Posts filed under ‘Citizen-Journalism’

Mossack-Fonseca Getaway Spaceship – ET Contest

Here is my entry to ‘Give ET Your Panama-Picture’ contest –

When out of the blue, Economic-Times via Times-of-India ran the Panama-Picture contest ad in which, ‘What do the words “Mossack-Fonseca” mean to you?’ question was asked, I was stumped to be brutally frank with you folks. Mossack… wha? was my first reaction and that is the arc in the cartoon of this evil firm in Panama being so alien and yet, a facilitator and getaway vehicle for the ill-gotten loot of capitalistic pigs and fat cats (drawn quite literally) to be lost entirely to the world (again, drawn quite literally by way of a black-hole) while the abused Earth increasingly becomes a shell of its former self.
For the Feminist brigade, yes, there is 50:50 representation of men and women for the cunning thieves. Am fair that way. Anyhoo, the cartoon works on so many levels even if I have to say so to myself. Fingers crossed. Watch this space…

1 May, 2016 at 16:11 Leave a comment

Dirty Politics and Corrupt Society – ToI Contest

Here is my entry to ‘World Cartoonists Day’ celebration contest by Times-of-India –

The theme was ‘Politics with the times…’ or ‘We, the society…’ and I thought why not do something that would be about both? After all, politics and society can hardly be separated. Watch this space…

29 April, 2016 at 13:30 Leave a comment

Ashok Inner-AAM: Rise Against Corrupt Lawyers

While discussing corruption by government, police, lawyers and courts, Neha Shah of I-Am-Aam came across an Android App for Code-for-Civil-Practice and thought it is an empowering tool when being mistreated by a government official i.e. a cool new-age Inner-AAM solution. I was not sold on it for I tend to buy the story, not the product and wondered about the people behind the app. Call it gut or instinct, but I had a feeling that whoever was behind the apps (there are a bunch by the same development team on IPC (Indian Penal Code), RTI (Right To Information), MVA (Motor Vehicle Act), JJA (Juvenile Justice Act) et al. here) must have an interesting story to tell. Being the resourceful lass that she is, Neha pursued the suggestion, accepted the challenge and dug out the app developer, Ashok Kumar Goli AKA Ashok Felix, a self-confessed patriotic Hyderabadi who is all of 25 years old and is currently the Director of Karlo Transport Private Limited and a member of EcoCabs among other things. Lets get on with the story, shall we, in his own words.

Soon after graduating in 2009, I went to Mysore for participating in the Flight Officer selections at the Air Force Selection Board (AFSB). I met candidates from all over the nation who were entirely different from me but at the same time shared the same passion that I had in our country. I got selected but didn’t join (a whole different story). Noticed that several of the potential Flight Officers were unaware of basic things that a citizen of India is supposed to know such as the Preamble to the Constitution of India, our National Pledge, etc. After returning from my medicals, I started asking my friends, relatives and colleagues if they knew these things and researching on why most of them didn’t even have a nominal idea about such important stuff regarding India. Found out it’s the lack of easily available information. Realized that change always begins from a single step and decided to take it.

Sorry to interrupt but the message here is that Ashok brought out his Inner-AAM and in the classic tradition of the Nataraja thandava, is giving abhayam to seekers of justice and trampling corrupt lawyers. A salute by this nacheez i.e. yours truly –

I immediately started working on an Android App (Note: I had no prior programming experience or knowledge of Law) and launched the very first basic "Constitution of India" android app on the Android Market (Android Play Store now). People really liked it, found it useful and started interacting with me on a daily basis through the feedback system built within the app. Most of the users were either law students, professional lawyers or judges in courts. I started getting suggestions, improvement ideas and the app eventually turned into the final version that is available in the market now. The morphing process was gradual. I started getting more and more requests for law applications as the data for the bare acts is really hard to find and harder still to categorize and understand. Based on the framework that I built for Constitution of India, I started gathering data from various government websites and through RTI. Each act took about a month to develop and publish. Began publishing apps act-wise as it’s easier for people to download, view and search through the apps. Each of these apps has the facility to search the central act library via web. Published about 20 apps and a lot more in queue.
Laws affect us all. And increasingly, bare acts are being searched for, read and used by a broad range of people. Bare acts are no longer confined to professional libraries but are considered intricate and intimidating. The apps empower people to directly access, search for and discuss the law of the land in the most simple way possible – using the smart phone. Given that my apps realize their full potential in the hands of people studying and practicing law, their aim is to provide the common man, the power and resources to look into the rules that define and build India. The main purpose of the law apps is to uncomplicate law, open it up for everyday discussion via the social features in the apps and make the information easily available offline.
Imagine a lawyer in a court being able to present his case without carrying any books and without wasting time to pin point the chapter number and section number. Imagine a judge being able to verify the arguments almost instantaneously by searching for specific content in all the laws of India, saving valuable time and speeding up the decision process. Imagine a client going to the lawyer and being able to discuss his specific issues by completely understanding the sections his issues are related to. Imagine a law student going to college/court with just his smartphone and work on it entirely. Imagine a teenage kid being able to read/watch a civil dispute in the news and cross reference the discussion. Imagine a normal person caught speeding on the road and finding out the exact fine amount when a corrupt police official demands a hefty fine. My apps give Aam-Aadmi the power to access all the information or laws that are related to him and that affect him.

Words to live by, or rather, draw by in this case. Please head over to CWorks for a visual depiction of how Ashok Inner-AAM is helping people rise against the reign of corrupt lawyers. As the old adage goes, information/knowledge is power. Indeed.

3 April, 2014 at 18:31 Leave a comment

Sleep Cleanses Toxins, Gunk, Trash in Brains

What do our brains do while we sleep? Image courtesy of Katherine Streeter for NPR

Finally we have it folks. After millenia of having a crack at the mystery, with thousands of crackpot theories in vogue and spending exponentially more think-time and dollars on the research, theory, practicals and experiments on man, fish, insect and beast, 13 scientists of a melting-pot persuasion representing atleast 5 continents in their origins based in Rochester have some semblance of a partial explanation as to the function that sleep of the night-cap kind serves. Here is “Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain”, Lulu Xie, Hongyi Kang, Qiwu Xu, Michael J. Chen, Yonghong Liao, Meenakshisundaram Thiyagarajan, John O’Donnell, Daniel J. Christensen, Charles Nicholson, Jeffrey J. Iliff, Takahiro Takano, Rashid Deane, and Maiken Nedergaard, Science, 18 October 2013: 342 (6156), 373-377. DOI:10.1126/science.1241224]

The conservation of sleep across all animal species suggests that sleep serves a vital function. We here report that sleep has a critical function in ensuring metabolic homeostasis. Using real-time assessments of tetramethylammonium diffusion and two-photon imaging in live mice, we show that natural sleep or anesthesia are associated with a 60% increase in the interstitial space, resulting in a striking increase in convective exchange of cerebrospinal fluid with interstitial fluid. In turn, convective fluxes of interstitial fluid increased the rate of β-amyloid clearance during sleep. Thus, the restorative function of sleep may be a consequence of the enhanced removal of potentially neurotoxic waste products that accumulate in the awake central nervous system.

Duh, I say. Is it huh, I hear you say? From a mish-mash of coverage of this seminal development and dissemination in various places (and counting) like NPR, Science Blog, Associated Press, Times of India and Zee News, allow me to plainspeak. Essentially, brains sweep hemselves clean of toxins during sleep. In mice, their brain cells shrink, allowing cerebrospinal fluid to flow easily around them. The fluid can then clear away toxins. The study reveals brain takes out the trash while we sleep in findings that give fresh meaning to the old adage that a good night’s sleep clears the mind for sleep gets rid of gunk that builds up while we’re awake which while explaining the function of sleep, may also provide new clues to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders. These waste products included amyloid beta, a protein that when accumulated is a driver of Alzheimer’s disease. In order to help remove the waste, cerebral spinal fluid is pumped through brain tissue. The process is sped along during sleep because the brain’s cells shrink by about 60 percent, allowing the fluid to move faster and more freely through the brain. The whole operation takes place in what researchers call the glymphatic system, which appears to be nearly 10 times more active during sleep than while awake. The body does this sweeping only during sleep and not continuously during wakefulness for the sake of energy efficiency and performance in day activities.

I would not be much of a self-acclaimed scientist and card-carrying blogger if I did not put my spin on it now, would I? We may not have hundreds of mice lying about to dissect their brains about and 2-photon microscopes in the garage but this study appeals to us because this ‘cleaning trash’ theory is something we all innately have internalized to explain, if only to ourselves, why nature has made sleep mandatory that takes up roughly half of our lives (counting the sleep from when we are young and senile which is a lot). Life is short and then we have to sleep. Doh! Not to drill holes but there is a lot more to be explained about sleep, especially in humans who also sleep recreationally with naps, siestas, kunukus etc. and under stress when we are ill, hit on the head etc. What happens and what is the purpose of sleep in these situations? Seriousness apart, that sleep cleanses our brains of toxins makes one wonder about death which is but indefinite sleep. It seems to me that death is that one last big cleanse. It is nature cleansing the planet of our toxic insignificant existence in this mortal coil. Sweet dreams, bitter visions, sour nightmares et al.

19 October, 2013 at 14:48 Leave a comment

Student Satellite Madness – VSSC ISRO India Trend

A Jew comedian goes to meet a priest in a Church expressing concern over an acquantice of his converting from Christianity to Judaism purely for the jokes. When the priest asks, “And this offends you as a Yidd?” he says, “No, it offends me as a comedian”. This skit from Seinfeld TV sitcom is what flashed in my mind when I read, ‘Students Building their Own Satellites – Fantastic Emerging Trend in India’ as it offended me as a summer intern at VSSC, ISRO in 1999 because from what I know and saw, building a satellite is trivial if one has all the fabricated materials and instructions – much like assembling a PC which a 10 year old can do these days. In fact, ISRO gets shipments of DIY boxes from various countries and I saw first-hand what “building a satellite by students” involves for most part – tightening screws and running diagnostics. Heck, I did it myself. Inspite of my cynicism, am glad that a relatively better fad has caught on amongst the student population other than movies and cricket which might give those slugging it out a fighting opportunity to escape this 3rd world garbage dump to USA or UK or Australia and just about any country stupid enough to have them inspite of all the immigration hoops…

The most difficult and expensive phase is sending the satellite into the ether and even more important is what you do with it after because otherwise, it is just space junk. I rest my case. Let me be and ponder why that chicken is crossing the road.

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    30 August, 2010 at 17:28 Leave a comment

    Social Media in Kashmir – Parroting ye Olde Yaps

    In general, I think social media is a hype and a fad. Just because new services keep coming up all the time like WordPress or YouTube or Facebook or Twitter or whatever and people with internet connections on PC and increasingly mobile, can register and dump their neurosis and details of their breakfast or weekend plans on it does not make it a media in the true sense of the proverbial fourth estate. Let alone their purpose of creation, but these services serve a secondary function of channels for communication, information and broadcasting. If one studies history, there were innumerable channels and every one of them has been exploited by groups to tell the truth and lies. It is just human nature to spread propaganda and protect their own vested interests. What I guess am saying is that just because people in Kashmir have started using so-called social media, it does not mean that they have started to speak out or have found a new voice or something profound like ‘power to the masses’ junk. They just discovered and have the means of a new medium to tell the world what they have been telling for the past many years – India sucks (we all know that). What is sad though is that most of the ramblings of the misquided youth seem to be about hardships of the people (but not themselves) and atrocities of the state (they are unaffected from). So, when I saw this story, “Social Media in Kashmir is Happening”, I could not resist a quick doodle –

    Now I have a theory of why that is. Simple one really. The really oppressed people never have the resources to tell their story. It is the vultures and crackheads – read, big media or citizen media – who tell the story that others want to hear. No one wants to hear the story of a shopkeeper who is bankrupt because some paid rogues pelt stones in gay abandon causing curfews. No one want to hear the story of the girl who has had a free ride to education just because she was born in Kashmir while several others born in other states and far more deserving do not get even basic schooling. No one wants to hear the story of how many innocent people get killed everyday and the staggering underperformance of Jammu and Kashmir as an economy because of silly avoidable conflicts day in and day out. There is frustration and anger. Well, boo-hoo, every citizen of every country feels that way at some point or the other. Everyone in India hates the country at a gut level for its gawaar netas and rowdy police as much as the other guy but not everybody resorts to throwing stones nor using social media to tell the world – which hardly gives a damn BTW – the oppression, corruption and violence. Keep saying it like a parrot only makes it diluted, boring and depressing. In other words, share stories and stop cribbing. Importantly, don’t yap and please use more than 140 characters.

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      23 August, 2010 at 15:17 1 comment

      India Rupee Symbol Everywhere – Sky Constellation

      An advertisement in the paper today caught my attention for a strange silly symbol accompanied the price. It is the new symbol for the Indian rupee. Digging deeper I could find thousands of articles about it on the web. With a new keyboard by TVS, special key on a mobile phone and all, it seems to be cropping up everywhere –

      For social commentators, wannabe writers and amateur cartoonists, a new symbol and rather interesting story preceding it is beautiful material. Stay tuned for more.

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        18 August, 2010 at 00:39 Leave a comment

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