A Wave of Politics

        Chennai was one of the cities “hit” by the tsunami. Not to trivialize a significant natural disaster, but I believe the toll here was ~130 people in a city that’s perhaps several million. Overall, the tsunami received far more attention and harmed far fewer than malara, AIDS, malnutrition, and a host of other problems that don’t make for dramatic news footage or kill vacationing Westerners. The only effect of the tsunami I see is (very) well-funded charity efforts. The Council of Indian Industries (CII), with whom we’re working, has a plethora of efforts: replacing the fishermen’s boats, introducing cold storage to the fish-selling process, micro-enterprise loans, etc. It goes without saying that a massive bureaucracy greases its palms off the $ coming in from Westerners stricken temporarily charitable by the wall of water on their screens. Remember hearing some report about the Red Cross actually saying something like they can’t use more money for tsunami relief. As callous as it sounds, the tsunami is probably economically the best thing to happen to most residents of affected areas.
        So skipping the bullshit ceremony and on to the school at which we install computers. We expect no preexisting tech infrastructure; they’ve got 20+ computers, including a 4-monitor Linux box that’s much cooler than anything we deploy, along with a dedicated computer teacher and fully developed curriculum in the local language, Tamil. We’re adding a massive 2 machines and a tsunami prediction/guesstimation program that requires a net connection (they don’t have one) to function. Ouch.
        Doubly ouch: installing the tsunami software at another site. Not only do they have a dozen computers and air conditioning, but some guy shows us a better way of avoiding waves: emails from NOAA or some other weather place sent to his Yahoo email account and forwarded as a text message to his cell phone. Smack to the shitty desktop software we found.
        Yet another great dinner and even some new beers finish the day like a false tsunami warning: great for comfort and minimal for impact.

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