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Kickstarting the Chennai bus route mapping project

This is one thing thats been a long time coming and much needed for Chennai. The MTC may be good at increasing their fleet, but they dont seem to know 3 paisa about giving its users usable information or even trying to do so.

You cant always use a bus to make your trip, and knowing weather you can or not is what helps you decide. In the current scenario, not only is there no information about where the bus stops are located, but no one even knows what buses will stop there or what route the bus will take. Even today, the most reliable  guide is the conductor of your bus and nobody else.  Even after three years of religiously using the buses, i have to confirm if the bus goes to my destination with people on the bus before boarding.

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The Chennai wikipedia academy and Jimbo Wales’ visit

Well what do you know, the founder of wikipedia – Jimbo Wales is in town to take part in India’s first wikipedia academy in Chennai on 12 Dec 2008. Kiruba is setting this up after the debut workshop last month.

The funny thing here is that nobody seems to know about this, which is quite strange considering this is on a level similar to a visit of a foreign head of state as far as the webworld is concerned. Maybe its the heightened security around, but it gives me the impression that Jimbo is being moved around the country in a sack so that nobody notices. If it wasnt for a little twitteavesdropping this whole thing would have gone right over my head. Any info on when and where this academy is going to be held is appreciated.

Unconference baby, Barcamp Chennai is here

In the midst of all the chaos of activities the past two weeks, i almost missed this one completely. Barcamp Chennai is happening this weekend (Oct18-19). Funny thing is that even though i’ve attended quite a few unconferences and events in Bangalore, i’ve never actually attended one right here, and there’s been quite a few, like the wikicamp, searchcamp, filmcamp and more than a dozen tech groups that meet regularly.

Speaking at an unconference in Bangalore a year back was probably the one decision that had a major impact on my life, mostly because of the publicity i got and the people i met. Now, given that i have skipped my college placements (yes some 20+ companies, including IBM), i dont have any plans for higher studies, and with companies (and countries) all around biting the dust like it was chocolate truffle, it looks i’ll have to pull a few tricks out of the pointy hat to keep my immediate future at least partially afloat.

So considering the interest that my work with the openstreetmap project has been generating recently, i’ve decided to give a session at barcamp to give the project some much needed publicity. Those of you who are going wtf at the word barcamp, you should definitely come attend. Everyone learns something because everyone contributes something and that too totally free. Plus who doesnt love an event that requires your t-shirt size when you register 😛

Ultimate frisbee exhibition match at Elliots Beach – 27 Sept


Continuing my obsession with elliots beach – theres an interesting event thats being organised by my friends at CUF. They are planning to hold an evening exhibition match to promote the game among the public here. A nice initiative which will probably get more fitness freaks into the game. Now watching a game of ultimate is not half as fun as playing it, but this saturday evening i’m definitely not going to miss photographing a beach sunset game that is going to be played with a glowing disc chased by a bunch of flying players.

Date: Saturday, 27th September, 2008
Venue: Beasant Nagar Beach
Time: 1730 Hr

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Its been more than a year since i played ultimate, and all this fanfare makes me makes me miss it. The 5am jog to the bus stop, sunrise from the sea, sweating till your soaking wet, taking bath in tender coconut water and indulging in murugan idly kadai. Sometimes life just doesnt give you enough time.

No joy is better than this

To see people who you have inspired. To see them help in whatever way they can. This Sunday, Vinodh Sidarthan, his roommate Vimal and we were there again, this time with nothing in hand because we couldnt afford it and no plan for the day. It was a rainy morning and our only objective was to do whatever we could and enjoy the overcast weather at the beach.

When we started off by picking up shards of broken glass from urine drenched sands with nothing but a plastic bag in hand, i was beginning to think that what we are setting out to do was close to impossible. Others proved me wrong.

Others include a BPO employee, a 10th grade local schoolkid who brought four of his mates over, a couple of Neel Metal employees, and plenty of beachgoers who shook our hands and promised to help us next week. You come to realise that you dont need to pay someone for doing something that makes them happy.

These guys did an amazing job of replacing the sand at the base of the memorial so that it no longer reeks of piss on the side facing the road. Sadly we didnt have the time to do this on all sides. Next week i was planning to go to the corporation ward office and arrange for more cleaning tools so that we can finish the job. But it looks like i wont be able to make it since im heading to Tada for a trek. Anyone living in that area willing to do it?

And if you are interested in lending a hand on more such initiatives to improve life in the city, you should join the chennai ifix mailing list. We have previously dodged cops to fill potholes in the middle of the night, maybe you could put forth more such exciting ideas 🙂

Who painted the Schmidt Memorial?

It felt good to get up early after such a long time. Reminded me of my days last year when i used to go to the marina at dawn to play ultimate. I was at the Chola Sheraton bus stop at 0530 not sure weather buses operate this early on a Sunday. The MTC didnt disappoint, and i was at Elliots beach in 20 minutes, just in time for the sunrise.

I went straight to the memorial hoping to find some ultra enthu people with paint all over their clothes, but the only human was sprawled on the broken steps of the memorial, wearing a green lungi that revealed much more than his hairy legs. As i went round to the side facing the sea, i could clearly make out the partial paint job that had been done the week before.

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Painting Schmidt

Vinod Sidarthan, a Kerlaite staying here has decided to take it upon himself to give a new lease of life to the gloomy, crumbling monument on Bessie beach that doubles up as a pee target and a crack haven in the dark (I’ll admit to peeing on it too, on one occasion) by giving it a fresh coat of paint.The only thing missing would be some illumination and a sign to the nearest public toilet to restore the beauty and smell of this neglected structure.

From sources, i hear that half the job is half done and the remaining will be done tomorrow starting 6am. Gives me a great reason to get up early, catch up with the guys playing ultimate frisbee and watch the beach sunrise in addition to lending a hand to restore the respect that Mr Kaj Schmidt deserves. And for those of you not in the know, he was a dutch sailor who lost his life while trying to save another off the coast.

Madras Week 2008 events map

While going through the event listing for the upcoming Madras week, i realised that even i had no clue as to where half the venues were located. It took me about an hour to finally locate the places using google and wikimapia. Its a shame really, that people are made to hunt so much for some simple directions.

I thought it would be really useful if i could make a google map mashup for anyone interested in these events so that they know whats happening where.

So check out the Madras Week 2008 events map
See the complete event listing here

Gearing up for Madras Day

The city seems to be celebrating its birthday with style this year. If you were to take a glance at the list of events that have been planned for an entire week from 17th to 24th August (See Event List), you know that this is one week you definitely wont be sitting at home watching tamil soaps. The enthusiasm with which people have embraced this city is simply outstanding and i wonder if any other city in the world has such a culture to boast of.

chennai central station

chennai central station

One can feel the intellectual energy of the youth here, quite different from the partying crowds of Bombay and Bangalore. Here people want to make a difference to society and life, and are slowly doing it. With a little more organisation, we can easily create a revolution if we wanted to. Living in this city for three years, i can say that my life has been entirely transformed by the people i have come across and the experiences that i have had here.

This blog was supposed to document this transformation, and i know that i have failed miserably at that. There is so much to write about, my hostel life, my college life, my city life, my private life. From unusual experiences to strange adventures, i have more stories than i could wish to remember. Someday i hope that that the blog will ultimately catch up with my life.

And this is a good opportunity to revive the photoquiz, i’ll be posting a photo a day during Madras week starting on the 17th of August.

And good friends Chandru and Sharanya are organising a couple of events themselves, check it out on their blogs.

It feels good to be back

online. And if the name Thalankuppam happens to rings a bell (normally it shouldnt), check this out. Its some Poetry, a rotting pier, one sunday afternoon and a beautiful sunset.