Friday, February 8, 2008

To Colpetty along Cotta Road - Crossing the Lanes - Looking for the TigerLeopard

Long time ago, one day I was sitting in the front seat of a van getting a ride from a friend down a rare empty street in Colombo. At that time, I was fresh from some long overseas stay and very much struck by the reverse cultural shock. The tingling elements of “foreignness" made me capable of seeing things rather different - those insignificant things which we ignore now.

It was late in the evening and the winding road was quite empty other than the enigmatic shades. My friend was driving at a reasonable speed. And suddenly I noticed that we are cruising right across two lanes for such a long time.

As many of who know Sri Lanka would argue that I have noticed nothing important. Yet those alien elements tingling in me kept me thinking about it.

Road was practically empty. We were not doing any bad on speed meter. Curve of the bend is milder in the outer lane than in the middle. And it makes not much difference whether you take either of the lanes. So why is he driving right across them?

This is a question of no value. It is not a magic to see Sri Lankan auto-mobiles ignoring the white dotted lines quite often. But there is one important philosophy in the deep roots of it.

Let us get to it in a different angle. Let us consider a road in western world. There exists this empty winding road that you are travelling at a reasonable speed. Would you expect to see yourself across two lanes? I would not. Let me release the potential police punishments. Still not, to me, it won’t happen there.

Digging to the roots of a tale of this sort needs consideration of past many centuries. The elementary questions; Who brought vehicles? Who built roads? And most importantly who drew lane marks on them?

The culture and civilization that we embrace with or without our will is brought upon us in the hard way. Before the colonials came, we were a different nation of different habits. The fundamentals of the nation and its civilization were tuned at a different frequency and it never resonated with what we received from the visitors. There was technology before the colonials. There were tanks, canals, perhaps at a better precision than the tarred roads and its lane marks. Nevertheless we had no tarred roads, no cars or vans and definitely no lanes.

Western rulers enforced their system upon us. It was brought upon with the absolute humiliation of surrender. Despite how right it stood, how easy or advanced it would become the locals denied it in their hearts. They followed it scared of punishment, but despised it at their best. They were just forced to accept it.

And the colonials built roads, brought cars and vans and drew lanes. And then came the RULE that when you travel along THEIR road, in THEIR car or van you are NOT supposed to stray on THEIR lane marks. You ought to keep yourself within a lane unless you are changing it. So was THEIR RULE.

This does not justify the way we see it. The whole bloody thing is OURS. And it is not at all bad to learn a good habit from anyone. But the reality is that our people still find themselves so alien in complying to THEIR ways of life, be it right or wrong.

And then they left - leaving host of such rules in the hands of the confused local. So we have rules and we have a system. We have very much educated folks too. But it so happens that my friend, and many others, stray across the lanes when they drive. 

We do it in such a brainless fashion. Some friend once told me [WARNING: Rumours can be untrue] that every time you register a land ownership, there is an excess photocopy of the documents that nobody knows the use for. The unfortunate extra photocopy is equivalent to ancient hand-copied document sent to her "majestic" majesty. Sixty years after independence and thirty five years after kicking her majestic butt from the head of state position, we still make her copy.

There are lots of other confusions and habits we are left with, which we take for granted and switch off the reasoning modules. One is the weird system of cross-language place holders. Today's Singlish (the spoken dialect of Sinhala with an English icing top) is heavily affected with this. Some people think Sinhala "ne" means English "no" (I'm also addicted to this no). Also they think "will you" is the filling for sinhala "ko". They say, "vadi vennako" (meaning please sit) as "sit, will you". Fine, but when they want to say, "mama yannamko" (I will go) they use "I'll go, will you" and shoot the union jack point blank.

I'm not offended. I think that this is Sri Lankan English. If Aussies can have one, and Americans can have another why not us. So let that old lady tell the doctor "Standing sitting belly going medicine took took, still no good" (meaning “indala hitala bada yanawa. Beheth gaththa gaththa thawama Honda ne”).

Still I get bit offended when someone calls Kollupitiya as Colpetty or wallawatta as wEllawatta. I don't see any logic behind this. These are desperate attempts of the colonial rulers to spell out the simple sinhala words. Pretty stupid of us to continue those gibberish while we have seasoned tongues and lips for the original. And pathetically some think that the English translation of Kollupitiya is Colpetty!!!

We still have boards stating “Cotta Rd” which is read as "Kota" rd. For those who never bother which "Kota" lived on that road it never occurs that it is the way how colonials spelled Kotte rd. Hard luck.

Nevertheless, I’m little less confused or offended on the use of Galle (for Galla, which was written with wrong vowel), or Negombo or Batticaloa. Maybe the fallible human of myself is contradicting its own ideals. Fine. Let’s accept the Singlish cocktail all together.

Another mess is made upon the jungle bigcat with lots of nice spots on it. In Sinhala we call this lad Kotiya and Diviya. Lots of research by my pals in Avro group ( – a group debating nothingness and insignificance :)) left us still in cold on the differences of two names. I believe that both were interchangeably used for the spotted lad who is the only bigcat prowling in the dark jungle shades of Sri Lanka.

Came the Sudda named it “Tiger” whereas Tiger is not the spotted kitty. Tiger has stripes on it. It is called viyagraya (no no not the drug) in Sinhala and we have no traces of it ever taking citizenship in Sri Lanka. Had the initial English name been Leopard and problem would have never arisen. But thanks to whites who hardly knew the differences of the tropical bigcats, we now use a cocktail of translations between {tiger, leopard} set and {kotiya, diviya, viyagraya} set.


Colonials, thank you very much for the confusions. Locals, way to go - keep acting dumb and dumber, which makes your colonial masters laugh for another two centuries.

But these are very minute in fact, considering the rest, in example how we do politics, economy and multiculturalism.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Scientists predicted it. Science fiction writers exploited it. Doomsday fanatics may have lost sleep for it. And it seems to have come...

Planet Earth has reached its maximum utilization to produce food for the consumption of its human population. The basic threshold of supply and demand has been crossed in the bad way. And like anything else, market prices run havoc when it does so.

Well, before myself been stereo-typed for treading the steps of Nostra-Damus, let me give you some factual evidence.

In fact, for some time now, catastrophe indicators have been turning orange. Alas, a trip to a common market makes you wonder whether it should be called red alert now. After all, “It’s happening” as per the famous quote in “Day After Tomorrow”.

We, in Sri Lanka, are paying 255/- for a milk powder packet which was 162/- 2yrs ago. A kilogram of rice has risen from 42/- to 81/-. Bread also almost doubled. Government has been blaming the private sector monopoly holders and worldwide big game players for trying to put it in trouble deliberately. Opposition claims that the lack of planning in the part of Government, together with plenty of dirty plans for the crispy buck in the hidden stocks by their henchmen, as the reason for the chaos.

All these must very well be true. But underneath the Sri Lankan political bullshit, extra weak rupee and dirty business tricks, lies the rest of the ice berg – a worldwide food shortage caused by the historical threshold. We have filled the planet such heavily that there are more mouths to eat than hands to plough and most importantly lands for those hands to plough.

For the issue of lack of hands, is it really the fault of contemporary tech-savvy idiot? I remember my uncles doing some farming, in addition to their jobs and professions. Most of our previous generation did so. But do we? Well I do not. If you ask me why, you know, the usual day-today rat race, commitment for the profession, lack of land to do any farming , having an alternative way to support my family without farming, and oh the whole what not of reasoning. But underlying truth is that farming is no longer a habit of ordinary human beings. Farming has been restricted to a subset of our populations whereas we provide them what you call markets. And we eat out their handful of production.

Worsening the problem, there appeared a different competitor to go in head to head bidding with those big mouths that need food. With the instability and hike in petroleum sector, most food items such as corn are diverted for bio-fuel production. And when it comes to bidding we all know that auto-mobile sector has the stronger penny than those starving stomachs.

Global Warming also has a link to the topic here. Australia has been hit with droughts for half a decade now and they are thinking of taking off the term “drought” and calling it “climate change”. Unlike drought climate change will stay forever. West United States is in a severe shortage of water, some rivers shrinking to 40% of their usual output, mainly due to lack of snowing up in the hills, again due to the rise of mercury. Story may be the same in many other parts of the world, but unfortunately monitoring could be at lesser scale.

But I am a great fan of nature and think that children of nature are capable in riding on its own tides. My bigger concern is whether the dangerous threshold between harvest and consumption has been reached, and if so, whether we have a realistic solution.

Do we have a realistic solution? Fiction writers exploited the possibilities of energy pills to Chlorophyl transplanting, in a very wishful way of thinking that fiction writers do. But scientists have never (to my knowledge) thought out of the traditional box of higher yield per acre. Higher yield also has its constraints and unfortunately the problem is getting increasingly complex faster than the solution development. Topics like oceanic agriculture have been mostly talked out. But overall research in this area is not meeting the demand.

Research fails to meet the demand as the big buck has no role to play. A drug to cure a terminal disease can be sold at any price but a kilogram of rice or a loaf of bread cannot be. Food, being a mass consumer item, leaves its constraints for the big money lust. There is no point in investing for agrarian research. Food will never be a luxury item. And that, I think, is the key reason for not inventing consistent ways for food production than generations old toil of the ground.

And the real story is that we have blocked every possible ways that nature provides us to tackle this. Nature gives us many demons that keep the population away from erupting. Disease, wars, natural disasters, and all those catastrophic events have been keeping human head count at a manageable level. And most of them have been averted by the big global civilization that we dwell today.

Is this a stupid mistake of our civilization to develop mobile phones and internet but still produce food like Egyptians and Mesopotamians did? Or is it nature’s next method for population control? It is beyond my imagination how the increasing human population can tackle this problem, other than using it as a solution for the actual problem of population increase.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Virus

“However much we invent anti-virus…” paused my colleague with jitter. “…this particular category of virus can not be deleted entirely”.

I was waiting for his report for a long time. He has been assigned with this Virus Vigilance and Recovery program, I am to supervise his work.

“Did you find any files again?” I asked.

“Folders!!” He screamed with entire bandwidth. “Huge bundles of analog folders!!!”

“How many cases??” my tone did not have Surprise aspects in it. Well, we are very much used to it – too much I should say. Too much that we crash with Annoyance!!!

“There are three reported viruses all in the very same category spreading out in many parts of the world. Many of them are infected.”

“And all these are new cases?” I asked.

“Two are new, the other is already known. Age old one. Perhaps the simplest of all”

“Yeah I know that.” I said with all the Annoyance harmonics in entire frequency domain. The simplest is the hardest to eradicate, for simpler ones can spread easily.

“What about anti-virus? Do we have the records of the anti-virus for older one?”

“Certainly we do, but it appears to be a newly released version of that old virus. Existing anti-virus has to be enhanced to fight this case. As it’s obvious, for the two new viruses we need new anti-virus”

“Then give the instructions to the anti-virus teams. Get the infected ones scanned thoroughly. Segments of some virus remain to develop themselves into newer ones, you know…”

Of course he knows. He has been on this subject for too many ticks of time to know that.

“I have a suggestion…” he said instead. “… Is that all we can do? Can’t we enhance their system architecture to combat virus. Can’t we eradicate the virus all together by removing the vulnerability”.

Certainly, that would have been any body's Wish. But there are so many practical issues that my colleague may not know. Yet I was too Fatigue to explain them all to him.

“We would love to do that.” I said. “But in simple terms we do not know how. We have been spending a lot of time on this matter. But no-one has come up with a realistic solution”.

“Then why don’t we eliminate them all…” he responded immediately. “… All of them. There is no point of catching and running Punishment upon the creators of virus. Nor has it worked by running models of Prohibition on them. It just pops up every now and then. Let's just eliminate all of them. Of course we have Supremacy over them. They are our slaves!!!”

He went on without any break. Isn’t this fellow too much.

“No, we need them” I said plainly.

“Why can’t we live without them?”

Now this made glitches of Surprise on me. He should know why. He has been with this for too long.

“We need them because we simply can’t live without them. Without them our civilization will never improve. We have every rational aspect that modern brains have. But we lack Intuition. We simply borrow it from them”

“Is Intuition irrational?” he asked with a higher degree of Curiosity. “I heard that Creativity was regarded as irrational during early days.”

This is getting too far. I surely need a break. It is very hot here now. I am feeling the heat of the day's workload.

“Well, irrationality may be an unidentified rationality. You are correct on that. That is what they discovered when the Creativity was modeled into rational brains. But some unidentified segments of Creativity are yet to be modeled. Intuition is one of them”

“So is their Stupidity.” He barked. I have to accept my colleague is developing a certain degree of Hatred against them. But that is something you have to expect considering the Annoyance aspects. Annoyance calls Hatred. Helpless Hatred makes you sarcastic.

“But why can’t we bundle out the segments of their brains that are likely to get infected. Why can’t we cure it by blocking the possible logic paths?”

Now this is really getting too far. He could have gathered the answers elsewhere. It’s just some milliseconds of a search for him.

“We can not block them since they are the same paths where Intuition occurs. Same for the Stupidity too”

“But some of them never get infected. They never seem to lack Intuition though. Nor did they lack Stupidity for that matter!”

“We exploited that for a long time. In fact we made the mating pools purely with those better ones so that the newer generations will not have the vulnerability. But it never worked out. Our experts think that those better ones do posses the vulnerability but self reject this particular category of virus for reasons unknown. Perhaps they might get infected with viruses of different type. Perhaps that may not be properly monitored by our Virus Vigilance.”

“Oh…” He paused. I can Predict that he would disconnect soon. Relief started to flood the cells of my brain.

“I wish we can run Uninstall on them” he said finally.

I would love to conclude our conversation with the final order.

“Get them all to scanning stations and run the Recovery routines. Get the anti-virus teams to work on the two new viruses. Again activate Prohibition and Punishment routines. You know, those routines can slow down the progress of virus.”

“No, when Prohibition is run, Secrecy functions get underway. Punishment would increase the Popularity Coefficients and cause opposite effects”

Yes it would. But this is all we can do.

“Just do what I said.” I screamed at him.

“Bye Bye”

Finally I had to run the Supremacy routines to get him out of channel. Fortunately, Supremacy never waits for acknowledgments.

It’s been too late and too hot. Time for me to take a break.

“Oh, Homo Sapiens Sapiens…” I said to myself before I go to Standby mode. “Please give us a break. Please give up this virus called religion!!!”

Global Confusion

“Ugh, it’s pretty warm for a spring evening”

The man next to me mumbled. We were waiting for the bus scheduled at 17.10. It was late roughly for about half an hour - quite unexpected from American Metropolitan transport services.

“You know it is all connected...”

He spoke to nobody in particular. But it so happened that everyone else in the bus stop were further away for a healthy conversation with him, leaving myself in his verbal custody.

“It's all happening now...”

I tried to ignore him. It is not common for the strangers to talk with you in this part of the world, particularly without any personal reason.

“... I've been taking the bus for past seventeen years. Never been this late. We've got the next one almost due now...”

He kept on talking. Since it is Sunday, next bus is due in forty minutes interval. Buses run sparsely on Sundays. But today they run late too.

“This damned bus is taking my life time. Oh... It's all happening now. Because of Global Warming!”

Global Warming... and the bus delay? That sounded like hot chocolate and Mount Everest to me. For the first time I glanced at him.

He was a middle aged man with spectacles. His grey hair has lost its territory in most parts of his head. A denim trouser, leather boots and a shirt which can be from any corner of the town - nothing special registered with me.

“Ugh, this heat.”

He ignored my gaze unbuttoning his shirt and blowing some air for his own comfort. It was not such a hot day, but pretty hot for this time of the year.

“You know. Mankind is destroying this planet. It is so wrong and unfair to take the nature at our hostage”

I'd have liked this conversation at the university coffee shop. But when it happens at the bus stop I am quite reluctant.

“... Glaciers are melting” he almost whispered at me. It was not easy to ignore.

“I've heard so” I answered with a signature of don't care encrypted on it. Where is this bus?

“You WHAT?” He screamed. “I have seen it.”

And he continued.

“Yeah, I saw it when I last visited Alaska and Greenland. Most of the areas that were under thick ice are growing plants now. Real Estate man! You can build your own house if you like”

“Do you visit Arctics often?”

“Oh yes. I do”

“Well, for me, all I get is the news from media. Planet is surely warming. And mankind is responsible for it”

“Oh yes, in a very big way”

“Are you a scientist?” curiosity overwhelmed me.

“Not the laboratory type” he answered. Laboratory type! So there is another type. He continued.

“I'm an amateur scientist. A field volunteer”


“Those laboratory scientists you know, they spread myth.” he whispered again.

“Yeah” my tone never meant it.

“You never believe me, ha?” he picked it.

“They say that man is coming down from the monkey. And Monkey comes a long way down from the basic bacteria”

He waited smiling, perhaps expecting me to join him at some point.

“Are you a creationist?” I asked instead.

“No not really”, he said. “Some Sundays I go to Church, if that is enough to qualify...” he laughed with a pause.

“... No, I didn't mean that. But who knows, it is so unbelievable for me that man came from monkey, even hard that monkey came from bacteria”

“That's proved science”

“Laboratory science my man... Laboratory science” He corrected me.

An entire slide show of news leads, school board meetings, public protests, court cases ran through my mind. It is unbelievable how the wealthiest nation with money and knowledge misses out simple understanding.

“All right, so let's not argue about it”

I was fortunate only for a couple of minutes. He opened up again.

“A thunderstorm is forecast tonight. Maybe the bus driver is worried about return journey” he said.

“They have never been so. I think we have good transport services in this part”

“Who knows. It has never been this hot in early spring anyway...”

“... you know it's all happening now. With Warming comes chaos. Total anarchy”

I started wondering whether I'm talking to a retired Hollywood script writer.

“You said you're a scientist. Do you have proof for the relationship of Global Warming and all the other events that you mention?”

“Yes I do...” he said plainly.

“... but not the paper proof, you know. I'm not a laboratory scientist.”

Another pause.

“And there has never been a thunderstorm in this time of the year”

“I think the increase of temperature causes it all” I said to fill the blank. I'm getting addicted to this conversation now, not that I like it in a big way.

Global Warming causes it, yes, the sin of the mankind”

“So what is your suggestion for it?”

“Protect the glaciers, you know, very simple”

“I thought you ought to reduce CO2 emissions in order to do that”

“Oh my my. Laboratory science. What a mislead” he laughed at me. I was dumbfounded. He went on.

“It is the melting of those glaciers man...”

“... Planet Earth had enough refrigeration. It will remain, had it not for mankind. Glaciers are melting now. What happens when all ice melts? Up goes the mercury”

He presented better than a Wall Street economist.

“But what makes it hot is the CO2, isn't it? And that increase of temperature causes ice melting”

I stated. He laughed at me again.

“Didn't I tell you? Laboratory scientists spread myth. Ask from a man in the field like me”

“OK then what causes the rise of temperature?”

“The melting of ice” he stated plainly.

“Then what causes the melting of ice?”

“The rise of temperature...”

“Ugh. Circularly caused?” I said.

“You're a genius young man. I know where you're heading. But you ought to learn more science. That's what they call positive feedback. A little chunk of ice melts. Up goes the mercury a bit. A little more ice. A little high mercury. And it continues until they build a city on North pole!!”

City on North pole!!! I gave up. But he continued.

“... and all this is because of humans. They cause it all. They are destroying this planet”

I took a moment. But I'm so much involved in this conversation now. Curiosity is taking its toll on me.

“Your visits to Arctics. Do you sponsor yourself?”

“We've got an organization going. Well, I spend some money too”

“What is your objective? Scientific expeditions?”

“No not really. Mostly leisure activities ...”

“... such as bear hunting and seal hunting !!!”

“And you talk about conservation?” I regretted the question right after I fired it.

“Oh yes. Conservation of glaciers. That is the problem we face now”

A warm breeze blew across the town twisting a rare flank of dust. Weather forecasts rarely fail in this part. It’s time to think of alternative transport.

“Do you think it is wise waiting here anymore?” I asked him, expecting that he would.

“Well, I think I'd wait a bit more. You can take the taxi if you like” he showed me a taxi parked at distance and continued.

“I don't take taxis now. The fare is ever on the hike. The fuel costs. The barrel is past hundred now...”

I waved at the taxi, which didn't take much time. My newly found friend yelled at me as I got in the taxi.

“You know why the barrel hit the hundred? Global Warming. That's why”