Archive for category Living Life

The Institution of Marriage

I was reading an article about the so called “leftover women” in China. The article was interesting because it mentions a figure of 34 million surplus men in China. Basically, there are 34 million more men in China and there are “leftover women”. Interesting paradox you would assume so the article should have more about what it is about these “leftover women”.

The ladies interviewed for the article (and the following documentary) are highly educated are financially secure. It would be wrong not to take into account what the article refers to as a “chauvinistic society” in China while trying to understand the paradoxical problem of “leftover women” while there are an excess of men in the society.

My main interest in this comes from a couple of points:

  • Marriage
  • Compatibility
  • Nature of Society

Marriage

I have asked a couple of married people why they are married and did the same with those aspiring to be married. The answers I have gotten so far are adequate for those who are married and those who are about to get married. The answers can range from human beings are not suppose to be alone to what society expects. However, none of those answers reveal the fundamental personal motivation for it.

For sometime, I have considered the human beings are not suppose to be alone. The ultimate goal of not being alone should much up to the kind of effort and dedication that a marriage requires – regardless of the ups and downs that are sure to come along the way. You just can’t revert back to being alone – that is not the purpose of marriage.

Don’t get it wrong, the presence of a father and mother is hugely important to raising children but that does not constitute enough reason for marriage. Consider marriages that have resulted in divorce; divorces have happened whether there are children or not. The fundamental notion is that marriage is not about the children but the two people who enter into it. Children do add value to the marriage and make it meaningful as life objective but the motivation of the two people in the marriage matters more.

Not being alone seems to be a legitimate desire to have and as such basically provide each other with companionship and company. In cases where marriages fail, would it be because the objective of not being alone has not been fulfilled? The other side of that question would be that the idea of being together in the marriage becomes far too damaging as compared to being apart. That is the point of view of marriage that interests me: there are people who have no business being married.

For those who are single and would like to get married, a good consideration to look at is: are capable of being alone? If you can stand yourself, then there is a high chance that someone would stand you and/or you would understand the demands and needs of being with you. Well, I suppose that level of personal growth would also work for those already in a marriage.

Compatibility

One of the much vaunted consideration for a spouse is the so called compatibility. This can range from education, wallet size and many others. Here is something to take into account in addition to all the usual considerations: your level of education and wallet size does not mean that you are a bad or nice person. The commonly understood notion of compatibility requires that people of similar education and financial wealth would be more successful. All the attributes belong to an individual who can either be profoundly secure with himself or herself such that they can appreciate a different point of view of their own. Being highly educated is not a guarantee of intelligence – given the fact that higher educated you are, the narrower your field of knowledge. If you are expert in nano fabrication processes, it does not mean that you are a particularly decent human being and/or makes a good spouse. There are of course those who are fundamentally good people so can adjust and make it possible to live a productive and successful life with someone else.

It is usually interesting that sometimes the level of education of a person is used to suggest and indicate their total human value and worth. Education in this context would range from having certificates, diploma, degrees (masters and PhD). Education can just as well include experiences out of the lecture hall or classroom. If not made clear, here is a repetition: high education achievement and significant wealth does not make a person fit to be in a marriage. Yes, by all means that is a great achievement but that does not directly translate into a good spouse.

Nature of Society

There are a number of ways to describe a society: patriarchal, matriarchal, tribal, chauvinistic etc. However, if any of those descriptions are related to gender then it is required to admit that one of the two genders will be dominate or be dominated. Gender equality or equity is a pipe dream which simply can not exist because you have no practical way to manage it. That said, an egalitarian society is essentially possible and preferred but that requires that both genders get to a point where none of them feel dominated.

The description of the problem is not the problem neither is it a good indicator for the best possible solution. Attempt to describe the running and day to day activities of an egalitarian society. Nobody is deliberately marginalized because there is enough to go around and provide for everyone. More importantly it becomes a question of how to go about achieving an objective.

A society that aspires to become egalitarian strives to provide opportunities to everyone within its jurisdiction. However a society that strives for gender equality or equity generally runs the risk of ever having to create that balance.

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A good man is hard to find: China’s “leftover women” look for love abroad

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Technology As Means To Dynamic, Self-Propagating Freedom

Some time back I stumbled upon the sweet revelation that written sci-fi (more specifically novels) is much more entertaining than your typical TV shows and/or movies of the same genre. Don’t get me wrong, those still remain my favourite pastimes when I need to unwind. I must admit that I have not been very diligent in my readings lately (cue the appropriate excuses …) though I have at least taken a look at some of the luminaries in the genre including Isaac Asimov and more modern authors such as Iain M. Banks. Banks’ Culture series is classified as a space opera (I know, never thought I would be into anything soap) that presents some pretty intriguing concepts, immersed in wide spanning geographic (in any case galactic) and time scales. I think the series is popular enough that checking out its page on Wikipedia would give you a detailed overview about the fictional society itself and what goes into making this fictional universe.

I have always emphasised that sci-fi should be looked at beyond the fancy technologies and more as a commentary on human nature. The Culture is a symbiotic human/machine civilization that is more an idea than anything concrete that you can point at. For example, most modern states and indeed our current civilization can point to global treaties and written laws and constitutions and all the documents, mores and norms that define our existence. For the Culture though, they don’t have anything that resembles a law – the Wikipedia entry refers to this fictional civilization as a socialist, utopian anarchy.

In our normal lives we can’t envision a society without laws as this essentially means an unprecedented level of violence and chaos but here is someone presenting an idea that explore the possibility of anarchic society that is largely a utopia. As a concept under consideration, The Culture is more of an idea that is constantly maintained at a stable state that its various citizens want and/or can agree to bring about; it is certainly a deliberate effort to more forcefully create that which you believe to be right – challenging the very notion of what reality is. The AIs in this fictional scenario essentially enables everything that the Culture is and they themselves are irrevocably part of the same loose principles and norms that makes up the Culture. As story telling devices, the Minds present that crucial unimaginably complex means to neatly (albeit unsatisfactorily) wrap up a story but going beyond that and looking in-universe and you may come to the realization that the very post scarcity nature of the Culture creates a new set of problems and many of which are conveniently side-stepped by the fact that the very backbone of the Culture (the Minds) are benevolent and deeply uninterested in oppressing their creators (at least the creators of their first generation) and their subsequent progenies.

Life in the Culture is unbelievably dull and less than exciting – at least for those who want more than indulging every whim you can conjure up in an environment in which all physical hazards can be managed and calibrated to your particular liking; interestingly enough, the Culture is aware of this and hence provide those determined enough to do more to live a lasting mark an outlet through contact with other civilization. The Culture as a civilization runs an organization that handles its interactions with other civilizations as well as engage in any military actions if necessary; within contact there is Special Circumstances which is the civilization’s military intelligence and espionage and counter espionage organizations. The whole scenario is one in which the potential of true freedom of choice is mostly possible: you can choose to live your life in whatever fashion you want and there is no one accountable for it other than yourself. I can’t help get the feeling that these are just diversions in the same vein as you have solved all the conceivable problems that you have in life and the next thing remaining is to spread your particular world view to everybody else. The biological citizens of the Culture need such escapes but ultimately I would expect that the core group of Culture Minds that run the entire racket would know that they are just watching a bunch of unpredictable variables mixing it up in slow but hopefully, eventually interesting combination.

Examining any coverage about freedom, what you will mostly overlook is that nobody ever mentions the idea that freedom is not absolute; a truly free individual can equally choose not to be free as that choice is something that has to be afforded to him or her by virtue of his/her freedom. It is a concept that many people would dismiss outright for it sits at odd with their so very human nature but it may point to the notion that we tend to think of freedom as an end in and of itself. To anyone who has spent some thought on the subject, it becomes eminently obvious that the proper end of freedom is happiness and that in itself means that the choice to forgo freedom in order to achieve happiness is just as valid as those who fight to be free of their shackles.

However, take the notion of freedom in the context of a hypothetical post-scarcity scenario, then the interesting question that begs an answer is: does freedom fought for and struggled for leads to greater happiness compared to a freedom that you are given (for lack of a better word)? Look at it in another way: does the fact that you are born rich and hence suffer hunger out of choice make your choice less important compared to someone who does not have such degree of choice? By that analogy then you may postulate the notion that given riches (and the freedom that they afford), you may not end up being happy after all. Don’t get me wrong: not having choice is not a guarantee that you will be happy either as the very lack of choice degrades your very dignity but with an ever more globalized world, it is quite possible to go from rags to riches and then you have the riches problem all over again. Absolute freedom as a means to happiness remains a fallacy.

As more studies into the intersection of sociology, psychology and neuroscience continue, it becomes interesting to ask a question like: is poverty a social disease? I don’t mean it in the material sense of the word but more in a sense that our societal structures encourages abhorrent behaviour in ourselves and with very little chance of actually realizing that there is a much better, more satisfying scope to living life and looking at life. I find the economic concept of positional good quite intriguing in exploring poverty as a social disease; with positional good – you value something because others don’t have it and this applies to luxury goods mostly though I have a hard time figuring out where this line gets drawn when you deal with basic commodities. Our economic frameworks firmly follow the rules of supply and demand and in some sectors it actually becomes necessary to artificially manage supply and demand in order to ensure healthy profits.

Earning money is not an evil in and of itself (I am yet to figure out a convincing way in which a post-scarcity paradigm would emerge from our current economic model but that is a story for another day) but manipulating the system and the rules to up your profit margins is fundamentally wrong on so many levels. The blind pursuit of profits have always made me wonder what drives a true entrepreneur; no doubt, the returns from the business is a key motivator but that is not a sustainable motive as you will soon become encumbered in ways that you will find both limiting and demoralizing to say the least.

List any large corporation that has gained prominence through ruthless attention to its margins and show me the number of tussles they have had with the legal system and/or regulators. It is easy to flippantly conclude that success attracts enemies but please go beyond the enemies’ attempts to get their pound of flesh and you will realize that continued exposure to these fights will at some point limit the ability of the company to rigorously pursue its purpose for being. If this purpose is to make money then there is the unfortunate side-effect that the dominant company in the sector or industry will snap up all and/or the best resources available in the industry/sector and thus becomes more of an inhibitor to true progress through farther transformation and improvement of people’s lives. Money is power and that power can be used to effectively rewrite the laws and/or cause the legal system to grind to a halt as business proceeds but these fights do take their toll on the company in the long run.

Let me circle back to the fictional Culture universe. What underpins Banks’ fiction in the context of Culture is that human spirit, ingenuity, restlessness, inventiveness, curiosity, etc. are largely preserved albeit sometimes taken so far as to be given their own sentience and as such effectively become a moral agent that must fulfil its purpose for being. Too far fetch? Think of a habitat – a house that is sentient and/or damn near sentience and fully aware that it collapsing is definitely against is reason for being and not being habitable is equally an abhorrent outcome to contemplate. The upside of such a contrived analogy is that the house would ensure that everything possible is done to ensure that it is just as worthy of being a house – puts it beyond any casual corruption and definitely any petty thieving (arsonist, burglars – I am looking at you). Of course a determined individual and/or an army would easily bring it down so that should also act as an incentive to stick to the business of being a house (a good little house).

Post-scarcity/Singularity/Heaven can’t come if we can’t relinquish our grasp on things that need not be within our control. We are becoming too powerful in our ability without the necessary fortitude to realize that this same power is easily corrupting us. We need a better way to put away the best of what we are as rational beings and worry about things that we have not figured out yet. The pertinent question remains: what is the best way to put our collective well being beyond our corruption? This is not a new question and since the beginning of time, we have struggled with this question. God exists as the most perfect embodiment of the best of what we are and through the ages people have believed in a supreme being who takes a benevolent interest in the affairs of mere mortals.

Overtime as our knowledge and understanding improved, these believes have shifted subtly but their essence remain the same. We live in a technological age where things are just beginning – for the last 50 years or so all our electronics advances have largely been about replicating our physical, old world. Want an example: you still call the collection of related information on your computer a file and you put them into folders/directories (file cabinets) and the list continues. We have only realized that these electronics can crunch big numbers and serve as vast repositories of data. Replicating our physical and somewhat old ways of looking at the world is a necessary step and it is my hope that in that process we have secured what is good about the past because our increased capabilities are likely to be frightening without the proper foundation. All the improvements in computer hardware and software as well as communication technologies has led some futurist to consider the possibility that we may end up creating the means necessary to put the best of ourselves beyond corruption and the vagaries of our conflicted nature. Most of the said futurist refer to this as the singularity; there is enough literature on the singularity online both in support of and those who are convinced that we are on the verge of creating the famed SkyNet.

My take? I don’t think the singularity is going to be a good thing or a bad thing when and if it happens. The probability that it will be completely sentient at the time of emergence is doubtful at best because that would suggest a trigger event that will make it all come together. At the moment, it is hard to figure out what that is but a possibility exists that sentience will be more an emergent characteristic of the singularity and at least for sometime it will become a true companion to human beings who can afford to use them to their desired ends. This raises the possibility that both good and evil singularities will emerge as these will learn from their makers the various demeanour and tone that they will believe. The scenario presents the most plausible ways to teach and transfer human social constructs like trust and group dynamics; increased use of technologies will enhance (hopefully) our social interactions and in the process also yield hard data which can be analysed and codified into a general framework of human behaviour.

Based on this model then it seems we are just transferring our problems to yet another realm because if it is entirely possible to end up with good and bad singularities, then these are likely to wage wars against each other. So here we go, civil wars wages through AI proxies – but more interesting I think this will give a new level of drama to personal feuds as commanding a horde of these singularities towards your particular goal would be most plausible. Oh, don’t forget that these will quickly come under some sort of legislation which means either you create Judge Dread type singularities or if the law remains as arcane (with regard to the internet specifically) as it is at the moment, then it is just a matter of the law being a polite suggestion without any real chances at enforcements (of course except for instances in which your opponents want to manoeuvre thusly.

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Advantages of Disability

I am generally dissatisfied with the manner in which disability is handled in whatever society though that does not necessarily represent a deliberate effort to take less notice of disability per se. Such disparities manifest themselves in different ways such as the language that is spoken in the society and/or the facilities and assumptions that everyone automatically makes when he/she comes across a handicap/disabled person. Some of the words used to refer to disabled people are derogatory but more often than not is their tendency to emphasize the disability and thus create a certain mental image of someone who is less than he/she ought to be.

In the about section of this blog, I have proclaimed my pride in being handicap/disabled (the specific term does not mean that much to me as an individual handicap/disabled person) person. Today it occurred to me that I have not spent some thoughts in pointing out the advantages of a disability. For the sake of this post, a disability must be a condition to which there are currently no effective cure and specifically physical disability though some of the points that may be brought up can be extrapolated to cover other kinds of disability.

Living with a disability goes beyond the physical manifestation of the handicap since that manifestation will heavily influence how the person concern views life and goes on to live it. In a sense, the fact that a person is disabled means that they need to learn some life skills which are either taken for granted by the normal people who are on the whole irrelevant to them.

Planning & Strategizing

As a physically handicap person, the simplest thing that you can possibly go out of your way to carry out would require planning as there is need to make sure that everything is setup in such a manner as to ensure the success of the mission/task. For example, I have found myself looking for that extra information about the building where I am going (if I have never been there before) because it is important that I know before hand if the building is storied and if so if there are any lifts or stairs. In case there are stairs, then it becomes necessary to establish if there are handrails so that I am able to get to my destination. Of course in the middle of all these considerations, a key point remains what floor my destination is located. The details of the plan is developed for each new trip/mission/task will depend on the kind of disability.

The process of planning any new is accompanied with a desire to ensure that resources such as time and effort are used efficiently. So time and resources are planned to yield the highest possible return. I must admit that this does not always happen but for a handicap person maximizing the returns on any effort expended is always a priority.

Problem Solving

One of the things that handicap people in general are forced to confront is developing solutions that works for their particular situations. As a general rule that enables a better understanding of problems in any given situation and the accompanying effort required to ensure success. I generally avoid exposure to any buildings that are storied and lack stair cases but when I joined university, I had to figure out a way of scaling stairs with two crutches and a caliper. The solution to this particular problem had to assume both the presence of a good Samaritan at the base or top of the stair or the likely possibility that I will find myself alone. The solution I had come up with both addresses these problems but I also had to adjust the rest of my approach to attending classes; of particular interest is carrying back packs as these would increase the load that needed to be moved between floors.

The important skills learnt here as a result of living a handicap life is identifying a problem and defining it so as to develop solutions that address the problem adequately. Of particular interest is that there is a need to ensure a balance between the capabilities of the solution provider and the desired outcome. As in the aforementioned example, the first objective was to ensure that the handicap person retains as much independence as much as possible while solving the particular problem at hand. In any given business environment it would be particularly advantageous to have people who can solve problems within the confines of limited budget and resources. As mentioned in the above example, the solution to the stair case problem retains long term strategic relevance so the ability evaluate the effects on any given choice is much more heightened for a handicap person.

Team Spirit

A disabled person is already limited in one way or the other so he/she would need to depend on someone for support so it is in his/her lifestyle to know when to give control to more capable people. All organizations and employers are interested in team players and more so in team players who can recognize their own weaknesses and strengths and as such bring the whole team together as one continuous group that complement each other towards a common goal. Disability forces a person to see himself/herself in terms of his strengths which are essentially what comprises his/her identity as well as weaknesses which threaten the success of his/her efforts.

It is also important to point out that there are disabled people who may possess the potential for leadership. Leadership combined with a disposition towards team spirit can lead to a high performing group. A leader who is predisposed to engage the team will make decisions that are both beneficial to the team as well as delegate jobs and responsibilities to those who will have the most appropriate skills to bring the most return.

It goes without saying that dealing with organizations, there are other factors beyond the possession of leadership skills as well as a disposition to foster team spirit. Someone with leadership qualities would be much better placed to adapt to any new demands as and when they occur. For handicap persons, anticipating change and trying to account for it before it happens is almost second nature.

Organization & Patience

As a physically handicap person, there are things that will require more effort to accomplish hence the desire and push to plan and organize more is geared towards ensuring that when the first step is taken then every possible problem has been identified and contingency plans hinted at or at the very least put at an advanced state.

In my life, there are instance in which I detect a certain level of impatience with me with regard to this but the benefits one reaps in the long run as a result of planning and organizing before implementation is whole the slow start or the apparent lack of progress in the initial stages.

The ability to plan and organize leads to an interesting outcome as well in a sense that you are not hurried in whatever you choose to under take since there may be multiple pieces to the same puzzle and each of them will come into play at different times. So you wait for everything to fall into place and plans progress towards and objective.

Related to organization and patience is intolerance towards actions or activities that seemingly waste time and effort. Such intolerance can be well founded since planning and organization will inevitably lead to justifying the task at hand and examining more cost effective avenues of reaching the same goals. The end result of such a process is that whatever effort is put in place is always justifiable and as such would require all possible focus to ensure its success. It is not a perfect process and may not work that well in new situations but the intention is always to look for a chance and opportunity to do it much better and using much less effort to accomplish.

Conclusion

While a disability forces a different view of life out of necessity, the different perspective does have advantages which become both heighten and developed in handicap people. The aforementioned qualities are not certainly limited to handicap people but their lifestyle makes them important qualities to have and practice and as such they have been constantly and regularly fine tuned. Handicap people are human being as well and the aforementioned list may not be applicable to them all and it is entirely possible that some of them are not even aware that they exercise such qualities in their lives.

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A perspective on Independent living

Yes, I am guilty of neglect and I could launch into an endless string of explanations of how it came to be that I didn’t post a single entry on my blog in the last couple of months. To put it simply, life has been happening and I have not had much time to share parts of it at least. This entry is not going to be focused in any way and it may well wander all over the place.

This is not an entry about technology but rather about some perspectives that I have gathered over time and all seem to recently make sense. I don’t know if I have ever blogged about my thoughts on personality generally (as derived and manifested by yours truly) but I think one of the strangest thing that I did or perhaps had to do earlier on was to involve myself in a seemingly methodological effort to understand who I am as a person as well as a handicap/disabled individual. Yes, there was a time that I thought it offensive to be called disabled but right now I don’t think it really matters. And that assertion in itself speaks volumes in a sense that I am who I am and there is not much that anybody can do (regardless of the name they elect to use) about it.

As I grew up and began to understand my limitations and the ways at my disposal to accommodate those limitations, I came to understand how truly vulnerable I truly was and perhaps still am. If you are an able bodied person reading, this I want you to assume (if you can) that you are dependent on somebody … how would you go about defining yourself? What is it that makes you an individual that is different from everyone? I would suppose the answer to such a question would preferably not include the persons on whom you are so dependent for the slightest of things. Please note that this is not an attempt to justify a desire to be alone but rather a subject of a person’s dignity in such a manner as to ensure that those on whom the handicap person is dependent upon treat him or her with the respect and dignity that he/she deserves (of course taking into account the reality of his disability).

Independent living is not about a handicap person living by himself or herself or being able to survive in the exclusion of others. But the important aspect of independent living is more about being involved in living life as a handicap person. To me at the moment this means, at the very least being made aware of things that will affect me – more so things that will affect my mobility. It does not stop with mobility and in reality for any person to be participate in a handicap’s person attempt at an independent living, the key thing to keep in mind is being considerate.

The most natural reaction for most physically handicap persons faced with the challenge of defining who they are is to put more effort to be independent. From the surface of it, it sounds like a noble decision and indeed something that should be supported. There are a number of perspectives to be considered in handicap’s person’s pursuit of his or her independence: a) the perspectives of the handicap person in question and b) the perspective of those who want to help.

One of the greatest mistakes that the handicap person makes in his or her pursuit of independence is to demand that he is treated as if he or she does not have a disability. As my father once told me: accept who you are … I am physically handicap and it is a terribly beautiful thing and I am comfortably aware that if I wake up the following morning without a disability, I shall be in the middle of hell itself. Understand the importance of accepting and/or demanding the recognition of a disability as a necessary part of that independence. For a handicap person who wants to be treated like he or she does not have a disability, please consider the possibility of being challenged to a 100 metre race with able bodied runners. Yes, I suppose you are now thinking that it would be stupid of a physically handicap person to be challenged a 100 meters race with able-bodied runners … but consider how different that is from demanding that the reality of a disability be ignored.

There are those who would make the argument that the fact of the disability is ignored in the context of making a decision – like making a decision about employment. I suppose there are some truths to that but ultimately the employer must necessarily recognize that the person is handicap and the extend of his or her disability.

For those who want to help the handicap well, I think they need to understand that ignoring the disability all together is perhaps dangerous and more often than not would be insulting. The true meaning of an independent living is being involved in decisions that affect us as handicap people. Personally, I don’t like decisions that affect me being made and effected without my consultation or at least information. The next time you are dealing with a handicap person and decides to make a decision without involving him or her, please examine your motives. I would hazard a guess that somewhere (deep down inside), you are truly convinced that you know what’s best for the handicap person in question. Then ask yourself this question: how could you? These are people who I would like to think of as having a messiah-complex of sorts: they actually believe that it is their sole mission on earth to save the handicap person hence they must do everything in their power to ensure that they do not stress or strain the handicap person. Physically handicap, usually means that the person is capable of rational thought and as such can make decisions about the levels of his or her stress and what is too much and what is not. A recent encounter has enabled me to develop a model of how such persons present themselves; it is an evolving model – still in its infancy really but should be interesting to see how it grows. Note: it is not a scientific model so you are not going to expect any published papers any time soon.

There are those who also buys into some handicap’s person’s warped understanding of what it means to live independently. These are the kind of people who despite their full capacity to assist a handicap person in living independently, they will generally keep their distance. This is a new phenomenon that has recently captured my attention – it could just be a function of a personality profile but I would definitely be interested in knowing what kind of a personality exhibit such characteristics.

The final objective of independent living is self-esteem and self-respect and perhaps this is something that everyone involved need to appreciated.

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It is another year: Happy belated New Year!!

Wow, I have really been keeping to myself in the last couple of weeks; it can all be chalked down to life acquiring a more emergency feel to it so in such situations I usually clump down and focus. I am back on the blogsphere, as they call it but that does not mean that the emergency is over; I suspect I am finally getting the hang of it. I have always been thinking that I should have a recap of what the previous year was like.

The Previous Year …

Don’t you just like what hindsight does to events? It was an OK year which is not to say that it was all roses and party all through but all the things that didn’t pan out and those that did work out all came to balance each other out. Each variety of these events led to a new discovery which almost always leads to a better way of doing things. Please note that better does not always mean a positive improvement but even the attempts at doing less of a good thing is equally an improvement in a certain sense.

At the start of 2007, I setout to gain a much better understanding of people at their own level while at the same time asserting myself when it was necessary and important that I do so. In the process I have met several new acquaintances and perhaps in my own understanding came across a number of things that can and/or can’t stand. In this regard, without going to specifics, I have stuck to the notion of not fixing that which is not broken and of course the interpretation that can be had from that perspective are as varied as the motives and intentions of the interpreter.

One of the more challenging aspects of the previous year was the amount of complication that my life has amassed; yes, I am probably doing too much but then again without reaching that critical point (the breaking point), I can’t be sure that that is all I am capable of. Broadly speaking, I had to contend with school work and at the same time work out the ideas that I have in mind of how I am going to put that education to good use after it is all said and done. I am almost done with this school business which is not the main worry that I have in mind; I am more concerned about what happened when I am suppose to be applying my education to productive (and hopefully wildly profitable) endeavors. I should probably share my thoughts about my approach to how I am intend to make use of my education, given the limitations that I have. Well, calling them limitations may not be that accurate since I prefer to see them as challenges and all challenges go there is usually a way of overcoming them.

In a way, I am still waiting for my Christmas to come around; last year’s festive season kind of snuck up on me while I was not looking. I have been told that the festive season is usually important for the kids and I think I am finally accepting that the last three years had nothing to do with my circumstances at the time. Anyhow, so it came and it went and after it comes the new year which was not that new.

Technology wise, it was an interesting year (like there is any year that is not interesting in the tech sector!). This was the year when I decided to get very personal and intimate with Linux; I am happily running Ubuntu at the moment and gradually gaining know-how though there is room for further exploration. It was in 2007 that I came to recognize the power of concurrency and how it fundamentally changes software development from a fundamental perspective. Multi-cores processes are one of the main ways through which Moore’s Law will continue to be relevant but these processors brings with them concurrency which is relatively new to bulk of programmers who are producing software for the past 20 years. These corporate programmers are not particularly interested in the computer science behind it and in some instances some CS graduates who should know the fundamentals of computers are happy using tools like Visual Basic and others while proudly proclaiming that they are programmers. Anyhow, the free ride of performance increases purely from Moore’s will be coming to an end soon. Please note that this is not something that is necessarily new but it has occupied my thoughts in a fundamental way in the previous year. My response to it was to gain a better understanding of concurrency and its future implications on software development and what the industry is currently doing to prepare the masses to adopt.

One of the key ways of leveraging the power of multi-core processors is making tools that are amenable to concurrency; functional programming have been around for a while as illustrated by existence of functional programming languages like Haskell and Erlang (Wikipedia). Functional programming and features inspired by functional programming languages can give us the tools that are necessary in a multi-core world; this has been happening in a number of R&D departments in large corporations as well as in campuses around the world. Microsoft announced the include of their F# programming language in their .NET Framework. At the heart of all these are ideas that are central to the running of current systems in the name of shared state and mutability.

Mobile Phones certainly was the source of a sizable number of headlines. The now infamous iPhone hit the market and of course towards the close of the year Google took an interest in the mobile phone sector by releasing Android. All of a sudden it looks like mobility is the thing to be and it may well be where it is going to be. The so-called developing countries and/or emerging economies are dominated by mobile telephony and associated services that are consumed through mobile devices.

Note: this is not all that happened last year but these are just the highlights that I can put in any semblance of order of the top of my head.

… New year: 2008

Only one digit has changed in the sequence of the supposedly new year. Look at it this way: how many Jans, Febs … etc have you done already? If you are in the group of people who thing that Christmas is just some kind of a global mass hysteria, then you have probably done a couple of the aforementioned list. So, this year is new because of a change in a single digit; please contrast that with something as monumental as the sun rising from the west and setting in the east or perhaps a brand new sun appearing on the horizon. Well, no matter the change it is as new as it gets and the next new year will build on this very concept as it has always done more than 2000 years (depending on your Calendar of choice) before.

So … let’s see what happens this year. The much that have happened already may be the subject of a future post.

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Technology & Accessibility

I hold what might be construed to be a biased opinion about the potential of technology contribution to accessibility in general. Yes, at this point in time there is not much that technology can do to help physically and mentally challenged persons to live a much better life that both respect their independence as well as enable them to realize their full potential as individuals. However, this should not mean that the current technology we have should not be used to enable the “disabled” to enjoy the modern life that the rest of society enjoys. I was reading an article at PC world about accessibility of the iPhone; from all the reviews I have read about the iPhone is a marvelous piece of technology but with all the advances it represents, without accessibility capabilities it remains an exclusionary device to the physically challenged.

The multi-touch UI makes it significantly hard for a blind person to use unless screen reading capabilities are included to provide feedback about which buttons are about to be pressed. I don’t think this is completely out of Apple’s engineering prowess; besides, lets think of this from a broader perspective: the lack of physical keys in the phone (and perhaps the recently released iPod Touch) makes it hard to operate without looking at the keypad but with accessibility features it becomes a win for those who rely on the technology exclusively as well as a boon to those who would like to fiddle with their phone without looking at the blessed virtual keypad.

Accessibility is increasingly an important topic that has featured prominently in the ratification of the ODF (Open Document Format) as a standard. Initially accessibility was not properly accounted for in the standard but there are efforts to incorporate accessibility which makes sense since it is an international standard with support from large corporations and governments alike. While corporations are ultimately interested in creating a market for their products which include governments around the world, then it is upon government to ensure that their procurement policies foster the inclusion of accessible features. Additional information about ODF accessibility efforts can be found here.

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Being the Creator of the Universe!

There are various explanations to how life came to be what it is: from the big bang theory, evolution to creation. It would seem that at some point all these attempts at explaining the origin of life reach a point where is there an unknown and I like thinking of that as the creator of the universe (yes, I am deliberately avoiding referring to the almighty with the common name known to everyone). Ever wondered what that primordial state (of high density and temperatures that resulted in the big bang) was? Or perhaps who originated that state in the first place? In essence you might agree that creation explanation of the origin of the universe gets to the originator of that primordial state faster than the big bang theory or perhaps even evolution.

The Bible gives an account of creation in six days and there is no reason to doubt that these six days were not millions of years in the first place: our current understanding of a day is the duration of time the earth takes to rotate once on its axis but at the time of creation there was no earth to talk about let alone the sun.

So, the universe was created by a supreme being in however long it (I don’t know the gender of God) took to create the universe. Are you getting the impression that the creator must be one powerful being: its intelligence must be off the charts and such minor inconveniences such as time and space don’t make much sense to it. Yesterday, tomorrow, today and in this moment and eternal moment can all mean the same thing at the same time or different things at the same time. How about that omnipresence? Here, there, somewhere and everywhere all can be the same place or even different places that are not so different. Wouldn’t it be cool to say something like I am going to THE place called “NOT HERE”?

To be a master of an entire creation (living and non-living, matter and anti-matter and all the other stuff that we still have no clue about) must be one boring experience I reckon. Don’t get me wrong, the power is awesome but there is practically no challenge: there is no difference in the notion of yesterday, today and tomorrow and this means that there is nothing that needed to have been known yesterday and something you are finding out today or perhaps something you will find out in the future. Knowledge about everything is known now or perhaps independent of time: what God knows is not tied to the passing of time or perhaps even more clearly it is not tied to the existence of time.

Each of us, as human beings, celebrate or at least mark the time we came into this world and the various events that mark key milestones in our struggle through life. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow but we look forward to tomorrow based on faith and more often than not (at least for those who have lived long enough), we forget what we have experienced in the past and for the now and here, our limitations as beings that possess material aspects mean that we can not experience a moment in its complete entirety so that we can say that we have experienced a second in its entirety: we have blinked and looked at the same time! Our shackles to temporal and physical limitations define the basis of our experience as human beings and perhaps without these limitations life, as we know it, would have much different and even more complicated meaning. Oh, don’t forget that after all these we still hope (at least for those who believe in its existence) to continue living forever (be it in heaven or in hell).

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed: if we, as human beings, are made of matter and and form (soul) and it is acceptable to assume that both are made of energy then the possibility of life after death is not so remote. It just boils down to transferring these forms of energy (matter which invariably decomposes and well the soul, as a form of energy, can’t just cease to be) into other forms of energy.

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