Sunday, October 31, 2010

What to Do Now to Feel Better at 100

"If you begin a daily walking program at age 45, he said, you could delay immobility to 90 and beyond. If you become a couch potato at 45 and remain so, immobility can encroach as early as 60."

"The good news is that the age of immobility can be modified. As life expectancy rises and more people live to celebrate their 100th birthday, postponing the time when physical independence can no longer be maintained is a goal worth striving for."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Where IT Workers Must Go Next

"...what we think of IT today is going to change dramatically very soon. The new IT will about cloud solutions and mobile technologies that deliver a whole new set of capabilities and possibilities for interconnected workers.

IT departments will have a lot of work in front of them soon if they are to provide the kinds of solutions and integration required of them. They will need to be able to connect numerous cloud solutions together as well as connect these to on-premise applications and data stores. But, what could be more jarring will be their need to connect data from these various cloud solutions to numerous hand-held and portable Internet devices that employees, customers, suppliers and other systems constituencies will use to access tomorrow’s corporate data."

"Cell Phone" in 1928 Charlie Chaplin Movie

Video Link:

Whole world seems to have already watched this video. The lady talking with a cell phone in 1928 Charlie Chaplin movie. I have watched it a couple of times. It's strange. Cell phone itself is not an isolated device, it needs cell phone tower and other networking mechanics in place to have it worked, at least that's how today's cell phone works. Unless this "cell phone"of 1928 could also transmit through time, it would have to be completely different and superior technology than our twenty first century understanding reveals. Here is a comment on this topic: "....the no cell towers theory lets me see how small-minded a lot of people can be in relation to the subject. The fact that the video is focusing on what could be a time traveller, should instantly point out that if that someone had the technology and ability to do so, then they would also have the technology to communicate without the needs we have today for mobile networks."

Though the possibility is that the person in this movie is simply talking to himself or herself, just holding her left ear with an ear device, but as the video producer and the first identifier of this snippet George Clarke addresses, the way the device was on hold by left fingers and palm, it seems to be identical way most of us hold a cell phone while talking over it.

This is a mystery of possible time traveling. Or a clever video forgery.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"poetry cannot be made to fit either religion or ideology" - Adonis

Charles McGrath's article on Poet Adonis whose real name is Ali Ahmad Said Esber illuminates some of the thinking of this internationally well known poet, though in North America, his name is not as famous as it should have been. Few extracts are shown below where this secularized poet talks about poetry, paralyzed culture, and the meaning of reading of poetry:
"He is an outspoken secularist, equally critical of the East and West, and a poetic revolutionary of sorts who has tried to liberate Arabic verse from its traditional forms and subject matter."

"Poetry for him is not merely a genre or an art form but a way of thinking, something almost like mystical revelation. “Poetry cannot be made to fit either religion or ideology,” he said in the talk. “It offers that knowledge which is explosive and surprising.”  
"He went on to complain about what he called the “retardation” of contemporary Arabic poetry, which in his view has become a rhetorical tool for celebrating and explaining the political and religious status quo. In the Islamist scheme, he said, there is not much place for poetry, because Islam assumes that with the Koran knowledge is complete and there is nothing left to add."

"Over lunch, Adonis remarked with a shake of his head that the situation of poetry in the West was not a whole lot better, marginalized not so much by religion or ideology but by the media and pop culture."

“I wanted to break the linearity of poetic text — to mess with it, if you will. The poem is meant to be a network rather than a single rope of thought.” 

“Every artist is an exile within his own language,” he said. “The Other is part of my inner being.” 

“Happiness and sadness are two drops of dew on your forehead,” he writes, “and life is an orchard where the seasons stroll.”  
“Right now we feel Arab culture is paralyzed. We suffer from women’s sense of their lack of freedom, of being deprived of their individualism. It’s impossible for a culture to progress with men alone, without women being involved.” 

Poetry cannot change society,” Adonis said. “Poetry can only change the notion of relationships between things. Culture cannot change without a change in institutions.” But to the criticism that poetry was an insufficiently popular form he replied: “Poetry that reaches all the people is essentially superficial. Real poetry requires effort because it requires the reader to become, like the poet, a creator. Reading is not reception.” He smiled and added, “I suggest you change your relationship to poetry and art in general.”  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What does procrastination tell us about ourselves?

"...even Nobel-winning economists procrastinate! Many of us go through life with an array of undone tasks, large and small, nibbling at our conscience.....procrastination might be more than just a bad habit. He argued that it revealed something important about the limits of rational thinking and that it could teach useful lessons about phenomena as diverse as substance abuse and savings habits......procrastination is a basic human impulse, but anxiety about it as a serious problem seems to have emerged in the early modern era.

"Piers Steel defines procrastination as willingly deferring something even though you expect the delay to make you worse off. In other words, if you’re simply saying “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” you’re not really procrastinating. Knowingly delaying because you think that’s the most efficient use of your time doesn’t count, either. The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing, a mental contortion that surely accounts for the great psychic toll the habit takes on people. This is the perplexing thing about procrastination: although it seems to involve avoiding unpleasant tasks, indulging in it generally doesn’t make people happy."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"....because I can be anything." - Naheed Nenshi

“My greatest hope is that this morning … kids from across the city – northeast to southwest, every ethnicity, every income level, every neighbourhood, every single one of those kids – say, ‘what a country we live in, what a city we live in, because I can be anything.’” - Naheed Nenshi
Didn't know anything about Naheed Nenshi only a few days ago. It was just a local municipal election in Calgary, but seems to be history making in the province of Alberta. His win as a member of visible minority in a city quite unfairly reputed to be too conservative has shattered that myth. Perhaps this is the moment of progressive movement in this city of Chinook and Stampede.

An articulate charming man with stellar resume supported by his prestigious degrees from University of Calgary and Harvard University, upper level consulting experiences in a corporation and United Nations, had put him far above the league from the other candidates, though, it was not only a few days ago before the election, the momentum had started shifting toward his smartly run campaign.

Perhaps Mr Naheed Nenshi is no Barak Obama, but he has huge potential realizing dreams and hopes of many Calgarians in a collaborative city council (hoping), resolving myriads of problems this increasingly diverse city is facing.

The following article published in The Globe and Mail gives a good glimpse of this new and energetic leader of Alberta:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We can prevent the next Darfur

Echoing George Clooney and John Prendergast's words in The Washington Post article: "Usually, the world responds only after wars begin, spending billions of dollars to mop up humanitarian catastrophes". So unfortunate, but so true! This had happened before, in Darfur, in Congo, Rwanda and many other places. Now it is Abyei, "about the size of Connecticut", may become "a flashpoint for world's next genocide. U.S. intelligence officials have already said that southern Sudan is the region of the globe most at risk of mass killing or genocide in the coming year."
On Jan. 9, just 84 days from now, the people of southern Sudan and of the disputed region of Abyei -- which straddles northern and southern Sudan -- will vote in referendums on self-determination. If held freely and fairly, these votes will result in an independent, oil-rich Southern Sudan. If not, the catastrophic war between the north and the south that ended in 2005, after 2.5 million deaths, could resume."
Link to The Washington Post Article: We Can Prevent the Next Darfur

The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris

I do not agree with all the polemic ideas the writer Sam Harris divulges in his recent books, and some of them seems to me not conducive to a tolerant world in its most practical contemporary achievable term. However, some of his thoughts have merits, and one of them regarding the Utopian concept of "global civilization" is extracted from his interview in Salon below:
In your book, you mention a "global civilization" several times. You also wrote, "Human beings should eventually converge in their moral judgments." What do you mean by a global civilization?
I think we must form a global civilization. We have no choice. We have a global economy, we have a single environment, we have infectious disease that spreads with every airplane flight. The question is, How do we create a civilization in which the greatest proportion of people can thrive, and in which the causes for war become distant memories? Within a nation-state, wars can be a distant memory. The likelihood of a war between Vermont and Florida seems incredibly remote. Why is that? We understand the stability of a single state. We need to engineer a similar degree of stability at the international level. There has to be a way to enforce international law.
 Link to Salon Article: The Moral Landscape: Why science should shape morality

Expenditure Cascades and Rising Inequality

No prevalent evidence suggests that rising inequality amongst world populace is bringing well-being of humanity. Still, lack of well thought out long term policy is exacerbating inequality that possibly has direct link to financial distress and meltdown. Cornell University professor Robert H. Frank's article in The New York Times points out a few facts that may need refresher from time to time:
"rising inequality has created enormous losses and few gains, even for its ostensible beneficiaries"

"People do not exist in a social vacuum. Community norms define clear expectations about what people should spend on interview suits and birthday parties. Rising inequality has thus spawned a multitude of “expenditure cascades,” whose first step is increased spending by top earners."
"The rich have been spending more simply because they have so much extra money. Their spending shifts the frame of reference that shapes the demands of those just below them, who travel in overlapping social circles. So this second group, too, spends more, which shifts the frame of reference for the group just below it, and so on, all the way down the income ladder. These cascades have made it substantially more expensive for middle-class families to achieve basic financial goals."

"The counties where income inequality grew fastest also showed the biggest increases in symptoms of financial distress."

"Divorce rates are another reliable indicator of financial distress, as marriage counselors report that a high proportion of couples they see are experiencing significant financial problems. The counties with the biggest increases in inequality also reported the largest increases in divorce rates."

"Another footprint of financial distress is long commute times, because families who are short on cash often try to make ends meet by moving to where housing is cheaper — in many cases, farther from work."
Link to the full article:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Philip Roth’s late-career output staccato bursts of urgent, short books

Quite possibly Philip Roth is one of the greatest living writers. Shamefully I admit, only one book of his I've read so far out of his 31 books, and the two I did start but did not finish reading for my own fault. The one that I'd read a few years ago, titled "The Plot Against America", I found to be superbly written, a fast paced story plot where the writer had created an alternate world but so strikingly and shockingly similar to today's world of shattering indifference and inflated bigotry, I knew then, as I know now, writings of Philip Roth so eloquently brings home the meaning of humanity, without prejudice.

Not sure how and what criteria the Nobel committee applies selecting their yearly prize winner in literature, and definitely this year's winner Mario Vargas Llosa is indeed "a true man of letters" and worthy of this prestigious award, the absence of now 77 year old Philip Roth from the long list of Nobel laureates does seem to me preposterous to the least. This prolific writer does not care whether he wins or not, as he has won many other awards in literature, continue to write "eight hours a day, mainly sitting at a desk rather than standing full-time at a lectern as he once did, but always going. What he would like, Roth says, is to keep writing one long book till he died.“That would be nice,” he says. “I would love to get a big idea and just keep writing until I left it unfinished. It would just go as long as I was breathing. But I don’t seem to be able to find it.” 

About the rapidly diminishing readership of literature he says, “The novel’s not going to disappear,” he says. “What’s already begun to disappear, and has been disappearing for years, is the readership.” He blames the screens. “It began with the movie screen, then the television screen, and the nail in the coffin was the computer screen. There’s no competing against that.”He complains about friends who used to read and now “watch a movie every night – crap most of the time.” There’s no time left for the book, and the book’s time is over. “So I think it’s going to be pretty bad for our children.”

Philip Roth's social purpose is clear: “I just try to write the book I can, to write as well as I can,” Roth says. “That’s the social purpose – to write as well as you can.”

He does write as well as he can, that is possibly among the best in our contemporary world. Whether he cares or not, this humble reader wants to see Philip Roth's name in the long list of Nobel laureates before it is too late.

Link to an article on Philip Roth:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Triumph of Hope Over Despair

"The miners' resurrection carries with it all sorts of symbolism, and all of it positive. We, as individuals, or indeed collectively as the human race, are only able to do too little, too late for the victims of natural disasters and wars around the globe, but here, for once, is a hellish situation where there is a solution."

Link to article:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kathleen Parker's Article on The Economic Crisis

The article Kathleen Parker wrote in The Washington Post on October 13 on the current global economic crisis, has some shocking points, especially the following:
"...the cozy relationship between Wall Street and Ivy League academia, wherein economists push policies that benefit them financially, is eye-opening. In some cases, business professors and economists at America's top schools were shown to have conflicts of interest as they advanced policies for which they had been paid directly or that otherwise benefited them"
I still don't know what to get out of it and other points that the writer of this article claimed might have contributed on this crisis. It feels strange reading the story of "culpability"and collusion from public officials, for whom the highest form of trust was put upon by their constituents. Reading this mind numbing article, the title of Joseph Conrad's more than a hundred year old novel comes to mind, "The Heart of Darkness", where the author depicted the brutal exploitations of human beings for the sole reasons of unabashed greed. Sometimes, the real life events can surely overcome the crafted plot of a novel. A rigged game, in the field of cricket or in the abuses of market system, brings sadness and the profundity of human inherent weakness from greed, that can only be kept in check by pristine regulations and laws. When the policies behind these regulations and laws themselves are scammed, what is the solution then?

Article link:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic

Sometimes I think about the generation of my grandparents. Their generation never had the glimpse of today's ubiquitous Internet technologies, never heard of the cell phones, IPad, Kindle, and other technologies. Cars were there, but not as abundant as the modern world, and not as powerful and luxury ridden. The new generation that I belong to, and the next generation that is coming after, are part of this technological revolutions, that seems to be progressing in breakneck speed, ripping apart all the traditional leaps and bound.

If and when Google and others' initiatives on building autonomous cars that will someday drive itself without any single human intervention, it will be one of the game changer of our world, "they can transform society as profoundly as the Internet has". Why is it so? Here is an extract from an article published in The New York Times, "Robot drivers react faster than humans, have 360-degree perception and do not get distracted, sleepy or intoxicated, the engineers argue. They speak in terms of lives saved and injuries avoided — more than 37,000 people died in car accidents in the United States in 2008. The engineers say the technology could double the capacity of roads by allowing cars to drive more safely while closer together. Because the robot cars would eventually be less likely to crash, they could be built lighter, reducing fuel consumption".

Reducing the fuel consumption is the key word. And if these autonomous car can derive the energy from the almost infinite solar source, it will indeed have lasting impact on global warming. Whether the boasting human beings have enough time to reverse the onslaught of environmental catastrophe that is surely on the path to be unfolded with unimaginable disastrous consequences of global proportions, will depend on the collaborative global policy and its implementation. Perhaps, the world needs more "Google" and "Google" type initiatives to continue and progress the human civilization as we know of.

Link to article:

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Trading Places

"China is about to overtake Japan in patent applications"- that seems to me the part of an on going seismic shift in the dynamics between two fiercely competing nations.

Here is an extract from The Economist article:
"Patents are a crude but useful measure of innovation. The change shows that Chinese inventors are developing a stake in intellectual-property protection, which is welcome. And because national patents protect the technologies of foreign firms too, the trend reflects how global companies are ploughing into China as a market and a manufacturing base. Even Japanese firms have increased their patent filings in China but decreased them at home."


Saturday, October 02, 2010

"Disruptive Technology" - Google CEO's Comments

Comment from Google CEO Eric Schmidt: "America's research universities are the envy on the world," he said. "We have 90 percent of the top researchers in the world. We also have a bizarre policy to train people and then kick them out by not giving them visas, which makes no sense at all"....."Schmidt envisions a future where we embrace a larger role for machines and technology. "With your permission you give us more information about you, about your friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches," he said. "We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about."


Khan Academy - Tremendous!

Now that the creator of Khan Academy got Google's 2 million dollar award and is getting more attentions from the major news media, this fabulous site with tremendous prospect should reach more students in every corner of our globe. The selection of video tutorial is growing, and the samples of them I've viewed are to the point and like sitting with a tutor beside me.


Mohsin Hamid's Short Story in Granta

He is a good writer. Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist was a slender but very well crafted novel. Fast pace and vivid imagery, sprinkled with beautifully constructed sentences and passages. In its latest issue, Granta has published Mohsin Hamid's short story, title "A Beheading". Only a few pages long this story is, but again the writer was on the mark describing scenes of macabre in utmost detail and sensibility.

Story Link:

Technology and Brain

"....more research was needed to know whether technology was causing significant changes in the brain. "We know nothing at all about how the developing brain is being influenced by video games or social networking and so on."