[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

If you want to DONATE for Tidal Wave Relief

Monday, December 27th, 2004

Its heartbreaking to see and hear the news of the dead from the affected asian nations. On my part, I have collected (infact collecting & updating frequently) this information about the relief agencies that are working on aid/relief work. Anyone willing to donate financially can contact these agencies.

Lets remeber that the top five areas to be immediately addressed are Drinking Water, Food, Sanitation, Shelter and Health. None of the affected nations is well equipped with resources or money for any/all of this.

[Rediff points to a list of aid/relief organizations accepting donations for India] – [added 12/29]

1. Association for India’s Development ( AID ). You can DONATE with AID (working with Tamilnadu Science Forum) . [Thanks to badri and his commenters]

2. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. You can DONATE with Red Cross from here.

3. ICNA Relief-Helping Hand (a division of the Islamic Circle of North America). NPR recommended this organization. You can DONATE with ICNA from here. [added 12/28]

4. Oxfam . You can DONATE with Oxfam here.

5. Christian Aid . Their website isnt updated with the information about this current relief work, but I have read in 3 different news articles that their volunteers are working on this. You can DONATE from here.

6. World Vision International. Unfortunately, their website, as of this writing, isnt giving any news/updates on this tsunami relief work yet, but I heard this morning on this news iteam and this news item in the National Public Radio, someone from this organization on site in SriLanka explaining about the relief work they are doing there. You can DONATE with WVI from here.

7. CARE aid agency / Care Australia. You can DONATE with them here. CARE is an international relief agency, but I could only find the Australian arm responding to this catastrohe immediately, there is also an Indian Arm of CARE, whose website is still catching up.

8. Sustainable Development and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS) – India You can DONATE with SEEDS via different channels, more info here. [This morning, I used ICICI money2India to directly transfer my donation into their Standard Chartered account]

9. Save the Children. You can donate via 1-800-SAVETHE[CHILDREN]

10. Children’s Christian Fund. You can DONATE with CCF from here.
Tsunami relief blog The SEA-EAT [information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts]. [added 12/28. Thanks to Lazygeek, Kribs].

TsunamiVictims.org. Collect latest contact details about the relief activities and contact persons/organizations in local areas in South India Region. [added 12/28. Thanks to Kribs]

AlertNet keeps relief professionals and us up-to-date on this worst humanitarian crises.

Relief Web – Latest information on the relief activities.

Other Indian Relief Organizations that are still catching up on the aid work :

1. Action India

2. Disaster Mitigation Institute, India

3. RedR India

4. Indian EarthQuake Safety Initiative. Apparently, the folks arent waking up even after the quake!

[I will keep this updated as I find/hear more. I am sure every Dollar or Pound or Rupee is worth more than just repenting for it]

Devastating quake hits Tamilnadu

Sunday, December 26th, 2004

Hit with freezing cold in the last few days, we switched on the weather channel early in the morning wondering if there is going to be snow today. The news of powerful earth quake in south east asia shocked us. Soon we realized that what started as a tremor in west coast of Indonesia apparently has also reached the south east coast of India.

There wasnt much details on US national TVs yet, switching to Sun TV was even worse. They were enjoying the comedy time with Senthil. we rushed online and thanks to my mother-in-law, she was thoughtful and dropped as a short email explaining that they are safe but things are worse all over chennai. Her exact words –

“we had a tremor in the morning and it was for a fairly long duration we could see the cot shaking and the window panes vibrating immediately we went downstairs andstayed there for some time it was around 6.45 in the morning after that i got busy with my work and when around 10.30 in the morning when i switched on the tv set i came to know about the turbulent sea water coming into the interiors of the city i dont know as to how correct the inofrmation is about the human loss. the death toll is more in the interiors of tamilnadu”

The internet websites are only now catching up with latest news on damages. But the damages and loss of lives is already devastating. I think its an extremely unfortunate event on this time of end of year. Nobody to blame but God on this one. The countries hit were not the best in emergency response and so the damages is lot worse than it should be. It took four hours for the tsuanami to reach chennai from indonesia, something could have been done if we had the best system, but we dont. We are sitting here reading more and more news and praying for all our families, relatives, friends and everyone else who may be hit. When telephone lines arent reachable, prayers will.

Words cannot express our sorrow. May the same Lord give the strength and power to people in the affected areas for a speedy recovery from this terrible event. May all the souls who left us today for no reason rest in peace.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 24th, 2004

Inspired by neighbours who enthusiastically displayed their joy and peace with lights and christmas tree decors, we built a christmas tree for ourself just for fun. It has come out reasonably well and with changing-fiber-optic lights it is a delight to watch everynight. Harini also made all the gift boxes, santa claus to make it look like on real christian christmas tree. A way for us to say Merry Christmas to everyone.

full view
[With night lights on]

close up
[up close. Santa, too tiny for the tree but still working hard to save the gift boxes for the christmas night. Included among the gifts is a sweet puppy for that kid who always wanted to have a puppy for christmas!]

Avaiz arts

Monday, December 20th, 2004

Avaiz, whose blog i read, is also an excellent digital artist[under Weird Work Studios©]. I recently visited his blog and saw this nice piece of work. Though he doesnt seem to do this often, these two pieces speaks for themselves for a talented amateur digitist.

avaiz art work
[© Weird Work Studios : a4avaiz. I scaled it down to 768×576, Click on the image for a fullsize view]

I was also very much impressed with couple of his earlier creations like this:

[© Weird Work Studios : a4avaiz]

I remember being inspired by this work, I created a custom cap for myself like this:

my india cap

Since Harini and I have our own kind of interests in art works, I threw a question at Avaiz asking him about the software tools he uses to create such nice pieces of art. He commented back on my blog. I figured I would post it here within the right context for everyone’s appreciation/benefit. Thanks avaiz and with your unofficial permission, I am linking to your works 🙂

My Question : what software do you use? These are really good, I just wanted to try my hand on it. Would appreicate if you share your tools/tips.

His Answer :There are many softwares out there, its best to start off with the standard ones. Adobe is a well known name in the market. It has many cards in its industry level pack, but the card everyone loves to play with is the Photoshop one. The scope for this soft is virtually, infinite due to the parameters that comes with each setting. You can start off with this one, play around and explore for there are lots of menus and options. Much basic ones are Macromedia’s Fireworks (this one is also vcool, lets you do basic stuff, but limited in functions), Jasc Paintshop, Pixia (freeware which is challenging photoshop), GIMP and many many many more..

One of them is all you need edit images and make 2D art. If you wanna push the limit to 3d, you are luck here cause there are only a few chaps who are holding the market. One of them is AutoDesk/Discreet’s 3D Studio Max. This is one amazing piece. Do play around with it. I suggest a manual, if you want to make something awe, cause it has A MAMMOTH of setting and options, which are only visible based on where you click.

If you have crossed 3Ds max, then the next level is MAYA, which is used in these small time movie production, ads, and ofcourse kali maa serials. For drawing, like fine art, i hve tried only Adobe’s Illustrator, which is pretty good. i dont know any other softs cause i am not much of fine art..wait a minute…i am not much of any art!!!

Best of luck and time!

We have tried our hands with GIMP, which more or less is similar to Photoshop.

Insider Info on MS Subbulakshmi

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

Shylaja has written a nice insider informative article, in Tamil, about MS Subbulakshi and her accolades. I am sure you will gain even more respect and love for MSS after this. You can read it here.

Innovation & Creativity

Friday, December 17th, 2004

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few” – Shunryu Suzuki

IdeaChampions has some good tips, tricks and ideas to foster your creativity and the spirit of innovation. Check them out. The web site has vast amount of information to fuel your creative desires.

Some “more” variety for Indian Americans

Friday, December 17th, 2004

If the media is right, the number of people of Indian continental origin in America(In short – Desi) apparently has reached a tipping point. That translates into more and more people with less and less services of Indian taste. Interestingly, answers are now coming from various media companies at the same time (confirming the tipping point).

Two days ago, a 24 hour New Jersey based news/entertainemt/sports/talk television channel “American Desi” has been launched via Dish Network. Adorned by start-studded management and programming profiles and promises to deliver fresh local Indianized programming, “American Desi” expects to capture the attention of deprived Indians. Right on the exact same day, from elsewhere in America, MTV announced “MTV Desi”, yet another channel catering to the music lovers of Indian sub-continental origin. Being a pioneer in Music promotion and marketing, MTV Desi is expected to provide the same success platform to desis in america to show/promote and eventually sell their musical talents. I wouldnt be suprised if we soon seen an “American Desi Idol” here!

I was on the verge of my personal tipping point getting tired of the SUN and Zee/Sony. Zee/Sony make it even worse on top of mediocre programs by delivering local adverstisements for Daler Mehndi shows, and salman khan 5c calling cards and atrocious sick psychic reader ads for “gurujis” in UK. We will wait to see how these new media channels fare against the fierce competitions from local american sports/comedy/talk shows.

Some Pictures

Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

Its been months since I have added photos to the album. While we are still waiting for the puerto rico pictures to be developed and delivered back to us, we had put the digital camera to work this past weekend. Enjoy a saturday night life with us in Manhattan.

With Arvind & Ranjini in Manhattan

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas & Prosperous New Year!

MS Subbulakshmi – An eternal singer

Monday, December 13th, 2004

It was a shock. But soon our hearts went into tears for this soulful singer ever to have lived. My memories of Her are not from seeing Her but listening to Her even before I knew what and who I was listening to. Waking up to Suprabhadham was a customary in our family ( as in most ). Early in my life, “Suprabhadham” has become synonymous with MS Subbulakshmi. Her voice is eternal that it touches and lightens the toughest of the souls.


Though we have been listening to Her “Vishnu Sahasranama Namam’ every morning, two weeks ago, I bought a book to really understand the meanings of the words and to also to correct my Pronunciation. I have been wanting to do this for months, but somehow, I pulled myself into it two weeks ago and finally started it. Every day in the last two weeks, around twilight, I sat with Her cassette and the book with me, trying to hear it close and read the words exactly as She sings it. I have been spending an hour on just 5 verses, to learn exact pronunciation key and tonal pauses. I listened to each verse a dozen times repeating rewind/play with ears stuck to the speakers; I wanted to capture even Her breathing stops to make mine as close to perfect as I possibly can. On occasions, I got so engrossed in trying to find how in world She pronounced a certain word, while I couldnt even count the letters with that speed of thought! All along this experience, I was marvelled at the way She seamlessly renders the verses with God-like perfection. At dinner every day, I was telling harini about how difficult it was even to read them slowly with correct pronunciation, pause and the right emphasis much less sing them with a Godly rythm. I was telling her how unbelievably MSS has made these hymns look so easy to the listner hiding the numerous subtelities. Most of the emphasis and pauses are not coded into these hymns; besides these emphasis are extremely important without which your tongue will not be ready to say the next word in the right way at the right time. Every time I screwed up and corrected my pronunciation and emphasis, She was already way into the next verse. I kept wonderning how close to Her heart these must have been to have rendered them with extreme perfection.

In the middle of this eye-opening experience when I heard the news of Her demise, I was blown away. I kept questioning why God has dragged me so close to Her now than any other time. I probably listened to Her more than anyone else in the last few weeks, why? I couldnt find. But now I feel good that I did. I am a staunch believer that there is a reason behind everything so there will be, its just I dont know. I will continue this exercise of mine for weeks to come, but I already learnt that I am overambitious in attempting to master a perfection that was born, lived and gone with Her. Reading the meanings of the verses from the book I learnt that ‘he who recites these verses every day will be the blessed one to reach Lord Vishnu’. Perhaps, MSS will be the only one ever to recite it every single day, in past, in future, somewhere in someone’s ears.

May Her precious soul rest in peace in the holiest corner of the heaven.

Many in this lazygeek’s post share their memories of Her.

I was also pissed off when Sun TV read this news second in the headlines. Soon I was glad to see Mr.President flying down to give his salutations. Thats respect Sun TV.

Chidambara Ragasiyam – The ONE serial

Friday, December 10th, 2004

Fighting with Zee, SET for remote time, Sun TV in our home is hardly a winner. Niether of us are fans of the family dramas that rule the evening hours of the Indian channels. But one serial, Chidambara Ragasiyam has impressed me a whole lot. I like it so much that I have grown religious to watching it as I used to watch SpiderMan at 3 PM in DD in 1980s. Even when I forget everything, my mind clock exactly reminds me at 10pm on wednesday (Sun Tv in US is delayed a bit to account for west coast) and I get glued to the couch for a full 1/2 hour (Except for some annoying ads like kungumam, for which I switch to a basketball game or DiscoveryHD).

Marmadesam fame, Naga (naga001@hotmail.com) directs this thriller that clearly differs by miles from the rest of the Sun TV’s so called family soaps. And Naga has to be appreciated for being higly creative in all aspects when it is so easy for a director to get bogged down by the template-style serials that only care about good looking women who cry ostentatiously.

Naga, to start with, has done a great job penning a simple but spectacular story(and screenplay), an arresting thriller revolving around Nadi Josiyam and a handful of well-done charcters. Second, the individuals chosen for the roles were the odd ones out in the TVdom of chennai. They are not those you would see in every serial, eventually to confusing you to wonder, what serial you are really watching. Everyone one of the characters seem to be well carved and actors well chosen. They have done their part aptly if not extraordinarily. Thats more than enough for becoz the director has given your quality work in all aspects so you can overlook some subtle drawbacks.

Rehan scoring the music has done a neat but killer work by carefully recreating the theme “unknown” into the music. The grand theme music accentuated by strong percussion and skillfully rendered native sacred verses, is well conceived that it just pumps up your blood well before the serial starts. The title and credits designer must be whole heartedly appreciated. Excellent piece of work with finger prints design and some excellent origami work that begs you look into the screen while the credits roll. The sets and production design is also commendable more so becoz it blends well with the story line. A perfect 19the century rural home (with open-air mithams, that I remember seeing in my grandpa’s place in Thirukkannamangai) where Akash’s grandma lives to the more modern stylistically decoreated chennai house of YG Mahendran ( i dont remember his character’s name), the production design crew speak thru their sensible work. They knew exactly what they were doing. Unlike the more static shots of the other Sun TV soaps, here the camera is more a dynamic character that is so critical to the scenes. The wandering camera pumps more reality into the scenes and I always feel like I am watching all this happen live infront of me, while I swing above the characters freely in air.

The story is compelling that the audience gets engrossed in trying to solve the mystery themselves ( though they wont! ). The trick is also not to make it easy so you will keep coming abck to next serial to find out what the heck is going to happen. I consider myself to be a NOT a dumb viewer ( if not intelligent ) and every serial has only made me feel good that I chose to watch it and makes me want to come back next week. I think, in this world of chaotic TV media, such a feat is a great accompolishment.

Few other worthy programs for which I take the time to sit thru the whole half hour are …

‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ in Zee, great singing talents, accompolished judges and a wonderful host, Shaan. Sun TV screwed big time with Sabdha Swarangal where niether the host is engaging nor the guests are while the participants try to in vain. If I get to be in front of the TV when this is on, I sure watch SaReGaMaPa.

“Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai”, a reality-like interview-like talk show. But the host lets the guest and his/her friends/families speak, while he just skillfully engages them and the audience. Depending on who the guest is, I watch it.

Suki Sivam, on mornings in Sun TV. Its a fresh early morning treat to hear him talk about art of living. He is a man of wisdom but most important, a knack to explain some great prophecies in simplest of the terms. We wont leave with an empty hand for sure. More than the art of living, he is also a master of public speaking.

Solomon Pappaiah, on mornings in Sun TV. Who better than he do we need everyday to help us understand the inordinate verses of great Tamil classics & epcis on ‘How to live’. A perfect definition for ‘wit’ – ability to express in an ingeniously humorous manner.

While I like the above spots on TV, as of today, Chidambara Ragasiyam is the only one that drags me into it while others I watch more ad-hoc.

Focusing & Getting Things Done!

Tuesday, December 7th, 2004

If you havent read this book, Getting Things Done by David Allen, I strongly recommend you read it as soon as you can. But if you are like me, you will read it…and….do nothing about it. Dont, this book is meant to be read and acted upon by following the personal productivity workflow model that David recommends. I was totally impressed with the book when i first read it and was pretty confident that it will work…I just didnt have the will to do it. But that was then.

In the last two weeks, I have gotten into a serious act of following david’s GTD ( famous shorter version for Getting Things Done, search google for GTD you will know).

To start with, I bought David’s second and latest book, Ready for Anything. A small book, easy to read, contains good zen-like thoughts on getting and being ready to do anything, right from daily chores to taking on the challenges of future. It also is dispersed across the book with precious sayings by some great minds. As an add on to that book , I also bought, The Power of Focus. Another insightful, down-to-earth commentary on why our habits are important and why we need a purpose and how habits combined with purpose help us focus on anything we do. Finally, I grabbed from my local library ( Somerset county library, I love it) another tiny book, but of great value to me, Motivation & Goal Setting by Jim Cairo. If you cant anything else, just get this 100 page book that you can read in half day and follow what it says. Come throw stones at me if it doesnt change your perspective on life/work/goals etc.

Another inspiration for this came via CBS 60 minutes. Harini and I had a healthy debate this past sunday on something called AADD (Adult Attention Deficit Disorder). Watching this show on CBS about AADD and how it has been gaining more attention, I was debating if I have this disorder. Dont be alarmed with the term “Disorder”. The very argument thats happening today is if this should be classified as a Disorder or a “Lifestyle”. AADD simply put is doing zillion things at the same time and not spending enough time with enough attention and focus on one thing at a time. If you are reading this, while chatting with someone on an IM, while also listening to music, while your husband is talking to you from behind, while you also take an occasional look at the window to see who is standing outside, you will most likely be classified as having symptoms of ADD according to the medical definition of AADD[Look at this survey, if you answer “Sometimes” to atleast one, You got it!]. Isnt that funny? Thats what the CBS 60 minutes show alluded to and which is why I argued that we all have this. Now this is all about money for some pharma companies, expanding the simple definition of a disorder to as many poeple as they can and so excited to see their customer base increase 10 fold for tablets (Strattera Pills) that help is Focusing. Later in the program, it made more sense when they talked about how its about lifestyle and not necessarily a disability. I also learnt that great minds like Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Einstein and few others had ADD. So we all should be proud to be distracted. After all, it juices up our creativitiy.

Here is my take on it: Its not abotu AADD or other crappy medical terms, its all about the distractions and priorities. Today, there is just too many distractions. Cell phones, Pagers, telephones, internet, emails, TV, radio, music, noise, books, cooking, cleaning, health concerns, relationship issues. Its tough to “focus”, if you go by the definition of the word focus. All is required is planning, prioritizing and committing to doing thigns a certain way.

If you have used emails/Instand Messagers at work, like Outlook or Notes or Yahoo IM or MSN, there is cool little feature that pops up and blinks everytime a new email or message comes in. Thats a distraction. Do you pick up your cell phone or land line as soon as it rings, thats distraction. The first thing I did after reading those books and looking at the CBS 60 minutes was, disable that notifier in Lotus Notes and Yahoo IM. I check my email only twice or thrice a day. A new email waits there until I get to it, I dont read them anymore as soon as I get them. Next, I lowerd the ringer on my work phone to bare minumum and dont pick up the phones everytime it rings. Changed the message to say like “I may be working on something important, leave a msg, will call you back”. And last, I committed myself to NOT open more than one browser window at the same time and read more than two things at the same time. Finish one, get to next. No 7 windows at a time and Alt tabbing between them. These three things, have changed my style quite a bit in the last few days. I already feel I am getting some things done better than before. But I am sure this is just the beginning. I am waiting until I completely “set up” my David allens’ GTD workflow at home/work.

To get another bloggers take on GTD, read this very well written overview blog by David Pollard. I agree with Pollard that for folks like who get most of their work done in a computer, a manual file folder based GTD workflow[A quick overview here], may not be appropriate. So i am going to try out the software tools. Check these GTD tools.

gyronix – Turns Ideas into actions.

GTD at OfficeZealot – Lots of articles/tools on Getting Things Done!

Life Balance

EccoRocks another free personal productivity tool.

I find all this helpful and am psyched to try them to to become a better person. By the way, its been widely accepted in the self-development industry, that its the brightest people who need GTD workflow and tools. So you got more reasons to feel good to try it out.

As Dave Pollard says, I also hope the David Allen puts this book for free on the web so millions of others can realize their fullest potential. There is also an audio downloadable version of the book at Audible.com.

BMW India – A hot cake

Monday, December 6th, 2004

Instead of wasting her time and capacity to torn Sankaracharya’s reputation, I wish jayalalitha puts her political cleverness to work in getting BMW to set up its Indian operations in Chennai or elsewhere in Tamilnadu. When a heavy communist Kerala could be in the probable list without doing much to woo BMW, Tamilnadu can do lot better with one of nation’s best natural and human resources. Neither the chief minister knows priorities nor the citizens(in reacting to CM).

Two earth conscious events

Monday, December 6th, 2004

While most of us are busy with holiday rejoice, two earth conscious events are happening across the world. One, the Energy Globe 2004 Awards winners were unveiled last week in EU (with UN) without much media attention here in US. Two, the UN Climate Conference, the 10th in the annual series, is underway today in Argentina.

The climate conference has gained more attention than the former for quite a few reasons, the most important of which is Russia signing the kyoto treaty as US vehemently opposes it. Simply put, Kyoto treaty legally binds advanced nations to cut carbon dioxide emissions to certain low levels within the next 10 years. Everyone including the 100+ countries that sign the treaty agree that it is an ambitious goal, though achievable. Contrary to what I thought, India is NOT in the treaty yet.

The other event, Energy Globe Awards, apparently is a globally popular environmental award. Innovative initiatives that efficiently use earth’s resources are awarded each year in five categories: earth, energy, water, air and youth. It goes without saying that the dire need for such innovation is in developing nations in Asia, Africa and South America where sparce resources are barraged by exploding population. As so the majority of the submissions for these awards come from those nations. Its heartening to see “Necessasity is the mother of Invention” put into work by some committed souls in developing nations. What is needed now is a flexible economic and social platform for such innovative ideas to reach the global market and global population that is sufferning. With UN behind this awards, there is hope that the effots of those creative minds go past the awards into action.

A special award to SODIS is a simple and affordable solution for every household to improve the microbiological quality of drinking water by using solar radiation to destroy pathogenic microorganisms [that use UV radiation in sun to kill germs]. I am not an expert to qualify this solution, but the fact that it comes from the swiss energy research institute and that it has been tested for past few years for its effectiveness speaks to itself. Read more here at Swiss website to learn how it works.

For the winners in the other categories, check the Earth Globe Awards web site here.

Clever Indians!

Friday, December 3rd, 2004

Written in a two part series, Rajesh Jain gives a glimpse of some the things characteristic of the thriving India. One observation got my attention in that post is this line about Internet Telephony :

Smart Indians are also buying Vonage boxes in the US and getting them to India to make calls to the US for a flat rate of $30 (Rs 1,350) a month. Geography indeed has no barriers!

Someone I know told me very recently about how he actually is subscribed to Vonage here in US, but installed the actual Modem/Phone in Chennai (India) and using it as a local US phone. Of course, they need to have broadband in India. After struggling thru the chennai broadband provider to set up the Vonage box across their firewall and fighting it out with their customer service to fix some technical issues ( USB port/firewall port), he somehow managed to set up the phone working. Now, he and anyone else interested in talking to his family in India is making local/long distance calls from all over US, never realizing that the call actually goes to India. They, in turn, make calls to anyone in US as just plain long distance. All for $29 that you pay for Vonage. I doubt if this will continue for ever but until BSNL or Vonage either one figure it out and block the idea, this seems to be a smartest move. I never thought about this idea frankly.

What if all the intenert cafes in chennai and other cities in India, buy vonage and start offering calls to US in dirt cheap rates? ( even less than Rs.2 running rate ). I am betting atleast few hundred clever minds are going to make some good fortune out of this before it bursts out. Watch out on your next trip to India when someone hads over a package to their family, it could a Vonage phone!

Perhaps, its part of Vonage’s plan. Vonage is already offerning local phone numbers, as an add on to your primary phone, for $5. So you can get a local phone number for UK and attach it to your primary phone. Your folks in UK can now make local calls from there with this new local UK number and it iwll ring up on your primary phone here in New york. All for localcall charge for your buddy. Its just picking and available for UK, Canada and Mexico for now. May not be too long before it gets to India.

Bet ya’l like this one!

Wednesday, December 1st, 2004


This did make me laugh [Source : CartoonStock.com ]