Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hindsight in 2020

Hindsight: Those really were the droids you were looking for.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new decade and given the numerical significance of the year thought it would be an appropriate time to reflect a bit on the past decade (or 4) and use a website I've neglected for almost 5 years.

It's been an interesting time the past 10 years, unpredictable in a lot of ways yet often pretty mundane. One could spend a lot of energy going over the past, wondering what could have been done better or if things really worked out for the best, though I think my main take away from the trouble I've had the past few years is not to get bogged down by focusing so much on past mistakes.
My goal for 2020 is to be a bit more in the present, while still being mindful of lessons learned from failures while not devolving into regret.

There's that saying "if you want to change the world, first change yourself", while I've known it intellectually for quite a while it's been hard to implement (especially when inundated with news across the globe about the environment, politics, entertainment, and Florida man).
I think I might be in a position to start changing myself, though it took quite a while to get to this point. Up till now it has felt like walking in circles in knee deep mud, so focused on just trying to put one foot in front of the other that never bothered to look up and notice there are a few paths not to far away - or maybe more accurately was unsure of where the paths would lead so figured going in a circle would somehow work out.

Also, I think I'll stop trying to worry so much about perfection. Innumerable times have been so concerned about making mistakes or trying to do something 'perfect' that I ended up doing nothing or scrapping whatever it was being worked on. Well, time to proudly make misteaks.

So, not sure what is in store for 2020, but it should be very interesting.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Minor differences,

Aside from the few noticeable changes I mentioned in my previous post (general upkeep, level of perceived safety) have a few observations about the how things of changed in Colombo, I'd assume the rest of Sri Lanka might have similar changes:

Electricity, in 2009 there would be frequent brown outs and black outs (in addition to those created in response to air raids), power levels would also fluctuate so having a UPS was almost necessary to ensure safety of electronics, or as my aunt and uncle would do, basically unplug anything while it wasn't in use. I've only been aware of one brown out since I've been here, which is quite remarkable since last time the power was out the day I arrived.

Food, prices are 2 to 4 times what I remember for basic staples (vegetables, bread, rice), there is a greater number of grocery stores (Cargills, Keels, Laughfs) so travelling to local 'kade' (shop) is transitioning a bit. Cleanliness has improved for most restaurants with routine inspections carried out, though oddly food doesn't taste as good as I remember... I wonder if there is a connection.

Beggars, they used to be much more varied and prolific, in daily routine would encounter the unluckiest people on Earth, half their family was dead, the other half would be deathly ill, with a few pregnancies thrown into the tale. There would be families, young mothers, old mothers, grandmothers, the infirm, disabled, and as detailed the healthy but unlucky, begging for change on buses and busy streets.
This time around there are a few, but I encountered more people asking for change within 1 hour of arriving at a hotel in downtown Edmonton than the first two weeks in Sri Lanka.

Tools, there is quite a larger number of power tools being used in renovation and construction work, labour costs have gone up but access to quality tools appears to have improved consistency in a variety of industries. Contractors can still be crooks though.

Animals, there does seem to be some population control for street dogs and cats. They don't seem as common as before, also haven't seen any goats, cows, or elephants wandering the streets.

Driving, it is still horrendous... truly it takes a resolve of questionable sanity to attempt driving in the main city streets. Though there are noticeable differences, the state of vehicles on the road is generally a bit better, there is the odd black chimney on wheels but also a fair number of hybrids (oddly haven't seen any smart cars on the road). People seem to be slowly learning that sidewalks are for people and not motorcycles - for the most part. Liberal use of horns to navigate traffic seem to have more purpose than just 'get out of the way', there are hand signals as well as use of turn signals, quite astounding.
Also noted more women drivers and motorcyclists, had seen the odd female driver back then but it would be an uncommon occurrence.

Pedestrians, sidewalks are actually in a reasonable state of repair, and stores no longer extend their storefronts to occupy the entire walkway. Crossing streets is still an exercise of faith in a higher power but back in 2009 crosswalks were at best considered 'suggestions' by vehicles and pedestrians alike. Now most people will try to use a marked crosswalk, and probably 1 in 50 cars will make a show of slowing down (about 1 in 100 will actually stop).

News and politics, ... actually not much has changed here. The propaganda machines pump out nonsense on a regular basis. Anecdotal evidence is reported as fact, and the 'Who' and 'Where' seems more important than the 'What', 'Why', and 'When'.

So overall, Sri Lanka seems headed down the road of progress, hopefully it doesn't get run into a ditch by the new driver.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Quite a change,

It's been just over five years since I was last in Sri Lanka, when I left back in June of 2009 the country (at least Colombo) was in a state of celebrate marking the end of decades of civil war.

There was an air of optimism for the future of the country, well founded it seems.

Upon returning to the Island what struck me the most aside from the new public work projects and general state of upkeep and cleanliness for roadways (varying from marginally to greatly improved), was how much less cautious people seemed. Perhaps I worded it poorly, before there were security checkpoints, bag checks, and you needed to keep a very close watch on your personal possessions... not that isn't still true in some areas but there is less likely hood of your shoes being stolen the minute you're distracted.

It's also a curious crossroads at this time, there is an election in tomorrow which is a neck and neck race between Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) and Maithripala Sirisena (MS). To say it is a bit of a divisive election would be an understatement.

The main issue is corruption in the incumbent President's (Rajapaksa) regime, unfortunately the opposition party is not exactly better... an all too familiar scenario.

I am by no means an expert, and have been a bit out of the loop for the past few years regarding Sri Lanka politics (it gets a bit weird if you follow it for a while). Sri Lankan politics seems to have a habit of going from one extreme to the other, in the 60/70's a communist style closed economy with a focus on creating internal goods was so harsh that the next regime changed to an open capitalist system.  I can't say which is better than the other but the rapid change between system caused a lot of problems.

If MR wins, the good will be a continued vision for the country which is showing results, MR is also quite a strong leader which is necessary to fend off foreign influences that have a history of crippling the development of the country for economic or ideological gain. Unfortunately is part and parcel with systemic corruption and a concern that solidifying his power will lead to a family dictatorship.

The opposition MS is touted as being able to bring an end to a corrupt regime and re-establish "Democracy", whether or not that is accurate is beside the point, as the old saying goes 'Politicians are like diapers, they should be changed often... and for the same reason'. That said, the concern is that MS will dismantle the progress achieved by the the previous regime and devolve powers to provinces that could create future problems reminiscent of the conflict that ended just a few years ago.

 Everyone is waiting to see what will happen tomorrow, most are avoiding making any plans just in case something happens, the feeling is that if MR loses there is a chance of a coup taking place as he has control of the Army and Police. The actual chance of this is probably fairly small, but this is an odd Island so better to play it safe.

Daily life continues, and the Pope is scheduled to arrive a few days after the election so everyone wants things to run smoothly. It seems I happen to have arrived during interesting times, I've forgotten how stimulating this place can be... though at the same time it can be quite frustrating, it took a total of 5 days to get a bank account open and activated, 4 days to find a place to cash Canadian Travelers Cheques (which apparently banks will issue but won't cash), and don't get me started on trying to make appointments on time using local taxis.
As I've observed, Sri Lanka has taken the British system of bureaucracy and perfected it to an almost praiseworthy inefficiency (kind of like the Vogons). The work around is knowing the right person who can help 'cut through the red tape' as it were.

In any event, it will be curious to see what tomorrow will bring.

Friday, June 06, 2014


A quick check with this handy date range tool calculated that it has been 1367 days since I last posted anything on this blog.  Not that there hasn't been anything of note in my quiet little corner of the world but just in general couldn't be bothered, facebook, twitter, google+, linkdn, reddit... managing a social presence on the internet is a full time occupation in and of itself.

Though honestly I hardly use any of the social media sites, have under 100 friends, maybe post a photo once in a while, or a humourous link, but I have much more engagement with blogging, I can't really imagine having anything meaningful to say in just 140 characters.  To tell a story or express an idea requires, no, demands more room to be realized (at least in my old fashioned opinion).

So... then the question would be for what reason would I decide to start writing again after 1367 days without an update from this little quiet corner.  I think it is because I am finally angry and frustrated enough to force a one sided conversation that is a blog post.  To explain a bit better (or worse depending on your point of view), to create something, anything requires some motivation to express, be it anger, joy, sadness, a set of technical specifications to be met, you know, the heart and soul of creation.

Honestly for the past few years have been pretty ambivalent, or to borrow a term from South Park, developed into a 'Cynical Asshole'.  A very polite and reserved Cynical Asshole but a Cynical Asshole none the less.

I found that being a Cynical Asshole really isn't that difficult until you want more, be it more friends, money, respect, or maybe just a new outlook.  Cynicism is quite insidious to any train of thought, basically boiling down any consideration of change into a 'Why bother, it is just the same shit, maybe a different pile' internal dialog.

Fortunately anger and frustration can trump cynicism (probably other things too, but you work with what you got), and so this leads to my purpose in finally posting another entry on this blog almost 4 years after the last entry.  The downside, at least for myself, is that anger burns out fairly quickly, it takes a lot of energy to be furious... and to keep fury raging for any length of time requires some Inigo Montoya level back-story.

Well what is a Cynical Asshole to do?

An oddly appropriate response would involve lemons, there are more inspirational takes such as "Be the change that you want to be" (or is it see?), in any event, as I see it could either take another page from South Park and become an alcoholic (seems fun but rather expensive in the long run), or start shoveling.  The reality is a lot more work, forcing oneself to dive back in, regimenting things within my own control would be one step.  Sigh, just thinking about the effort it is going to take sets the tape reel of cynicism playing.

Was trying to figure out a way to wrap up this post in some more meaningful way but there is no real end or easy quip to sum everything up that feels appropriate. Its just going to take some effort...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A book burning? Haven't we been through this before...

So in a few days, on the anniversary of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, which was perpetrated by religious/political fanatics another group of religious/political fanatics plan to burn the holy book that they equate with the aforementioned terrorists.... perfectly logical of course.

The story behind this... stupidity, come from a pastor named Terry Jones who leads a small fringe group of Christians in the town of Gainesville, Florida. Mr. Jones decided that the Quran was the 'word of the devil' and decided that burning 200,000 copies of the book would "call attention to something that is wrong" - oh sweet irony.

In any event, there really are so many things wrong with this - it really is hard not to bash ones head against the wall at the amazing ignorance displayed by almost everyone involved in this.
So where to begin, well let's break it down:

First of all, the burning of any book is a crime against the intellect that God supposedly blessed these people with. To use a nifty quote "...but he who destroys a good book, kills Reason itself, kills the image of God..."
The basic premise being that instead of trying to understand or learn, these people are rejecting anything different from themselves and will violently protect the conformity they seek. This Church group shares common traits with other familiar historical groups such a very prominent 1930's German political movement, a Russian regime change and the clergy of Grande Cache, Alberta.

Second, the media - oh the fucking media, asking all the wrong questions and trying to provide all the wrong answers. A small fringe group of about 50 people plan to do something incredibly stupid (which is their right as Americans), this then garners international attention with various pundits ranging from Vatican scholars to Angelina Jolie to Sarah Palin weighing debates about freedom of speech, security and blah blah, blah. The main (publicly admitted) consensus is that the book burning is wrong (duh) and it may invite reprisals and endanger the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Seriously all this media attention only shows how much misunderstanding and ignorance these people harbor and how far we have to go before there really can be open and honest discussions regarding religion. If a group of 50 people decided to go to a public park and light their flatus, they should be arrested for indecency but beyond their own idiotic behaviour there wouldn't be much of a story. We all would just conclude the people who conducted such an event were drunk, morons, inbred or some combination thereof and agree that the education system might need some overhauling.
The media thrives on controversy and will try to create it where none exists, and if a story has a moderate amount of 'the big C' then we get the fun media circus we enjoy during such events such as the Michael Jackson trial, or the Britney Spears meltdown, balloon boy and so on. These stories are covered with a lot of irrelevant information and opinions with very little factual information - oddly enough, events like the BP oil spill which actually required more facts was treated in much the same manner.

Lastly, the only thing that people are doing is reacting to this story, trying to bring their own viewpoint on what is almost a non-issue. Even the ever insightful Sarah Palin has quipped on twitter that the Quran burning is an "insensitive and an unnecessary provocation - much like the building of a mosque at Ground Zero" ...huh, it's no wonder that she doesn't like the r-word.
With everyone condemning the good Pastor and his congregation it would really be silly if Muslims of the world got angry over such an insignificant group. I honestly feel sorry for the people of Gainesville and the small minded frightened people that Terry Jones has gathered around himself. They are so terrified of anything foreign and unknown that they will not risk trying to understand what it is they are trying to destroy. Such people should be pitied, and anyone who would declare a call to arms over their actions is no better.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Oh what the heck, is it too late to catch the bandwagon?

So while it would probably be more worth while to write about the: Vatican's new laws, Avandia drug, BP's capping success (they really need a sarcasm emoticon) or Cowboys defending their way of life, instead the series of Old Spice commercials and the social media phenomenon that it has become is what these manly words shall be devoted to.

If you don't follow twitter, facebook, or read the news then you may not have heard of this feat of social media marketing and the popularity of the Old Spice Manly Man.

The often random commercials combined with the over the top machismo portrayed by former Football player Isaiah Mustafa became the most popular videos on youtube, though the real genius of the advertising campaign is the interaction with consumers.

After the first series of commercials were produced they used twitter and facebook to 'tweet and retweet' the videos while targeting celebrities and popular accounts that had large followings. They then posted video responses to questions that users had 'tweeted' or posted on their facebook page.

Even a few celebrities got in on the fun, the interactivity and hilarious videos caught the attention of the mainstream news and well... that darn bandwagon got pretty darn full.

So, what is the point in commenting on this? Not much really, while one does have to admire the skill in which this advertising campaign was compiled and it does demonstrate the proper use of social media to get a 'message' out - it is just another way to sell something to consumers.

Sure the whole this is entertaining, heck I am on a mission to eventually watch all these hilarious vids at some point, however it also shows just how shallow social media is. While the media will heap praise on the campaign for its genius (ie success - if it had flopped there wouldn't have been one word of the 'genius'), it also shows that entertainment is still the driving force of information in this age.

To be fair, social media has been used to highlight issues, unfortunately is more of an 'after the fact' event that cannot really be used to prevent problems at this point. If we lived in an ideal world (a hilarious hope I know), social media would be a way of keeping informed of topics so as to prevent harm to the public interest. For example, say if social media was used to provide accurate information before the second Gulf War, or highlight the safety cutbacks at BP as well as growing conflicts within the MMS so that a public outcry might have ensured action before there was every an oil spill to talk about.

As it stands Social Media is just a recycling centre for old ideas and marketing gimmicks, people will see something interesting and post, comment and like. There really isn't anything wrong with that, I just wish people would stop treating the 'Social media' as some great advancement in our society, it really isn't that great for society - marketing maybe, society no.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rethink?... Uhm, where was the first thought?

The above video is part of an ad campaign by Corporate Ethics International (CEI), the purpose of this video and a series of billboards in 4 US cities is apparently to try and impact Alberta's tourism industry (though it was a bit late to impact Stampede).

Already there has been backlash ... unfortunately mostly in the form of poorly constructed arguments and a certain amount of nationalistic outrage, and while it is justified to some extent - it couldn't hurt to actually look at the whole issue before getting indignant.

Reuters had a good article that actually went a bit deeper than many of the Albertan Papers on what was happening, according to CEI their campaign is in response to lobbying by oil producers and the Albertan Government to "block legislation like low-carbon fuel standard legislation that would help [them to] make the transition (from fossil fuels)."

So setting aside the validity of claims and the various facts regarding this whole circus, it boils down to:

CEI didn't like the influence of the oil lobby which was affecting their goal of independence from fossil fuels, so they decided to launch an international campaign to damage Alberta's image.

The equivalent would be your neighbor handed out leaflets to petition for a ... giant windmill to be built in the block and in response you go around and say that they sodomize goats.

The oil sands may indeed be an environmental disaster waiting to happen, but there are two problems with CEI's campaign, first the real contention they have is with the lobbying done in the state, and second - by attacking the image of Alberta directly they really aren't going to get any political support. Certainly not from Albertan politicians who can smell the popularity of seething anger from the populace already, and even in the rest of the US, CEI is making itself look like just another 'fringe hippie tree-hugger' group that favours sensationalism instead of effective change.

That said, I admit that CEI does have a point, unfortunately instead of taking the high road and trying to get people to understand the real issues involved they joined the ranks of the LCD's by alienating the opposing side so any chance of negotiation or compromise is completely out of the question.

Well, at least they got their name published in the papers, though I doubt anything will be accomplished aside from a lot of huffing and puffing from both sides.