Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

February 28, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"While some people question the need for a guide in a country with so few foreign tourists, this simple fact is what makes the need for a new guide so great. This is doubly true for Bangladesh, whose world reputation takes regular beatings in the foreign press when it makes the headlines for catastrophe. To all those who doubt, we now ask you to seek the reality behind the veil, to notice the color hidden in the corners, and to search the beauty hidden inside this friendly region of south Asia whose people may be short on space and material wealth, but possess hearts of infinite kindness. By looking deeper and staying for as long as you possibly can, a real picture emerges of a vibrant and diverse country whose secrets are waiting to be discovered below the surface."

- Bangladesh (Bradt Travel Guide) written by Mikey Leung and Belinda Meggitt


February 27, 2010

Chile Earthquake: The 8.8 Scale Mayhem In Chile, Tsunami Alerts, Latest Updates, Images, Links, Videos

Chile was rocked by a giant 8.8 scale earthquake today at 3:34am local time (6:34am GMT). The minute and a half long earthquake caused much damage in the country and triggered Tsunami upto 7.7 ft (2.34 meter) high. Many countries have been alerted for possible Tsunami damages and Hawaii is preparing a mass evacuation program to protect people from Tsunami. Here is an image showing how the Chilean earthquake's energy is expected to spread through the ocean:

(Image courtesy West Coast And Alaska Tsunami Warning Center)

The death toll in Chile was reported at 82 and the number is fast rising. The epicenter was 70 miles from Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city. Several big aftershocks (as strong as 6.9, 6.2 and 5.6 scales) later hit the country, especially in the south.

Unbelievable pictures can be seen at the Chile Earthquake Blog:

(Image courtesy Yfrog)

For more information please follow these links:

* Chile Earthquake Blog
* Chile Earthquake Wiki
* Google Chile Earthquake Person Finder App
* Pasific Tsunami Warning Center
* The Lede - The New York Times News Blog
* Latercera.com - for minute by minute update
* Astronaut Soichi took a photo of Conception from outer space and uploaded on Twitter:

He wrote:
Concepcion, Chile. Mega earthquake (M8.3) hit this city this morning. Photo taken a few hours ago. We pray for you.
*ALT1040 updates:
# Santiago Airport closed for structural damage to the control tower.
# Smaller villages in the Maule province with up to 80% of their homes to the ground.
# New death toll: 122
# International flights to Santiago de Chile are being diverted to Mendoza and Buenos Aires in Argentina.
# Santiago's main fiber cable has been snapped.
# Big fire on the outskirts of Santiago.
# The next problem is the potential flooding Chile

Here is a link to the Live streaming of local news from Chile:

Broadcasting Live with Ustream.TV

February 26, 2010

From The Indonesian Blogs

In my brief period of staying in Jakarta my sources of information on Indonesia have been limited. I read the Jakarta post irregularly and sometimes browse some tv channels, but as I did not manage enough time to learn the language beyond counting numbers and directions (which actually helps me conduct my day-to-day affairs, including bargaining) I miss many things which are appearing everywhere.

But lately I have been subscribing to a number of blogs in English on Indonesia in my rss reader, most of which are of expat bloggers. I read them regularly and I must admit I learn a lot from them. I am sharing some interesting stories with you.

Yet another story of exploitation of natural resources of Indonesia:

Asia pulp and Paper/Sinar Mas Group's threat to Bukit Tigapuluh national park's (West Sumatra) forest and wildlife:

104,933 hectares in Tunu River, 98,577 hectares in Durian Jajar and 21,901 hectares in Kelumbuk Tinggi Baner, has all been converted into oil palm plantations. The rest of the non national park land has been given over to paper production.

Via Dilligaf

Bemo Reminds me of Tempo in Bangladesh:

(Bemos, image courtesy The Travellers Lounge)

Metro Mad Jakarta informs that Bemo, the three wheeled minivans which are an extended version of autorickshaws (Bajaj) and can take eight passengers will soon be phased out from Jakarta. Although they were outlawed in the Indonesian capital, about a thousand of them are still in operation and the city administration plans to get rid of them by 2011.

A familiar story on quality of education:

Jakartass questions the competence of the bureaucrats in charge of Indonesia’s schools because the national exam papers contain a lot of mistakes.

Are Indonesian women an export product?

Tatterscoops discusses a controversial proposed Marriage bill which requires the future ‘foreign’ husband to pay Rp. 500,000,000 (53,792 USD) deposit - allegedly to protect Indonesian women and this deposit is refundable on the tenth marriage anniversary.

This has enraged many Indonesian women who feel that they are 'being' sold by their own country.

February 24, 2010


The image of Shaheed Minar has been added to the UN's International Mother Language Day webpage banner. Only if there would be Bangla translations of the page along with six other languages.

February 23, 2010

Candi Prambanan

Active Volcano in Merapi mountain covered in clouds

From the top of Borobudur Temple

View from Borobudur Temple

February 22, 2010

A Bengali in Yogyakarta

I arrived in Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta or Joghja) today - coordinates: 7°48′5″S 110°21′52″E, which is evident from the above photo (taken inside the airport). Took an AirAsia airbus from Jakarta and within one hour we landed in this famous city in Central java. During the Indonesian National Revolution (1945-1949) Yogyakarta was the Indonesian capital. It is an university town and famous for its culture.

Yogyakarta is one of the few special regions of Indonesia (like Aceh). It has a population of 500,000 and has an area of 32.8 km2 (12.7 sq mi).

We hanged around near Kraton, or the Sultan's palace. But it was already dark and it was closed. We went to the Depok beach to taste the famous sea food cuisine there (you buy fresh fish and hand over to the restaurant to cook). We were not that lucky - it was 7:30 and most of the fishes were sold leaving a few unknown fishes for us. Then we went to another restaurant near the city and the highlights included some grilled prawns. We opted out the sweet sauce - which had actually spoiled the dish (they were not innovative enough to suggest a spicy alternative). But the other items were good.

Tomorrows plan includes Borobudur (the Biggest Buddhist Temple in the Ninth Century), Kraton Yogyakarta, Taman sari and Prambanan (the Most Beautiful Hindu Temple in the World). Will keep you posted.

February 21, 2010

Ekushey February

February 20, 2010

Celebrating The Bangla Open Source Activists On The Eve Of Ekushey February

One of my favorite bloggers, journalist Biplob Rahman has published an article on the development of Bangla computing in Bangladesh. In this article he recognized the popularity of the open source Avro software and phonetic Bangla input system behind the recent surge of Bangla computing.

Adhering to professional journalism he included comments from many developers who contributed during the history of Bangla computing. We had more than 20 proprietory Bangla input software from 1984 to 2002 and the most popular of them was Mustafa Jabbar's Bijoy.

At first came Bangla fonts - MainulLipi (1986), ShahidLipi & JabbarLipi(1987) - but separate Bangla keyboards were not available for them. In 1987, the Bangla input software Bijoy and in 1988, the first Bangla Typing interface in the same name (Bijoy) were invented by Mustafa Jabbar's 'Ananda Computers'. Its lead programmer Pappan was the key person behind this development. Bijoy's interface was Apple-Macintosh based and that time the price of Apple-Macintosh computer was too high. But Bijoy and Apple Computers proliferated, especially in the Bangla Publishing industry because the initial fonts were all developed using the advantage of four layer keyboard of Macintosh, which solved problems relating to Bangla conjunct letters. The software also achieved popularity because of no competition at that stage.

The users of IBM computers had to wait till 1992 when Bangla word processing software 'Barna' was invented by two higher secondary level students Reza-E Al Amin Abdullah (Aunko) and Md. Shahidul Islam (Sohel) (source). Barna used three types of keyboard - Munir, Bijoy and Easy keyboard. Bijoy, still a proprietory software, released an interface for IBM PC users in 1993.

But the real boost in Bangla computing came when in 2003 Mehdi Hasan, a medical student developed the open source Avro software using Unicode which was further developed during last six years by Mehdi and his friends Rifatunnabi, Tanvin Islam Siam, Ryan Kamal, Shabab Mustafa and Nipun Haq.

Avro uses different keyboard layouts which also include unijoy layout developed by Ekushey, an open source Bangla Computing platform. This Unijoy input system layout has been alleged to be a clone of Bijoy, although the fact is that most Avro users (above 90%) use phonetic or transliteration input system, i.e. typing in roman characters rendered in Bangla scripts. Unijoy is actually 99% similar to bijoy with these exceptions:

1. You press AltGr to activate full Bangla Vowels, instead of the 'kar's
2. AltGr enables \ or | to appear in their positions.
3. ~ and ` are taken in normal mode. In AltGr mode they act as ZWNJ and ZWJ
4. There is no Double Dari.
5. Other differences can be spotted easily by looking at the layout. There is an entirely different AltGr mode, that the traditional bijoy does not have.


However Mr. Jabbar has already won a legal battle protecting the copyright of his Bijoy keyboard layout and threatens the open source Bangla computing movement by saying that the Unijoy keyboard layout is stolen from Bijoy and it should be stopped.

Well, there is no denying Mr. Mustaffa Jabbar's role in the advent of Bangla computing. But probably Mr. Jabbar expects that every Bangla user should pay to use only his faulty software to type in Bangla. The software does not even have a website! The most users of Bijoy have installed the pirated version. Yet he is comfortable with this piracy and threatens to kill competition with copyright because he wants monopoly. There are also claims that he included Unicode option in Bijoy by cloning from Unijoy! Why does not he release his software as a free open source software and then let people decide which one should they use?

The monopoly of Bijoy was daunted as the Bangladesh election commission used Avro for its national ID Card project. By opting for open source the government has saved some public fund, otherwise they would have had to pay in millions for Bijoy.

Mr. Mustafa Jabbar has for long attacked the open source software movement in his writings. He has spoken against the government using free/open source software saying that it is possible for socialist states, not for free market economy(?).

Here are more developers take on this debate - Omi Azad, Dark Lord & Amader Projukti Team.

Omi Azad said:

জব্বার বাংলা নিয়ে ব্যবসা শুরু করেছে। এখানে বিজয়/ইউনিজয় কোনো বিষয় না। আজকে একুশে বা অভ্র আছে বলে সারা বিশ্বের মানুষ বাংলা ব্যবহারে সক্ষম হয়েছে। বাংলাকে বিশ্বায়ন করেছে একুশে, এই কথার কোনো বিকল্প নেই।

অভ্র/একুশে কেউই আমাদের ভাষা নিয়ে ব্যবসা করেনি আর আমি আশা করি তারা কোনোদিন করবেও না। কিন্তু জব্বার চায় পৃথিবীতে যারা বাংলা ব্যবহার করবে, তারা সবাই উনাকে টাকা দেবে।

Jabbar is doing business with Bangla language. Here Bijoy/Unijoy is not an issue. Today the whole world can use Bangla computing thanks to Avro/Ekushey. Bangla was globalized by Ekushey, there is no denying that.

Avro and Ekushey, none ever engaged to do business with our language and we hope they never will. But Jabbar wants that whoever uses Bangla computing should pay him.

On the occasion of Ekushey February/International Mother Language Day I would like to thank those open source evangelists of Avro and Ekushey and also Hasin Haider, S. M. Mahbub Morshed and Ahmed Arup Kamal and many more heroes who saved the Bangla users from the monopoly of businessmen like Mustafa Jabbar.

Disclaimer: I am not associated with Avro or Ekushey and do not have anything personal for or against the persons quoted. I just felt that I should show my gratitude to those individuals and their technology which has eased my life in Bangla computing and I should credit them for all the great (and free) service they have rendered. "Let language be free" - is the tagline of the Avro software and I will also fight for this belief.

February 19, 2010

Quote Of The Day

After 30 years in Bangladesh, BRAC has more or less perfected its way of doing things and is spreading its wings round the developing world. It is already the biggest NGO in Afghanistan, Tanzania and Uganda, overtaking British charities which have been in the latter countries for decades. Coming from a poor country—and a Muslim one, to boot—means it is less likely to be resented or called condescending. Its costs are lower, too: it does not buy large white SUVs or employ large white men. - The Economist

February 18, 2010

Quote Of The Day

An expat blogger on the politics of name change in Bangladesh:

"Zia airport is to being renamed Hazrat Shahjalal (R) International Airport. No idea what the (R) stands for. And today there are protests by the opposition party about the airport’s name change. You see, they (the BNP) named it Zia, after their founder. And the Awami League are changing it following a High Court verdict, that any key establishments of the country will not remain after the name of a dictator (i.e. Zia). And then, when the BNP gets back into power, all the names will be changed back again. And then again in the following change of government. And so on, and so forth.

It’s like kindergarten out there in the land of Bangladeshi politics. One might be led to believe that there aren’t more important things to be dealt with here…"

February 14, 2010

India: Terror Strikes Pune

Image courtesy http://twitpic.com/photos/abhi_bol Share photos on twitter with TwitpicAt around 7:30 pm on Saturday (February 13, 2010) a bomb blast at a restaurant popular with tourists in India's western city of Pune killed 9 people and left 57 people injured. The bomb was in a backpack and it exploded when an waiter tried to inspect the left luggage. Shashi Bellamkonda at My Digital Thoughts reports:
A few hours ago (Feb 13th 2010) a bomb went off popular cafe ‘German Bakery” in Pune India. At the time of posting this the press were reporting that 8 people had died and about 40 injured in this blast which left the bodies charred beyond recognition. The bakery is a popular spot with foreign tourists.
Shashi has also these observations:
Pragmatic Euphony warns:
The jehadis have struck again on the Indian mainland; this time in Pune, albeit more than a year after the horrendous terror attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. The initial response, while going with the most plausible and popular assumption that the blast was the handiwork of Pakistan based jehadi groups, is one of indignation. Perhaps understandably so as tempers are bound to run high. And this emotion is likely to be further amplified as the Indian mainstream media hyperventilates and virtually runs amok with its over the top coverage of the incident.
People are already finding links to Pakistan. Offstumped informs that the Pune blast followed a Laskar-e-Taiba threat. A top leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba named Pune as a target city at a permitted public rally in Pakistan. The Acorn says:
Despite the Lashkar-e-Taiba threat, it is too early to definitively attribute the attack to the Pakistani military-jihadi complex. But it is clear that the Pakistani military-jihadi complex has every reason to escalate tensions with India through the use of terrorism. Without the excuse of “tensions to the east”, Pakistan would have nothing left to explain to Washington its double-dealing on the taliban.
Dilip D'Souza at Death Ends Fun reminds that India should also do something about the homegrown terror:
Until we recognize homegrown terror for what it is — no less than anything from abroad — and until we stand against every kind of terror, we will never defeat terrorism.
The Twittersphere was abuzz with tweets and retweets spreading the news. Here are some of the reactions:
IndiaHappening: Nine killed, 32 hurt in Pune terror blast http://bit.ly/arLssZ #India
r_shekhawat: Terror strikes at my home - ‘Pune' : Once again, innocent people killed by some mindless terrorists. Pune, a great city, hurt and bruised.
pragmatic_rebel: Must be a sad start to Valentine's day in #Pune! Still aghast at the blasts, I wish #India does something really different this time.
bhuvan_chelsea: We need a vigilante like Batman here in #India . ;-)
tweetSAMRAT: Is praying for the victims of the recent Pune bomb blast.
nehasasi: RT @deepitganjoo: Please RT This Jahangir Hospital Pune Needs Blood AB+ve and B+ve Contact : 1066 Those who are in Pune…. Please
_india_: Pune blast casts shadow on talks with Pak
No doubt the blast in Pune will impact the recent goodwill talks between India and Pakistan. But it seems that the terrorists are being given the upper hand as emotions are running high everywhere.

First published in Global Voices Online.

February 13, 2010

Mongolia - A Disaster In The Making

Harsh winter and decreasing foodstock are perishing the livestock in Mongolia. Image courtesy Cambridge Mongolia Development Appeal.
Harsh winter and low foodstock are causing the livestock in Mongolia to perish. Image courtesy Cambridge Mongolia Development Appeal.

Recent news reports inform that Mongolia is witnessing the fiercest winter in living memory and adding to the misery decreasing foodstock may leave approximately 20 million farm animals frozen to death before Spring. The United nation warns that thousands of Mongolian nomad families face food shortages and severe poverty because approximately 1.7 million of their farm animals including sheep, camels and cattle have already been killed because of the harsh winter. Unicef already appealed for funds because dormitories of children need urgent aid due to insufficient food and fuel for heating and cooking. Here is a shocking video of a TV coverage of the disaster.

Bitterroot from Montana writes:
Seems the Mongolians have a word, dzud, which means, roughly, “a winter that’s atrocious even by Mongolian standards.” But it’s even more than that. I emailed the monk for an explanation, and here’s what he said:
“Dzud is a disaster that stretches well beyond the obvious. As you may know, a large percent of Mongolia’s population make their living herding animals for wool and meat: cattle, yak, sheep, cashmere goats, and Bactrian camels. Their land is uniquely suited for this. This life, of course, is highly dependent on the weather and availability of forage. Dzud actually begins in a dry summer when the grasses don’t grow much, what there is, is grazed short, and it’s not possible to put away much hay for the winter.
Not this year. Dzud means the elements reverse in winter: it’s brutally cold, often -40F/C or less before factoring in wind, with blizzards that cover the grasses with impenetrable snow drifts. So there’s the immediate, terrible loss as livestock die. Mongol and international aid authorities are saying this is the worst dzud in at least 30 years; already well more than a million animals have perished.< But then the nomads themselves get stranded and suffer with the diminishing ability to feed themselves and their families. This year it’s estimated that as many as 200,000 people are at risk of hunger, disease, frostbite and the like.”

Mongolian animal herds are being reduced by 10% each week. Image courtesy Cambridge Mongolia Development Appeal
Mongolian animal herds are being reduced by 10% each week. Image courtesy Cambridge Mongolia Development Appeal.

The Cambridge Mongolia Development Appeal From UK has issued this appeal for donations, Bitterroot has more suggestions.
But what striked me most is these words of Bitterroot:
This unraveling disaster in Mongolia has no celebrity spokespeople, no telethons, no convenient cell phone donation numbers, no TV cameras on the ground (would they even work when it’s 40 below) to show the heartbreaking pictures, none of that.
The citizen journalists of Nomad Green, a Rising Voices grantee in Mongolia has been trying to create awareness about the worsening environmental crisis in the country with their coverage of environmental reporting.
What could the herders do? Dorjgotovariungerel reported (translated by D.Ariungerel) last November that many herders had trouble finding grazing land for their animals to prepare for the winter:
Because our range-land is degraded, most of the herders have moved at least 100 km, or even further than 200-300 km from their original winter places. On the way, no grass is observed on the ground, only shrubs stayed without leaves and branches. I think that winter would be hard.
Many herders were undecided where to move and were waiting in the overgrazed area with their livestock for the promised money by two big political parties. Dorjgotovariungerel urged:
Sir/ madam Pralaiment Member(s), the people are waiting for your promise, cash and other donations. Particularly, the herders are still waiting for your promise to let their livestock killed by disaster.
Apparently no one listened:
Pralaiment Members seem like that they don’t know that the herders plan their activities accounting based on promised money, which would be a block to arrange their livelihood. Otherwise, they know this situation but they are really too busy for planning next plan for coming election.
No wonder many herders and their livestock were caught up in that disaster unprepared.
Not only harsh winter, desertification is also shrinking the size of livestock, reports dorjgotovariungerel:
Right now people known about desertification and land degradation which both influence changes of range-land quality, but they don’t know how the disappearing range-land influences their livestock quality. The desertification can influence livestocks’ body development.
Screenshot of Nomad Green website
Sergelentsogt writes [cn] that wild animals are facing extinction because of not only environmental degradation, but also for the greed of mankind. The social development of mankind also contributes largely to disturb the natural flow of lives of the wild animal and push them towards extinction. The blogger urges:
In order to preserve the balance of the ecological environment, we need to conserve our wildlife.
Hishigee from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia asks “Is our generation happy to see the stuffed animals at the museum?”
Boldkhuyag reports that the government spending on decreasing air pollution level of the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar has increased. However no progress is evident which points to the corruption of government officials.
We are looking forward to more reports from the citizen journalists of Mongolia and suggestions from them how the world can help them overcome this disaster and save more animals in Mongolia.

First published in Rising Voices.

February 09, 2010

Chinese new year decorations at Pondok Indah Mall

February 05, 2010

Ban The Bull

Indonesia's president has ordered the beasts and other animals banned at street rallies..because:

The ban, issued Wednesday by Jakarta police, follows a demonstration last week in which protesters — who accused President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of failing to fight rampant corruption — tried to parade a water buffalo with Yudhoyono's name spray-painted on it through the city's main traffic circle.

Police removed the buffalo from the rally, one of a slew of protests held across the nation to mark the first 100 days of the president's second term.