Thursday, December 29, 2005

New intern at Tamil Net?

After the brutal murder of MP Joseph Pararajasinham the finger pointing still continues. UTHR(J) covers it in the latest report.

There are two mysterious figures in the obviously photo shopped picture on Tamil Net.

Tamilnet has tonnes of pictures taken in killinochchi which shows many LTTE cadres .This is the first one I have seen (taken at a function like this) which is photo-shopped.Are these guys so important to be taken out of the picture with the beloved sun god? May be the guys are extremely camera shy or is it the new intern at Tamilnet not that good with photoshop?

(Just in case they take it out ,I'm including the picture in this post .Hope I'm not violating any copyright laws !)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Spoon and OK Go

I will try to stick to my own policy of not blogging about personal stuff but it is hard not to think about what happened a year ago.Coming home at 2.30 a.m in the morning and to be awaken at 7.00 a.m to phone calls.Checking the CNN and watching my home town washed away .Then trying frantically to contact the family.
There is no need to remind a Sinhala Buddhist (specially a person who lived through last two decades) about the impermenance but Tsunami really had a effect on me personaly and our generation as a whole I think.
Since my name doesn't even come close to Chandare and there is no personal details in the blog ,what will happen if I 'm gone?Will Mrs.Chandare know the stupid ideas her partner put out to the world to see ?So just in case ...I'm posting the pictures you took at the OK GO and Spoon concert couple of weeks back as a clue.
You know who this is , don't you?.....

Monday, December 05, 2005

Highways revisited

There is an interesting story about President Chavez's foreign policy advisor via Sepia Mutiny but what's really intersting ( to me) is the NYT article series on India .Not for the way every article on India is written about but for the fact that they have already connected Delhi ,Calcutta,Chennai,Bangalore and Bombay !
Now back to beating one of my favourite hobby horses.How freaking hard it is to connect the Airport to Colombo(20 miles) ?or Galle(72 miles) or Kandy (72 miles )for a start?The highways will bring together the country more than any Sudu Nelum movement Mangala could imagine.
(Also Mahoshada has a question about India and Sri Lanka)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The most important election ever!

When this post comes out, most of the Sri Lankans have voted .Everybody says it is the "Most important election ever" .period.So were the ones in 1931 ,1947,1952 ,1956 ,1960(2),1965,1970 ,1977 ,1982 and 1988/89!( the list could go on).Everyone of them marked a turning point in our history .Your grandma and my grandpa dutifully went to the polling booth and did the best thing they could do, given the evidence provided according their own world view.People literary died, sometimes for stupid reasons and sometimes for the sacred right to vote.You don't believe the second part of the previous sentence?Ask somebody who voted in 1988 provincial council elections about the situation in the country."Vote or Die " was the slogan on the wall !No it didn't have the same meaning as P.Diddy/MTV Rock the Vote campaign for 2004 US presidential elections. The voter turn out was law in both North and South .If my memory serves me right ,Jaffna (10%),Hambantota(15%),Matara(20%),Galle(30%) and every other district had low turnout depending on the number of LTTE AK-47s and JVP " gal- katas"aimed at the people.The interesting thing is the number of brave people who turned out and the number of people who decide to run for office despite the fact that SLFP chikened out.It might seemed foolish at the time, after 15 years ,JVPers are now begging you for your votes ,aren't they?Hey Wimal ,who is your dady now?

Many people think that votes in the hand of stupid people is wrong including very very famous historical figures.If the smart people are smart enough they should be able to convice people to do the right thing.There are no short cuts.For example Ameen Izzadeen evaluates how democrcy has kept Sri Lanka from developing . I would rather have the broken democracy in our country any day than something like in Pakistan ,Sudan or any other Banana Republic.Come to think of it ,Singapore model of "Regimented Democracy " doesn't seem so hot either.If we can fix our one with transparency,accountability proper check and balances,minority rights and devolution of power we would be OK(That's a long list though!).We have big problems ,no arguments about that but it is a due to the strength of democracy , that after 75 years of universal franchise,we are still together(almost) as a country .

Don't get me wrong this election is very important .Whoever will be the next president will have to talk to an unelected madman who thinks he is the sun god.I'm looking forward to Nov 27 ,roughly the same time when those two guys will be making their most important speeches.

(I found this article by Rajiva Wijesinghe after writing the above.While checking out other articles by him in The Academic ,I came across this .It has some interesting info about Ranil during 80's.I think he missed one more thing .According to the news he physically assaulted "Aththa "photograper Sunil C. Silva at an awards ceremony.He was the brother of actress Dayani Silva ,I believe.It might be 1985 or 1986 national youth awards or something.Anyway Ranil is a changed man now;-)!)

Monday, November 07, 2005

U.S and S.L B.S

One anonymous commenter left a note saying "puka thami" for one of my blog entries.I respect his freedom of expression .I guess it is his way of saying my post is bullshit.Anyway I have to point out that the correct ,and extreme way of saying it is "paka thamai".There was a book out recently called "on bullshit".I think NPR couldn't say the title on-air when they reviewed it!

There are lot of things which makes me say "paka thamai".Take for instance the current debate about the rational for Iraq war in light of CIA leak case.A Lot of democrats are angry that they were deceived into war ,including the top democratic leaders in senate.Well that is total B.S. !
They knew what they were voting for.Since most of the people were for the war they went with the flow.Everybody knew that it would have been better to give time to inspectors.Everybody knew that it has nothing to do with 9/11 .The war was about oil , the economy and about a clear target to hit after 9/11 .Not about weapons of mass destruction.Everybody knew that. For instance one of my co-worker told me at the time "if the war starts , it would be good for the economy".The job losses were climbing up just before the war.Check the numbers and see how things changed. If an ordinary guy could figure it out in 2003 why couldn't the senate democratic leaders?That's total B.S.

On the otherhand the republican conservatives are masters of B.S ,too.Take for instance the Harriet Miers nominations.They were angry that president nominated a crony to the post.Don't tell me that you guys didn't know who you were voting into office.You knew that the president was a doofus and voted anyway thinking that they(or the neo-cons) can control him.Welcome to the party!Don't act like he is the smartest guy you could find to run the only super power in the world.

If we apply a B.S detector to Sri Lanka, the instrument would break since the range is infinite from left to right.Will Ranil surrender to LTTE or Will Mahinda go to war if he is elected?You guys know that all the rhetoric from both camps are B.S.What makes you think that Ranil wants to give a part of his kingdom away , if he is crowned ?On the other hand what makes you think Mahinda wants to go to war against international pressure and with a bad economy and army that is exhausted?Both guys will probably opt for talks and will probaly not try to give into LTTE,SLMC,CWC,JVP and JHU pressure .On the same note what makes you think Prabakaran would agree to anything less than Ealam?
I could go on bullshitting but got other important stuff to do.
"Paka Thamai".

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Stingy or Fatigue?

What the fuck is happening in Pakistan?Does anybody care?Where was the big ho ha like after the tsunami or Katrna?
I heard Jan Egland ,the guy who called western countries stingy and got the ball rolling after tsunami ,talking about Pakistan yesterday.He says 550 mil is needed and only got 135 in pledges!73000 dead and hundreds of thousands approaching deadly winter without proper shelter.He is even asking for mules.
Donor fatigue after a extremely taxing year seems to be the reason .I wonder whether it is the donor fatigue or media that is tired ?Pakistan quake doesn't seems to be a important story anymore.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Island Mentality?

Click on the link for a great paper on island mentality .It starts with the quote
"An Island ,If it is big enough ,is no better than a continent.It has to be really quite small before it feels like an island
D.H. Lawarence ,The Man Who Loved Islands"
I wrote in a prevoius post that we should join india as a solution to the ethnic problem.Judging by the responses obvoiusly I have not made the case clearly.

What am I trying to achieve?
Obviously it makes sense and nobody dispute that India as the big neighbour is essential for our economic well-being .While acknowledging the fact, my plan is to aim for the side-effect of the increasing involvement with india,the effect on Sinhala middle class .
By Sinhala middle class ,I mean teachers,policemen,memebers of the army , government servents,nurses,small business owners,small farmers,private sector middle level employees etc...Although they might know a little bit of English their main language of interaction is Sinhala. They read Sinhala newspapers.They have just enough money to survive month to month.Will probably build a home within their life time .Being eligable for government pension or because of children, will have a relatively safe retirement.Probably will not go out of the country in their life time except may be once.That could very well be a pilgrimage to India.Being children of 1956 ,entirely dependent on the worldview filtered through the so called Sinhala Intelligensia.

Compared to them, the upper and the upper middle class would travel widely and use English at home.Interestingly enough the lower level of the class hierachy has been open to the world outside due to middle east labour markets as well.

When it comes to the public discourse and elections it is this group that makes the decision who gets to be the next king or queen(The media outlets that caters to them will vehemently deny this poiting out CWC and SLMC as King makers).It's not the numbers.It's the opinion among the majority community that they control.They are the self appointed guardians of the Sinhalese.The kings and queens knows this .Thats why when one guy makes a gaffe by saying something stupid about the history of "Pasdun Rata" ,the other one says Ha! Ha! in the front pages of Sinhala newspapers.

I'm not trying to cure the well documented Majority-Minority complex of Sinhalese being next door to the mamoth Tamil population .What I'm trying do is to find the easiest way to open their eyes a little bit to the outside world (for the good ,the bad and the ugly).
For them,....
1.Federalism -bad because it gives control of your land to bad people.
2.Police powers to provinces-bad.Almost the above argument.(Like any other country I think Sri Lankan police was part of the Ministry of Internal affairs dealing with law enforcement until 1971 rebellian.Now it is a part of the defence ministry .Everybody has forgotten it's original identity by now.)
3.There are 60 million Tamils ready to pounce on you any time.
4.Sri Lanka feels like a country .They always say it is "tiny" but they don't feel it at all!(Would you feel the same way about the size and our place in world if you can go to Jaffna from Colombo in 3.5 hours by land?Think about getting on train in the morning ,visiting Nagadeepa and coming back in the same day.That's luxury only top politians could afford now by air.).
5.We have a unique culture .(Of course we have a unique culture but more than 90% is borrowed from outside.)
and the list could go on.

For instance when I told my neighbour that the Policemen are hired and fired by local governments(read Nagara-saba,Gam-saba) in US and I have to pay toll to use some roads ,He obviously drew the parallel in North (and A9 road situation )and wondered what would be so bad about it.He hasn't experianced any thing similar .Sinhalese middle class has been isolated not only from outside world but also from their counterparts in Tamil and Muslim communities thanks to the 1956 Sinhala only policy. It is easy make the assumption that every Tamil =LTTE and worry about giving control to part of the country to a bunch of terrorists.What if there are good guys and we let them police their own neighbourhood peacefully?

For instance Dr. Rajasingham Narendran wonders about Sinhala & Tamil intransigence in a recent Tamil Week article.
"The on-going presidential election season is also revealing the deception being foisted on the public from the Sinhala side of the political spectrum. The recently released UNP manifesto states, “We will bring about a permanent resolution to the ethnic problem through a political solution based on a United Sri Lanka. A consensus reached between the UNP and the UPFA on the ethnic problem, the agreement arrived at between the Government and the LTTE and the Oslo and Tokyo declaration, which guarantees the unity, democratic character and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, has created the framework of a solution acceptable to all communities of the country”. Even at this stage of our history, a major political party in Sri Lanka is unable to explicitly state in its manifesto that it will seek to establish a federal framework for the governance of Sri Lanka, which will ensure her unity and territorial integrity. Why did the UNP not explicitly use the word ‘Federal’ in its manifesto? Is it a dirty word in Sinhala politics that cannot be openly alluded to in a manifesto? "

Also the Hindu wonders about the reluctance to use the word federalism.
"The reluctance to use the phrase "federalism" is largely because of its imagery of secession"

It's not a simple case of marketing one word to the south.Due to the langauge and geographic barriers the most influantial section of the SOUTH (read Sinhalese) is isolated from the most common knoweldge from outside.Hence my extreme idea of joining India as a short cut to speed up the things(I will settle for less ambitious goal of "more economic co-operation").
1.Most of them will have to learn a second language to interact.The best candidate will be English.
2.The access to Indian higher education system.(Less than 5% of Sri Lankans have tertiary education).
3.More business opertunities ,bigger market.
4.Look at how numerous ethnic groups work with each other (not always ideal) how we are simply one of the ethnic groups in the Indian subcontinet with similar cultures.
5.Will experiance the first hand how other governments works.

I have been to India and I might not want to live there (if you freeze it in the current time frame).India has great potential and She will definitely change for the better.We will be stupid not to join the party.
On the other hand why not have cheap indian prostitutes in Colombo instead of Russians or Chinese ?(Just kidding .Pointing out one of the many BAD side-effects.prostitutes-bad.Hot indian babes-good !)
Full Disclosure.
I hate the rolling 'R"s of indian accent and also feel good to do something like this once in a while

"Sir John Kotelawela created a sensation by condemning "neo-colonialism" of the Communist bloc. When Pandit Nehru of India asked Sir John why had not shown his speech to him before delivery, Sir John responded bluntly, "Did you show me yours?"."

but we have to be practical guys.!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Simon Navagattegama

It was not my intention to make this the obituary page of Daily News or the disaster response main page.I guess it is human nature react to bad news .
I always wanted to write a post about Simon.The topic ,why most of Simon's works cannot be translated without losing the original value.The obstacles are,I don't have any of his books with me at the moment,I'm no literary critic and most of all I seem to have less and less freaking free time!I'm sad most of the world will not get to know him and his works.I tried googling to find a photagraph to include without success. (Finally found a photo. 16/10/2005)

A longtime ago ,I was in a bus heading towards Colombo.He was on the sidewalk near De Soyza flats .I recognized the face from newspapers.That was the only encounter I had but his "sansaranyaye dadayakkaraya" will always be a cool dude to hang out with.Atleast in my dreams.

Several Links.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The blogger peace plan:No way out?

Ivap and Sittingnut wanted to know what I think about the blogger peace plan .
I wanted to be safe in my world thinking about how the TV viewing habits of children in 80's could effect the O/L English results in 90's or How similar the Sri Lankan and US history looks as countries built by immigrants, why building the proposed highways will do more to peace in Sri Lanka than SLMM. Add to that list why every working Sri Lankan should file taxes every year which came up in indi's blog .

I intentionally avoided any peace plans .I'm good at Monday morning quarterbacking like everybody else. It is easier take down somebody's plan than to come up with your own .Also I'm lazy. If somebody takes up my plans and runs with it ,who is to be blamed for FUBARs?
(Bringing democracy to middle-east is a noble idea but Tom Friedman is in a sticky wicket now)

When it come to this subject ,my ideas has been all over the scale of 1-10 in the past depending on the maturity of my age, experience and what I read at the time.
(10 being Kill all Tamils, invade foreign countries and rule the world to 1 which is ,
Just eat humble pie ,save your life and surrender to Prabakaran and live as slaves with remaining Sinhalese population ).
I think I'm all grown up now safely in the middle of the scale for the rest of my life.

I want
Pursuit of happiness
for everybody of this tiny but congested island.

How do we get there from the current highly unstable situation of death ,restrictions and no happiness at all ?

I'm all for people deciding there own fate down to individual level.If the Tamil people want a separate state to mind there own business ,so be it.On the other ,I always worry about a genocidal maniac dictator, who answers to nobody and who thinks he is the sun god running a country next to mine.If we let this happen the blood of his victims will be on our hands,too .Since I never enlisted, I cannot ask other peoples children to be sent to the war front either.
When two prominent members of Sri Lankan (nano-) blogosphere are prodding me, I cannot stay silent, can I ?
Here is my plan A

The case for joining India

The case for joining India(as a solution to the Sri Lankan ethnic problem)
India was a state of mind for the outsiders.India was never a political reality until British decided it is high time the world have a mediocre cricket team that would consistently loose to teams from smaller countries to prove that size really doesn't matter after all.Only time India became almost a political reality was 2000 years ago under emperor Asoka.It's not a single country rather a collection of countries with hundreds of different languages and cultures.The miracle is somehow this crazy mix stayed together and thinks about it as a single entity after 50 years (with minor exceptions).Think about it this way folks ,it's our EU .

The pre - independence Ceylon politics was heavily influenced by Indian politics.Gandhi and Nehru visits in 1930's were sort of hidden message saying either we own you when British leave or We are in this together depending on who interprets .(Also Tagore's visits.Being away put serious restrictions on my quoting ability directly from reference material that are not on-line.May be Mephistopheles1981 the closet Indophile can verify) .May be British would have tied us to the freedom at mid-night experiment if not for the military bases and the cool moustache of DS.
That being the history ,we exactly fall into the size and composition of the Indian state with all the cultural connections any other Indian state could claim to their neighbors.The SAARC experiment was supposed to tie the countries together more tightly economically anyway.They were talking about the single entry passports couple years back!We were going to sign a defense fact with India ,weren't we?On the other hand we can't extend Palalay airport ,lease oil tanks in Trincomalee or our President can't take a bathroom break without first getting the permission from Delhi.Why not cut the crap and eliminate the middleman?
The important question is WWPD(What Would Pirabakaran Do)?
Of course on the first glance this one would sure to go down the crapper like the peace talk at airport suggestion.After fighting IPKF and killing Rajiv LTTE wants India to be involved in negotiations and everybody accepts that India is the deciding factor of any settlement.What if there is a mass political movement for joining India among both Sinhala and Tamil communities?Factor in the up-country Tamils and the cozy relationship of SLMC with India.He will be irrelevant if everybody else want to join.There is still a sizeable Sri Lankan Tamil community in India as refugees. That is where most of them would go if the war breaks out again .
To ease the way to merge with India I would say let's lay the ground work now.As soon as possible.
1.Single entry passport
2.Single currency(also free trade)
3.Highway network
(From Colombo) Think about Going to Galle/Kandy within 1 hour ,Trinco,Batticalo in 2-3 hours Jaffna in3- 4 hours maximum.See how tiny we are?My personal bilief is that If we had a good highway network in the country we wouldn't have this trouble at all.Instead of Mahaweli project we should have done this first .That's another post though .
On the same line ,think about Chennai in 6 hours ,Bombay 10-12 hours(I don't know the exact numbers just throwing them out .The point I'm making is to connect with India via land ,Air and Sea as much as possible)
4.More Interaction with Higher Education system in India.
What if we can get it done in next 5-10 years plus a critical mass within Sinhala community to back up the support to join India.

What about the Sinhalese dominated factions?JVP cannot say no ,can they?They wanted to fight India by killing Sri Lankan armed forces and police first .They also re-named Bombay onions and Mysore dhal (Freedom fries anyone?).Then their mighty leader's ass was saved by RAW .There is no bigger buddy than India now.UNP and SLFP are all for good relations bending over backwards for India.That leaves JHU and some irrelevant leftist parties.I'm sure leftists would say yes.How can JHU say no when the country wants to join the holy land where Buddha was born?
I can list plus and minus points for the case.The pluses cancels out lot of minuses and there are ways to get around them ,too.
I'm aware of Subramanium Swami's campaign for totally different reasons.That wouldn't hold us from considering a totally valid option which can bring peace and prosepertity.Let's try the anti-separatism!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


This is freaking brilliant !

Friday, September 02, 2005

Sri Lankan response to Katrina

It seems like president is sending 25,000USD and asking SL doctors in US to help. NYTalso noticed
Aid was being promised, too, from overseas. Australia said it was giving $7.6 million to the American Red Cross and sending a team of 20 disaster experts to the United States. Financial aid was also scheduled to come from Japan, Sri Lanka and a handful of other countries.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina,Kadhimiya and Tsunami

Just after the Tsunami, Sri Lankan ambassador to US ,Devinda Subasinghe was on C-SPAN .(He did a great job in the US media after tsunami).One of the questions he got from a caller was "What did you do to help when Florida was hit by hurricanes this year?". I think he mentioned that as a resident of Florida for a long time, he knows it first hand but the let the stupid part of the question slip.
It looks like the conditions in New Orleans are getting worse. The people who couldn't leave the hurricane were the poor .There are stories about people pleading for 20 dollars (from Josh Marshall)for gas to get out of the area in Biloxi. The New Orleans' mayor is saying that thousands could be dead.
At the same time there are thousand dead in Iraq and may be thousands dying in other parts of the world without media attention.
One of the news stories that came out at the time of Tsunami was how victims of Belsan terror attack in Russia and victims of earthquake in Iran expressing their sympathy with victims of Tsunami.
I know Sri Lanka cannot do much and I know ordinary Sri Lankan know the loss of loved ones hurts whether it is in New Orleans ,Drafur or Kalmunai.I remember after 2001 flood (or was it 2002?) in Europe Sri Lanka sent some tea to Germany and the German government said they were moved by it.
Ordinary US citizens were the biggest donors and first to respond after the tsunami even before the US government . It is sad that Sri Lankan government hasn't even released a statement. Better if they can send some tea to the thousands of people who are being evacuated from superdome to astrodome ,if they can afford.

As an anonymous comment pointed out , now the SL government has released a statement.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Elusive Sri Lankan identity

After 1915 Sinhala - Muslim riots,up and coming Sinhala national leadership was in jail .It was Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who led the fight to get them released.It is said that on his return from London after arguing the case ,he was greeted by a parade in which Sinhala people carried him in a decorated cart ,young men dragging the carriage instead of horses.He ran for the seat of educated Ceylonese and was elected defeating Sir Marcus Fernando a Sinhalese.That time the reason was a Givigama-Vellala caste allinace which crossed the race divide to keep the rising karava caste from reaching the power.After some time the Tamil and Sinhala leadership went their own way .There were no leaders of National appeal who could cross the race divide in a significant way.Left (LSSP,CP etc..) had it's leaders but they were relatively small.Then there were minor flukes like minorities representing majority Sinhala electorates.Not a national trend.1956 fucked everything up.

It took a long time for a true cross -cultural leader to appear .Roll back to 1994.Chandrika Kumaratunga.Fresh after election victory and peace talks ,everybody thought she was going to do it .Chandrika craze was all over the country.North and South.Not for long.May be she had "it" for 6-7 months.

Along came her foreign minister .LAKSHMAN KADIRAGAMAR.Unknown to Sinhala masses until 1988-89.Was not that much known until he bacame the foreign minister in 1994.He slowly began to grow in the hearts and mind of average Sinhalese.PRABABLY DUE TO ALL THE HYPE IN SINHALESE NEWSPAPERS.(I personaly believe he deserves it all.).I know even day labourers knew about the man and respected him .(Unlike your average politician).He has the good fortune of not representing an electorate.
Was he hated by Tamils?I don't know .May be.LTTE hated him.Probably average Tamils were proud of him as there was no parallel in Sri Lanka among any other race.If he ran for presidency I'm sure most of Sri Lankans would have voted for him(except LTTE and hard to convice Sinhala right wingers ).

The unfortunate thing is that he is the exception not the rule.The possiblility of another cross cultural national leader is really thin.He should have been the President .He represented the Sri Lankan identity,the dream we would have achived if not for the nearsighted decisions of leaders past and present.


Of course there is our cricket team!It's just cricket, isn't it? .mmm.....or is there more than that?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lakshman Kadirgamar

Lakshman Kadirgamar
Originally uploaded by chandare.
Dear Sir, May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Southern Highway

On the topic of Sri Lanka's execllent road network,The latest situtaion of Southern highway (via Lanka Academic ) from The Chartered Institute of Building

Monday, July 18, 2005

The highway network!

Sri Lanka Planned Highways
Originally uploaded by chandare.

Dear Madam President/Dear Highways Minister,

I found this article(written in 2001) in the government website 3 years ago and couldn't wait until 2005!
It says ,

"Sri Lanka will have four major expressways along with eight flyovers (PDF) by the year 2005. A spokesman for the Ministry of Highways said that this was part of a massive plan by the government to improve the infrastructure facilities in the country."

Will my grand children(your great-grand children ) be able to use these super-expressways if we if we build them in the current pace or was it 3005?

What is the current progress of each project?

When will we be able to use them ?

What is happening in the current southern expressway project?

Why does the southern highway keep shifting in the plan ?Is it to avoid using properties of members of parliament(UNP and SLFP both)?

When can a visitor from another country can get to the capital of the country from it's only international airport within a decent time frame?(thanks for the baseline road.)

Do you have any plans for the worsening traffic in Colombo and deteriorating transportation system in the country as a whole?

Have I lost my marbles to ask accountability from the Sri Lankan government ?

yours sincerely,



After writing the above I checked .It says the time frame for 5 major projects is 2015.There are some spreadsheets named "progress reports " with lots of empty cells.They are calling for tenders again for CKE(Colombo Katunayake Expressway)!Ok let's cut them some slack( like we did for the past 50 years).Let's check in 2015 how far we have gone.

Colombo ,check out Mexico City

Not owning a vehicle, I used to depend antirely on the public transportation system of Sri Lanka.Visiting Sri Lanka after sometime ,I can only wonder at how things have become crazier .I thought it couldn't become worse but our guys can always top that kind of expectations .

Everybody seems to be pissed off about the situation but nobody seems to be doing anything about it.There was one exception .Galle Road-Duplication Road(R.A. De Mel Mawatha) oneway idea .According news reports (since I was not there to have first hand knowledge ) it was chaos .It is a briiliant idea.The two roads are just 100 m apart,parallel and wide .Only we can f---up a simple solution which is so obvious.You have to stop at the car at the door step,park along the bussiest road and highway nirwana is just infront of the guy who is speeding ahead of you.

Originally uploaded by chandare.
Photo is from Indi's blog

On a positive note no-parking rule in Galle road during rush hour and Marine drive seems to be sort of working (The schools were closed while I was there,which might have contributed,too).The only solution people seem to have is buying the biggest intimidating vehicle or the tiniest one which sneak between vehicles and somehow get from point A to B.

Since we cannot afford subways(what happned to electric train idea,the delhi example, people?) what is the best affordable way out of this mess?
There is an incredibly similar situation in South America.They are trying out a solution .NYT had an article about the recent experiment in Mexico City .Looks like it is working.The attitude,the unruliness and the private bus ownership seems like the Sri Lankan situation.
"It's fair to call it the toughest city in the world," said Dr. Schipper of the Mexican capital's transportation needs. "It's the worst combination of bad air, bad traffic and poor management that has let the transport system decay over 30 years."
The careening private minibuses that competed for passengers used to weave across lanes and then stop two abreast, as commuters piled on. The city spent more than a year negotiating with the 262 owners whose buses plied Insurgentes to get them to remove their buses. They are now part owners and employees of the Metrobus.

They replaced the chaos with designated bus lines and a single time table it seems .Everything is not going properly at the moment ,according to the article.
The city has piled on extra help at stations, workers who shout instructions and try to mold amorphous crowds into lines. "It's the third world, we are 20 million people, what do you expect?" said Mabel Grajales, a city worker who was one of those trying to move the crowds along.
Sounds like Sri Lanka ,no?
Here is the good news.
"He's the only politician with vision," said Luis Andrade, an office worker who says his travel time has been cut nearly in half by the Metrobus. The old buses raced, braked and suddenly lurched. "There were too many of them. All the noise, the pollution, that's been eliminated."
Seventy-five percent of Metrobus riders asked in a poll published Monday by the newspaper Reforma said they considered it better than the old minibuses, and 81 percent said they believed the problems would eventually be resolved.

Photo is

Originally uploaded by chandare.
from NYT

Let's do something now rather than bitching after the next big accident.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Brass Monkey Rocks!

I was away from my blog for a long time.Was in Sri Lanka during the period ,too!Have to start with a positive note after all .
As Indi has blogged and a lot of guys commented ,the Brass Monkey Band Rocks!I bought the CD and I still have it in my car after two weeks of drive time listening.(As soon as I heard the CD, I just browsed through comments in Indi's post and found that a guy called ChandareII talked some shit while I was away.BTW,I thought most of the Sri Lankans have long unique names.Curious choice of name. )
Me thinks BMB rocks!

Friday, May 27, 2005

It wouldn't hurt to be nice!

The Island
Originally uploaded by chandare.

Who wrote this caption?

(It says"With screwdriver ,Clinton shows what he 's good at".Feb 22nd. 2005 The Island)
This weekend President Bill Clinton will be arriving in Sri Lanka for Tsunami related aid work.This is his second visit. Hope it is not the last.During his presidency US saw the biggest economic boom in history.His domestic and foriegn policies made him a lot of friends and foes.He is passionately loved and passionately hated .He is considered the first "black president" because of his popularity among african-americans.John Kerry's campagin had to drag this guy who was recovering form a heart surgery to african -american churchs at the last minute .I have seen many Sri Lankan politicians speak (unforunately not the generation of SWRD,Dudley,N.M or Colvin) but I have to say President Clinton is one of the best damn public speakers I have heard.Check the transcript of the speach in 2004 Democartic national convention.You have to watch the video to see the crowd reaction and the full impact of the speach. (Barak Obama had a great speach ,too.On a related note ,9/11 tribute was led by a Sri Lankan -American ,a Muslim .One Mrs.Sally who lost her daughter )

Ranasinghe Premadasa
Originally uploaded by chandare.

Come to think of it, His closest parallel in Sri Lankan politics is president Premadasa ,who came from a non-privileged background .He had to fight privileged clans in his own party as well as the outsiders.Had to take a different or centrist positions against their main party lines.Faced an impeachement and survived.To top it all, Both men had spouses who were very much public figures, loved and hated passionately.(Anybody remember Hema Premadasa singing "Bakthi Gee" in ITN or Rupavahini?).Also both men had their sexual life made public .(During 90-94, gossip columns of Ravaya ,Aththa and Yukthiya carried stories about President and the female singer he was supposed to be sleeping with .That's what prompted first lady to sing "Bakthi gee" on TV as a one-upmanship according them).President Premadasa loved his Sucharitha office in Kehelwatta.President Clinton choose Harlem for his office .

Bill Clinton
Originally uploaded by chandare.
Why do I say we (Sri Lankans)have to be nice to President Clinton and show that we can handle tsunami recovery positively?It is not because he was the most powerful man in the world for 8 years .Unlike the isolationist school of thought in US (except when it comes to oil matters) , he is a guy who belives in engaging in the world affairs in a positive way .He is actually more popular abroad than in US I think.He intervened in Bosnia when he didn't have to.Brokered (at least tried !) peace processes in Ireland and Palestine.Cares a lot about Poverty and AIDS in Africa.I think one of his focus in this tour is AIDS crisis in India.Democratic party always had a soft corner for third world democracies(Republican administrations always favoured Pakistan instead of India for instance).On the other hand he has a wife who is a popular senator who might become US president in 2008.It's like having our own ambassador in whitehouse ! People , not so long ago nobody knew where Sri Lanka was!

So what do we do with this incredible opportunity?Last time he was here,our president's brother acted like a teenager by asking for autograpghs.Is he the guy who aspires to be the next President?Then JVP's Wimal Weerawansa avoided posing for photograpghs with him(actually it would be good for president Clinton not to pose with him.He will get hell from conservatives here .).The highlight of Sri Lankan welcome came from the great Sinhala nationalist watch dog "The Island "!
Was this the maturity we displayed just 5 weeks after a great tragedy?Is this the way to treat a stranger who came to help us?I hoped nobody outside would notice it.Guess what?They did!Jeff Greenwald is a freelance travel writer was in Sri Lanka to help out.His dipatches were carried in ,too. Check his dispatches here.
I don't know diplomacy,at least this time ,please behave like adults.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Marie Barone, the typical Sri Lankan mother-in-law?

I know this is trivial compared to what is happening in Sri Lanka.Sometimes you gotta enjoy small things in life.
"Everybody Loves Raymond" ends today.
Here is what the Salon critic Heather Havrilesky has to say about it.
Nobody I know will be mourning the passing of "Everybody Loves Raymond" since, for years, everybody I've talked to thinks that "Everybody Loves Raymond" sucks. Here's the thing, though: None of them had ever watched it, or if they did, they flipped by, saw an ugly couch and some older people, and figured it was just another outdated, painfully dorky sitcom gleefully consumed by the masses.
I'm a fan of the show (and -- full disclosure -- contributed to an authorized book about it before I joined Salon). I consider it one of the best classic sitcoms on TV, and one of the darkest, populated by characters who, due to their very natures, absolutely torture each other. When they're not manipulating, wheedling, lying, teasing, undermining or openly criticizing, they're sitting on the couch facing the television, trying like hell to turn down the volume on the absurdly myopic humans around them. In other words, they're just like family.
As a dorky Sri Lankan ,what I immediately noticed was it's Sri Lankan connection.It mentioned Sri Lanka twice as I can remember.(Debra's parents had once been to Sri Lanka on vaction and describe it when they visit.I'm not sure about the other one but I think it might be Ray in a later episode who says something about Sri Lanka) .That could be the second highest mention of a foreign country in the show, after Italy. Mind you ,this was way before tsunami.At the time nobody has heard about the country.

Here comes the bomb.
Heather Havrilesky interviewed Phil Rosenthal for the Salon of the Q&A goes like this.
Q:"Raymond" is pretty subtle and its pace is very patient, particularly compared to the breakneck speed of most sitcoms, where everyone's stepping on each other's bad punch lines. All of this makes the characters feel much more like real people.
A:Well, that's the best compliment we could get. The show plays in like 171 countries. We get letters from Sri Lanka: "That's my mother."

Looks like somebody over there has an obsession with Sri Lanka ! ;-))

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Language Politics

During the run upto kottu Sinhala font ,I posted a link to an article in "Lakbima" in one of the comments.Lohan has commented on the whole issue in his blog.The article says that since the language of Sinhala news has been degraded ,the minister of cultural affairs is planning on controlling the language used by media,starting with a booklet on how to spell.

I haven't listened to Sinhala TV/Radio programs that much in last couple of years.I can guess what is going on since I have seen what happened after loosening the media control in early 90's.I think the langauge used for Sports ,talk shows or comedy is not appropriate for news.I also belive it's an internal editorial decision of the TV/Radio station.It's upto the Viewers/Listeners to vote using remote control or the small knobs in their TV/Radio sets.

Debates about the langauge changes due to Electronic media is not unique to Sri Lanka.Shepard Smith who has an hour long news show (runup to O'Reilly show at 8 PM EST)on FOX News uses a different kind of language.You can check the transcript of a documentary here or just google.

What's important of this whole issue is that the attitude in Sri Lanka about government control.The Language ,Religion or what date of the month you can get wasted should be controlled by the government!Seriously folks, this is a government who could not protect it's head of state(1 prime minister and 1 president killed.One president lost an eye),Couldn't balance a budget(last balanced budget is 1954 or something) and still couldn't build a highway connecting the capital and airport after 30 years of trying (just 20 miles!Started 1975 or something).What makes you think that the government is capable of forcing you to use correct "Na" or "La" in words?

same thing(sort of ) in Sinhala can be found here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


elohon;eg; b;elog; livim bosov(Boßov) gAn Ádhskin;m pTn;gt; Ek;d siØhl pn;Diteyo; rAlk; Ávus;s gn;n miT vDo eloku mot®kovk; nAhA!
Mm huGk; klkin; siØheln; liylo nAti nisot; ,huG klkin; lØkoev gUvn; vidulieyT svn; dIlo nAti nisot; vt;mn; tt;vy gAn liyn Ek ehod nAtievn;n puluvn;.meg; Ádhs nm; tmn;eg; puvt; vADsThn; ídiript; krn vidiy Em Áoytn vl vgkImk; . kRIDo vADsThnk; eho; vihulu vADsThnk; eho; ídiript; krn vidiyT puvt; ídiript; kirIm hrinAhA.hriyT mm em; b;elog; liyn vidiyT prik;Sn vor;tovk; liyn;en; nA veg;.hrinmi evn;n ón epR;k;ßkeyo; Eyin; ÁAt; evn Eky;.viyokrn gAn Ek Ek Áyeg; Ádhs; evns; niso kvurA vArdi krnvo kiylo kv;d tIrny krn;en;?ÁAmtitumod?ej.bI. mhocor;y tumod?Áriesn; mhtod?nAt;nm; Ámoris; Áy;yod?EtekoT E;k úl;lØgny krn ÁyT edn dÐuvm emkk;d?; ktovkT svn; dimd?
(mm lØkoev íØgRisi Ád;yopny gAn liyd;di ml pAnlo moðY polny krn;n ón kiylo liv;vo.E;t; Ek pRoeyo;gik vADk; enem;.)puvt; kiyviem; boso pRS;ny ÁpiT vitrk; Áoevnik pRS;nyk; enem;.efoks; puvt; nolikev; eßpr;D; s;mit;eg; Boßo vilosy emeh; lGdi vivodyT lk; úno.em; evb; .sm;bndey; tieyn piTpt bln;n.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Sn;toromI sh § lØkov

mm hitoegn hiTiey; meg; bIelg; Eek; pud;glik etrturA liyn;en; ná kiylo.nmut; edsAmIbr; 26 epodu Át;;dAkImk;.mm rApvohiniey; hAtAp;m dhs; gnnk; Eho meg; gmI plot muhudT gsoegn yn hATi bloegn hiTya.emonvd krn;en; ,kvurAt; pris;smin; ín;nvld kiylo bln;n ívryk; nAti durktn ÁAmtUmI.dvs; 4 kT 5kT ps;es tvt; bln;n bAri niso rápvohiniy vhlo dolo epotk; ÁtT gt;to. epot sumon gnnovk; pAt;tkT dolo tibuIb Sn;toromI
kr;t® egugri eDviDI erobr;Tis;.

epot gt;et; Eek; lØkov gAn sdhn; evnbv ekehhri kiyvpu niso.epot piTu 900 k; vitr.lØkov gAn sdhn; evn;en; epet; Án;timT!ktov, kr;t®eg; jivit ktov.Os;eTIliynu hirkrAevk; hiern; pAnlo índiyoev ebmIboey; potol elo;kT Ektu vnvo.Em epot pdnmI krgn dAn; sinmoi pTiyk; hdnvo.Ehi Sn;toromI nAt;nmi lin; boboeg; crity rGpon;en; ejoni eDp;.mT hietn vidiyT eloek; jnpuiym Áorvl; edkk; ( eholivuDi potol Áor sh eboliuvuDI sØgit Áor)Ek; krlo E;k hduevt; Ámutum sinmo pTyk; evyi!

mT Ánik; epot Enkn; ín;n evnvo lØkov gAn kiyvn;n .lin; bobo lØkovT En;en; 87-90 koley;.lØkoev yud;d edkk;.Ohu En;en; ebom;boey; potoley; kTyut;tkT!blmu lin; bobo Áep; ítihosey; ÁdurA koley; rhs; Eli kryid kiylo?

epot gAn vicoryk;
emm lipiym ín;guisieyn;

Shantaram and Sri Lanka

This is not a book review!
Here is a review
Book on amazon
I thought of not writing anything personal in my blog.Dec 26 is a shared expreriance .I guess I can break my own rule once in a while and write about it since it sets up the thing I'm going to write.
After almost a week of watching TV,endless phone calls and trying to figure out how to help, I couldn't watch anymore TV .All the major networks were showing my hometown being swept away to sea .I turned off the TV and started reading "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts which has been lying around .I had bought it a couple of weeks before since I read somewhere that the story involves Sri Lanka .
The book was gigantic.Almost 900 pages.I finally found Sri Lanka in the last page!the story was about a convicted felon from Australia escaping the prison and joing the mafia in Bombay.It is almost an autobiography.Hollywood is shooting the movie version with Johnny Depp as Shantaram(Lin Baba).I don't know how they are planning it but It could be the ultimate movie if they combine two money making genres,Bollywood Musical and Hollywood Gangster.

I have to wait for the next book since that's when Lin baba comes to Sri Lanka in the middle of two wars(this is 87-90 period) to carry out a mission he is entrusted with.May be Lin Baba will shed some light on the darkest era of our history.

Check the same thing in Sinhala using Indi's awesome font! ;-))

Monday, May 09, 2005

Sri Lanka is paying it's bills by exploiting it's women

I checked the most e-mailed article in New York times today.That's what I usually do when I miss a Sunday Edition.There was an article about Sri Lanka in the top ten.It was not about Tsunami.New York Times is probably the most influential paper when it comes to journalism.On-line edition is widely read and it's free.It couldn't be all Sri Lankans who has been e-mailing the article to each other ,to make it to top ten.

Mm Ád úed; nivi eyo;k; Tyimis; pt;ter; vADipurm Í-emil; kl puvt; pt; lipi Átr lÐkov gAn lipiyk; dAk;ko. nivi eyo;k; Tyimis; pt;try elo;key; blvt;m pt;tr vlin; Ekk;.Em lipiy mul; dhyT En;n Íeml; kel; lÐkev Áy vitrk; evn;n bAhA.Ánit; Ek Ey sUnomiy gAnt; enemi.

You can check the article here .It is about Sri Lankan housemaids.I have seen these kind of article for so long.Nothing has changed for the last 20-30 years.Same is true about female workers in free trade zone or female workers in the tea plantions.Those three combined together keep the country afloat.

Em lipiy emi smibn;ðeyn; blogn;n puluvn;.E;k lÐkik g®h es;vikovn; gAn.emi veg; lipi kIyk; nmI psugiy ÁvIrAdu tieh; pl evlo ÁAd;d ?ÁAyi nidhs; evld klep; esvikovn; gAn?tv gt;etot; vtu krey; kn;tevo; gAn?emi kn;tovn; tun; egol;l niso tmyi rT bn;ekoelt; enovi tieyn;en.

I have seen bar room fights in Sri Lanka ,just because some guy hit on another guy's -cousin's -friend's girl friend.Check what happened when some guy took a picture of some guy's sister-in-law's legs.When it comes to living on the money those women make ,Sri Lankan men don't have any shame.

Mm lÐkoev smoj Solovl rn;Du dAkla tieynva kaeg; hari bDuvk; diho nikn; blpu niso.ÁAyi emi liyum kiyvla bln;n kaegd nAnn;Dieyk;eg; gel; pin;tur ghlo evcic ed;.eE; únaT lÐkoev pirimin;T reTi gAnU duk; vidlo hmibu krla sl;li vlin; jivt; evn;nnmI hirikit nA!

siiGl ÁkurA livIm

mm nAvtt; eha;Diey; pn;tiey;.siGeln; biela;g; liyn;n út;sah krn viT tmyi etern;en ÁpiT Ek eha;Diyk; nAtibv.ekTin;m siGeln; siGl liyn;en; ekaehamd?;


Friday, May 06, 2005

Mage Palamuwana Sinhala Blog Rachanaya(My First Sinhala Blog Entry)

Mage nama Chandare.
Eka mage aththa nama nemei.Aarudha namakin liwima angata gunai kiyala mata hithuna.Mama paawichchi karanna yanne Sinhala basawe katawachana viyakaranaya.Blog ekak kiyanne hithe nidhahasen karana pauwdgalika wadak nisa mata ehema karana eka lazyei.
Sinhala yathuruliyanaya(type karana eka) hari amaru wadak. Yathurupuwaruwe akuru hoyana eka muka poottu wena wedak!Mehema Romanu akuru walin liyana eka lehesei(I wrote leseei in several ways to show how complicated this task is).
Mama Sinhala blog dakala thiyanawa.Uda haranayak washayen gaththoth X kandayame e-journal eka ,eka widiyaka blog ekak.Namuth egollange thaakshanaya wenas.Liyanna amarui.Mehema type karana eka hari layseei.
Lankawe blog-golaya(blogosphere) sahenna wishalai.kottu eke blog 50 withara thiyenwa.indi Sinhalen blog liyana ona kiyala rachanak liyala thiyena nisai mama meka liyanne.
kottu wala laisthu gatha karala inna blog baluwoth honda honda sellam meheth wena bawa balaganna puluwan.Udhaharanayak washayen gaththoth indigei manolo ge patalawilla(manolo ),indigei-morquendigei-mahangu-thawa godak ayagei adyapana prathisanskarana vivadaya(education), ethkota handi garuppu walin indi-appa kana ape ihala pelanthiya(indi-appa) .Thawa baluwoth piththala Wanduru Sangeetha Kandayame Sandarshanaye kageda nanandiyekge "gale" pinthura gahala wechcha vipathiya wage sellam thiyenawa(BMS).
mata hithenne Sinhalen blog liyanna sahenna pirisak yomu unoth honda wiwada saha ,honda sellam eliyata enna puluwan.
Mata weda thiyenawa.Methanin danata nawathinnam.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Public Transportation

A lot of things are happening.
1.D Sivaram was killed
2.Central Bank is going to release 2004 annual report saying Sri Lanka reached per capita GDP of 1000 USD in 2004 (before Tsunami) which makes Sri Lanka a middle income country.
3.Deadly bus accident in Allawwa

I'm just going to focus on No. 3.
I know I will take lot of heat from my dad and uncles( if they know I'm writing this )but J.R.Jayawardena did a lot of things right!Like I mentioned in WFB post , If I'm honest I should be able to see what is wrong with my ideas ,too.
Since JR was human ,he made lot of mistakes.To me the top 3 blunders he made are,
1.Let the July 1983 anti-Tamil pogram happen due to his inaction or secret involvement.
2.Pure Propotional system introduced in 1978 constitution which made some parliament seats member-less,created inter-party and intra -party fights and gave oxygen to a dying old system of caste/ethnicity based politics.
3.Privatizing Bus service .

I'm writing this as a citizen who had to depend on Sri Lankan transportation system.
I'm a free-market beliver.When it come to public trasnportation it seems that there should always be government regulation and involvement!
In US the public transportation is irrelevant except couple of major cities .In the city I'm in ,the public rail /bus system is handled by a public company with lot of local governtment money invloved .Also heard that Greyhound is cutting down some routes which are unprofitable.Also Amtrak is in trouble according to the reports.
I don't know how Europe ,Japan and China handles this.India is as crazy as Sri Lanka but atleast they have a pretty good rail system.I found this about british rail.
I know our private bus/SLTB/Railway system is a crazy mix.Don't know whether anywhere in the world they have anything close to our private bus culture which kills people in-search of 10 rupees more.
What would be the best solution for Sri Lanka?(May be one of the three people who reads this might have an idea!)
Amal Kumarage is thinking about a franchise system for private bus operators.


William F Buckley Jr. is the founder of National Review .He is the intellectuall grand pa of all conservative right wing public figures who control the public discourse in US right now.
In this article he looks at one aspect that is wrong with his own side .i.e. Capitalism.
WFB on Capitalism
I cannot think of Nalin De Silva ,Champika Ranawaka,Wickramabahu Karunaratne ,Gunadasa Amarasekera ,all JVPers , All the old Commies and Samasajists,UNP and SLFP idealogue s(if there are any) or even Morquendi looking at his own ideas and thinking "I might be wrong in some cases ,you know".Specially when it seems like their side is winning!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

TV makes you smarter!

This is like a postscript to the theory no1
An article on NYT explains how Watching TV makes you smarter

(registration for site is free.if you don't wanna register use for a username/password.)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pet theory No.2 .US and Sri Lanka .Two Countries built on immigration

I woke up today and realised the world has turned upside down .Check this out JVP-USA lovefest . I was sitting on my theory number 2 (theory 2 ) for too long! I have to get this out before comrade Somawansa,comrade Wirawansa or comrade Tilvin beat me to it.Of course Sri Lanka resembles ethnic composition of US loosely(White 70% Black 13% Latino 13%) .Some similarities doesn't end there ,it runs deeper .It might explain how group of immigrants reacts in different countries .US and Sri Lanka are both immigrant countries which still keeps connections to the roots in different ways.

DISCLAIMER:I have not studied history or anthropology in any formal way.I claim no expertise in the subject I'm about to jump into.
The immigration waves to US is well documented and can be checked or here . Sri Lanka is a different story which we have to depend on written and oral history .Conflict ridden ,over crowded Europe(continent ) and India(sub-continent) provided source for the mass scale migartion ( 1600 -1950's for US and 500 B.C- 1950 A.D Sri Lanka)In both cases immigarnt came from different rich cultural traditions and but merged in one culture . The natives in both cases Red Indians and Veddhas suffered almost the same fate and are in reservations in their own lands.
Why Orgin of American Whites = Sinhalese ?
Orgins of Sinhalase may be North Indian(still a debate about whether it is from west or east) but Sinhalase are a mixer of ethinic groups from all over India.Suprisingly these groups kept there identies somewhat intact in the form of Caste.Caste?First of all Sinhalese caste system was not the indian system at all .It was less opressive.When it comes to hierachy it is a upside down pyramid unlike indian system which has brahmin on the top.Govigama which is supposed to be on the top is estimated to be 40% of the Sinahalese. Nobody will dare ask you or mention the caste in SriLanka anymore unless it comes to marriage or voting (Influance was waning but propotional system introduced by 1978 consititution has kept it on the feeding tube).It is politically incorrect to talk about caste.I was lucky to discover "Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: the Rise of the Karava Elite in Sri Lanka" by Dr.Micheal Roberts I found a review .Also I read lot of articles by Victor Ivan in "Ravaya" on the subject.It was amazing to discover that each caste (Govigama,Karava,Durawa ,Salagama etc..) had it's own theory of where they came from.The sirnames they kept pointing us to their origins in India. This is amazing similar to to the fact the white americans consider them as WASPs,Irish- American ,Italian- American ,German - Americans(Polish ,Scandinavian also).Of course most of them have inter-married and differences are fading away fast.So does the caste in Sinahalese!If you check marriage proposals in the classified section which is sort of a "dating site ( with parental guidence" you see the decreasing relevance of caste compared to 70s or 80s.Now the parents seems to be mixed and they don't seem to care about the caste that often. When 60's free love was changing rest of the world ,our parents ,uncles and aunts were in the forefront, inter-marrying and running away with their partners from different castes!Exihibit no.1. Chandrika Bandaranayake. (She is low country/up country Govigama.Had a boy friend from Salagama and married a guy from Durawa)
Most of the people can identify Italian-American accent form a mob movie .So can Sinhalase identify Salagama (specially Rathgama area) .I know a waiter who fakes the accent at an Italalian restorant(He is not Italian nor Italian-american) .I also know a guy from Rathgama who can switch on and off his accent at will ,according to the audiance.Most of the old US cities are dotted with ethnic neighborhoods and so does Sri Lankan villages with caste neighborhoods.It is highly likely that if you are white and you are from Chicago without checking the name ,there is a big chance that you might be of Polish origin .If he/she is from Minnesota or Wisconsin the orgin might be Scandinavian.If you are from Balapitya there is big chance that you might have Salagama origins or if you are from Ambalangoda it might be of Karava orgin.Micheal Roberts exmanines all stories about origins(immigration) of Govigama,Karava,Salagama and Durava along with the rest of castes in his book.
Integrating into one culture was no small task for white americans or Sinahalese.Check this How the Irish became white .Irish ,Italian and Eastern europeans had a long way to be accepted and merged into mainstream. Also check The way of the WASP from Richard Brookhiser. There are several other lines of similarities {super-patriotic Scots-Irish orgins which is a majority in west virginia to the south and in pensylvania which gave the world country music with Vahampura caste which prides in being the only caste which doesn't have any members converted to other religions .Also all these caste have there own nikaya's when it comes to religion(Buddhism).It is a separate lengthy study not that relevant here .compare it with all these different ethnic groups in US have different preferences when it comes to Christianity}
If above is true then who are African Americans and Latinos when it comes to Sri Lanka?
The African-Americans brought in as Slaves and on whose blood and tears the early american capitalism was built has some parallels with the Indian - Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.They were herded like cattle from South India .Thousands died on there way to hill country to work as almost slaves for the British.Sri Lankan welfare state was built on their slave labor. If indian Tamils are African-Americans in Sri Lanka, is Thondaman(sr.) our MLK or Muralitaharan our Jackie Robinson ?Probably not, considering the fact that their families migrated for business (Although the story has similarities).
So where does the Sri Lankan Tamils fit into the Story?
Hispanic Americans have a large population that speak their language in neighboring countries. Can claim ownership to part of the country (Texas and California) based on history .Also rapidly becoming a majority in their areas.Since they are using their own langauge at large ,the integration is harder and the right wing crazies are builing up a case with illegal immigartion which can easily be turned into something else(check Michelle Malkin or The american resisitance ,Minute Man project). How can we ignore that parallel with our north and east?
Although Tamils have been in Sri Lanka for 2000 years( as a part of the south indian invations)looks like that they have merged into Sinhalese community over time in early history.Only after 13 th. century that it seems like separate kingdoms been established for longer periods of time.(Even in late 17th. century there seemed to have been migrant farmers and fisherman from south india in the north according records)

How about Sri Lankan Muslims ?
mmmm.. let me think about a community which is disproprotionately represented in business and commerce,lives in Urban areas mainly .Also their highly religious memebers (men)wear skull caps and long beards.Women cover most of the body and about Jews!
I know it doesn't have anything to do with the above argument much but Sri Lankan Muslims were severely persecuted under Portugese rule in 15 th. Century.For just being Muslims.They had to seek refuge in up -country .King Senerath welcomed them and gave land in the current eastern province.It was a small scale holocaust they had to flee.

Moral of the above story is US might find itself in the same situation as Sri Lanka unless they do a better job of integrating latinos(mainly)/minorities.This might change if there is a major technological break-through like speach translation or we find babel fish mentioned in " Hitch Hikers guide to the galaxy".What do you think of a seperate Spanish speaking country within south -West US in 50-70 years ?

What can Sri Lanka learn from US ?probably nothing.Because Sri Lanka never learns anything.

bizzaro-Sri Lanka

Today is not April 1 st. ,is it?
JVP-USA Love-fest
I think I'm living in bizzaro-world.Up is down,north is south,good is bad,black is white and JVP is UNP!
Loved this quote

"We believe in our efforts to rebuild and regain our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious country, the United States will follow in the same spirit that after WW II, it helped replace fascist dictatorships by vibrant democracies. Our party has taken as a model your country’s arrangements for multi-ethnic harmony - namely full equality of citizens without artificial ethnic-based territorial borders. The US can help Sri Lanka by standing up to the principles of democracy, free elections, human rights, free speech, the rule of law, accountability, transparency and the rights of children. You have now a golden opportunity and an important obligation to help all the people of Sri Lanka, not just those outside the North and the East,”

So comrade ,what's up with those 10000 dead in 1971 and 30000 dead in 1988-89 fighting capitalism,imperialism and neo-colonialism?Wasn't US the ultimate enemy?Also what's up with all the money you guys received from Sadam Hussian's Bath Party back in 1980?No loyality?
(Should have known this coming.After all India was no1 enemy just 15 years ago!)

Am I dreaming or what?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Simple Statistic

If you believed all the B.S. they teach you in school(specially social studies/History/Sinhala classes) Sri Lanka is a blessed country.No Natural disasters.Beautiful.Lot's of natural resources.Great location.Everybody wants to be here.If you drop a twig anywhere,it will hold root ,thrive and bear fruit!.My ass!.

Tsunami busted the myth on the top of the list.Most of the people who are talking about beauty haven't set a foot outside Sri Lanka (I'm saying it is not .Certainly we are not the only country that is beautiful).I have read so much crap about natural resources but I don't know anything which is commercially viable in large scale which can generate revenue in a long period of time.Location myth is still tossed around .India builds Sethsusamudram or a big port in South India,Sri Lankan location myth is history.Big boys don't need footholds in countries to wage war anymore.Technology of warfare has changed.The next big B.S is we can make all the food we eat and agriculture is the way to go.JVP wants 1000 tanks restored.Average Sri Lankan farmers plot of land is so small he can barely survive.
Here is a nice statistic about population density.
Population Density
To clear things up let's remove small countries which are less than 10000 km2.
1.Bangladesh 1002
2.Taiwan 636
3.South Korea 492
4.Netherlands 395
5.Lebanon 368
6.Belgium 340
7.Japan 337
8.India 329
9.Rwanda 320
10.El Salvadore 319
11 SRI LANKA 306
We are 11 out of the whole freaking world ,people!
Then check this out.population distribution inside SL .The Density is higher in South -West and lower in North-East.If the Elam is established we can easily jump to number 5(a quick calculation based on 2001 census and area taken as 1/3 and 2/3 of Sri Lanka gave 375 and 85 respectively) in the list.Even without Ealam there won't be a migration from South - West to North-East.It will be viewed as settlements.So we are screwed and better learn to live with it.
We don't have any resources .Nobody knows when the when next tsunami is going to hit us. We are living on top of each other ,have less private space between each citizen , it is freaking hot in the afternoon and worse of all we don't know when we are going to be blown up.That's why we cannot think straight and see what is written on the wall in bold letters."YOU ARE SCREWED".Unless we act now we will end up figthing for food and water.The country will be one big tsunami refugee camp.
The only natural resource we have is people .Our future is in manufacturing and services .Not in agriculture.Our future in Mutli story housing schemes.Not in tiny plots of land of 10 perches like chiken farms.Our future is in urban planning,preserving whatever we have on empty spaces for public use(beaches ,forrest etc..).Our future is in Science and technology .Thats why this(education value) debate is important.
Thats why we have to question while other countries have 40-50 % of college grads why we are satisfied with 3% .That's why we have to understand why after 209 years of English language domination why only 5% of people can read/write English.That's why we have to question why the unemployment rate goes up as the education level rises.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Kottu is not a Sri Lankan food

In (the about page) of kottu it is mentioned as a Sri Lankan food.
It is probably not.
Not that there is anything wrong with it!
It has become Sri Lankan by default with the explosion of fast food industry in Sri Lanka.
A small number of people who patronized the "Muslim Hotels" ate kottu before 80's.There were only a handful of "hotels" which offered kottu.If some food critic could dig up the history it would be great .(As I can remember Rosie Senanyake opened up a fancy kottu joint in front of US embassy in late 80's.It should have been featured in a sunday newspaper.)

Kottu probably has a sub-continent(outside Sri Lanka) Muslim origin because of "beef Kottu.
Kottu is Sri Lankan as much as Pizza is American.
Thats why kottu is the perfect name for the website.Technlogy taken from outside made your own .A mixer of ideas ,thrown into one .Some of them are leftovers from yesterday.What happens tomorrow morning is anybodies guess!

Monday, April 11, 2005

"(Sri Lanka)*100size+(1000 to 2000)years =(almost) USA"?

Looks like indi has added me to the blog roll in kottu .I don't know whether chandare is qualified as a blog.Although it is my personal notepad ,I better keep my promise of turning out stupid ideas since people are reading (yeah, all 3 of them!).
My next idea is explaining why "(Sri Lanka)*100size+(1000 to 2000)years =(almost) USA" .I might have to touch some subjects which most of the Sri Lankans wouldn't touch with a barge pole.Sometimes it's a fine line between right wing bigotry and social commentary.Look out for next couple of posts for the explanation(Have to put food on the table, off to work!)

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Suggestion: Sri Lankan C-SPAN?

This is not my idea .It has been tossed around for a quite long time.Why don't they show Sri Lankan parlimentary proceedings on TV?Everybody is in favour of it except parliment members it seems.
I just saw RNC chairman being heckled in Howard University in C-SPAN(Live! no kidding).He was speaking about why blacks should support Republican party.
My suggestions...........
A new channel supported by all TV stations in Sri Lanka exclusively for public affairs like C-SPAN.
How to fund?
The Government is collecting a licence fee ,don't they?Ask for piece of that.Share the TV crews of every channel for outside events.
What should be on the channel?
Since it is already recorded it will be easy to put parliamentary proceedings on TV.
Then put all freaking major event SLFP,UNP ,JVP and every major party is conducting.Broadcast their conventions,major rallies and freak-fests etc...They are politicians .They should love TV coverage.
Then put book launches , conferences,professional events of public interrest .Cover the whole damn spectrum from loony left to the radical right(Socialist Party,X group,Hela Urumaya,Jathika Chinthana etc...) .If there aren't enough things to put in the channel show the US congress and British Parliment .Guess it wouldn't cost anything .If you run out of events ,you can always cover press conferences in Killinochchi!
If politicians are dragging their feet on this issue (which everybody loves),shame them into doing it.Run a ticker in the TV newscast "Parlimenthuwa Rupahaniye pennanna beri aie?" or something.Put the same thing in news papers ,underneath the editorial until they do it.Free Media Movement ,editors guild and rest of the media-wallahs ,why don't you take the lead??

Pet Theory NO:1 English Education in Sri Lanka:Part 4:Conclusion

My family is lower middle class(Sri Lankan sense).Nobody spoke English at home.I was 9 when they had TV outside Colombo.The lower middle class (clerks,teachers,policemen,small businessmen) could somehow afford a TV set in 80's.
Our Generation grew up watching TV all night and discussing them at school.Most of the shows were in English and they didn't have subtitles.i.e.I was listening to English 2-3 hours a day .Without TV that could have been 0.5 hours which was the English period at school.
I learned this only when I moved to US and try to dig up history of the TV shows I watched.We were watching latest hits in US and Britain!For insatnce I remember Cosby show in 1985 in Sri Lanka.When I checked ,the first season was in 1984!Same goes to other guys and quality.From Science fiction (Star Trek,Battles star Gallactica,Blake seven,V etc..) to shows like Knight Rider (or Hawai Five O,Starsky and Hutch,A team ) and to Soaps likes Dynasty (or Dallas) to Sit-coms (Sosby show,Silver spoons,Different strokes ,Jefferesons).I can also remember McGuyver,Street Hawk,LA law,Incredible hulk ,six million dollar man etc..We were watching latest pop culture at the time.They also had some criticlly acclaimed series like roots,kung -fu,north and south .Also great movies in weekend.(mostly from 60's).Also they had ABC wide world of sports every week and quality documentaries.Gamini Weragama used to introduce classic movies in Sinhala on Friday(or Satuday night) which were shown without sub titltes.
As I remeber everybody my age used to watch TV and discuss it in school since that was the only entertainment we had .Rupavahini was the only channel for kids outside Colombo.

Another thing was going on at the time ,too.No (or minimum ) Hindi .To save Sinhala film industry , only two Hindi film were allowed per year(from 1970s I think).That means unlike our previous generation, the main component of pop culture came from West instead of India.(Sinhala commercial service had a 1 hour hindi song program in the afternoon.Thats it.).
Then came libererilization of the media in 1992-93.MTV(Maharaja ) and TNL started.ITN went Island wide.What they showed was second or third rate programs from west and lots of Hindi movies to fill the gaps and get ratings.Multiple radio stations started blasting hindi songs.Era of sub-titled or voice dubbed English programmed began.
Only noticeable English program I could remember from 90's was Beverly Hills 90210,X -Files ,Melrose Place and Baywatch .The English sitcoms dropped out(NO friends,NO Seinfeld and NO Everybody loves Raymond) .Hindi movies replaced English ones.The average middle class kid's English time might have come down again to 0.5 hours .
I remember reading an interview with the famous threater director and writer Sugathapala De Silva .He was angry with the subtitles because they were wrong most of the time and also because it distract the viewer from original dialog.
Now when I visit once a year I notice that still Hindi rules(Teenagers started going to Hindi tuition classes just to understand movies) .The cable TV is limited to a minority in Colombo suburbs.

Since we have a handful of TV stations it is not impossible to reverse the trend.Don't get me wrong .I love some of the Hindi movies.As nation probably we have to decide whether we are going to be first rate imitatators or second rate imitators.Most of the Hindi movies and TV shows are obvious imitations of Hollywood stuff.Are we going going to get the real thing or the second hand version of western shows?
The best example for the TV has on Language ability is the Scandinavian people.The older generation who were not exposed to that much of US program are not that good in English and the younger generation is fluent in English.
Before resting my case I have to thank M.J. Perera the first director general of Rupavahini for keeping my childhood interesting.Specially for the quality programs he inserted to the line up . He took a lot of flak from left and right for "destroying the culture".Aththa ,Divaina and the rest of the Sinhala news media blasted him.

Pet Theory NO:1 English Education in Sri Lanka:Part 3:"THE THEORY"

When I saw the article by STEPHEN J. DUBNER on Steven D. Levitt I was stunned.There could be simple answers for the seeming unexplainable complex human behaviour?I think I have a case with the pass rate of GCL O/L English .
When you look at the case It looks like there will be several obvious explanations.
1.The exam became tougher gradually from 1992-1998.
Probably not . I happened to know lot of cousins and neighbours who took the exam at the time.Except the usual distaste for exam I don't think there was a specific case for English.Then how do explain gradual slow down(47-30)?Not in was like 47,42,38,34 etc....)

2. The quality of teachers went down from 1992 -1998.
This one might have a case.It's almost 30 years since 1956 "Sinhala -official Langauage policy" and the teachers who studied before that and were bi-lingual were retiring.From my own experiance I only knew 1 or 2 exceptional cases from "old guard" and didn't see that much of a difference in 80's when the majority were new comers.All these better older teachers were concentrated in handful of urban high schools anyway.

I'm not an economist or a statistitian(although I studied both of them as subjets in my engineering curriculum.I don't remember a thing anymore!)
This one seems like thing we can check.Get the exam numbers from education department from 1981-2003.(why 1981 ?That when the TV was available throughout the country)
Then take TV viewing habit of kids age 10-15 .Get the numbers broken down into langauage ,whether they had subtitles etc....These stats might be found in a locker somewhere in the Rupavahini Corporation or SLBC I guess .
As member of the first generation of Sri Lankans to grow up with TV, I know what kind of influance it had on the whole culture and how it changed in 1990s when the media liberalization happened.I saw what the Hindi invation did to a whole generation.

I will post my experiance and conclusion in the next post.

Pet Theory NO:1:English Education in Sri Lanka:Part 2:The Island articles(2002,2003??)

The other thing my theory is based on was an article(or 2) in The Island( I read ,when it was free.Now you have to pay to access the archive .It will be easier to get the data from Education ministry in Sri Lanka anyway.
The article(s) was about how the pass rate in English as a second language declined from early 90's(1992-93?) to late 90's(1997-1998?) .As I remember it was a significant drop from 47% or so to 32% or below 30!.And it was gradual.

Pet theory NO:1,English education in Sri Lanka:Part 1:NYT Article

In 2003 I read a great article in NYT by STEPHEN J. DUBNER on Steven D. Levitt.
Just in case it vanishes from the web I'm linking the article in several other places.

I'm posting the article below and will be explaining later how this is tied to the English education in Sri Lanka
August 3, 2003
The Probability That a Real-Estate Agent Is Cheating You (and Other Riddles of Modern Life)By STEPHEN J. DUBNER
he most brilliant young economist in America -- the one so deemed, at least, by a jury of his elders -- brakes to a stop at a traffic light on Chicago's south side. It is a sunny day in mid-June. He drives an aging green Chevy Cavalier with a dusty dashboard and a window that doesn't quite shut, producing a dull roar at highway speeds.
But the car is quiet for now, as are the noontime streets: gas stations, boundless concrete, brick buildings with plywood windows.
An elderly homeless man approaches. It says he is homeless right on his sign, which also asks for money. He wears a torn jacket, too heavy for the warm day, and a grimy red baseball cap.
The economist doesn't lock his doors or inch the car forward. Nor does he go scrounging for spare change. He just watches, as if through one-way glass. After a while, the homeless man moves along.
''He had nice headphones,'' says the economist, still watching in the rearview mirror. ''Well, nicer than the ones I have. Otherwise, it doesn't look like he has many assets.''
Steven Levitt tends to see things differently than the average person. Differently, too, than the average economist. This is either a wonderful trait or a troubling one, depending on how you feel about economists. The average economist is known to wax oracularly about any and all monetary issues. But if you were to ask Levitt his opinion of some standard economic matter, he would probably swipe the hair from his eyes and plead ignorance. ''I gave up a long time ago pretending that I knew stuff I didn't know,'' he says. ''I mean, I just -- I just don't know very much about the field of economics. I'm not good at math, I don't know a lot of econometrics, and I also don't know how to do theory. If you ask me about whether the stock market's going to go up or down, if you ask me whether the economy's going to grow or shrink, if you ask me whether deflation's good or bad, if you ask me about taxes -- I mean, it would be total fakery if I said I knew anything about any of those things.''
In Levitt's view, economics is a science with excellent tools for gaining answers but a serious shortage of interesting questions. His particular gift is the ability to ask such questions. For instance: If drug dealers make so much money, why do they still live with their mothers? Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What really caused crime rates to plunge during the past decade? Do real-estate agents have their clients' best interests at heart? Why do black parents give their children names that may hurt their career prospects? Do schoolteachers cheat to meet high-stakes testing standards? Is sumo wrestling corrupt?
And how does a homeless man afford $50 headphones?
Many people -- including a fair number of his peers -- might not recognize Levitt's work as economics at all. But he has merely distilled the so-called dismal science down to its most primal aim: explaining how people get what they want, or need. Unlike most academics, he is unafraid of using personal observations and curiosities (though he does fear calculus). He is an intuitionist. He sifts through a pile of data to find a story that no one else had found. He devises a way to measure an effect that veteran economists had declared unmeasurable. His abiding interests -- though he says he has never trafficked in them himself -- are cheating, corruption and crime.
His interest in the homeless man's headphones, meanwhile, didn't last long. ''Maybe,'' he said later, ''it was just testimony to the fact I'm too disorganized to buy a set of headphones that I myself covet.''
Levitt is the first to say that some of his topics border on the trivial. But he has proved to be such an ingenious researcher and clear-eyed thinker that instead of being consigned to the fringe of his field, the opposite has happened: he has shown other economists just how well their tools can make sense of the real world.
''Levitt is considered a demigod, one of the most creative people in economics and maybe in all social science,'' says Colin Camerer, an economist at the California Institute of Technology. ''He represents something that everyone thinks they will be when they go to grad school in econ, but usually they have the creative spark bored out of them by endless math -- namely, a kind of intellectual detective trying to figure stuff out.''
Levitt is a populist in a field that is undergoing a bout of popularization. Undergraduates are swarming the economics departments of elite universities. Economics is seen as the ideal blend of intellectual prestige (it does offer a Nobel, after all) and practical training for a high-flying finance career (unless, like Levitt, you choose to stay in academia). At the same time, economics is ever more visible in the real world, thanks to the continuing fetishization of the stock market and the continuing fixation with Alan Greenspan.
The greatest change, however, is within the scholarly ranks. Microeconomists are gaining on the macro crowd, empiricists gaining on the theorists. Behavioral economists have called into doubt the very notion of ''homo economicus,'' the supposedly rational decision-maker in each of us. Young economists of every stripe are more inclined to work on real-world subjects and dip into bordering disciplines -- psychology, criminology, sociology, even neurology -- with the intent of rescuing their science from its slavish dependence upon mathematical models.
Levitt fits everywhere and nowhere. He is a noetic butterfly that no one has pinned down -- he was once offered a job on the Clinton economic team, and the Bush campaign approached him about being a crime adviser -- but who is widely appreciated.
''Steve isn't really a behavioral economist, but they'd be happy to have him,'' says Austan Goolsbee, who teaches economics at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business. ''He's not really an old price-theory guy, but these Chicago guys are happy to claim him. He's not really a Cambridge guy'' -- although Levitt went to Harvard and then M.I.T. -- ''but they'd love him to come back.''
He has critics, to be sure. Daniel Hamermesh, a prominent labor economist at the University of Texas, has taught Levitt's paper ''The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime'' to his undergraduates. ''I've gone over this paper in draft, in its printed version, at great length, and for the life of me I can't see anything wrong with it,'' Hamermesh says. ''On the other hand, I don't believe a word of it. And his stuff on sumo wrestlers -- well, this is not exactly fundamental, unless you're Japanese and weigh 500 pounds.''
But at 36, Levitt is a full professor in the University of Chicago's economics department, the most legendary program in the country. (He received tenure after only two years.) He is an editor of The Journal of Political Economy, a leading journal in the field. And the American Economic Association recently awarded him its John Bates Clark Medal, given biennially to the country's best economist under 40.
He is a prolific and diverse writer. But his paper linking a rise in abortion to a drop in crime has made more noise than the rest combined. Levitt and his co-author, John Donohue of Stanford Law School, argued that as much as 50 percent of the huge drop in crime since the early 1990's can be traced to Roe v. Wade. Their thinking goes like this: the women most likely to seek an abortion -- poor, single, black or teenage mothers -- were the very women whose children, if born, have been shown most likely to become criminals. But since those children weren't born, crime began to decrease during the years they would have entered their criminal prime. In conversation, Levitt reduces the theory to a tidy syllogism: ''Unwantedness leads to high crime; abortion leads to less unwantedness; abortion leads to less crime.''
Levitt had already published widely about crime and punishment. One paper he wrote as a graduate student is still regularly cited. His question was disarmingly simple: Do more police translate into less crime? The answer would seem obvious -- yes -- but had never been proved: since the number of police officers tends to rise along with the number of crimes, the effectiveness of the police was tricky to measure.
Levitt needed a mechanism that would unlink the crime rate from police hiring. He found it within politics. He noticed that mayors and governors running for re-election often hire more police officers. By measuring those police increases against crime rates, he was able to determine that additional officers do indeed bring down violent crime.
That paper was later disputed -- another graduate student found a serious mathematical mistake in it -- but Levitt's ingenuity was obvious. He began to be acknowledged as a master of the simple, clever solution. He was the guy who, in the slapstick scene, sees all the engineers futzing with a broken machine -- and then realizes that no one has thought to plug it in.
Arguing that the police help deter crime didn't make Levitt any enemies. Arguing that abortion deterred crime was another matter.
In the abortion paper, published in 2001, he and Donohue warned that their findings should not be seen ''as either an endorsement of abortion or a call for intervention by the state in the fertility decisions of women.'' They suggested that crime might just as easily be curbed by ''providing better environments for those children at greatest risk for future crime.''
Still, the very topic managed to offend nearly everyone. Conservatives were enraged that abortion could be construed as a crime-fighting tool. Liberals were aghast that poor and black women were singled out. Economists grumbled that Levitt's methodology was not sound. A syllogism, after all, can be a magic trick: All cats die; Socrates died; therefore Socrates was a cat.
''I think he's enormously clever in so many areas, focusing very much on the issue of reverse causality,'' says Ted Joyce, an economist at Baruch College who has written a critical response to the abortion paper. ''But in this case I think he ignored it, or didn't tend to it well enough.''
As the news media gorged on the abortion-crime story, Levitt came under direct assault. He was called an ideologue (by conservatives and liberals alike), a eugenicist, a racist and downright evil.
In reality, he seems to be very much none of those. He has little taste for politics and less for moralizing. He is genial, low-key and unflappable, confident but not cocky. He is a respected teacher and colleague; he is a sought-after collaborator who, because of the breadth of his curiosities, often works with scholars outside his field -- another rarity for an economist.
''I hesitate to use these words, but Steve is a con man, in the best sense,'' says Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociologist at Columbia University. ''He's the Shakespearean jester. He'll make you believe his ideas were yours.'' Venkatesh was Levitt's co-author on ''An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances,'' which found that the average street dealer lives with his mother because the take-home pay is, frankly, terrible. The paper analyzed one crack gang's financial activities as if it were any corporation. (It was Venkatesh who procured the data, from a former gang member.) Such a thing had never been tried. ''This lack of focus,'' Levitt deadpanned in one version of the paper, ''is perhaps partly attributable to the fact that few economists have been involved in the study of gangs.''
Levitt speaks with a boyish lisp. His appearance is High Nerd: a plaid button-down shirt, nondescript khakis and a braided belt, sensible shoes. His pocket calendar is branded with the National Bureau of Economic Research logo. ''I wish he would get more than three haircuts a year,'' his wife, Jeannette, says, ''and that he wasn't still wearing the same glasses he got 15 years ago, which weren't even in fashion then.'' He was a good golfer in high school but has so physically atrophied that he calls himself ''the weakest human being alive'' and asks Jeannette to open jars around the house.
There is nothing in his appearance or manner, in other words, that suggests a flamethrower. He will tell you that all he does is sit at his desk, day and night, wrestling with some strange mountain of data. He will tell you that he would do it free (his salary is reportedly more than $200,000), and you tend to believe him. He may be an accidental provocateur, but he is a provocateur nonetheless.
He takes particular delight in catching wrongdoers. In one paper, he devised a set of algorithms that could identify teachers in the Chicago public-school system who were cheating. ''Cheating classrooms will systematically differ from other classrooms along a number of dimensions,'' he and his co-author, Brian Jacob of the Kennedy School of Government, wrote in ''Catching Cheating Teachers.'' ''For instance, students in cheating classrooms are likely to experience unusually large test-score gains in the year of the cheating, followed by unusually small gains or even declines in the following year when the boost attributable to cheating disappears.''
Levitt used test-score data from the Chicago schools that had long been available to other researchers. There were a number of ways, he realized, that a teacher could cheat. If she were particularly brazen (and stupid), she might give students the correct answers. Or, after the test, she might actually erase students' wrong answers and fill in correct ones. A sophisticated cheater would be careful to avoid conspicuous blocks of identical answers. But Levitt was more sophisticated. ''The first step in analyzing suspicious strings is to estimate the probability each child would give a particular answer on each question,'' he wrote. ''This estimation is done using a multinomial logit framework with past test scores, demographics and socioeconomic characteristics as explanatory variables.''
So by measuring any number of factors -- the difficulty of a particular question, the frequency with which students got hard questions right and easy ones wrong, the degree to which certain answers were highly correlated in one classroom -- Levitt identified which teachers he thought were cheating. (Perhaps just as valuable, he was also able to identify the good teachers.) The Chicago school system, rather than disputing Levitt's findings, invited him into the schools for retesting. As a result, the cheaters were fired.
Then there is his coming ''Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990's: Four Factors That Explain the Decline and Seven That Do Not.'' The entire drop in crime, Levitt says, was due to more police officers, more prisoners, the waning crack epidemic and Roe v. Wade.
One factor that probably didn't make a difference, he argues, was the innovative policing strategy trumpeted in New York by Rudolph Giuliani and William Bratton.
''I think,'' Levitt says, ''I'm pretty much alone in saying that.''
e comes from a Minneapolis family of high, if unusual, achievers. His father, a medical researcher, is considered a leading authority on intestinal gas. (He bills himself as ''The Man Who Gave Status to Flatus and Class to Gas.'') One of Levitt's great uncles, Robert May, wrote ''Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'' -- the book, that is; another great uncle, Johnny Marks, later wrote the song.
At Harvard, Levitt wrote his senior thesis on thoroughbred breeding and graduated summa cum laude. (He is still obsessed with horse racing. He says he believes it is corrupt and has designed a betting system -- the details of which he will not share -- to take advantage of the corruption.) He worked for two years as a management consultant before enrolling at M.I.T. for a doctorate in economics. The M.I.T. program was famous for its mathematical intensity. Levitt had taken exactly one math course as an undergraduate and had forgotten even that. During his first graduate class, he asked the student next to him about a formula on the board: Is there any difference between the derivative sign that's straight up-and-down and the curly one? ''You are in so much trouble,'' he was told.
''People wrote him off,'' recalls Austan Goolsbee, the Chicago economist who was then a classmate. ''They'd say, 'That guy has no future.'''
Levitt set his own course. Other grad students stayed up all night working on problem sets, trying to make good grades. He stayed up researching and writing. ''My view was that the way you succeed in this profession is you write great papers,'' he says. ''So I just started.''
Sometimes he would begin with a question. Sometimes it was a set of data that caught his eye. He spent one entire summer typing into his computer the results of years' worth of Congressional elections. (Today, with so much information so easily available on the Internet, Levitt complains that he can't get his students to input data at all.) All he had was a vague curiosity about why incumbents were so often re-elected.
Then he happened upon a political-science book whose authors claimed that money wins elections, period. ''They were trying to explain election outcomes as a function of campaign expenditures,'' he recalls, ''completely ignoring the fact that contributors will only give money to challengers when they have a realistic chance of winning, and incumbents only spend a lot when they have a chance of losing. They convinced themselves this was the causal story even though it's so obvious in retrospect that it's a spurious effect.''
Obvious, at least, to Levitt. Within five minutes, he had a vision of the paper he would write. ''It came to me,'' he says, ''in full bloom.''
The problem was that his data couldn't tell him who was a good candidate and who wasn't. It was therefore impossible to tease out the effect of the money. As with the police/crime rate puzzle, he had to trick the data.
Because he himself had typed in the data, he had noticed something: often, the same two candidates faced each other multiple times. By analyzing the data from only those elections, Levitt was able to find a true result. His conclusion: campaign money has about one-tenth the impact as was commonly accepted.
An unknown graduate student, he sent his paper to The Journal of Political Economy -- one professor told him he was crazy for even trying -- where it was published. He completed his Ph.D. in three years, but because of his priorities, he says, he was ''invisible'' to the faculty, ''a real zero.'' Then he stumbled upon what he now calls the turning point in his career.
He had an interview for the Society of Fellows, the venerable intellectual Harvard clubhouse that pays young scholars to do their own work, for three years, with no commitments. Levitt felt he didn't stand a chance. For starters, he didn't consider himself an intellectual. He would be interviewed over dinner by the senior fellows, a collection of world-renowned philosophers, scientists and historians. He worried he wouldn't have enough conversation for even the first course.
Instead, he was on fire. Whatever subject came up -- the brain, ants, philosophy -- he just happened to remember something pithy he'd read. His wit crackled as it had never crackled before. When he told them about the two summers he spent betting the horses back in Minnesota, they ate it up!
Finally -- disquietingly -- one of them said: ''I'm having a hard time seeing the unifying theme of your work. Could you explain it?''
Levitt was stymied. He had no idea what his unifying theme was, or if he even had one.
Amartya Sen, the future Nobel-winning economist, jumped in and neatly summarized what he saw as Levitt's theme.
Yes, Levitt said eagerly, that's my theme.
Another fellow then offered another theme.
You're right, Levitt said, that's my theme.
And so it went, like dogs tugging at a bone, until the philosopher Robert Nozick interrupted. If Levitt could have been said to have an intellectual hero, it would be Nozick.
''How old are you, Steve?'' he asked.
Nozick turned to the other fellows: ''He's 26 years old. Why does he need to have a unifying theme? Maybe he's going to be one of those people who's so talented he doesn't need one. He'll take a question and he'll just answer it, and it'll be fine.''
he University of Chicago's economics department had a famous unifying theme -- the Gospel of Free Markets, with a conservative twist -- and would therefore not have seemed the most likely fit for Levitt. As he sees it, Chicago is about theory, deep thinking and big ideas, while he is about empiricism, clever thinking and ''cute but ultimately insubstantial ideas.''
But Chicago also had Gary Becker. To Levitt, Becker is the most influential economist of the past 50 years. Long before it was fashionable, Becker brought microeconomic theory to offbeat topics, the family and crime in particular. For years, Becker was demonized -- a single phrase like ''the price of children'' would set off untold alarms. ''I took a lot of heat over my career from people who thought my work was silly or irrelevant or not economics,'' Becker says. But Chicago supported him; he persevered, winning the Nobel Prize in 1992; and he became Steven Levitt's role model.
Becker told Levitt that Chicago would be a great environment for him. ''Not everybody agrees with all your results,'' he said, ''but we agree what you're doing is very interesting work, and we'll support you in that.''
Levitt soon found that the support at Chicago went beyond the scholarly. The year after he was hired, his wife gave birth to their first child, Andrew. One day, just after Andrew turned a year old, he came down with a slight fever. The doctor diagnosed an ear infection. When he started vomiting the next morning, his parents took him to the hospital. A few days later he was dead of pneumococcal meningitis.
Amid the shock and grief, Levitt had an undergraduate class that needed teaching. It was Gary Becker -- a Nobel laureate nearing his 70th birthday -- who sat in for him. Another colleague, D. Gale Johnson, sent a condolence card that Levitt still quotes from memory.
Levitt and Johnson, an agricultural economist in his 80's, began speaking regularly. Levitt learned that Johnson's daughter was one of the first Americans to adopt a daughter from China. Soon the Levitts adopted a daughter of their own, whom they named Amanda. In addition to Amanda, they have since had a daughter, now almost 3, and a son. But Andrew's death has played on, in various ways. They have become close friends with the family of the little girl to whom they donated Andrew's liver. (They also donated his heart, but that baby died.) And not surprisingly for a scholar who pursues real-life subjects, the death also informed Levitt's work.
He and Jeannette joined a support group for grieving parents. Levitt was struck by how many children had drowned in swimming pools. They were the kinds of deaths that don't make the newspaper -- unlike, for instance, a child who dies while playing with a gun.
Levitt was curious and went looking for numbers that would tell the story. He wrote up the results as an op-ed article for The Chicago Sun-Times. It featured the sort of plangent counterintuition for which he has become famous: ''If you own a gun and have a swimming pool in the yard, the swimming pool is almost 100 times more likely to kill a child than the gun is.''
Trying to get his mind off death, Levitt took up a hobby: rehabbing and selling old houses in Oak Park, where he lives. This experience has led to yet another paper, about the real-estate market. It is his most Chicago-style paper yet, a romp in price theory, a sign that the university's influence on him is perhaps as strong as his influence on it. But Levitt being Levitt, it also deals with corruption.
While negotiating to buy old houses, he found that the seller's agent often encouraged him, albeit cagily, to underbid. This seemed odd: didn't the agent represent the seller's best interest? Then he thought more about the agent's role. Like many other ''experts'' (auto mechanics and stockbrokers come to mind), a real-estate agent is thought to know his field far better than a lay person. A homeowner is encouraged to trust the agent's information. So if the agent brings in a low offer and says it might just be the best the homeowner can expect, the homeowner tends to believe him. But the key, Levitt determined, lay in the fact that agents ''receive only a small share of the incremental profit when a house sells for a higher value.'' Like a stockbroker churning commissions or a bookie grabbing his vig, an agent was simply looking to make a deal, any deal. So he would push homeowners to sell too fast and too cheap.
Now if Levitt could only measure this effect. Once again, he found a clever mechanism. Using data from more than 50,000 home sales in Cook County, Ill., he compared the figures for homes owned by real-estate agents with those for homes for which they acted only as agents. The agents' homes stayed on the market about 10 days longer and sold for 2 percent more.
Late on a summer afternoon, Levitt is in his office, deep inside one of the university's Gothic behemoths. The ceiling is stained, the plaster around the window crumbling. He is just back from sabbatical at Stanford, and his desk is a holy mess: stacks of books and journals, a green sippy cup and a little orange squeeze hippo.
This is his afternoon to meet with students. Levitt drinks a Mountain Dew and talks softly. Some students come for research assignments, some for advice. One has just written her undergraduate thesis: ''The Labor Market Consequence of Graduating College in a Bad Economy.'' For a thesis, Levitt tells her, it's very good. But now she wants to have it published.
''You write like a college student, and that's a problem,'' he says. ''The thing is, you're telling a story. There's foreshadowing going on, all those tricks. You want the reader going down a particular path so when they get the results, they understand them and believe them. But you also want to be honest about your weaknesses. People are much less harsh on weaknesses that are clear than weaknesses that are hidden -- as they should be.''
Be honest about your weaknesses. Has there ever been a prize-winning scholar as honest about his weaknesses as Steven Levitt? He doesn't understand economics, he claims, or math. He's a little thinker in a world of big thinkers. He can't even open a jar of spaghetti sauce at home, poor guy.
Friends say that Levitt's self-deprecation is as calculated as it is genuine. Within academia, economists take pride in being the most cutthroat of a cutthroat breed. Anyone who writes papers on ''Weakest Link'' (contestants discriminate against Latino and elderly peers, Levitt concluded, but not blacks or women) and sumo (to best manage their tournament rankings, wrestlers often conspire to throw matches) had better not also be arrogant.
Or maybe it is not self-deprecation at all. Maybe it is self-flagellation. Maybe what Steven Levitt really wants is to graduate from his ''silly'' and ''trivial'' and ''shallow'' topics.
He thinks he's onto something with a new paper about black names. He wanted to know if someone with a distinctly black name suffers an economic penalty. His answer -- contrary to other recent research -- is no. But now he has a bigger question: Is black culture a cause of racial inequality or is it a consequence? For an economist, even for Levitt, this is new turf -- ''quantifying culture,'' he calls it. As a task, he finds it thorny, messy, perhaps impossible and deeply tantalizing.
Driving home to Oak Park that evening, his Cavalier glumly thrumming along the Eisenhower Expressway, he dutifully addresses his future. Leaving academia for a hedge fund or a government job does not interest him (though he might, on the side, start a company to catch cheating teachers). He is said to be at the top of every economics department's poaching list. But the tree he and Jeannette planted when Andrew died is getting too big to move. You get the feeling he may stay at Chicago awhile.
There are important problems, he says, that he feels ready to address.
For instance? ''Tax evasion. Money-laundering. I'd like to put together a set of tools that lets us catch terrorists. I mean, that's the goal. I don't necessarily know yet how I'd go about it. But given the right data, I have little doubt that I could figure out the answer.''
It might seem absurd for an economist to dream of catching terrorists. Just as it must have seemed absurd if you were a Chicago schoolteacher, called into an office and told that, ahem, the algorithms designed by that skinny man with thick glasses had determined that you are a cheater. And that you are being fired. Steven Levitt may not fully believe in himself, but he does believe in this: teachers and criminals and real-estate agents may lie, and politicians, and even C.I.A. analysts. But numbers don't.
Stephen J. Dubner is the author, most recently, of ''Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper.'' He is writing a book about the psychology of money.