Monday, July 17, 2006


I have been wanting to do this for sometime now. And I don't want to put it off any longer. So, as Truman would put it, Good Morning, and in case I don't see ya (again), Good Afternoon and Good Evening and Good Night. And if you ever make it in one peice, see you on the other side!

Friday, July 07, 2006

CRTI and The Drive Against Bribe

About a month ago, the Chennai RTI group along with a number of other organizations and individuals joined together to come up with what has been christened the Tamilnadu Right to Information Campaign. Based on discussions during the initial meeting, it was decided that a concentrated effort to raise RTI awareness in the state shall be launched on the 10th of July which would go on for at least two weeks and end on the 25th. As part of the exercise, it was decided to organize RTI camps in several districts (including Chennai) of Tamilnadu simultaneously during the said period.

To prepare for the campaign, a training workshop for volunteers was held on June 24th. Over 100 volunteers attended the camp which was held to train these volunteers on issues and procedures relating to RTI. These volunteers will be part of the TN RTI campaign that will begin on July 10th and will encompass 15 districts in TN. The TNRTI campaign itself is a part of the national campaign titled "Drive against Bribe". NGOs, unions and citizens' movements in 25 cities in India are taking part in this campaign.

During this campaign, we will target issues that we face in our daily interaction with the government. We might be expected to handle problems that include ration card applications, electricity and water related complaints, license and road transport applications, public distribution system, pension and revenue related problems. As the title of the national campaign suggests, we will use RTI as a powerful and effective alternative to bribes. In addition to this Drive against Bribe related issues, we might also take up citizen vigilante instances where we will use RTI for issues related to public works, state and central government policies and schemes, election commission. The objective of the campaign will be to exercise our right to information, increase awareness about the Act, provide impetus to citizen vigilante initiatives and solve everyday problems using the RTI tool.

Chennairti is playing an active role in the coordination of this campaign in Chennai. It has been decided that the campaign will be run by volunteers from the different partner organizations and individuals not affiliated to any of these organizations. A central camp and several small satellite camps will be set up in Chennai where the volunteers will be available to help citizens draft RTI applications. The central camp will be open all day and the satellite camps will be open for a few hours every evening and during the weekends. The camps will be open for 2 weeks and will be operated by volunteers on a time sharing basis. 4-5 hours of volunteering in total from each volunteer is expected to help us run these camps during the 2 weeks of this campaign.

A training session on the 24th of June (Saturday) trained volunteers to assist citizens in the filing of RTI applications. Each volunteer was trained and provided with the support material (sample applications, case studies, addresses to which RTI applications have to be sent, etc.) to be able to file strong RTI applications that will help get the required information.

The actual campaign will be supported by national media (NDTV, Hindu etc) in the form of daily coverage. We will also partner with local media including Tamil newspapers, TV and Radio channels and neighborhood newspapers.

This is an excellent opportunity to add strength to the largest ever national RTI awareness campaign. Even if you have not been a part of the training session, we would love to have more volunteers during this campaign. 5 hours of your time during those two weeks will help us reach out to more people with this campaign. If you are interested in volunteering, call Guru @ 98407 65030. Please spread the word about this campaign and ask individuals/organizations interested in volunteering to write to or contact us by phone at the number provided above.

(Posted on behalf of the Chennai Right to Information Initiative)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Racing is life...

***Warning - Stay away from this post if you are NOT a motor-sports fan***

I am liveblogging the 24 Hours of Le Mans as two factory Audi R10 TDIs finish 1 and 3 overall. If you are an auto racing fan like me, you will know that this is a monumental event. The 24 Heures du Mans is probably the most historic of auto races in the current racing calendar. This is the 74th edition and so this is possibly the oldest race in motor sports that still races in its original format.

If you are fan of the Mercedes Benz racing teams, like I am, its interesting to note that the a horrific accident at Le Mans in 1955 that killed 77 spectators caused Benz to withdraw from all racing till they came back in 1987. And Le Mans is also the scene of the famous trio of back flips that the Mercedes CLRs (one of the most beautiful cars ever, if you ask me) performed in on their Le Mans debut in 1999 along the Mulsanne straight, one of them during practice by current F1 driver Mark Webber (he had another during the actual race at virtually the same point on the track!) which has caused Mercedes Benz to stay away from from Le Mans since then (click here to see a Google video, which btw, has a funny description of what happened).

Now Audi powered cars have been winning first overall in this race for the last 7 years (six by the R8 cars and one win by a Audi powered Bentley in 2003) in a row. This year has been even more special. After being virtually unchallenged since the turn of the millenium, Audi decided to make things challenging by getting a completely new 5.5 litre diesel engine this year and the car became officially known as the Audi R10 TDI. And a few minutes ago, just as I started typing, the R10 became the first diesel powered car to win the 24 hours race.

It has been a weekend of racing coincidences. Last Sunday, I came back to find that my latest Netflix DVD had arrived. It was the one Steve McQueen movie that I had been hunting for a long time - Le Mans. With the last 10 days being as tiring as they did (will post on that sometime), I never got a chance to open the DVD. Yesterday I did and having some problems in my DVD player setup I put it off and turned on Speed Channel to find catch the start of this year's 24 hours race at Le Sarthe.

Since Speed cut off coverage after a hour to switch to a Nascar show, I decided to go and watch a movie. And the only movie that was beginning when I got there was Cars. And the lead character voiced by Owen Wilson was called - Lightning McQueen ( a nod to Steve McQueen)!
While I knew last week about the Cars connection, I did not realize that this was the Le Man's weekend because for some reason I was thought that the 24 Hours was always during the first weekend of July.

Once I came back late at night after the movie, I caught another hour of the race as Speed was switching back and forth. And this morning, I again caught snatches as the cars raced closer and closer to the finish. In the end, the C06 Corvettes, always strong performers in the American Le Mans series (of which the 24 hours is the flagship race), ran a very good race too and one of the them finished 4th overall. The C06 won the GT1 class along the way after one of the Aston Martin DBR9s that was leading for most of the way with a one lap advantage fried a clutch prompting a pitstop with less than 4 hours left. The Aston Martins finally finished 2nd (sixth overall) and fifth in their class. The GT2 class was won by one of the Panoz Esperantes, a fitting acheivement since this year marks a decade of their participation in ALMS.

For all the trivia enthusiasts out there, Steve McQueen was a budding American Le Mans series racer himself (Paul Newman is another, I think) who drove a Porsche 908 at the 12 hours of Sebring race in 1970 while preparing for the Le Mans movie, finishing second overall (and first in class) behind the winning Ferrari of Mario Andretti. Another interesting peice of trivia is that McQueen holds1 US patent #D219584 (click picture to enlarge) for something that millions of people use everyday while driving - the bucket seat! Talking about multi-dimensional movie stars, for Steve Mcqueen, racing WAS life.

Another Le Mans trivia nugget - every car manufacturer makes left hand drive cars with the ignition key on the right hand side of the steering wheel. Well, every manufacturer except Porsche! This is a direct nod to their Le Mans winning heritage2.

In the old days (till 1970, a year after seat belts were made mandatory), the start of Le Mans, like Formula One, used to be stationary (now it's a race with a rolling start, like NASCAR). The drivers had to run to their cars from the opposite side of the track from the pitwall and start their cars and drive off. Having the ignition on the left helped since the drivers could save a few seconds by starting the engine with left hand while engaging the 1st gear with the right hand, depressing the clutch with left foot and stepping on the gas with right foot simultaneously thus allowing the Porsche to get off the starting line more quickly than other race cars. And so it is perhaps no surprise that Porsche have been perennial winners (16 top overall finishes) at Le Mans.

[1] Source: The First Steve McQueen Site

[2] Source: Wikipedia

Friday, June 16, 2006

Truthiness and the linguistic rule book

Glancing through Rediff earlier today, one came across this piece of news about the Sukhoi deal that the Indian government inked with Russia some years ago. Here is an excerpt from the said article.

According to Irkut Corporation President Oleg Demchenko, his company is ready to execute the fighter swap deal with India and is likely to pre-pone the execution of deal for the licensed production of 140 fighters by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited from 2014 to 2012.

Looking at the word, one finally understands the etymology of the word in question. The word prepone seems to have originated from the mistaken belief that the "post" part of the word "postpone" is a prefix, while it definitely is not. So the original users, surely non native speakers of English (in all probability of East Indian descent) of the word "prepone" just took the antonym, if I may say so, of the word "post" and used it to get a new word which supposedly means just the opposite of the word "postpone". And voila, there you have it - Prepone. But given the poor knowledge of etymology that this blogger possesses, the origin of the word might have been invisible, if not for the inadvertent error made by the editor/correspondent.

Lest you, the kindly reader, think that this is a tirade against the use of the prefix "pre" with the non-existent word "pone", take a step back. One is aware that the word "prepone" has been on for sometime now. Rather it is a tirade against the improper use of the hyphen where it shouldn't be in the first place.

And BTW, a vibrant cell phone culture is no excuse to invent new words for mundane activities like "paying the bill". I don't think "post-pay" has any place in our vocabulary as well. Paying dues to a company after using their services is a process that has been in vogue in business for eons. But paying before you use a service - now that is something new, well sort of. So one thinks that you are allowed to develop words like "pre-pay".

In fact there should be an official limit on people cooking up new words. At least no one except Stephen Colbert should be allowed to invent new words. Now that is a thought that is overflowing with truthiness!

Monday, May 29, 2006


A few weeks ago, Google Current featured a profile on "Tamil". Yes, the word "tamil". One important fact that I learned from this profile was that according to the last US census, Jersey has the largest number of Tamil speakers in the US. Another fact - 30 percent of all searches for the word "tamil" originate from the US.

Assorted other tidbits:

* After approximately half a decade, it could still be possible now for one to download a wall paper of Prabhudeva and Gayathri Jayaram doing the "Walk like a Egyptian" dance while moving to "Manja kaatu maina".

* Vadivelu seems to be having fun in Imsai Arasan - 23 "A.M" Pulikesi! But for the non Tamil readers, "Whoa" is an acceptable reaction as well.

* Ashok (M.S E.E /Santa Clara/Brahmin/Brahmacharanam/Uthradam/Sankrithi), take a bow. You are famous. Or will be, if another 10 or 15 bloggers pick up this and one of them does a funny post. Or if this post is Dp'ed. Or if Nilu does a post that pukes on your profile.

To end, a quick thought that came to my mind when I saw the tag-line for this video. If Tamil Nadu is "Tamilot", then who is King Arthur? The Gaptain, that's who!

(P.S: BG, thanks for the link kiddo!)