Friday, December 31, 2010

Spellchecker

It is true that your word-processor's spellchecker does not and cannot improve your English as you'll never learn if you don't make and not humiliated by your mistakes.

But at the same time new technology gives courage to write. Ordinary people would have terrified if they were stuck with an old typewriter.


What technology did remarkably well was to empower people and encourage them to focus on the content and expression by relieving them from checking ruthless grammar and spelling errors (not completely but nearly). And I think this is a good thing. Technology democratised writing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Great deal of my generation’s adolescence was spent watching spaghetti westerns. My all time favorite was Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.


I watched this film in 70’s, who knows how many times. The duel scene in the end was one of the most memorable scenes I’ve always adored, almost engraved into my mind, the infinite graveyard landscape, the heat, the tension between Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleeff, and Eli Vallach, sublime photography and of course Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable score.

At the time every boy in our neighborhood walked like Client Eastwood, talked like him, sometimes with a piece of fake cigar sticking out our mouth.. It was the coolest thing.

Almost forty years later I found a DVD in a local supermarket, thrown into a big basket. I became an eleven year old again. I bought it, rushed home and watched in excitement .




I was curious and wondered how much I would remember. I found that I don’t recall certain scenes accurately, the faces and plot didn’t fit exactly. For instance I didn’t remember war scenes at all.

Our remembering self plays a game with experiencing self. Throughout our life we experience much more than we can remember. Predominantly remembering self defines who we are.

We are what we remember. In the end the scenes chosen by the remembering self survive and give way to other thoughts, memes and ideas. Dead ends and dull become dead, truly.

I am glad that the ending of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is what I was given by my remembering self. Good choice.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Orhan Pamuk and his oriental melancholia

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk wrote an article in the New York Review of Books named The Fading Dream of Europe.

This is what I posted in response:

Historical events should be evaluated in their circumstantial context in order to understand their true nature and intent, only then we might be able to make a fair judgement about their implications. Pamuk’s article unfortunately lacks that, it is a one-sided, narrow, cynical and grossly melancholic interpretation of history partly influenced by his Orientalist views we are familiar to see in his novels and partly his resentment towards the backlash of an alleged Nationalist plot against his political views.

I don’t agree that Turkish people were called upon to embrace and even imitate a rosy-pink European dream just for the purpose of legitimizing Atatürk’s reforms. Such a limited view demands us to believe that these reforms were hallow imitations, lacking substance and vigor, however nothing can be further than the truth.

Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 on the wrecks of Ottoman Empire and Atatürk’s reforms were derived from the newly born state’s secular constitution. At the centre of these reforms we see Secularism as its core value and a desire to establish an egalitarian society in which women and men have equal rights including the right to vote and the right for being elected as representatives of the state.

It didn't matter whether the Secularism was born in Europe or elsewhere. Whereas the circumstances in which it was born and its context mattered for Atatürk.

Secularism is a product of the Age of Enlightenment in which reason was advocated as the primary source of legitimacy and authority. At its core was a critical questioning of traditional institutions, customs, and morals, and a strong reliance in rationality and science.

Enlightenment had been a natural movement evolved in the dialectical context of European history, it didn’t drop from the sky like a meteoroid. You can not point to a single historical event as its sole source. French Revolution happened to be its most dramatic and well know realization.

The central issue Pamuk is circumventing is the clash of Islam and Secularism we see today. Islam contradicts Enlightenment values by proposing a political, social and judicial ideology of its own relying solely on divine authority as opposed to reason.

To a large extent Muslim migrant populations in Europe while enjoying and taking advantage of freedom and tolerance European democracies provide, don’t show similar levels of tolerance or respect to the values of greater society they live in.

In the name of multiculturalism most Muslims continue to live within enclosed ghettos. Their recognition of truth is determined by Imams who teach them intolerance towards views who oppose or don’t share their absolute divine rhetoric written in the Koran.

And such rhetoric dictates men abuse their power to suppress women and undermine their role they could otherwise play in the society. Such injustice had been exactly one of the key points of Atatürk’s reforms to confront.

Atatürk and liberated women of the secular Turkish Republic

Unfortunately the irony of Liberty has been letting intolerance to breed despite clearly not endorsing it. This is the puzzle the West has to solve without undermining core values of Enlightenment.

For the past eight years the Turkish Republic is governed by a pro-Islamic populist political party (AKP) who concealed their true intent behind a ‘Moderate Islam’ mask, slowly but surely marching towards their ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic presidential state. There are strong indications that this is the case. The AKP Government now controls judiciary system, put intellectuals, journalist, and politicians who oppose them in prison for three years without sufficient evidence to prosecute them.

Unfortunately what Pamuk is saying here is not so different to populist and anti-secular rhetoric of AKP.

I advise Mr. Pamuk to return to what he does best, writing beautiful novels.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Contact Opening Scene Under the Knife

I am reading "Selected Stories of H.G Wells", edited and with an introduction by Ursula K. Le Guin.



The protagonist in the short story "Under the Knife" undergoes a surgery. During the operation he sees himself as being elevated and detached from his body. He then leaves the room, rising up, watching London in bird's eye view, then rapidly flying up over the British Isles, Europe, and so on. He eventually leaves the Earth, crosses the solar system even briefly going through the rings of Saturn as brilliantly depicted by Wells:

":..and then I saw that a bright spot of light, that shone a little to one side of my path, was growing very rapidly larger, and perceived that it was the planet Saturn rushing towards me. Larger and larger it grew, swallowing up the heavens behind it, and hiding every moment a fresh multitude of stars. I perceived its flattened, whirling body, its disc-lite belt, and seven of its satellites. It grew, and grew, till it towered enormous; and then I plunged amid a streaming multitude of clashing stones and dancing dust-particles and gas-eddies, and saw for a moment the mighty triple belt like three concentric arches of moonlight above me, its shadow black on the boiling tumult below.."

When I finished reading the story I couldn't help but think that Wells perhaps became an inspiration to 1997 movie Contact's opening scene (from Carl Sagan's novel of the same name):

Just watch this and make your own mind up:


No wonder they call him, H.G Wells, "The Father of Science Fiction".

Thursday, December 9, 2010

GetUp's Statement

From here:

Dear President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder:

We, as Australians, condemn calls for violence, including assassination, against Australian citizen and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, or for him to be labeled a terrorist, enemy combatant or be treated outside the ordinary course of justice in any way.

As Thomas Jefferson said, "information is the currency of democracy." Publishing leaked information in collaboration with major news outlets, as Wikileaks and Mr. Assange have done, is not a terrorist act.

Australia and the United States are the strongest of allies. Our soldiers serve side by side and we’ve experienced, and condemned, the consequences of terrorism together. To label Wikileaks a terrorist organisation is an insult to those Australians and Americans who have lost their lives to acts of terrorism and to terrorist forces.

If Wikileaks or their staff have broken international or national laws, let that case be heard in a just and fair court of law. At the moment, no such charges have been brought.

We are writing as Australians to say what our Government should have: all Australian citizens deserve to be free from persecution, threats of violence and detention without charge, especially from our friend and ally, the United States.

We call upon you to stand up for our shared democratic principles of the presumption of innocence and freedom of information.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Back to basics

In his blog post "Wikileaks and the Long Haul" Clay Shirky wrote:

"Human systems can’t stand pure transparency. For negotiation to work, people’s stated positions have to change, but change is seen, almost universally, as weakness."

Well maybe this is what precisely the problem is. Perhaps we should go back to the drawing board of Democracy and like ancient Athenians we should demand transparency and scrutiny of public at all times.

 
Only then people may gradually learn opinion change not as a sign of weakness but as a sign of healthy debate. Perhaps people should have the right to know when opinions change and why.

WikiLeaks thins out the line between what governments want to hide and what people want to know, is that necessarily a bad thing?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mixed feelings

Another crisis our generation had to have, meet the new kid in the block, the ebook.

Will printed books survive?

Likely for a short while, unlikely in the long haul.

I now own a Kindle as I no longer have space left in our apartment to put new books in. Unfortunately the ebook has no personality but admittedly it is incredibly practical.



English is my second language so the online dictionary is a blessing, just point your cursor and there you go, the word is translated. Everything is so much easier, taking notes, bookmarks, searching, reading on the train, packing, unpacking, and the fact that I can sync with the Kindle desktop application on my Mac, these are all fantastic stuff. I can't tell you how much my reading efficiency increased. I can even read while I am standing in a crowded train as my ebook is extremely light and well designed to be held with one hand.

Alas I hate to see bookshops disappearing as for me a library or a bookshop is the warmest place on Earth. There is definitely an intimate sensation of proportionality tied between an author and its work when you touch and browse a printed book, certainly amiss in ebook form. And how we would come into terms of losing such a wonderful experience I don’t know but this is a reality we will have to live with I am afraid.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Evocom

I have been quiet for a while totally immersed myself into evolutionary computing.

I have developed a computer program named evocom to solve The Eight Queens Problem. I have also written a paper quantitively analysing and demonstrating fundamental aspects of biological evolution.

You can download evocom program and related paper at:

http://members.iinet.net.au/~coruh/evocom/

I have used great open source tools and free products in my work. Here they are:

  • TextWrangler : A brilliant text editor for Mac. Simple, fast, reliable, user friendly, got syntax-coloring.
  • Python: Mac comes with Python, free to download for Windows at http://www.python.org/
  • LaTeX: LaTeX is a high-quality typesetting system; it includes features designed for the production of technical and scientific documentation. LaTeX is the de facto standard for the communication and publication of scientific documents.
  • TeXShop: Award winning LaTeX editor for Mac, robust, simple, easy to use, reliable.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Al fresco lunch with my special tuscan penne marinara

Ok. Forget politics, worries of the world, economic downturn, religious terror, the social network or retirement plans. Today come with me to wonders of Italian cooking.

First of all you may not be an Italian but always remember this “you can pretend to be an Italian”. There is nothing in this Universe to prevent you from being childishly obsessively crazy about life, love, good food and good wine. Your choice.

The recipe I am going to disclose here is a variation using my favorite basic ingredients, pasta, tomato sauce, and prawns. You can experiment with various combinations of this terrific theme.

Your pasta can be penne, spaghetti, fusilli or fettucine. My personal preference would always be penne. Penne has this robust working class persona and embedded manhood which I find natural to express with my style.

The tomato sauce has to be cooked slowly with passion, full attention, and love. I learned how to cook a variation of tomato sauce from my Sicilian friend Mario. According to Mario tomato sauce is the heart and soul of a great Italian pasta dish. Cooking good tomato sauce deserves time, intellectual investment almost to the extent of exhaustion, and passion. You lack any of these and your dish will be ruined.

Prawns should be fully thawed, sexy, and marinated overnight with herbs and olive oil. Use your imagination on herbs. But they need to be Mediterranean herbs, such as basil, theme, or mint. Do not ever use Asian or even Moroccan herbs especially coriander (my personal enemy). Red chillies are OK.

Background:

Open yourself a good red (cabernet merlot or cabernet sauvignon). Air for few minutes, smell half deeply, feel human, and try enjoying the first sip around and under your tongue. You need to be happy while cooking Italian. Start rolling a Luciano Pavarotti or Cecilia Bartoli loud in the background.

Ingredients (for two):

Organic penne pasta 250g.
Largish fresh green prawns, full thawed, preferably marinated overnight with herbs 250g.
2 soft biggish, juicy trust tomatoes.
1 table spoonful of tomato paste.
Half a glass of your red wine.
Good olive oil (abundant).
2 pieces of large firm garlics.
half lemon juice, optionally its skin rendered in fine stripes.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Start with tomato sauce. Crush tomatoes in food processor, add one crushed garlic, crush a bit more and stop. In a saucepan put abundant olive oil to cover the base, add tomato garlic mixture, add red wine, start with high heat, but don’t stop watching.

Meanwhile start cooking your penne in abundant salty boiled water. You must aim firmness but penne should be swollen at the end about double of its original size. This process should take about 15 minutes with organic good brand pasta (you must count after you put your pasta in and after boiling starts again).

If your tomato sauce started sizzling add tomato paste, evenly combine with sauce, and wait until the sauce starts sizzling again. Then reduce heat. Keep it simmering for half an hour at least, lid open. Always remember to keep an eye in the sauce (don’t leave your kitchen or start your second glass;) It should be simmered and saturated slowly reaching to a dark lusty color at the end but it shouldn’t be too dry. Stir often enough with love and passion. Keep an eye on tiny bubbles. Keep lava bubbles popping like in the mouth of Mount Vesuvius.

Start cooking your prawns in the last 10 minutes. In a saucepan put some olive oil, add the remaining garlic piece crushed, add lemon juice, keep stirring and heating this sauce in high for a few minutes. Join prawns to the sauce, keep the heat high and keep stirring until lots of maddening fumes turn up (prawns got angry;) Reduce heat, cover the lid and leave it like that for another 5 minutes. Cook your prawns with their own steam (don't waste ocean's natural iodine flavour). But don’t overcook them otherwise they’ll be too firm.

Drain your pasta well (never ever run cold water through it, horrible Turkish tradition). Oil the base of a pan, put and stir your pasta back into the pan.

Make sure you topped up your and your partners’ glasses with red.

On beautiful white plates put some pasta. In the middle put about 2-3 full tablespoonful of tomato sauce. Finally pour over prawns and about a spoonful of juicy lemon flavored prawn sauce. Salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Finally I like stirring pasta with sauce thoroughly before eating (my wife doesn’t), the choice is yours.

Mamma mia! Buon appetito!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Grand Design

This is a popular science book from renowned physicist Stephen Hawking with a righteous agenda, and that is to take on strong anthropic principle.


Being a popular science book doesn’t mean this is beginner’s stuff nor you need to be a physicist to digest it.

However to get around comfortably you need to have consumed considerable hours digging other popular science books, or surfing Wikipedia on things like special relativity, general relativity, double-slit experiment, quantum physics, string theory, m-theory, and multiverses.

This book ties them up to a big picture and if you are lucky enough to be an open-minded person then you may have your ‘aha’ moment.

And your ‘aha’ moment may as well be the realization that god is not required to create the Universe, your dog, trees, the can of red-kidney beans on the kitchen table and everything else you see or you don’t see around you.
“The strong anthropic principle idea arose because it is not only the peculiar characteristics of our solar system that seem oddly conducive to development of human life but also the characteristics of our entire universe.”
This book challenges the strong anthropic principle with the multiverse idea.
“The multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology. But if it is true, then the strong anthropic principle can be considered effectively equivalent to weak one, putting the fine tunings of physical law on the same footing as the environmental factors, for it means that our cosmic habitat -now the entire observable universe- is only one of many, just as our solar system is one of many. Many people through the ages have attributed to God the beauty and complexity of nature that in their time seemed no scientific explanation. But just as Darwin and Wallace explained how the apparently miraculous design of living forms could appear without intervention by a supreme being, the multiverse concept can explain the fine-tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit.”
To some these may seem preposterous claims as no one witnessed evidence for multiverses. But our limited observation capacity is precisely the problem here. Multiverse idea is strongly linked to quantum theory. At quantum scales our observation interferes with the history of events selected. According to Feynman, a system has not just one history but every possible history.
“The histories that contribute to the Feynman sum don’t have an independent existence, but depend on what is being measured. We create history by our observation, rather than history creating us.
When one combines the general theory of relativity with quantum theory, the question of what happened before the beginning of the universe is rendered meaningless. The idea that histories should be closed surfaces without boundary is called the no-boundary condition.
We must accept that our usual ideas of space and time do not apply to the very early universe. That is beyond our experience, but not beyond our imagination, or our mathematics...One can also use Feynman’s methods to calculate the quantum possibilities for observations of the universe. If they are applied to the universe as a whole there is no point A (that it all started), so we add up all the histories that satisfy the no-boundary condition and end at the universe we observe today. In this view, the universe appeared spontaneously, starting off in every possible way. Most of these correspond to other universes. ” 
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book I hope you too. It is exhilarating and full of trademark humor from Stephen Hawking.

Links:

Michael Shermer on Model Dependent Realism

Sunday, August 22, 2010

No one is born with a religion

We are about to fly to the country I was born. It is a long and torturous journey, about twenty-four hours, in a cramped airbus seat.

Life is beautiful and cruel at the same time. Somehow before long flights I review my life. Our genes strive to leave a legacy of some form. What would be my legacy.. In case..

At this point in my life I am happy and content. Thanks to my ability to reason and my early realisation that you should not expect too much from life.

In fact this is almost what you really need in life as a precondition of everything else. A ‘reasoning’ mind. A ‘conscious’, ‘skeptical’, ‘inquisitive’ mind free from delusions.

My political identity is shaped by fairness, enlightenment values, and atheism.

I don’t have any problem with people who believe in a deity (or deities) and who express a peaceful, tolerant and humanistic interpretation of their religion.

This sort of personal engagement, equivalent to believing star signs or fortune telling does not irritate me so long as tolerance remains mutual even though I find the basis of their faith irrational.

My problem is with religious indoctrination of children. But before making my point we need to look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 18 and 19.

Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

No one is born with a religion.

Religion is a byproduct of human mind probably emerged early in human evolution. Our brains are wired to misinterpret natural phenomena we don’t understand in order to classify ‘the unknown and dangerous’. Humans developed rituals in the hope of controlling natural catastrophes. The Gods or the God emerged as the focal point of such misinterpretations. ‘The God’ became a black hole for everything that cannot be understood.

The core Enlightenment values that started to emerge in the 17th century have been questioning of traditional institutions, customs, and morals, and establishing a strong belief in rationality and science.

Today religions, their arcane and narrow view towards human condition, their pathetic deficiency in quest to understand and explain the rules of the Universe and the origins of Life on our planet have made them largely outdated and irrelevant in everyday life.

Besides their diminished role religions continue to remain however powerful and overly protected by identity politics in developed and developing nations alike.

No one is born with a religion.

Yet children all over the world are indoctrinated and brain washed from infancy.

Be it a Taliban run Madrasa in Afghanistan or a so called Faith school in a Western Democracy children are systematically brain washed in little or no regard of historical, social and scientific contexts and with complete disregard of other religions, faiths or the Theory of Evolution to explain the origins of life and nature. I see this in the lightest of terms a form of ‘child abuse’.

UDHR Article 18 warrants the ticket to ‘teach’ religion. But Article 19 at the same time warrants the right to freedom of opinion. Therefore no one should have the right to take away freedom of opinion from children.

In my view in the core of our moral responsibility lies our obligation to teach our children ‘the complete picture’.

And the complete picture will not be ‘complete’ without objectively teaching other religions, their history, their legacy, Atheism and the Theory of Evolution so that children can have their opportunity to compare one to another and perhaps learn to tolerate each other’s views in due process.

My legacy is ‘freedom of choice for our children’.

No one is born with a religion.

I ask you to stand by me and get my message across to stop abuse of our children with subjective religious indoctrination.

For peace and for a better world.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Some brands I hate and why

Crocs
By wearing Crocs footwear you are telling the world “My feet are so smelly and ugly, I don’t mind covering them with a pair of brightly colored plastic and punch a few holes on them”.

Cadbury Chocolates
Loving Cadbury Chocolates is as outrageous as like loving Taliban. It is not reasonable to love a chocolate with smoked bacon taste in it.

Lacoste T-shirts
By wearing Lacoste T-shirts you are telling the world “I am a clean well mannered guy with no sense of originality. I have an obsessive fear from choosing something cool. I have been boring all through my life and I want to stay that way.”

All Korean Cars
We don’t know how to make beautiful cars, and we fail to copy beautiful German cars.

Target and Big W
Our stores smell nothing but plastic. You will feel in your bones how cheap we and you are.

Coffee in Gloria Jeans
We don’t mind insulting Italians by serving burned coffee and calling it ‘Cappuccino’.

Coffee in Starbucks
We don’t mind insulting Italians by serving hot water with a 1/4 mm froth on it and still calling it ‘Cappuccino’.

Low rise pants
I want to show the World that I don't have anything in my possession or in my character that is interesting or respectful, other than this miserable filthy crack.

Doughnuts
I hate weddings. I want a kind of food which has the necessary geometry for maximum fat and sugar intake so that I’ll make sure that I die from a blocked artery filled with yellow and sticky stuff before my kid is married.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

RIP Google Wave

Google Wave, an online collaboration platform in its infancy is dead.

Broadly speaking the main issue with GW was ‘poor usability’.

GW was too stressful to use.

Consider this. If more than two people are talking to each other face to face you will notice that the quality of communication rapidly degrades as number of people increases.

Now imagine same group of people, trying to maintain an online conversation using a tool like GW. They would be struggling to think, comprehend, scroll to see the newest message, type their own message, cut and paste a video link, copy an image, hack each other’s sentences with simultaneous editing.

Geeks might like that. But not everyone would like that.

Way too many interactions. Way too many distractions on the screen.

GW screen looked like a glorious billboard as if designed for maximum distraction. Well who wants to be distracted while communicating?

I mentioned this before:
"We became gadget-obsessed anxiety-driven freaks and our urban society is running on a short attention span culture.

Just about everybody, every hardware device, and every software on the Internet is desperately trying to grab the shortest possible time span dedicated to comprehension and expression."
Therefore I believe new collaboration tools must make every effort to take stress out from the environment.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace has 1,225 pages. How many Twitter users do you think would read 1,225 pages?

Not that they would not read because they would be bored, but since Lev Tolstoy died in 1910, their grey matter must have evolved in such a way that its software perhaps lost ability to appreciate 1,225 pages of a masterpiece.

The other day on TV I watched a young man camping overnight (literally with a tent) outside Apple Store at George Street. He looked like a crack addict as journalists interviewed him. He wanted to be the first man to buy the newest generation of iPhone 4GS that is known to have a faulty antenna design.

A friend of mine sent me a web site link called igniteshow.com. The site advertises itself as:
“Ignite is a geek event in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes.”

I watched one of the videos. A Chinese-American girl trembling with anxiety for catching up the five minute deadline, dropped her text on the floor, talked like a puppet, a soulless speech filled with statistics, uninteresting and torturous. She looked like a biology lab mouse trapped inside a labyrinth.

All these show one thing.

We became gadget-obsessed anxiety-driven freaks and our urban society is running on a short attention span culture.

Just about everybody, every hardware device, and every software on the Internet is desperately trying to grab the shortest possible time span dedicated to comprehension and expression.

Mobile phone became anything but a phone. It is now a complex device designed to shorten your attention span.

It beeps, it vibrates, it rings, it animates, it flashes, it scrolls, it plays. Ah yes occasionally people talk with it.

If texting or gaming is not enough we tweet, or re-tweet, or 'like', or follow, or stop following, or post a url, or post a YouTube link, or change security settings, or read RSS feed summaries , or email on GMail, or forward an email, or reply an email, or subscribe or register to a web site with a user name and password, or search Google, or search Google Images, or search Google News, or, or, ... Oh hell! I am tired.

I don’t even think anyone would be reading this blog post (not that I care), it is too long.

We look like hyper active monkeys trapped behind zoo walls desperately anxious and hopelessly discontent.

I think I am going to buy a thick book and read it. It may as well be Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Church and State

Australian Democrats nailed it. They have the most comprehensive policy to ensure separation of Church and State, I wonder where Greens stand:

"The Australian Constitution prohibits the Commonwealth from making any law for establishing religion, imposing religious observance or using religion as a test for office. However this has not guaranteed a secular state and boundaries between church and state have become increasingly blurred.

The Howard Government shaped its response to refugees in terms of Australian values which it said were Christian. Exclusively religious chaplains were funded in government schools and all states give as of rights to religious instruction in school hours. Schools are prohibited from providing meaningful activity for those who opt out.

MPs, including prime ministers, have openly declared their religious allegiances and parliaments around the country still pray before each sitting that their deliberations are overseen by God for ‘...the advancement of Thy glory’.

Organised religion is exempt from taxes for their commercial businesses. Earnings for the 10 biggest religious groups were estimated at $23.3b in 2005, costing taxpayers untold sums in lost revenue that might otherwise be spent on services."

The following is my wish list and all seem to be endorsed in Australian Democrats' policy:

We need constitutional reform to ensure separation of Church and State. 
We need tax system reform to remove exemptions for church organisations for profits made from purely commercial operations.
We need replacing prayers in Federal Parliament with period of reflection on the importance of ethical practice.
We need obliging church organizations providing publicly funded services such as hospitals and employment placement to not discriminate on religious grounds in the services they deliver or the people they serve and employ.
We need abolishing grants for proselytising such as the $8m for Catholic World Youth Day.
We need adherence to the fundamental principle that children should not be inculcated in religion before they are mature enough to make judgements on particular belief systems.
We need confining religious instruction or education in government schools to after school hours, changing parent permission to opt in rather than opt out and encouraging ethics education in schools.
We need  the principle that government should be policy neutral when it comes to religion – between different religions and with those of no religion.
For more info refer to: http://www.democrats.org.au/policies/

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Death of an Atheist

The following post from the Freethinker web site is distressing.

"A young muslim, who had been investigated by his employers at Male International Airport in the Maldives for apostasy, was found hanged from the airport’s control tower yesterday (14 July 2010).

In two emails sent to an international humanitarian organisation on June 23 and 25, Ismail admitted he was an atheist and desperately requested assistance for a UK asylum application. He claimed to have received several anonymous threats on June  22.

In the emails, he said:

“I foolishly admitted my stance on religion to work colleagues, word of which had “spread like wildfire.” A lot of my close friends and girlfriend have been prohibited from seeing me by their parents. I have even received a couple of anonymous phone calls threatening violence if I do not repent and start practicing Islam … I cannot bring myself to pretend to be I am something I am not, as I am a staunch believer in human rights. I am afraid for my life here and know no one inside the country who can help me."

This sad news brings back the question of how much religious fundamentalism should be tolerated in secular societies.

In secular democratic societies people with strong religious convictions enjoy and share the freedom of expression and civil rights with other citizens who may not necessarily share their faith.

Islamists cried for 'freedom of expression' when French banned 'burka' recently, but when they have the numbers religious fundamentalists act like monsters who would not tolerate opinions other than the bigoted preaching dictated by their faith.


Source: The Freethinker

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Borders of irrationality

This is from a local newspaper North Shore Times:
“ORTHODOX Jews in St Ives could be freed up to leave their homes on the Sabbath and other holy days if a proposal to create a religious zone ringing the suburb is approved by Ku-ring-gai Council.

The Jewish community wants to create the zone, known as an eruv.

Once physically inside this zone, orthodox Jews would be able to do otherwise forbidden activities such as pushing and carrying objects including car keys and tissues.
The plan requires the installation of 27 poles of 6m height and connecting wires.”

Richard Dawkins said "Tradition has its place, but not where factual knowledge is concerned." and continued:
"There are many ways in which people differ from one another by virtue of traditions handed down through the generations, and these are often admirable and worthy of respect. But there is a qualitative difference between a cultural tradition and factual evidence, and we should not feel obliged to respect, or encourage the perpetuation of, beliefs about reality which we know to be untrue, simply because they form part of a tradition, even an ancient tradition. When you put it like that, I find it hard to imagine how any person of goodwill and intelligence could seriously disagree. Yet because it is usually not put like that, there are many people, even non-religious people, who have been duped into confusing the ‘cultural tradition’ side of religion with the ‘statement of facts’ side, and endowing both with the respect due only to one."
But do we need walls, wires to divide the greater society we live in based on irrational belief systems and do we have obligation to respect such nonsense even though they may merely be seem cultural elements of a tradition?

Original news link

Sunday, June 20, 2010

About a mouse

I have owned a Mac computer for a year now. My Mac came with a pointing device which Apple called “the mighty mouse”. The most distinctive feature of this device is its trackball’s silky sensitivity. The small trackball on the top moves in all directions and it responds to your fingertip’s faintest movements.

Yet to my sorrow the mighty mouse is far from mighty and it has a miserable design fault. After a short period of normal usage the trackball fails to move your mouse pointer on the screen (usually scrolling down fails).

As I was told by an Apple ‘genius’ later on, apparently the tiny gap around the trackball periphery sucks the smallest dust particles and in time they clog the trackball's gear. Within a month or so the mouse starts to fail in responding your fingertip’s commands. The mighty mouse turns into an ugly ordinary mouse.

The Apple guy whom I saw months back recommended to turn the mouse over and rub it against a piece of paper on a hard surface. So in a number of occasions I followed his instructions and the mouse recovered OK but only temporarily.

Over a week ago the mighty mouse failed for good, and despite my cleaning attempts it did not recover. In desperation I tried to open the mouse but instead broke plastic bearings around the rim and failed to fully open the lid at the back.

Frustrated I took the mouse to the Apple store in Chatswood, expecting some sympathy as I had an extended warranty worth of $268. I was refused to be looked at as I had to make an appointment with the ‘Genius Desk’  first (Apple calls their service people by that name).

I've made an appointment and a few days later I visited the same Apple store for the second time. This time ‘the genius’ turned the mouse over and rolled it on a paper, made some star and eight movements for about two minutes or so. And voila! My mighty mouse plugged in a MacBook test machine worked.

After mentioning him that I tried to open the mouse for a good clean up the genius said “I know. I noticed your mouse lid is broken. Your warranty is void.” I mentioned I did not really care too much if my warranty was void on a $69 mouse as at that point I just needed a functioning mouse. The genius recommended me to buy the new $100 wireless mouse.

Oh the wireless...

I said I found wireless mouses frustrating too as you had to change batteries every now and then. These were my last remarks. I walked out the store.

Don’t get me wrong I am in awe of everything Apple does. When I look at Apple products I can’t help but murmur “it’s a beautiful thing”.

However in this instance Apple failed to deliver the user experience they are so proud to fulfill.

First of all ‘the might mouse’ design is faulty. My work PC is a Windows machine and I have been using its mouse, oh I have forgotten, for so long, and never had to clean the damn thing. It just works.

So from my perspective compared to an ordinary PC mouse, Apple’s mighty mouse fails to deliver in a mighty way.

Secondly I can’t help noticing how we intelligent people in minority have to suffer from collective stupidity of majority opinion.

It appears that wireless mouse and wireless keyboard is nothing more than a marketing gimmick and majority has swallowed it. This was a foolish idea, it still is and it continues to frustrate many users like me.

The reasons why wireless mouse and keyboard is a bad idea are:
  1. You have to bear the stress that any minute batteries can go flat.
  2. You have to keep a spare pair of AA batteries around (you normally won’t).
  3. You have to consume a bag-full of batteries every year and pollute the environment needlessly whereas your desktop machine through its USB port could have easily powered your mouse for nothing.
I now use a $20 ordinary Windows mouse on my Mac. The mouse has a cord, it works and I am happy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fundamentals

I returned to fundamentals. I started to follow computer science (CS) courses at MIT. 

MIT has a great program called MIT OpenCourseWare and it is free. Lecture videos are available from uTunes. uTunes is embedded iTunes portal which makes it easier to collate course material in one place.

The following snapshot shows a portion of my desktop.



I have course video at the top, a Python script edited with iMac’s Pico editor in the middle, and the output screen at the bottom. I also have course presentation in pdf document form and browser windows in other areas of my screen. 

It is great fun, probably more fun than sitting in a classroom. I can pause the video and do a bit of programming or research on the web then get back to course. 

It is also a fantastic activity to return to fundamentals of algorithms. Being a seasoned programmer allows me to focus purely on mathematics and analysis of algorithms.

My long therm objective is to study evolutionary algorithms and perhaps write a program to simulate evolutionary systems.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Piazza

This photograph was taken in September 2003 somewhere in Umbria. We were walking through the alleys and narrow streets of this beautiful hilltop town since midday.



Then as the sunset started to gradually embrace rooftops, buildings, and streets beneath something magical happened.

Suddenly, as if responding to a mysterious call people started to pour into streets in their best outfits. It was an amazing sight. People standing, chatting, walking, greeting each other, individuals moving from one group to another. A wonderful human foam erupting and flowing everywhere.

Pay attention. There are no advertisement posts, no interfering commercial garbage, no hideous shop signs, no one is using mobile phone, no texting. Just people facing people.

So people’s attitude towards architectural and spatial settings is as important as their attitude towards each other. Italians know how to live and don’t let disruptive commercialism to take over their most precious everyday event, Piazza.

People genuinely facing and communicating with each other without letting anything getting in their way. They are simply experiencing being human in an embracing social fabric.

‘Piazza’ is a public square where people at any age gather just before sunset, and talk, gossip, fall in love, laugh and in general ‘feel’ human again. Piazza is the heart of Italian society. How much I envy them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Scale matters

Ever since looked down from a high rise building, watched pedestrians and cars lazily moving, but somehow skillfully avoiding each other just like ants?

If you stop and watch an ant colony they too seem busy yet not panicking, some carrying their cargo into tunnels, others returning to take more, again skillfully avoiding each other.

It takes only going up about ten floors or more in a high rise building to realise how insignificant human scale becomes with collective scale emerging in its grandeur.

From this height that guy crossing the street becomes like an ant, his complex frontal cortex1 setup, his desires, thoughts, worries and joys, his career, personal finances, kids, wife, boss, lunch, friends, next summer holiday, aging parents etc simply vanish.

Collective consciousness mercilessly takes over, averaging his behavior, and reducing the man to a crawling creature.

“Look at'em Dad!” cries a five year old. “They're like ants!”.

Zooming in and out of scales may change your perception, your views about life, the universe and yourself. You may start to think for instance maybe after all we are exaggerating our role in the universe.

About the time we evolved to have a sufficiently large frontal cortex we must have discovered that we were not going to make it here on earth indefinitely.

Hence  somewhere along the line of homo sapiens evolution our collective consciousness created a fictitious after life. We invented gods and religions of various forms to secure and extend our life span. A delusion that blinded our species for generations to come from making sense of scale transitions.

We wishfully think we are intelligent enough to deserve a purpose behind our own existence. Perhaps our chauvinistic attitude and megalomanic admiration upon our own species grew with our intelligence, a misfire of some sort.

Whereas from evolutionary perspective systematic delusions often work against mother nature’s tendency to favor a particular species.

We are so much obsessed with regarding ourselves as the most admirable, beautiful and intelligent of all species ever existed, so much so that, we ignore other scales and other metrics.

The chances are we may be ‘intelligent’ but we may not be as ‘successful’ as other species. Our species may not be able to survive despite our ignorance so long as we keep misinterpreting the scale of our own importance and undermining the impact we inflict on this planet.

Looking down at gigantic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from space should convince us how vulnerable and ‘unsuccessful’ we may be as species.

Scale matters.


References:
1) Frontal cortex: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontal_lobe

Monday, May 3, 2010

You are a null set

The "theory of probability" was one of my favorite subjects during university education.

Our lecturer was a man with great sense of humor, then Assoc. Prof. Fatih Canatan.

In probability theory there were abundant of interesting real life examples that would pull you out of the realm of photons (electromagnetic fields’ constituent particles) and put you on the ground standing firm on your feet, well almost firm, as we are talking about probabilities here. The theory of probability gave us the students a rare sense of belonging in our otherwise weird electrical engineering curriculum.

I remember we also had a classmate, an annoying type, you know the guy, a definitive 'nerd', who constantly asks stupid questions without giving a fig about how disruptive he is being for the class. 

Then one day following a chain of dumb and tiring interruptions he asked “what is a ‘null set’ professor?”. Mr Canatan turned, calmly puffed his long pipe twice, deeply thinking, but his face now turning slightly pinkish, answered:

“Mmm. A null set is an empty set as I already mentioned number of times. For example you, you are a null set!”.

The whole class suddenly cracked up, tears in eyes.


A classical problem in introductory probability lectures is:

"What is the probability of finding at least two people with the same birthday in a group of people?"

Most people underestimates the value of such probability. To give you an idea in a group of 20 people the probability is 41%.

In my hand writing the solution is given as follows :

If you also want to plot how probability varies with the group size first of all you need a good calculator which won’t give you overflow with large factorials. Most likely your computer’s calculator application would fail. You would need a tool like Wolfram Alpha.

Wolfram Alpha is a magnificent online math tool. Go to http://www.wolframalpha.com then in the search box type;

1 - 365!/((365-k)!*365^k)

After a few seconds Wolfram will give you a set of interesting plots and numbers in various forms:


If you want to zoom into the probability distribution for a group size between 20 and say 40, simply follow your intuition:

1 - 365!/((365-k)!*365^k) from 20 to 40

And you would get this;

Or if you want to calculate the probability for a group of 40 people simply type:

1 - 365!/((365-k)!*365^k) where k=40

And you would get the result as 89.1232%:

Isn’t this amazing! I mean the whole thing. It simply feels great NOT to be a null set.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Revolution series

I am working on a series of digital drawings and paintings about 'revolution'.

This painting uses 'tricolor' theme from French Revolution, blood stains symbolises 'no pain, no gain' then we see uneasy incompleteness and miscalculation.


Tragedy of chaos, blood stains and unfinished wall slogan 'R' of 'revolution', the drama of a young revolutionary whose life was taken during Paris riots.



Graffiti of Revolution, shows vitality and enthusiasm of revolutionaries..


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Power of a painting

Guernica is a painting by Pablo Picasso, depicting the bombing of Guernica, Basque Country, by German and Italian warplanes at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War.


Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace.

A tapestry copy of Picasso's Guernica is displayed on the wall of the United Nations building in New York City, at the entrance to the Security Council room. Commissioned in 1955 by Nelson Rockefeller, and placed on loan to the United Nations by the Rockefeller estate in 1985,[18] the tapestry is less monochromatic than the original, and uses several shades of brown.

On February 5, 2003 a large blue curtain was placed to cover this work, so that it would not be visible in the background when Colin Powell and John Negroponte gave press conferences at the United Nations.

On the following day, it was claimed that the curtain was placed there at the request of television news crews, who had complained that the wild lines and screaming figures made for a bad backdrop, and that a horse's hindquarters appeared just above the faces of any speakers.

Some diplomats, however, in talks with journalists claimed that the Bush Administration pressured UN officials to cover the tapestry, rather than have it in the background while Powell or other U.S. diplomats argued for war on Iraq.

compiled from Wikipedia

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The story of a portrait


This is Alberto Korda. Korda was the son of a railway worker, and took many jobs before beginning as a photographer's assistant. He was a photographer for the Cuban newspaper Revolución in 1960 when he produced on March 5, 1960 the iconic image of Che Guevara, that became a worldwide symbol of revolution and rebellion.

The freighter La Coubre exploded at 3:10 p.m. on 4 March 1960, while it was being unloaded in Havana harbor. This 4,310-ton French vessel was carrying 76 tons of Belgian munitions from the port of Antwerp.

At the instant of the explosion, Che Guevara was in a meeting in the INRA building. After hearing the blast and seeing the debris cloud from a window overlooking the port area, he drove to the scene and spent the next hours giving medical attention to the scores of crew members, armed forces personnel, and dock workers who had been injured, many of them fatally.

Che Guevara at the La Coubre memorial service
I've always had enormous urge to draw Che's portrait, using his famous photograph taken at La Coubra memorial service on March 5, 1960..

..and I always wanted to do this in my own way, not interested in even remotely how and why others drew him.

Knowing that this is the most copied photograph in the history of photography, did not put me off. I had my own reasons.

I had to explore his face first, I have to understand his lines. The best way to achieve this is to draw an outline, a contour, like a blind man recognizing a face.


I used "felt art marker" to draw the portrait in free strokes. I strove to remain loyal to lines emerged from studying the original picture, unlike commonly known templates which were manipulated to make him look younger for propaganda purposes. Take this one for example:

This is certainly a more handsome looking portrait used in Cuban murals and propaganda posters. But in this form despite we see a much younger and healthier looking plumply face, the portrait lacks emotion in general and Che looks awfully unreal.

I had to do much better than this.


I let my hands to capture his character freely, his sadness, his silent determination and the aura of funeral atmosphere surrounding him at the time. 

Yet my drawing is not only about the funeral nor about heartlessly dry soul crushing ideological propaganda.

Above all I wanted to capture a man who is standing behind his principles, his revolutionary ideals. His looks say it all: "I am standing here with you no matter what". Venceremos ("we will win".)

Did they win? Only they will tell.

But 'Che' meme will continue to live with us.

Che survived the odds and became the coolest icon of popular culture manifesting and translating itself forever as the 'rebel with a cause' within the midst of our collective consciousness.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Infinite Onion

Richard Feynman in an interview said:

“I can live with doubt and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong.”

We don’t need religions nor god to explain uncertainty, doubts or things that we don’t know. Questions like ‘why we are here?’ might be pointless as there might be no purpose hidden behind our existence.

An inquisitive mind is all we need in our journey of learning. New answers surface other questions. New knowns expose other unknowns. If there is any purpose in life it may as well be the purpose of unfolding the next unknown. It is like peeling the layers of an infinite onion.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Use your body

Nothing compares to happy feel of filling a clean blank sheet of paper. I am writing this post in full screen mode and there is big difference. The background is pitch black. There is virtually nothing on the screen to distract me apart from the white page and silent movements of my cursor. Oh how I had missed this.

The social-net culture is narrowing our attention span, there is more to read and they are getting littler. We wander from link to link and often give up reading if it exceeds one small paragraph. It would be a miracle if you are reading this sentence now.

It is sad to see how uninteresting majority of web content nowadays. In desperation we follow more people on Twitter or add new subscription links to our RSS feeder. Alas this only helps to aggravate our anxiety and frustration. Nothing seems to be helping us to wipe off our boredom. Welcome to web addiction.

I guess when life was simpler, we had to work our butt off to entertain ourselves. We needed to construct things with our hands. I remember when I was six once my older brother and I spent the entire day to build a toy crane using wood, pulleys he made from Mum’s sewing thread reels, and tight ropes. What an exhilarating experience it was.

Web turned us into anxiety driven stupid creatures. We forgot to allocate decent amount of time to do meaningful stuff with our bodies, be it gardening, photography, drawing, playing outside or building toy cranes.

Life was more exciting when it was simpler and less.

We need to re-learn to spend hours on something we love, something that we create with our hands.  We need to re-discover the joy of creativity.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The shape of the universe

More than four decades ago scientists discovered that the universe is suffused with microwave radiation -long wavelength light- that is a cool relic of the sweltering conditions after the big bang. Earlier on, it was stupendously hot, but as the universe evolved and expanded, the radiation steadily diluted and cooled. Today it is just about 2.7 degrees above absolute zero, and its greatest claim of mischief is its contribution of a small fraction of the snow you see on your television set when you disconnect the cable or turn to a station that isn’t broadcasting.

In 1929, Edwin Hubble, using the 100-inch telescope at the Mount Wilson observatory in Pasadena, California, found that the couple of dozen galaxies he could detect were all rushing away. In fact Hubble found that the more distant a galaxy is the faster its recession.

An essential property of cosmic microwave radiation revealed by precision satellite measurements over the last decade is that it is extremely uniform. The temperature of the radiation in one part of the sky differs from that in another part by less than a thousandth of a degree.

So although the universe is evolving since the big bang, on average the evolution must have been nearly identical across the cosmos.

This conclusion is of great consequence because the universe’s uniformity is what allows us to define a concept of time applicable to the universe as a whole. Thus the universe has enough symmetry to allow us to speak of its overall age and its overall evolution through time.

Using two-dimensional analogy for space, there are three types of curvature that are completely symmetric -that is, curvatures in which the view from any location is the same as that from any other. They are (a) positive curvature, which uniformly bloats outward, as on sphere; (b) zero curvature, which does not bloat at all, as on infinite plane; (c) negative curvature, which uniformly shrinks inward, as on a saddle.

Therefore a short list of curvatures -uniformly positive, negative, or zero- exhausts the possible curvatures for space that are consistent with the requirement of symmetry between all locations and in all directions. And that is really stunning. We are talking about the shape of the entire universe. Yet, by invoking the immense power of symmetry, researches have been able to narrow the possibilities sharply.

So if someone was to wake you in the middle of the night from a deep sleep and demand you to tell him the shape of the universe -the overall shape of space- and grant you a mere handful of guesses, you’ll be able to meet his challenge.

- Compiled from 'the fabric of the cosmos' -Brian Greene-

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Testing Bullshit Generator

I found this bullshit generator and put it immediately into a test:

http://www.erikandanna.com/Humor/bullshit_generator.htm

I came up with the following narrative in 2 minutes (quoted sections are products of the generator.)

Let me introduce you to Jack. Jack is responsible for our 'integrated e-business transition'. To help him we need to 'extend e-business mindshare'. However our success will depend on our ability to 'seize efficient e-tailers'.We also need to 'implement robust infrastructures' along the way. This will help us 'transform transparent markets'.

Jack will also deploy 'back-end convergence' and 'optimize bricks-and-clicks initiatives'. With this our organisation will 'seize strategic e-services' and 'unleash frictionless mindshare'.

Please welcome Jack (Ass) who will 'monetize our visionary web-readiness'.

..Claps..

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Havaianas

Fashion is weird. I mean the fashion elements come to life purely by unexpected public endorsement as opposed to marketing pressure forced by commercial fashion houses. Take thongs for instance. Originated from Japanese zōri, thongs are cheap, simple and practical to wear in warm climates.

Thongs became a phenotype in human memetic evolution and today they are pushing boundaries of survival in unprecedented novel ways.

One such indication is the rise of black Havaianas among Sydney office women in recent years. I know this because I have been working mostly in CBD areas of Sydney for over twenty years now.


Business dress code for women hasn't changed much, mostly gray-scale suits, light color shirts and black court shoes.

Traditional corporate dresses are uncomfortable, people wear them either because of corporate pressure or for power. They are designed to erase your identity and make you a corporate slave.

Men ties are weird, they look stupid, uncomfortable and they serve no purpose other than indicating that you are an idiot to accept your miserable slavery.

Similarly women court shoes look hypocritical incarnations of suppressed female sexual identity. They have heels, yet their mostly dull and ordinary design, and lack of color erase reminiscences of sexual identity. And oh boy they must be uncomfortable, torturous to wear between work and home five days a week.

Office women understandably rebelled. First white sneakers appeared. Although they have no attractiveness whatsoever they looked comfortable, and women started to wear them between home and work, took them off and wore court shoes in the office.

The problem with business suit plus white sneakers combo is, it looks awful. For me the sight of this particular fashion disaster is so painful and unbearable that I avoided to look at them to the extent of breaking my neck (at one stage it pushed me to think maybe after all Mother Theresa was not that unsexy at all.)

So office women realised that they were on the wrong track. We all know they are better equipped with primal instincts of sexual realisation.

So one day one women took her Havaianas that she must have bought as beach-wear and wore them to work. To my relief that must have been the D-day abruptly ended white sneakers' undeserved hegemony. The next day more women copied this heroic and daring behavior of their 'leader', and over incoming weeks hundreds of women must have bought them. And the era of black Havaianas plus business dress started. They are now everywhere in the CBD.

Black Havaianas look cool under business suits. They serve the purpose yet they don't look awful, and their mild rebellious cheerfulness give back women their much deserved 'fun' identity stolen by corporate big brother. It is their way of saying 'hey this is my day job, but I am a beach girl I am cool and fun to be with'. Good on them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Skeinforce

Well it all started with iMac. Hypnotised with its beauty we bought one in May last year. One problem we had was our password management program Zippylock was Windows only and required .NET. I know this because I know who wrote it (bloggerboy)!

Earlier my mate Ricardo showed me a wrapper he wrote around Skein hash functions which grabbed my attention. Skein is a piece of beauty. Well it is small, coded in C, portable, very fast, and very powerful. You can go up to 1024-bit encryption with Skein. Behind Skein there is a good-looking team of security gurus and my security idol Bruce Schneier.

So I said OK. How about I write a little utility like Zippylock, this time x-platform though. So I wanted a x-platform GUI and x-platform compatible binary serialisation with locale support. What this means in short, I wanted to be able to transform my database file across Windows and Mac. Say I come to work, and enrol to a new professional forum. Then I add my user credentials into the database, save the database file in my USB drive, and use it on my iMac at home.

I also wanted to have a much simpler user interface. So the idea of designing something like Google suggest popped up. Google suggest has been introduced by Google recently, you know the thing, as you type you see a list of most popular options and the list narrows down with your typing.


Miraculously the x-platform development kit Qt from Nokia had a sample code of a widget on Google suggest metaphor.

I kicked off project Skeinforce here in Negative Matter on the 18 November 2009. Luckily all pieces of the jigsaw puzzle joined well and I've just finished the project earlier than I anticipated. It was great fun despite my wife’s fair protests of me neglecting house work and not communicating (as always she was right.)

Along the way I learned Qt (what a brilliant toolkit!), kept my programming mojo alive (I can’t live without coding), learned a few Unix and Mac tricks and in the end I had a nice little utility that I dreamed for. I guess the best part of being a developer (who doesn’t have kids;) you can design your own thing.

Anyway this is a free tool, and could be useful to many. You can download it from the following location (I'll also make the source code available soon.) Feedbacks are welcome.

http://members.iinet.net.au/~coruh/skeinforce/

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

#nocleanfeed

I've joined the Great Australian Internet Blackout this Australia Day, because we believe in every Aussie's right to responsible freedom of speech.

The Rudd Government has said it will introduce a new law requiring Internet service providers to filter all Internet connections - including yours.

Follow this link and stand united against Internet censorship

Bravo Google

In this blog I have criticised Google's earlier decision made in 2006 to censor itself in China.

In mid-December 2009 Google and at least twenty other large companies faced massive cyber attacks originated from China. Unexpectedly Google shared the information with broad audience and issued a statement on their official blog.

Google stated:
"We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech.
...
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.
...
The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences."
This is the Google we want to see, walking their talk don't be evil. This is what makes an organisation a giant. And this is how you make a difference in the history of humanity. Bravo Google.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Year 2010

We all know the year 2010 is a random section across the eternal arrow of time, yet we think this is going to be a special episode to rewind our lives, start a healthy diet, quit smoking etc.

The year started with the news of a mass murder in Finland by an Albanian migrant, this is followed by routine suicide bombings in Pakistan and Iraq. Then cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and his granddaughter were attacked by a Somalian jihadist with an axe in his hand in Denmark, as usual dozens of people were killed in road accidents, even the legendary Sydney fireworks were not less boring than last year's.

The only spectacular exception to these depressive chain of events was of course the movie "Avatar". Avatar was the only human achievement worth to talk if you are obsessed with yearly summaries.

It is interesting that I started the year by reducing entropy that I have been responsible for. Stuff grew in my wardrobe drawer on their own in the last ten years or so. I have been able to find memorabilia such as a train ticket from year 2001, a never used hair brush that massages your scalp, various coins from different parts of the world, obsolete medicine prescriptions, obsolete medicine, business cards that I forgot where they came from, truckloads of dust mites and so on. It took me two hours to clean up the drawer. Then I went down to our garage and with a manic expression on my face I crushed and tore off dozens of empty card-boards that were saved in case they would be needed.

I am now beginning to understand desperate house wives and why they are so obsessed with cleaning. It gives you a false sense of achievement by re-ordering stuff. In fact all you have done is to reduce disorderliness accumulated in your environment because of you.

Where does this lead us? Well nowhere really. The earth is going to be warmer, more living species will become extinct due to us, there will be more suicide bombings, we will interpret return of 'the greed' as 'economic recovery' until we have another economic downturn in a decade or so, in nearly one in three of my age group some form of cancer time bomb will expire in the next decade or so, more misfortunes everywhere.

Or are these events really misfortunes? Like Seneca perhaps we should learn to accept misfortunes as being unavoidable parts of our lives rather than mere exceptions.