும்

I completely understand, if outraged Tamil Calvin fans want to kill me after reading this.

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posted by Bala, 2:17 PM | link | 9 comments |

Once more unto the breach

October 21, 2010

The results came out today. Aathaa naan paas aayitten!!
ENGLISH LITERATURE FROM CHAUCER TO 1660 - 55
RESTORATION & EIGHTEENTH CENTURY - ENGLISH LITERATURE - 61
ROMANTIC & VICTORIAN PERIODS -63
NEW LITERATURES IN ENGLISH - 58
AMERICAN LITERATURE - 50
Going to attempt the second year exams in December.

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posted by Bala, 12:36 PM | link | 0 comments |

World Classical Tamil Conference - Day 3

June 27, 2010

Day 3 at the wikipedia stall in the Tamil internet conference went pretty much like Day 1. It was less tiresome as the student volunteers had shaped up well and took over much of the actual work from us. I wasn't able to attend Day 2 because Day 1's lunch gave me a moderate case of diarrhea. The pattern of visitors was similar to that in the first day a)mere sightseers looking for freebies b)people with computers and internet connections, who want to use Tamil in computers c) Some advanced users with specific doubts.

There was another class of people who were very curious about Tamil and computers - Govt employees. With the govt pushing e-governance (and usage of Tamil) hard, most of the govt offices have been computerised and use Tamil for official work. From what i can understand, they have not been given enough training in computers and using Tamil. There were employees from the collectorate, govt school teachers, health department officials, policemen, fire fighters who wanted to learn how to use Tamil in computers. A clerk/typist from the collectorate wanted to know if there were any speech recognition software in Tamil - something similar to Dragonspeech. Unfortunately nothing of that sort is commercially available (there are some research projects but nothing advanced beyond beta version). Another thing people found surprising was the Tamil support available in Nokia mobiles. Most of the handsets dont ship with Tamil enabled. We had to disappoint interested people by asking them to approach their nearest Nokia care centre and install Tamil in their handsets. So everything i saw reinforced my earlier opinion - People want to use Tamil both offline and online as they are more comfortable with it.

There were few "surprise visitors" to our stall. A couple of professors of linguistics dropped in to see what Wikipedia was all about. Just an hour before i had finished writing the article on Francil Whyte Ellis and was able to explain how we can make subjects like those accessible to the laymen. The Professors were happy to see we are writing articles on their subjects and promised to contribute to Wikipedia in the future. They left after gifting us a couple of their books. A pair of marketers from Google, Hyderabad showed up to see the Tamil internet conference. Google did not have a stall of their own, so Paul and his colleague (sorry i forgot her name) were there out of their own initiative to see the conference. They were disappointed with not being able to attend the actual paper presentations (entry only for those with ID cards), but I got an opportunity to lament about the woes of Google translation project in Tamil wiki to them.(The Google Tamil translation toolkit is a crappy software and Google India doesnt have a clue about how volunteer run, consensus driven projects like wikipedia work). They listened very patiently to my pulambal and promised to send the feedback to the relevant team.

I am extremely happy that i was part of such an event. This has made me realise when offered a chance to use Tamil and English in computers a lot of Tamils would chose the former. And it was a chance to meet Tamil wikipedians who have slogged it out to get Tamil wikipedia to where it is now. The things i did not like? First there was the food - Vasantha Bhavan's shitty lunch knocked me out a whole day which i spent mostly in the Kakkoos. The whole ID card situation - none of us volunteers were given IDs, which pretty much restricted us to the Internet conference section. I wasnt able to see anything else - no paper presentations, no panels, no speeches, none. Once i was inside the internet conference dome there was no coming out. Even for peeing, someone with a ID card had to escort us out through the back way and vouch for us to the police guards posted there. I had planned to take photos of politicians/bureaucrats for Wikimedia commons and that didnt happen at all. And there was the lousy internet connection. There were enough jacks available in the stall, but the connection was fickle. The wifi network was feeble and completely useless. The LAN was better but would go off every ten minutes or so. This is supposed to be a "internet conference" and internet did not work properly. Sigh! thats govt for you.

The Hindu's Karthick Madhavan (who has been doing good work covering the conference) has a nice write up on us here (the photo is posed though :-))

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posted by Bala, 9:02 AM | link | 3 comments |

Tamil Internet Conference - Day 1

June 24, 2010

I just got back from the Tamil Internet conference (part of the Classical Tamil Conference 2010). Man what an experience. I had a blast of a time there.

I was part of the Tamil Wikipedia / Free Open Source Software team manning a big stall there. Thanks to good lobbying/awareness creation by the Tamil Wikipedians and Tamil blogging community, we had been allocated one of the biggest stalls in the venue (bigger than those given for CTS, TCS, HCL, Dina thanthi etc). Ours was the only volunteer run stall and it was a great experience. I am a relatively new entrant to Tamil Wikipedia (though more experienced in English Wikipedia). But living in Coimbatore and working out of home is an advantage while volunteering at an event in Coimbatore. Thus when Ta.Wiki asked for volunteers i signed up. We had a few basic goals - a) Make people aware that they can use Tamil in the web 2) Teach them how to obtain and use Tamil typing software 3) Introduce Tamil Wikipedia and teach them how to use/contribute to it. The FOSS (Free and open source software) group was there to introduce open source software like Ubuntu.

There were a lot of hiccups like they forgot to give us our IDs, the internet going on and off, the inauguration getting delayed etc. But the crowd response made it all worthwhile. To be short : Tamils want to use Tamil in the internet. All the matriculation school/english education mania hasnt reduced people's need for Tamil language content and tools. You should see their faces light up when you mention Tamil can be used in the web. All sorts of people - vernacular media professionals, retirees who chat with their children, college students who want to SMS in Tamil, Govt school teachers who are about to be given computers, Policemen who want to write in Tamil - everyone wants to know how they can use Tamil in the web. A large part of the crowd was the sight seeing, freebee seeking type who was just in for the spectacle. But a large part also seemed genuinely interested to learn how to use Tamil software. The Govt is giving away one lakh CDs full of Tamil software free and there was a long queue for getting that CD (probably a lot of them will get trashed, but even if half of them get used, you can say this conference was a success).

Another thing i noticed is the relief on people's faces when they realise we are not selling something. When they hear i was there to teach them to use some software, most of them ask what the cost is. When they hear we are volunteers doing this for free, there is momentary disbelief followed by congratulations. I had a old man pump my hand saying i appreciate what you are doing. Another point i noticed is - many of the people who already are aware of online transliteration tools like Google and Quillpad, complain that it is very painful to use them. Dont know why. By four we were all worn out and had hoarse throats from all the shouting/explaining. The evening crowd was more of a sightseeing one just there to see what was going on. We wound up the stall an hour before official closing time and left - not much energy left in us to continue.

Today's experience has opened my eyes about the necessity of increasing vernacular content in the web. English remains an alien and uncomfortable language for many of us. I have a thousand qualms about wasting lots of tax payer money in what is essentially a sycophancy show for Karunanidhi. But good things do happen out of political grandstandings like these. While the CM does the whole Bread and Circuses routine, Tamil might actually gain something.

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posted by Bala, 9:42 PM | link | 2 comments |

test

testing from chemmozhi maanadu
செம்மொழிப் பயிலரங்கம்
posted by Bala, 4:29 PM | link | 0 comments |

Back to the Classes

May 27, 2010

Two years after dropping out of my MA English Lit course, i went back and have finished writing my first year exams. Being at home and having a recently retired mother to take care of the trading has led to this. I am much (Two whole years) older now and it was to write five full papers of English literature in ten days. Today was the last exam. Results are due out in August. I am fairly certain i will pass easily.

Funny thing about English Literature, is less than ten percent of the students are male. The rest are all females of all ages - from girls in their early twenties to gray haired teachers. I was among a handful of males (all of us men, seem to be in the late twenties/early thirties age group) in the exam centre. Dont men read literature any more?

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posted by Bala, 4:35 PM | link | 8 comments |

my newest work

March 09, 2010

is here. Was already in a "not bad" shape. Took five days and 3 books to get into the current form. Only flipside is i don't know my limits and only discover them when i have almost collapsed from overwork.

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posted by Bala, 12:35 AM | link | 1 comments |