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2008 August 7 [Thursday]

The chix-IN-Linux

Controversial ...absolutely!! The name LinuxChix evokes mixed feelings amongst women on mailing lists and one can be sure to be asked (usually by men) "Isnt it derogatory". Not really. In India, English is not the lingua-franca used to harass women...rather,  the local languages are more colorful, if you must. On the streets you will have heard atleast some of these "indian words" commonly used to de-humanise women in daily life, which can make your grandma turn beet red. Its something any woman would encounter on Indian streets across any Indian city and its hard to escape it and here context matters a lot, but I digress.

IIRC, the "chix" terminology is all about taking a term with negative connotations and giving it a spin, psychological empowering if you must. It is also a p(h)un twist on UnIX. But most of all, I love the attitude, the zing and pizzaz that the women (and men) bring to the LinuxChix lists, beyond the work they do locally. I just like the aspect of LinuxChix being for women who use, support Gnu/Linux and men who want to support women in computing. Its that simple.

For the most part, we as women get and give respect in the technology space via the work we do. That power is within us, via our actions. It definitely does not come from having the appropriate cultural name or a perfect name. The latter does not exist and IMHO "culture" is a vague and arbitrary term (mis)used in India to control people in the absence of rationality and logical argument.

Having seen Christian "bubulle" Perrier wearing a Debian Women tee, I was curious. He said that was his way of showing support and I thought 'hah, most men would wear a man's tee even if it had the logo of a women's group'. To my surprise NO, Debian-Women had NOT printed men's tee's, so Christian was wearing a women's Tee, albeit one his size. That stuck in my head for a long time and he even posed for snaps wearing the DW tee. C00L :-). I had given him some IndiChix tee's last year and he wanted to know if we printed men's T's and when I replied in the negative he nodded happily and promised to wear them as is.

At mukt.in, not a single female student questioned the name, the only questions were from men. That says a lot to me. So I had a precondition for giving away tee's to the men - Wear it right now. Nope, its not a present for your girlfriend/wife/friend. If you support women, show it off!!

Talking of Indichix, the situation is peculiar, we have volunteers for the Indichix Labs in cities where we need sponsors (Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Mangalore, etc.. and no volunteers  where we have sponsors (Mumbai and Pune).  Strange...I always thought space would be a premium in Mumbai. My talk/presentation slides on "women in Libre software communities" is available here.

2008 July 28 [Monday]

RIP Randy Pausch

Today morning I was told "check out the 'the last lecture' by Randy, its inspiring" and I asked "do you mean Randy Pausch? hey ..................". So I dug out the mail he wrote to me some years ago :

Yes, the Alice system is completely free, and you can download it from www.alice.org . The version using the characters from "the Sims" will also be completely free, as a public service from Carnegie Mellon University.

Rest In Peace Randy !!

2008 July 25 [Friday]

Butterflies are free

The look of surprise on Goldie's face as she discovers Edward is blind (*) has remained etched in my memory since I saw the movie at 10. The the impact Edwards character had on me was so much larger that as soon as the movie ended I rushed to my shelf, tidied it up, rearranged my books, prompting my Mom to wonder why the sudden need for tidiness at midnight.

Closing my eyes I tried to find books/stuff with poor success. Training my reflexes took time and slowly with practice I could distinguish between sizes, shapes, textures, and lernt to listen to the sixth sense so to speak. I was amazed how the blind even lived their life - its hard for me to take a step with my eyes closed, without crashing into stuff. As a sighted person i could never gain the sixth sense the visually impaired have but it has helped me in many ways at the very least it has taught me to be observant. I have still not succeeded in counting steps, remembering distances between objects and if blind-folded would still struggle to make my way around the house without bumping into objects. That is not the point.

Moot point of writing this is to highlight how we ignore a part of society that is differently abled from us. They are mostly kept away from mainstream society. I dont remember seeing a single blind kid studying with me in school, forget the higher levels or even at the workplace. Its almost like they dont exist, but they do, and last year a friend had told me about rakum.org and i decided to check it out. It being the middle of an academic year, I waited for the next year and planned to teach computers, libre software precisely.

(*) Gross as the word "blind" is, people dont intend meanness or nastiness when they use the word 'blind'. Reality is few folks in that school (or even across India) would understand the term "visually impaired". I doubt if the kids themselves are taught the difference, probably because such subtlity and awareness has yet to reach the roots.

2008 July 15 [Tuesday]

new look

Nah...not me, its my blog that has got a new theme. If you've been subscribing to my blog then a change in the blog feed is in order. The new feed is : http://www.svaksha.com/feed/rss2

Update : The "no comment" means no comments have been posted. Comments are open, i have not blocked it, atleast not yet :)

2008 May 19 [Monday]

Carnatic music, Chess, and Chocolate

Summer in India's Silicon Valley was enjoyed this weekend playing chess by candle-light munching on chocolate, interspersed with carnatic renditions learnt this weekend...thanks to Bescom/KEB.

My obsession with music over the last few weeks is the classic case of when you dont have something (in this case my voice thanks to a nasty cold for 2 weeks) and sitting in class whilst hearing others prepare for the May exams, while being unable to even croak is not much fun. Here is an analysis of the situation as i see it :

0] syllabi :

While our guruji has been (literally) rushing with syllabi, since there is very less time to complete the portion ~ ugh, how i hate that word "portion" and the crappy marks-oriented attitude parents bring and push their wards into ~which kills all the fun. Learning art should be a pleasure, not a competition to score more marks. *sigh*

Well, we have a syllabi of *just* around 50 ragas to be concluded within the next 11 months. *BIGGER sigh*. I have started the process of tracking and listing all the ones I have learnt over the years, but the worrisome part is not how much you know but how well you know... the classic, quality vs quantity.

[1] voice health:This is the most important aspect that i have been very careless about. Need to follow some of the tips from the doctors, especially voice rest. If the last few days condition were any indication i am in big trouble. Besides these restrictions, of which only #1 is a -wee bit of a- real challenge.

To recap, i have to say NO to :

~ imli, lime, juices, in short anything sour,
~ caffeine or lemon tea (warm milky tea is ok)
~ spicy or hot foods,
~ fried foods,
~ cold foods - kulfis, icecreams, cold coffee,
~ anything that can irritate the larynx.
which I know I am not gonna follow... bleh :-P

[2] examination :
Now, assuming i have 300 days to learn all 50 ragams, which gives me 6 days per raga for learning neravals, swara kalpanas, ... Gosh, what an impossible target... At the outset its tough to keep perfect health (no cold, cough, sick, etc...) for a whole year and life has a way of throwing a spanner in the wheel. Secondly, learning the theory part is fine (four 3hr papers over a week), but the execution matters the most because the practical examination is the toughest. The practical is by appointments with just 3 or 4 students per day so the panel of judges has hours at his/her disposal to grill students for all they are worth...and GRILL they do, to the point of being sadistic.

The usual method (I am told) is : Given a raga, do aalap, which can (and will) be cut short by one of the five panelists who will ask you to start a swara kalpana from the charanam of the raga and weave it into the next raga, cite similarities and demonstrate them with neravals, only for another panelist to verbalize few swaras and ask you to turn it into a bhashanga raga or something equally impossible. Sigh, i am so not looking forward to that and tbh, why do i need to go through the hassle when i dont need the formal certification, dont intend turning into a professional performing artiste, and certainly can do without the above rigorous torture regime.

2008 May 6 [Tuesday]

food for thought

Rice started it and Bush chimed in by blaming India and China for the rising food prices ...but what intriuges me is why do representatives from Monsanto and Wal-Mart sit in a board appointed by the Congress government to implement the provisions of an agricultural-trade-agreement, when it is plainly obvious that it benefits the American economy at the cost of the Indian one.

2008 April 29 [Tuesday]

earth weekend update

The Earth-weekend continued till Monday evening, despite M giving umpteen complaints to the Assistant Engineer (AE) BESCOM/KEB, who would keep telling her his line-man would be there in 20 min and after 2 hours still no sign of him. When she got persistent, the AE brushed her off with "you gave wrong address, my lineman cant find it". The fact is the lineman never even tried in the morning but at around 4 pm there was a regular load-shedding and he suddenly materialized, climbed the pole and cut some wires on the pole, mumbled things would be fine and disappeared. Two hours later, NO power.

Fed-up of listening to the line-man's excuses, after 6:30 pm, got the licensed electrician to change the phase on the electric pole. After 3 days in no power mode, rotting food in the fridge, the whole experience of waiting et al was annoyingly frustrating. In retrospect, that haste (after 3 days!!) was a good idea it seems.

Because at 7pm the KEB / BESCOM lineman who came by earlier to cut some wires appeared again....maybe he had heard from the private licensed electrician that we were fine without his help. Well, I was about to go out but decided to wait and see why the Bescom employee was interested in working after his duty hours (which gets over by 4 pm). Most government employees grumble to do paid work during regular office hours so this (un)helpful pretense was indeed strange.

He fumbled around and said the meter was fine (although he knew the main phase was kaput). Annoyed with his charade, I told him to not waste my time and go check the main pole and leave the house meter alone. Down south, men dont like women speaking sternly to them and he gave me an incredulous look but sensing my growing irritation he complied and (on my insistence) checked the main wires. After much hemming and hawing he accepted that there was indeed a problem with the main line and one phase was dead, so yeah it was a KEB problem. Phew, getting him to accept that the problem was from their side was a challenge ! Then he proceeded to give me his AE's cell number and wanted me to lodge a formal complaint (pray tell me, what was the earlier calls all about?) the next morning (i.e today).

This morning, when I called the AE he admonished me for not telling him of the problem yesterday or he would have solved it pronto. He asked me to co-operate (by now i am beginning to love the double-faced attitudes here) with him and give a written complaint blaming the lineman for the work not done. I replied that it was a great idea... i would write a formal complaint about the other mysterious AE (i meant him actually) dwaddling and wasting time for 3 days, giving innumerable excuses about "address not found", harassing women, etc.., to his office and for good measure send it to his senior's too. Three hours later, the electrician appears and tells M the problem was never with the Bescom main phase and that the lineman had accidentally cut our house supply only. So could he change back the interchanged phase (if she paid him, yet again?).

This whole thing seems so fishy that I asked M to just let things be. I presume they must have finally repaired the faulty main and are just trying to cover their b^$$ before we lodge that written complaint.

UPDATE : I got a call about an hour ago saying 3 line men have descended and were __working__ on the main electric pole and restored the connections. Ah...something seems to have done the trick. In this whole episode the thing that bothers me is people's apathy towards everything. Strangely folks in the whole area dont mind living partly in darkness but dont want to be bothered to deal with any government officials (but want jobs there, ofcourse) because getting work done from them involves bribing which they are loathe to do so are unwilling to do anything about it. In case you are wondering i did not have to bribe the officer/lineman. During the whole episode i have heard numerous stories on how not to antagonise the govt' officials or complain against them as they can take revenge by purposely cross-circuting or shorting the connections and it can make life difficult for us women. Gee... i look forward to that challenge too !!

2008 February 7 [Thursday]


A few hours ago i heard some good news.... it was certainly long overdue :-)

2008 January 8 [Tuesday]

when in rome...

..do as the romans !

The thread on grrl-talk list about Japanese social/business etiquettes reminds me how we as humans (social beings) do go out of the way and learn some things from other cultures/customs whether while doing business or just social interaction with tourists. Mirroring their social behaviour makes us stand out less as a sore thumb and opens doors (and hearts) easily.

With the FarEast erring on the conservative side was a better option than a faux pas which may be the end of doing business ... and they have customs/ rituals for almost every aspect of daily life so learning was largely by observation, tips from friends and mirroring compared to today when an array of "what not to do" material is available online, unlike the help books and corporate training given to staff today on whether to use a fork or finger ? I'd prefer the latter anyday with a strong dash of bluntness. Business is fine but at the end of the day i'd pick 'being honest to self' over tact and diplomacy. The latter, sweetness of tongue, does have financial advantages and is as close one can get to developing diabetes of the non-physical kind.

My patchy internet connection has been jinxed every time i start blogging....annoying. As i type this , a lovely abhang in Kannada is playing on the radio. Since i caught the song halfway i dont know the name of the person singing it but he has the perfect voice, perfect base, pitch, control, ... wish i knew a teacher who could teach me abhang and hindustani classical in bangalore.

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