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More beautiful sketches :-)

May 17th, 2008 · Uncategorized

These are sketches by my friend, Yogalakshmi (posted with her permission). I wish I could sketch like this…

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A small XFN experiment

May 17th, 2008 · Projects

I have been learning data portability for some time. Its an interesting and useful concept, except the big players don’t seem to agree on how to help each other (and their users). The first standard I read was XFN, a smart way to indicate relationships between people easily, by just using the “rel” tag in your links (you can read more about it here).

As an experiment, I just wrote a small crawler to parse the links and mine some XFN data. It was fun, and this post is an analysis of the collected data.

I did end up with thousands of links and relations, but for the analysis of this post, I am going to ignore those collected from “social”sites (twitter, digg etc), because of two reasons:
First, most people aren’t serious about whom they add as “friends”. For example, over 90% of my “friends” in Facebook, are only Facebook friends.

Second, many of these sites either add default values to the rel tags and/or don’t allow the users to edit them. For example, Gaia adds “contact” to the rel tag of my “friends” list, by default.

It is difficult to get accurate idea of one’s relations list, because of the above two reasons. So, for this post, I excluded the “social” sites data, even though it meant excluding over 90% of the collected data. This is the resultant graph

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and the raw data (decreasing order of usage of tags):

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The data set is pretty small, just a little over 2300 relations. But this is enough to give us a general idea of which XFN tags are used heavily and which aren’t.

From the table, we can see that just four relations - friend, met, me and colleague account for the bulk of the XFN tags used, nearly 80%. The current XFN spec is a balanced one, but nearly 14 out of the 18 rel tags, aren’t used much at all. May be its time to simplify the spec?

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Links to Tamil novels, books and magazines

March 17th, 2008 · Books, Tamil

A BIGGGGGGG thank you to all who commented on these posts. I’m pleasantly surprised at the interest in Tamil novels, especially historical ones. I was under the impression that not many people would be interested in such books, but I was wrong. Many many people have asked, and are still asking if they can find these books online. My suggestion is, if you are in India, buy hard copies of these books. They are worth every penny that you spend on them. If you’re not in India, you can still try to get them, ask your friends to bring them for you.

I’m going to collect links here in this post. Please mention your favorite links in the comments. I’ll keep updating this post with the links as and when I find/get them.

Tamil Nation - Nice site, has a few of Kalki’s novels

Chennai Library - Has works of Bharathiyar, Kalki and a few others

Noolaham - Very nice site, contains hundreds of PDFs to old Srilankan Tamil magazines and books. Amazing.

Facebook groups:

Noolaham

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Kiva - changing lives through MicroFinance

April 30th, 2007 · Non-Profit

“Instead of giving fish to a hungry man, give him a fishing rod”

I don’t remember who said those words, but they make a powerful point. I was reminded of these words when I first came across Kiva, the organization that I’ve come to deeply love and respect. Kiva is a non profit organization that gives micro loans to poor people. So whats the big deal, you ask?

  • They give loans that are as small as $100, no bank will even think of loaning such small amounts.
  • They don’t require the borrowers to show any collateral or security to take loans. This makes it easier for even the poorest people to borrow.
  • Their borrowers are entrepreneurs, doing various business - food, furniture, printing, plastics etc. These loans help the entrepreneurs sustain themselves and improve the economic condition of the cities (and countries) they live in.
  • Kiva has a loan repayment rate of 100 % (How many organizations can make such a claim?)

I can go on and on, but my intention here is not to make a sales pitch for Kiva (they don’t need a sales pitch), but to highlight the amazing work they’ve been doing.

Here’s how they work (in brief):

  • They partner with local organizations in the countries and regions they operate in.
  • Entrepreneurs’ applications and thoroughly verified, and their profiles are posted at the site.
  • Anyone from any part of the world can loan any entrepreneur(s) of their choice, only a credit card is needed (loans of $25 and above).
  • Once the loan is raised, kiva’s local partners give the loan amount to the entrepreneur.
  • The entrepreneur pays back the loan. Once the entire loan is repaid, its given back to the lenders.

I think its one of the best ways of helping someone in need. In a way, this is better than giving money to charity, because

  • You precisely know how your money is being spent (you can keep track of your borrowers through journals and borrower’s pages)
  • Instead of helping people just one time (which is the case with donations), you help them sustain themselves and stand on their own feet.
  • You get back your money (Paypal account needed), which you can withdraw or loan to someone else (basically “recycle”)

Of course, there are times (like the tsunami, for example) during which donations are absolutely necessary. Otherwise, my vote goes to organizations like Kiva. I made my first loan of $25 this month, my intention is to do one loan of $25 every month, and keep re-loaning the money as and when I get it back.

If you like to know more and support kiva, check out these links:

There are lots of Kiva enthusiasts throughout the world. These are some of my regular reads:

I’m sure there are many others that I’ve missed.

Kiva is growing big time, guys. The whole of last year they raised $2M and this month alone they are on track to raise $2M. Don’t feel shy, come and be a part of this amazing organization :) .  I’m eagerly waiting for Kiva’s entry into India.

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Why did God make friends?

July 25th, 2006 · Quotes

Because He wanted to apologize for making relatives :)

- Dr. Wayne Dyer

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A mini list of great Tamil historical novels

July 18th, 2006 · Books

I’ve talked a little about Tamil historical novels in my previous two posts. Below is a small list of the best novels that I’ve read and enjoyed immensely, and would gladly recommend to anyone.

Sandilyan:

As mentioned in my earlier posts, his best works are

  • Kadal Pura
  • Yavana Rani
  • Raja Mudhirai

He wrote quite a few historical novels. From memory, the following ones are also good, though not as great as the above three

  • Moongil Kottai
  • Vijayamahadevi
  • Jala Deepam

Kalki:

These are the best of his works (I’m not sure how many he wrote)

  • Sivakamiyin Sapatham
  • Ponniyin Selvan
  • Parthiban Kanavu

Akilan:

I’ve read only Vengaiyin Maindhan, not sure how many he wrote. This is a very good novel.

There it is, my list of great historical novels in Tamil. Anyone wants to add more?

Update

Please take a look at this post too

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Kalki and Sandilyan, great historical novelists of Tamil

July 12th, 2006 · Books

Till my 3 rd grade, I didn’t know to read or write Tamil. I did know how to speak, as I had spent about one and a half years in Chennai when my father got transferred to a small town called Tiruvarur, near Tanjore. I had to learn both Tamil and Hindi, as my second languages. Thats when I started reading Tamil books and I came across a book called Ponniyin Selvan, by Kalki. Now thats a pretty big novel, split into 5 parts. I started reading it one word at a time (hehe, I must’ve had too much time on my hands). It was pure ecstasy.

Kalki and Sandilyan are the foremost historical novelists in Tamil. There are other authors too, but they simply can’t measure upto the standards set by these two. They have their own strengths. I’m not a scholar or critic, all I want to do is write a bit about them and kindle some interest, amongst the two or three readers (!!!!!) of this blog.

Sandilyan has written very many novels, historical or otherwise, though I have only read his historical novels. His most famous ones are Kadal Pura, Yavana Rani and Rajamuthirai. Vijayamahadevi and a few others can be termed as his second best, but the above mentioned three are his best (at least in my opinion). His dialogues are short and sharp, his pace is very very good and the twists and turns in his tales make them a pleasure to read. He is particularly exceptional in creating war scenes (tactics etc) and describing them. Each of these novels appeared in magazines (kumudham especially), and one irritating tactic he used was to create a suspense at each and every chapter, every week (kumudham is a weekly). But I think its understandable, probably he was forced to do so, to keep readers’ interest. He wrote way too many historical novels (i’ve myself read at least 25-30 of his) and hence there is a sharp drop in quality in most of his novels, except those mentioned above, which are exceptional. He wrote more explicit love scenes more often than necessary in most of his novels, which quickly becomes irritating to read. Plus, one simply can’t keep writing these kinds of novels as often as one writes romantic or detective novels. These novels require indepth research and take time to write. Kalki is said to have spent more than 12 years (yes, 12 years) researching for Sivakamiyin Sapatham.

Kalki is in a different league altogether. Unlike Sandilyan, his dialogues are lengthy and poetical in nature. If you want fast paced stuff, you’ve got to read Sandilyan, if you want to sip coffee and have all the time in the world to enjoy beautiful prose, lengthy and thought provoking dialogues, then you’ve got to pick Kalki. As far as I know, he wrote three historical novels - Ponniyin Selvan, Sivakamiyin Sapatham and Parthiban Kanavu. Just read through the letters that Mamallan writes to Sivakami, in Sivakamiyin Sapatham, its Tamil at its best.

Have you read any of these novels and enjoyed? Have you read any other novel of the same genre which is as good as these or better? Please do leave a comment if you have.

Update:

Please check out this post too

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Sarithira kadhaiyum naanum

July 11th, 2006 · Books

“sarithira kadhai” - translated literally, it is “historical novel”. Heard of “Ponniyin Selvan”, “Sivakamiyin Sapatham” or “Kadal Pura”? All these novels fall in the category of historical novels. What exactly is a historical novel and whats the purpose of this (and a few more to follow) post?

Basically, a historical novel is a story set in a totally different era, usually in the era of kings, hundreds and sometimes, thousands of years ago. Facts are retained (as much as possible) and a fictional story is woven through facts and incidents. Of course, there is no such rule as you should write a historical novel this way or that way, its entirely upto the author. But usually, extensive research is done before a good historical novel is written, and most authors take special care to make sure that they don’t distort the facts. They might add extra characters though, to make the story interesting.

One such example in English is “The Seventh Secret” by Irving Wallace (its set relatively in the recent past, as recent as the second world war period). This post is about some of the extraordinary historical novels, but in Tamil. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed a few of them.

I’m not sure if anyone is writing historical novels anymore, but they used to be a rage when I was in school. Even today, a huge number of people are interested in this form of fiction. I remember specifically two authors, in fact three - Kalki, Sandilyan and Akilan. I’ve read at least three of Kalki and one of Akilan (not sure if they wrote more than that) and Sandilyan’s, I’ve lost count. I’ll write about some of them in the following posts, if any of you reading this post have similar interests, please leave a comment.

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The amazing world of TED

July 10th, 2006 · Sites I Enjoy

Imagine the world’s most creative people gathering at one place and talking about things that they are most passionate about. These are the best people in their chosen fields of profession and they’re absolutely passionate about what they do and most importantly, all of them want to make the world a better, much better place to live in. Thats precisely what happens every year at the TED. I’m not sure how I came across the TED site, but thank God I did.

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TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. Every year, they bring the best and the most creative people (any field - philosophy, science, music, business….you get the picture) together for four days in california. Each speaker is allotted around 18 mins (just 18 mins !!) and the result is four days of brilliant sharing of ideas and amazing show of talents. You’ve to get an invite to go to the conference and it’ll cost you $4,400 (yeah, $4,400, you read that right). Every year they also award the TED prize, which again is as unique as the event itself. Each of the recipients (three every year) can make a wish, which TED will strive to fulfil. They’ll spend huge amounts of money and do everything in their power to fulfil the wishes.

TED has started releasing audio-video of some of the talks (six of them, so far, with more to come). Wow, they’re amazing - each one of them. If you want a sample, check out this presentation by Hans Rosling.

Enough of my ramblings i guess, go check out TED. Here is the site, presentations and the blog.

PS: Just don’t listen to the audio, download the videos and watch them, awesome.

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An amazing sentence

May 15th, 2006 · Cool Stuff

While cleaning my inbox, I came across this forward. Its so good, how can I not post it?  :)

“I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality counterbalancing indecipherability, transcendentalizes intercommunications’ incomprehensibleness.”

Notice something amazing about this sentence? In this sentence the Nth word is N letters long (e.g) 3rd word is 3 letters long, 8th word is 8 letters long and so on…

Man, that is damn cool…

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