Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Tangled Web of Technology

The Tangled Web of Technology
[extracted from IDG Connect]

Sunday Morning Sermon – May 26 2013

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

Little did Walter Scott realise in 1808, when he wrote the poem, Marmion, to commemorate the battle at Flodden Field, that this quotation would inspire a commentary on the relationship between politics and technology over 200 years later.

But, if you think about it, that simple and single line encompasses so many of the issues relevant to the spread (or lack of it) of technology across the continents. Without a doubt, the “web” is tangled. In Scott’s time, the telegraph was still in the experimental stage. Here we are, a few leaps and bounds later, able to use wires, fibre, wireless, microwaves and satellites to communicate at the speed of light across unimaginable distances. It has become quite normal for the majority of the world’s population to carry a portable communications device in their shirt pocket.

All of this wonderful innovation has opened massive doors of opportunity. Our world is shrinking, as we are better able to understand how it works and how we contribute to its preservation and benefit from sustainable use of its resources. In the last 200 years, the planet has been able to support population growth from 1 billion to 7 billion people, largely thanks to the application of technology and innovation across the broad range of human activities. 5 billion of those new members of the community arrived in the last 50 years. Amazing!

So, the “tangled web” has helped us to feed more, employ more, and house more people. And, yes, increase the number of hungry, unemployed and homeless, too. Is this where the “practice to deceive” comes in?

In a way, it does. Human communities have evolved complex methods of managing themselves – preferring to hand power to politicians, rather than taking personal responsibility for sharing the tasks of community management. Politicians have to justify the power they have by exercising it – creating rules and regulations for others to live by and penalties for failure. William Pitt the Elder (he was British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778) recognized the “power problem” when he said, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”

How true! Although it is a “no-brainer” in the 21st Century the rapid spread of technology is the fastest enabler of increased economic activity and social well-being, many of our politicians (and their bureaucrat cronies) who are busy doing nothing to advance progress. Far too many of the structures that are created to facilitate innovation and communication become the immovable barriers that prevent the willing and able from moving onwards and upwards.

From the highest level of governance to your local municipality, everything must be viewed with suspicion, licensed, regulated, taxed, controlled, discussed, documented, revised, prevented – you name it and the politicians will engage with it. The deception is that we stop progress in the name of progress.

It is time that we, the people of the third world, demanded that our politicians take their hands off the tangled web of technology, so that we can all benefit from the advantages of affordable access.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

V-Day or M-Day?

Sunday Morning Sermon - May 22 2013

While many lion heart citizens of Sri Lanka will celebrate V-Day today, the Diaspora  overseas will be mourning their cause for having lost the war and their cherished dream of a separate homeland in the North.

Wars may be won or lost on paper. Its the battles that define the outcome on the ground. At the end of the day there are no real winners. All parties are losers.

The many battles fought to establish an Eelam for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka were won and lost over 30 long years of pain, suffering, struggles, and hardship. The final battle that conclude on this day only eliminated the head. The mindset of the remaining Diaspora still think and believe that their hopes for a homeland are still alive. Many of them were not even born in the island. Some have never even visited. All they are aware of is what their elders have put into their heads. hatred, hatred, and more hatred.

Israel may have won the 1967 war with the Arabs. Yet, they still do not have peace on the ground 46 years after. Is it really worth killing for this elusive peace? For how long?

Is there a methodology available to win a Peace instead of a War?

I think enough is enough. Both sides need to stop the cackle and get on the ground and execute something more valuable for the people rather than seek to score brownie points in Geneva or the Commonwealth. The western media has poured oil on to the fire, sadly. Whatever their agenda may be. Only they know why. Its like asking why Fox news bashes Arabs and Islam all of the time?

When WWII was ended with the final landing at Normandy the international community proclaimed that the war was over. Was it really? yes, the battles were all won but the war was never over. It still goes on.

Russia became the cold war enemy. China followed suit. Vietnam began. The Koreas jumped in. Palestine continued unabated and is still burning to date. Africa erupted. AlQaeda popped its ugly head. The Taleban was born. Iraq and Afghanistan joined the party. The Arab spring awoke. The BBS has risen from its monastic slumber. And the battles go on. The fires are still burning.

Wars are never ended. They simply go on and on and on.

On top of it all the Mudalali's keep smiling all the way to their banks.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Minding the Mind

Sunday Morning Sermon May 12, 2013

Stress has become an uncontrollable epidemic in modern times. It’s so widespread, we often don’t even notice it. It’s just a part of everyday life. Yet it can sap our energy, vitality and zest for life if we’re not careful. It also leads to heart disease and many other chronic health disorders.

Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful tool for dealing with and handling workplace stress. It's a simple method of being mindful about your inner self. It can help you eliminate internal resistance, so you can meet life’s problems as exciting challenges rather than as taxing crises. 

Before I jump into my usual bustle of my work day, I try to spend 10 to 15 minutes centering entirely on myself. 
I use my favorite mindfulness practice to bring me into the present moment. The key here is in non-attachment. Let go of everything. Experience the present moment as it is. I use Music while driving, its a super way to get there. Takes me around 15 minutes to get to work from home. Not a care in the world, I simply zoom through the wind on the highways of Riyadh singing along. Nothing else matters during this short lapse of time between leaving home and getting to work.
Once I am in the deep end of a project chore at work I try to pause at least twice within the day to spend some time on my own choice of mindfulness. 

Even just two minutes can transform the whole day. Anytime you find yourself feeling stressed, take a minute to be mindful. My work day is 8 am to 12 Noon. I chat online regularly in the midst of my work day. Facebook, Twitter, email, are all useful technological tools to take my mind away from work and step out into my inner self for a while. 
Doesnt have to be anyone in particular. Any form of chat will do. I chat politics, religion, health, music, halal, food, weather, naughty stuff, BBS. Takes the stress right out of my insides. 

It’s also very easy to take stress back home, from the workday, with us. Spending a 15 to 30 minutes on any mindful exercise of our choice at the end of the work day can be a great way to cleanly separate the work related stress from the rest of our life. My grand kids provide this little bit of peace for me when I am home. I spend some quality time with them. Sometimes even 2 hours since I have two teens to deal with although one is only here on summer vacations since 2012. You can choose whatever you desire. Just let it be out of the box and unrelated to work or business. 

The key in seeking out and achieving what state of mindfulness is usefyl for oneself is doing something that does not require any stressful physical or mental activity during that period. It has to come from your insides and it has to be real. The ideal catalyst to get there is to drop everything else from grocery bills to mortgage payments, in your mind. Forget about the next lingerie export order. Hang the pest control need that Mrs Karunaratne is waiting for tomorrow. Dismiss all those patients who will come to see you the next day, from your mind. The Meenachees will pluck the tea. The hotel will run, remember? Even if the computer system crashes it will come up again. The sun will continue to shine and give us Its valuable solar energy until Thy Kingdom Come. 

Mindfulness can be the key to happiness. It's an ideal panacea to remove the stresses and strains of life.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cultural Conundrums in Canada

Cultural Conundrums in Canada

My grand daughter, Maria (18+), just arrived in Riyadh from Toronto on her summer holidays after spending a 10 day short stint in Huston, Texas with one of her ex classmates from Riyadh who is presently studying in campus in USA.

We are enjoying a great discourse on her experiences, travel, campus life, cultural sharing and it would be interesting to share some of her stories with you guys, too.

First, she thinks America is awesome compared to Canada. She says the infrastructure in USA is only an extension of her life  spent in Saudi with all the restrictions removed. Canada, she says is just another Sri Lanka with some icing on top. She vows to move to USA after completing her  education.

Her lab life at campus is also an interesting one to discuss. She has to work with different lab partners on each assignment they are given. 

The Saudi guy who was once her partner was extremely kind and accommodating. He even carried her books, laptop, and other gear for her all the way to the cafeteria and ordered the food and fetched it all by himself. It was no surprise for her cos thats how Saudi women demand treatment from their men. 

The Iranian guy was a total wreck. he seemed to think that she cannot complete her assignment by herself cos she's incompetent and hence he would do it for her. She told him off and proved to him that she could and even ended up getting a better result than him. He was totally cheesed off.

Her colleague, Raj (a female Tamil gal of SL origin who was born in Toronto) also had an Iranian lab partner and she was unable to handle the dude and let him do the project for her. Maria said she was shocked at Raj's attitude.

Then she met Raj's fiance. Another SL Tamil Canadian born dude. He was like a Maharajah, she says. He sits at the cafeteria table while Raj carries all his books, laptop and hangs on to his pizza walking down the stairs, struggling not to fall down to pieces with all that stuff loaded on her back. Her bf sits smiling at the table. When Maria points out to him showing the dilemma that her friend Raj is having and then tells the dude in no uncertain terms to go and help her, he reluctantly walks up and does her bidding, not showing any embarrassment or remorse at all. What kind of kids are the Tamil diaspora breeding in Toronto?

I was amazed!

Maria also shops in an Asian market in the Scarborough area which is frequently patronized by the Tamil Diaspora. She says she has a hard time parking and pulling out as the dudes simply dont care about how they park their vehicles, in front, behind, or even alongside hers. She, on several occasions, had given them a piece of her mind and they are all amazed that a Sri Lankan origin gal in Hijab should tell them off. The Tamil gals are too timid and oppressed by their male counterparts, she says. Nothing has changed, even in Canada, it seems.

The University has a special "Women in Need" area fully staffed to manage all types of issues that women face in and out of campus. These include rape, stalking, gender bias, abuse, and other forms of hostility. When Maria first encountered this she was simply shocked that this type  of need exists in a developed nation. All she has heard from the media during her first 18 years of life in Saudi has been that it is the Arabs who treat their women badly.

Guess we learn something new every day?

Even in the supermarkets, she says that it is the ladies who push the cart and carry all the stuff, including the babies. In Saudi, it is the men, or the maids, who do all that. The wives will never lift a finger.

So, the gal is learning what life is all about on the other side of the planet, the hard way. She is smarty pants and a tough cookie who will call a spade a spade and wont blink an eye, even if she was raised in the burning desert sands.

The Americans, she claims are extremely friendly compared to the Canadians, white, black, brown, and even the diaspora.

Maria has several SL origin Tamil's in her class. All of them born in Canada. many of them whose origins are from Jaffna treat Colombo as the enemy. Knowing that her family originates from Colombo they boycott her completely. The brainwashing that the parents are showering upon their children is horrifying. What will they all turn out to become when they are in their 30's and 40's? Unimaginable but scary too.

Having led a very easy going and peaceful life in Saudi all these new adventures are opening her eyes to the real world out there. She is learning and it will be valuable for her future when she chooses to spend the rest of her days in the west.

English language competency among her colleagues is awful she states. They all speak their native tongues at home. Especially the Tamil Diaspora. And they even try to taunt her for her inability to speak Tamil or even Sinhala. 

We drove to the local Computer shop last evening and I got her the latest Macbook Pro which she is busy setting up, right now as we speak, seated behind me at home.

Yes, Grand kids are wonderful.
Yes, We enjoy them very much.
Yes, they lean on their Grand Parents a lot.
Yes, we also learn a lot from their experiences.

I am sure she has lots more to tell me through the 2 months she will spend with us in Riyadh. It will be tough for me to see her leave once more, but she has got to do what she has got to do.