Friday, December 16, 2011

To Hitch, a Tribute

We lost Christopher Hitchens, or as we know him our Hitch.

There are people in my life, that I feel I owe them great deal; Hitch is one of them. I owe Dostoyevski who showed me to question divine justice; I owe my high school Physics teacher Şükrü Kapucu who showed us the light of Reason and to stand firm against religious bigotry, and so on.

Christopher Hitchens
1949-2011

Hitch was known for his razor sharp intellect, his superb oratory but above all he should be remembered for his “honesty”.

What I learned from Hitch was to confront bigotry. We don’t have to “respect” the ridiculous nor unreasonable nor superstitious; we don’t have to put up with religious bigotry, and more importantly we don’t have to tolerate the intolerant.

Religions reigned far too long; and despite the agony and misery they inflicted in people’s lives they are still shown undeserved ‘respect’. Hitch until the end looked at us in the eye and taught us to confront religious dishonesty without blinking.  He spoke on behalf of abused men and women who suffered in the hands of religions.

I can’t help thinking what a super-honest, fine, decent man he was,  Hitch. Even with his death he demonstrated us how to die with his decency, his honesty and his integrity intact. Shall I have the same courage like him when I die?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

How software should be

Ultimately principal focus of software development should be to let users feel good about themselves. They want to be in control as if gliding gently across the sky, or peeling a banana, or skating on ice. Software should show little resistance, it should be obedient, smooth, effortlessly flowing and loveable.



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Global Citizens

in Google+ Nick Bauman wrote:

"About 2500 years ago in a smaller seaport town in the eastern Mediterranean, a proposal was submitted to the city council by a man, a lesser noble, in a citystate which was facing its greatest existential threat. His name was Themistocles and he was worried about the impending invasion of his country by the great Persian army led by Xerxes. This plan was a plan of community self-sacrifice where the state would sponsor a project joined by all his countrymen to fight the Persians. They would use the silver from a collectively held mine to build a fleet of warships to challenge Persia at sea. The effort ended up being a great leveling of Athenian society, leading to what we recognize as the first democratic state in the world. The wealthy gave up some of their own wealth, too, to fund the project. The citizens gave up their very homes to fight. By the end, while the Persians were sent packing, Athens was besieged and the wealthy members of the city opened their stores to feed and shelter many of the displaced citizen army."

One of the positive effects of the GFC is, it brought us, “Global Citizens” together. We are living in an era of “Global Citizenship”. National Citizenship is dying.

We no longer should talk about “American-way”, “Australian way”. These memes are static stereotypes that lost meaning. Arrogant, racist, empty and irrelevant, they impose limitations in our thinking, they wrap heavy chains around our intellectual freedom. 

We should instead talk about “human values”, values that made us, like wisdom,  justice, care for environment and compassion; these are universal and limitless human values.

First and foremost the revolution ignited by “occupy” foot-soldiers made us to face a new reality. It is ‘us’ Global Citizens, and only up to us to create a better world. We now all have a shared responsibility in this. The moment has come and it is not something we should or can avoid, but something to embrace and work on.

We need to see that our survival does not necessarily depend on “fitness” criteria defined by individualism. Perhaps after all it is no longer “survival of the fittest” but it ought to be “survival of the wisest”. History brought us to face a new level of reality check.

We are New Athenians and the New Athens is the Globe.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Where is my money?


I have a product I sell in Apple App Store called MiniBluebox. In October 2011 upon inspecting Sales Reports available at  iTunesConnect website and comparing them to my bank’s transaction records I found a discrepancy and sent the following email to Apple:


According to Financial Reports in iTunes it appears I was paid AUD 49.90 and AUD 101.07 on 29 September 2011.

However based on my Bank's transaction record I received two payments; AUD 49.90 and AUD 76.07 on September 2011.

Please see attached screenshot showing section of transaction history with Apple's payments. Please note transaction reference numbers of your payments and the amount you paid on the right.

To be at the safe side I checked transaction history from July 2011 to 20 October 2011 and there is no other payment from Apple during that period.

It looks like Apple owes me AUD 25.0.


I received the following response from Apple:


Payments sent to Australia are transferred via international wire.  We do not owe you any additional earnings.  The "missing" amount is due to international wire fees charged by banks participating in your payment transaction.  These fees are referred to in your Schedule 2 Contract.


Indeed they were right. Schedule 2 Contract has the following clause:

“You remain responsible for any fees (e.g., wire transfer fees) charged by Your bank or any intermediary banks between Your bank and Apple’s bank.”

Apart from outrageous AUD 25  "wire transfer" charge, my real problem is lack of transparency in this transaction. It is not clear who charged AUD 25.

My bank certainly didn’t charge it, as it would have appeared in my transaction history.

Apple seems covered itself in the Contract –as big corporations often do-.

But my earnings simply disappeared and there is no account for it.

All I ask for is a written record of this “missing” item whether it be a “wire transfer fee” or otherwise.

I tend to think Apple should at least provide a written account for the wire transfer expenses between their bank and my bank.

Am I asking too much?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Aquarium

The impression I get from Turkish public is:

“We vote in general elections every 4 years; the elected pro-Islamic government may do whatever they wish as they see fit during their term; including imprisonment of over 80 journalists without trial. Everything goes as they have mandate from the people.”

Turkish public is on the verge of forgetting about what democracy meant and should mean for a civilised society. In essence popular opinion over the last decade or so reflects wide-scale public ignorance on the necessity of executing democratic rights and responsibilities of individuals between elections, not just during elections. Citizens to a large extent lack democratic consciousness regarding fundamental human rights and individual liberties. 

The current AKP (Justice and Development Party) government exploits what has always been lurking in Turkish population like an epidemic, a reminiscent of Ottoman legacy: “do not challenge authority”. 

I am sitting in a pub, listening to rock music, and having a glass of cold dark beer. I see myself sitting before a laboratory. You have an aquarium in front of you and there is a red button with 1984 printed on it. 

True. What I hear are stories. I may not have journalistic wisdom nor hard evidence. I sometimes don’t have patience. But overall I am not too bad in predicting what is about to come.

I left the country I was born 22 years ago. I knew what was coming. I knew what today was going to look like.

There was a guy whom I worked together in TEK some 30+ years ago (a government office I worked once). He was quite intelligent, an engineer, like me he graduated from the same school that captured top 0.01% of high school graduates. 

He was a devout Muslim who knew Shiatsu massage and who also regularly swallowed books in NY libraries during his Master's programme. As an Atheist generally I consider talking to Muslims on divine matters, a hopeless endeavor.  Nevertheless I found him interesting and pleasant to have conversation with. It still puzzles me why and how on earth a person as intelligent as him became a follower of a religion full of Abrahamic bullshit. Surely it appeared he had great deal of grey material. I remember we had a long discussion about whether good art may emerge from Islam. I questioned him about lack of asymmetry in Islamic Art and esthetical problems associated with it. He seemed to be quite convinced that you would not need to go beyond symmetry. You know, all those boring hypnotising Islamic tile designs, carpet designs and so on. That’s what I was talking about. For me asymmetry is a fundamental cognitive element that makes art interesting and pleasant.  

Anyway, he told us (people in the office) at the time we were all missing the point and Turkey would one day become an Islamic Republic. We went outside for lunch, and later I saw him leaning forward in Namaz position prostrating himself against a God he cannot see nor anyone has seen evidence of on a narrow pavement in a busy street near the office at the back of other prayers stretching from a mock Mosque built inside a small shopping centre.

How naïve I was. I laughed about this. But at the same time I had an eerie feeling about it. There were indications already. The military quo of September 1980 largely favoured the Right; during my military service I was ordered to escort one of my former uni classmates, who was a communist, to prison who was later tortured among others in a civil prison. I heard his story later when I met him during a business conference in 1986.

I am now sitting in Kuğulu Park trying to come around.  There we go; we see evidence of Darwinian Evolution here as well. The pigeons grew in number and adapted to grey surroundings of cityscape thanks to men who sell grains to satisfy people who believe they are feeding animals for the good. Most interestingly these pigeons are shameless. They evolved to ignore my attempts to scare them off. I step firmly on the ground; they don’t seem to bother; they take one or two small steps and come back to pick stuff from the gaps of cobblestones. 30 years ago they used to keep away or fly away farther.

85% of Turkish people think that humans have evolved from Adam and Eve. 

Gray pigeons adapted to favourable conditions grain salesmen and park dwellers created. It is so obvious. People would like to feel good about themselves, perhaps a DNA reminiscent of their gatherer ancestors who cultivated land and breed animals. So they are inclined to feed pigeons that are in reality slightly more dignified than rats and only in appearance. Home Sapiens salesmen appeared in the city to exploit such a weakness. They started to sell grain to park-dwellers.  In the end the most aggressive and shameless pigeons evolved to breed in high numbers and managed to disturb my peace. I now escaped to Gloria Jeans across the road.

It is not easy to understand why a larger proportion of a human population cannot see Darwinian evolution in action. The definition of stupid has always been a puzzling concept for me.  Are these people simply stupid not to see vast evidence for Darwinian Evolution that is taking place, or should we blame the education system or powerful memes of Islamic traditions that deluded them?

Anyway I am too little too less to change this. I elect to remain outside the aquarium. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Neon lights

There is something mysteriously beautiful about neon lights in twilight.

As the night closes in like an owl’s heavy wings, neon lights appear to remind strangers their irresistible solitude.


In those magic moments of twilight we see the sunlight tangoing with neon lights.



We witness a silent carnival in twilight; the most ordinary becomes extraordinary and beautiful.

Then suddenly the full moon rises over the roof of Café Artemis. We hope the night may bring pleasant surprises.



A stranger walks in to a Tobacco shop.

The man behind the cash register gazes at him with tired eyes.

A breeze of slight discomfort fills the air.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chinese restaurant in Bodrum

Sometimes life offers us bizarre opportunities to laugh about.

These days we see accidents like this one more often than before. Thanks to Globalisation, we now have Amazon rainforest tribesmen wearing I Love NY teeshirts.

This photo shows a mosque overlaid by an image of a tiny and hopelessly ugly mini-shopping centre. On the right a Chinese Restaurant. Sacredness and solemnity of the mosque are challenged by an opportunist vision.

A Chinese Restaurant in a holiday town in Turkey would have been a laughable idea until not long ago. I think it is still funny if you consider great majority of tourists pour into Turkey for authentic Turkish food.


click to enlarge

I have to say I hate the modern sun-roof like structure in the middle; at first glance it looks as if it is cut out from a modern Texan skyscraper overnight by an organised mob of Turkish pirate-architects.

But the hideous blue glass thing makes a perfect irony in terms of composition. It shows local merchants' desire to become modernised. These local small businessmen lack sophistication that may only come through centuries-long social refinement. Nevertheless despite my desire to throw up, I salute their bravery to change themselves.

This photo was shot in Turgutreis, the second largest holiday town in Bodrum peninsula, in September 2011.

Many beautiful things

How we organise things reflect our attitude towards life. These photos were shot during my holiday in Bodrum, Turkey in September 2011.  They show my desire to capture life from merchandise organised by simple shopkeepers.  

turkish delights
shoes
breads
seashells
glasswork
beads
beautiful charms from ayse and ali
sunglasses
herbs
flat bottles

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coffa or cauphe

In 1656 a London barrister, Thomas Blount, published his Glossographia: or a Dictionary, Interpreting all such Hard Words of Whatsoever Language, now used in our refined English Tongue. Blount’s dictionary listed more than eleven thousand words, many of which, he recognised, were new, reaching London in the hurly-burly of trade and commerce1:

coffa or cauphe, a kind of drink among the Turks and Persians, (and of late introduced among us) which is black, thick and bitter, destrained from Berries of that nature, and name, thought good and very wholesom: they say it expels melancholy.

Three and a half century later I am enjoying a well-made cup of Turkish coffee here in Bodrum, Turkey. The aroma and flavour of centuries long oriental tradition leaves a distinguished taste on the palate up to an hour.


The diamond shaped thing on the plate is called süt helvası from Fındıklı, Rize; a rough sugar-like dessert made by cooking equal amounts of sugar and milk for hours until the mixture becomes thick.

This should not make you believe that we Turks are equally good at making Cappuccino, or Latte. In my view the best Italian coffee is served in Roma, Italy or in Sydney, Australia.

You should enjoy local food proven by centuries long scrutiny when you are travelling and avoid global brands in order to make your holiday a memorable one.

1. From The Information, James Gleick

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Recorded self

I had once watched a video from Daniel Kahneman on experiencing self and remembering self. I found the idea that our consciousness is ruled largely by remembering self fascinating.


It seems we are having a perfect day. Early in the morning we look at the mirror and see an image somehow slimmer than usual and the haircut seems at its best. The weather is fantastic, warm, crisp and clear. We go to beach, have a nice walk and swim, and then have lunch at the favourite café with best friends. We feel great. In the evening we go to a Beethoven concert at the Opera House. It seems the famous pianist is having his best day. Everything seems perfect. Then someone’s mobile phone rings.

All we remember from that day would be the dreadful ringtone; despite we had great time otherwise. Statistical average of our experiences is irrelevant.

What we remember is not up to our rational thinking. Remembering self weaves instances, occurrences, sounds and images, in random patterns that we cannot control. Throughout our lifetime we carry a long and heavy fabric of our memory on our shoulders; this is called remembering self. Our identity and behaviour is pretty much formed by it.

Social networking tools like Facebook allow us to record incomplete and discrete experiences. Hence when an outsider looks at them they see precisely that; an incomplete and discrete world depicted by you. Some of your followers may be experiencing these events with you in real time. But these records may  give a shady and often falsified opinion about you or events surrounding you. They may create incomplete reflections in others’ remembering self in surprisingly different ways.

You are not that dreadful photo, or video, or blog post. People will get a different you depending on how much experience they had with real you.

Hence perhaps we may talk about a third self, a recorded self. Recorded self is formed by recording experiences of experiencing self.

Recorded media often form dumb and incomplete images of us. There are gaps; other events and gestures may be missing in between and remain unrecorded; they may be crucial in depicting a more accurate and just picture of what we try to express.

I don’t know which one of them is more unfortunate, distortions by a remembering self, reshaping our consciousness second by second, or distortions by incomplete recordings.

I sense however that we are trained to waive threads of remembering self; no matter how unreal or erroneous our remembering could be; it is still the best approximation making us.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Off-peak holidaying in Bodrum

Finally we made our journey to Yalikavak, a seaside town in Bodrum peninsula. It is the beginning of September. The weather is very pleasant, thirty plus degrees.

Many people have already gone home following ‘bayram’ holiday break as schools are starting. At this time of the year locals, childless couples, and retirees complete the life-scape, and of course those melancholic stray dogs.



If you don’t have young children you should consider holidaying off-peak season. You may have the best holiday of your life in September –or May I am told- in southwest Turkey. It is much less crowded; everybody is more relaxed, the climate is still warm -not boiling hot compared to peak season-. And you have the chance to blend into local population.



There is ‘pazar’ –local markets- in Yalikavak today. We took a ‘dolmus’ –minibus- from Gundogan to Yalikavak. Due to low season, public transportation is less frequent now. Our dolmus is packed with people, 29 in total, twice its capacity.

Semra and Tulin went to stroll in pazar’s endless alleys protected from sunlight by large sails. I am sitting in a local café right now enjoying my cold beer, and typing on my MacBook Air. This is heaven. No not that, I mean seriously what else a middle aged man would want.



Earlier I went to pazar with them and we bought ‘dolma’ from a local seller, a woman whom I may qualify as ‘dolma nazi’. She was proud of her produce and didn’t bother answering our calls for a while as her dolmas were selling fast.



I noticed and Semra too, women in this region are strong in character. Many of them own their own business. Their gestures, the way they talk and behave reflect their pride and strength to a large extent due to perhaps their economic independence. This is in contrast to Anatolian women, who seem trapped inside conservative family structure of Islamic lifestyle.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A toroidal lamp

I woke up in Istanbul around 6am staring at a toroid shaped lamp hung from the ceiling.

Toroid’s surface has peculiar properties compared to a much simpler shape such as a sphere.

On a spherical surface you may start travelling in any direction and end up where you started. This property is valid for any point on the surface.

A spherical surface is a finite two-dimensional surface with no boundaries. It is a finite surface hence you end up reaching the same point. It has no borders or sharp edges that you may fall off.

As a result a spherical surface is a useful model to study a universe with no boundaries but a finite shape like ours.

A spherical surface has also constant curvature. Nowhere on it there is a point that sits on an area that is more or less curved than any other point on the sphere.

On a toroid on the other hand you may find points across its surface sitting on different curvatures. A point on its outer rim is on a surface with positive curvature, where a point on the inner rim is on a surface with negative curvature.

A simplified modelling can explain this “curvature business” that is the essence of Einstein’s general relativity.



You may construct a toroid by bending a cylinder along axis and joining its ends.

Imagine you make a toroid from a rubber cylinder. You will see that the outer surface of the toroid will stretch, and the inner surface will squash forming wrinkles.

Take a rubble rectangular slab, and on its surface paint little circles with identical diameter placed in equal distance from each other. Form a cylinder from the slab by rolling it so that the circles we drew can be viewed from outside. We should observe that despite introducing a positive curvature, the sizes of circles and the distance between them remain the same. There is no stretching or squashing; the curvature is positive but constant.

In contrast when we form a toroid using a rubber cylinder by bending it along its axis and joining both ends, we should observe that the circles on toroid’s outer surface grow in size and the distance between them increases too. The circles on toroid’s inner surface should shrink in size and the distance between them should become shorter. This is because we have introduced variable curvature changing from positive (stretching) to negative (squashing) from outer to inner rim respectively.

Imagine the toroid represents a certain space-time configuration.

It is possible a light beam to travel from circle A to its neighbour B on the inner surface in shorter time than between neighbouring circles on the outer surface. Space-time is clearly stretched on the outer rim, shrunk on the inner one.

A black hole is like a toroid that its inner hole is infinitely small hence the circles you drew on its inner surface collapse onto each other. There is no way to identify or differentiate those circles from one another, the information about them are sucked by black hole’s event horizon.

It is fascinating to think that there may be oddly shaped universes with multitude of curvatures. A universe that its space-time properties are shaped like a toroid is possible. But other weirder shapes too. Some of them may even have collapsed regions where curvature is transformed in odd directions that we may not easily imagine their shape in our Euclidian minds.

The reason we could visualise and construct a toroid is because we may construct it from Euclidian shapes that we are familiar with such as a cylinder. However we should note that we might not do so if we could not stretch and squash the outer and inner surfaces respectively. You cannot construct a non-Euclidian shape without introducing variable curvature.

A toroid is a non-Euclidian shape whereas a cylinder is a Euclidian one. Our education system has given emphasis on shapes with Euclidian geometry perhaps because there are economical benefits of realising them. Euclidian geometry has given us ability to make useful approximations. We can build pipes by modelling them as cylinders for instance.

However studying non-Euclidian geometry such as toroids, can be crucial in modelling and understanding the cosmos.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Songe the moon

I am reading Information by James Gleick. I am learning fascinating things. Such as various forms of African drum-languages were used in communication between tribes long before Europeans invented telegraph.

Drum-communication -why not coin a new term- drumcom was an elaborate form. Most tribal languages were tonal, i.e. subtle tonal variations implied drastic variations in meaning (a bit like Cantonise). Drums exploited tonal variance.

However inevitable loss of consonants (made of high pitch sound) had to be replaced by something for error correction. So drummers introduced phrases. Songe, the moon, is rendered as "songe li range la manga" -"the moon looks down the earth." Redundancy compensated for loss in translation. It is also amazing how beautifully constructed these phrases were.

Theirs was an oral culture. Our African ancestors.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Google+

We all know how Google chose G+ first adopters; we are from geekosphere.

Google let the geekosphere crowd to form/build themselves from scratch via Circles concept and at the same time warm themselves up to the idea (of liking and using social networking). Google wants to make a different social network.

Quite likely Google may be using geekosphere ideas as they make re-factoring decisions about G+ on a daily basis. Perhaps without knowingly we became virtual (and unpaid) employees in Google's ideation process.

Google does not want to open G+ up prematurely as that would instantly cause idiotsia(*) to pour in, eventually causing geeks turning their back and idea factories would have been killed off instantly as a result.

If they want to make a difference they need to be different and this time the difference will come from wisdom of nerds rather than banal "wisdom" of crowds. This makes sense and it is in line with their geek-oriented culture. It works out well for me.

(*)Idiotsia: People who are not Intelligentsia.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Sofa

It grabbed my attention, there is a market out there for hyper-comfort. People are buying stuff for comfort without paying attention to how much of it they need.

Take sofa designs for instance. Some of our friends decorating a new home bought mega size sofas in recent years. The trend in furniture design has been towards bigger, larger designs with upholstery and cushions getting softer and deeper.

After dinner when people move to living room with drinks in hand and mood to talk, suddenly they find themselves legs elevated bottoms buried deep into a sofa designed to devour you.

In such a hyper-comforted environment, forget talking, within a minute my brain starts to malfunction. After two minutes even making sense of ordinary conversations turns into a torture. Your interest in joining a discussion about climate change or string theory is reduced to a level of woman shoes conversation (no pun intended). After three minutes I have trouble keeping my head straight.

There is essentially no difference between sugar-infested self-indulgence food and a hyper-comfortable sofa. They are bad for you.

I should remind you that we are still animals and what drives us is not too much comfort but primal desires to push our comfort zones.

So do yourself and your friends a favour. If you want to have a decent conversation with your friends, consider buying a semi-firm, normal size, good-old fashioned sofa, designed to sit, as opposed to put you into a coma.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dublin Declaration on Secularism and the Place of Religion in Public Life

By MICHAEL NUGENT


On Sunday 5 June 2011, the World Atheist Convention in Dublin discussed and adopted the following declaration on secularism and the place of religion in public life. Please discuss and promote it with your friends and colleagues, and if you are a a member of an atheist, humanist or secular group, please discuss and promote it with your fellow members, and with the media and politicians.

1. Personal Freedoms
(a) Freedom of conscience, religion and belief are private and unlimited. Freedom to practice religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights and freedoms of others.
(b) All people should be free to participate equally in the democratic process.
(c) Freedom of expression should be limited only by the need to respect the rights and freedoms of others. There should be no right ‘not to be offended’ in law. All blasphemy laws, whether explicit or implicit, should be repealed and should not be enacted.

2. Secular Democracy
(a) The sovereignty of the State is derived from the people and not from any god or gods.
(b) The only reference in the constitution to religion should be an assertion that the State is secular.
(c) The State should be based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Public policy should be formed by applying reason, and not religious faith, to evidence.
(d) Government should be secular. The state should be strictly neutral in matters of religion and its absence, favouring none and discriminating against none.
(e) Religions should have no special financial consideration in public life, such as tax-free status for religious activities, or grants to promote religion or run faith schools.
(f) Membership of a religion should not be a basis for appointing a person to any State position.
(g) The law should neither grant nor refuse any right, privilege, power or immunity, on the basis of faith or religion or the absence of either.

3. Secular Education
(a) State education should be secular. Religious education, if it happens, should be limited to education about religion and its absence.
(b) Children should be taught about the diversity of religious and nonreligious philosophical beliefs in an objective manner, with no faith formation in school hours.
(c) Children should be educated in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge. Science should be taught free from religious interference.

4. One Law For All
(a) There should be one secular law for all, democratically decided and evenly enforced, with no jurisdiction for religious courts to settle civil matters or family disputes.
(b) The law should not criminalise private conduct because the doctrine of any religion deems such conduct to be immoral, if that private conduct respects the rights and freedoms of others.
(c) Employers or social service providers with religious beliefs should not be allowed to discriminate on any grounds not essential to the job in question.

Reference:
Dublin Declaration on Secularism and the Place of Religion in Public Life

The Eagle

While winter sprinkles its browns, yellows, and ambers on barks, leaves and shades of human faces, and smoke pouring over roofs, smog over pavements, and while tired souls are hastily walking in agony, I have one question left to ask “what does it take to live a dignified life?”

Is it happiness, comfort and cosiness or is it desires? What does it take I wonder to become an eagle, lonesome, strong, content, solemn, focused to haunt on desires? How can that eagle die without rats and vultures noticing, leave this world in dignity, with nothing but that ancient song left behind and heard beyond the horizon over the Aegean Sea?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The scope of survival

This news is from Canberra Times, dated 4 June 2011:
“Australian National University has confirmed it moved several high-profile climate scientists, economists and policy researchers into more secure buildings, following explicit threats to their personal safety….
More than 30 researchers across Australia ranging from ecologists and environmental policy experts to meteorologists and atmospheric physicists told The Canberra Times they are receiving a stream of abusive emails threatening violence, sexual assault, public smear campaigns and attacks on family members.”

As bitter truths about our approach to the tipping point in climate change are unveiled by scientists, and governments sluggishly but nevertheless close in to intervene, the carbon lobby is becoming more aggressive in their tactics.

Regardless of how bitter confrontations are going to be, there is no escaping from science. Science is telling us by as close as 2100 our planet will be warmed up by 2-4°C. 2°C rise is certain regardless of what we do now.

The consequences are dire. There are various scenarios depending on timing of intermittent tipping points such as effects of release of CO2 from the vast permafrost of Siberia, driven by temperature rise in Arctic, which at nearly 4°C is three to for times than the average. For example, a 4°C rise would kill off 85% of the Amazon rainforest, a 2°C rise now seen as inevitable would kill of 20-40%. Sea levels can rise up to 70 meters.

These things will happen.



Our genes copy themselves. The quality of being copied by a Darwinian selection process is what drives life on Earth. Life has a sense of space and change. Sense of change led to emergence of concept of time in humans. Our gene setup endlessly reconfigures itself; generations who can better exploit the information gained by knowing space and time, survive best.

“If that vast fire over the far mountain range isn't likely to effect my tribe now, I should probably not worry, and go by my everyday business of hunting. Only if the fire seems to be closing in I should think about moving, but then this hunting ground and nearby water seem too good to give up so perhaps I should stay.”

There is always room for failure in judgement of space and time. The fire could be advancing much faster than our humanoid ancestor thinks. In that case his tribe will be engulfed in flames.

When our humanoid ancestors walked in savannas of Africa 2.3 - 2.4 million years ago, their genes’ scope of survival was limited to their immediate vicinity, perhaps within a diameter of tens of kilometers for each group.



Today our capacity to comprehend space and time is much widened. We now know what is going on in every part of the world. We started to make sense of what made us, we look at skies and our universe’s distant past. With science our capacity to accurately reflect on future and farther increased.

Despite these advancements our judgements about survival strategies are still largely affected by selfish interests.

Humanity now is divided roughly in two. Those who think “Well, it’s not going to happen in my lifetime, so I don’t care”, and those who worry about their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s future.

People in the first group think much like our ancestor watching the fire in distant mountain range. People in the second group are super humans who have the capacity to extend humanity’s survival beyond stars.

References:

Requiem For A Species - Clive Hamilton

Canberra Times - News

Friday, May 27, 2011

Focus

I know cliché it may sound, but this book changed my life:

Focus -a simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction- by Leo Babauta


Before I started to read Focus, I already became close to a breaking point due to my bad online habits I developed over the last few years.

I let information overload littering my consciousness like there is no end. I have it all at home, Facebook, Google Reader, Google Buzz, Twitter, Gmail, Delicious, LinkedIn, hundreds of friends, tweets, ‘Like’s, you name it.

To make things worse I try to catch up with every other progressive agenda that I feel passionate about, be it atheism, teaching evolution, gender equality, global peace, human rights, democracy and so on.

I maintain two blogs, Negative Matter and Evrim Olgusu (Turkish).

At work things are not any better. Let me say though, the company I work for is one of the best organisations in the IT industry in terms of work practices. I have a very reasonable workload and stress free job. Yet being my own enemy I manage to create stress for myself out of nothing, thanks largely to my lack of awareness about ill effects of distractions.

The Focus book will convince you how much, without being aware, we enslave ourselves to information overload, how distractions become addictions, and how much unnecessary stress they create on us. Then it will teach you techniques to eliminate the problem and find your own rhythm.

Last week I started to apply some of the techniques I learned, and I already witnessed substantial benefits. Currently I am still experimenting with different methods.

In a nutshell the message is:

"Divide work/hobbies -things that require focus-, and distractions in separate time-slots, both at work and in your private life, and simplify your life by getting rid of the stuff you don't need".

The crucial point is to deal with disruptions in predefined timeslots. This may at first seem to be a contradiction, as by definition distractions happen unplanned. So they seem.

The idea here is not to get rid of distractions. In fact, as Babauta states, at times we need distractions, to prioritise our work, and relax stress caused by probable bottlenecks in our focused work.

The key idea is to condense distractions and focused work in separate timeslots.

Here are some simple steps I took:
  1. I disconnected from Facebook.
  2. I reduced Google Reader RSS feeds by 90%.
  3. I changed my browser’s home page from Gmail to plain Google search page (not iGoogle).
  4. I close excessive tabs opened in my browser.

At work:
  1. I clean up my desk clutter, and don’t let clutter to cumulate. No papers, no sticky pads, no objects between my PC monitor and me. I have just my teacup.
  2. I have one small pile of paper to the left of my direction (not directly visible). The pile is neat –no paper is hanging- and I regularly reduce it.
  3. I have one plain A4 page hung on the empty panel to the right of my direction. On it there is a small list of items I intend to finish during the day. This page changes every morning. There is nothing else hung on panels I am facing.
  4. I check my email in predefined timeslots. At the moment I am trying this schedule: 9am, 11am, 2pm, 4pm. At these times I check my email, and respond to messages. I try to remain within 15-20 minutes boundary each time.
  5. In the development environment I use –Microsoft Visual Studio-, I pay attention to workspace clutter and frequently close files I no longer need.
  6. Similarly I clean up my Windows desktop. I have no shortcuts, folders on my desktop wall, which are not absolutely necessary.

Well it works. It works beautifully. I cannot tell you how much my productivity and quality of work I produce increased at work and at home.

In incoming days I will be experimenting with different techniques and I will let you know how I proceed. Until then bye.

For more information on Focus, the book, see:

http://zenhabits.net/focus-book/

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

News

At the moment I am reading "How to write history that people want to read" by Ann Curthoys and Ann McGrath. I am also browsing through "Essential English Grammar" by Ron Simpson.

I intend to learn more on good writing and improve quality and readability of my articles.

I have plans to make my Turkish blog "Evrim Olgusu" (The Fact of Evolution) accessible should the planned restrictions on Internet access by religious Turkish Government goes ahead in August 2011.

"Evrim Olgusu" has enthusiastic followers who are looking forward to read unbiased translations and articles on Evolution. I see them as bright stars against a dark backdrop of religious ignorance. They are the only hope we have to educate wider audience on Evolution in one of the most ignorant countries where Evolution education is systematically censored.

I am also working on a Mac project called "Logonbox". Like its predecessors "Zippylock" and "Skeinforce", Logonbox will be a password management utility program, much simpler to use and web enabled. Logonbox will be available in Apple App Store later this year.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Drop your sandbags

Liberation came when I decided to quit Facebook.

What started as a simple desire to share ideas, talk about progressive politics, and in between share a few jokes or youtube links in a virtual world came to an abrupt end.

My interest to Facebook started to feel like as if my body was stuck under a pile of colossal machinery designed for self gratification.

I don’t intend to put down people who use Facebook. I think everybody must have different reasons and capacity to commit their time and energy into it.

What I naively expected was intelligent conversations -no pun intended-.


Instead what I ended up having were some ‘Like’s, ‘Hahaha’s, ‘LOL’s and plenty of nothing. People did not bother to respond or interact as much as I wished them to do so.

Frankly writing on blank whitewash walls in a prison cell would have had the same effect.

Well, this must be the way Facebook works then. People share shallow sketches of their boring life -mine included-, and great majority of users seem hardly capable of putting their energy into anything other than sharing a few photos or videos someone else made.

I now regained time, momentum, focus, control, vitality and desire to pursue my private projects.

Strongly recommended..

To liberate yourself, drop your sandbags.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Why Question and Arrow of Time

I have a mechanical engineer friend who is often called to diagnose and deal with problems at various sites across the country. He works for a recycling company which has plants in various locations. I am on the other hand a software engineer. We are both experienced folks who have some quarter a century experience in our pockets. We often have lunch together and exchange stories about engineering.

The business my friend works for is specialised to process scrap material obtained from breaking vehicles (cars, trucks etc) into pieces. They have sophisticated equipment to separate and sort scrap material according to their type (aluminum, steel, plastic) and weight.


Recently I have realised emergence of a remarkable pattern between his stories and mine. My friend mentioned he had been called on to diagnose a problem which was about a conveyor belt malfunction. Apparently the conveyor belt in question had excessive dirt cumulated on it. The foreman and workers rather than investigating the origins of the problem (why excessive dirt appeared at the first place), devise instead patch up solutions to clean up the dirt and this caused other structural problems on the belt.

In software engineering too when we have a tough problem, a crash without a stack trace, or an odd looking problem such as identical pointers appearing twice in a hash table thereby causing an infinite loop, some engineers cannot just wander off from their conventional comfort zones but instead remain stuck in the area where they first observed the problem. They automatically think an infinite loop is indicative of a problem right there. Similar to conveyor belt problem adjusting the hash algorithm to detect identical objects and handling the error at that point will not fix the originating problem. This approach will also make the algorithm needlessly complex and perform poorly.

Patch up fixes without understanding the root cause often result in expensive technical debt to cumulate which will cause more problems down the track.

Lateral thinking is a mindset, it is about asking the question ‘why’ and it is about the courage and ability to reverse the arrow of time.

The problem with the conveyor belt is not the dirt cumulated it is ‘why’ the dirt cumulated.

The problem with two identical pointers stored in a hash table is not an error with hash algorithm, it is ‘why’ the same object stored twice further back in history.

Lateral thinking is about going back in the history (time) and locality (belt’s location, program’s stack trace) and replaying cause and effect game in reverse direction.

Perhaps going back against the arrow of time is counter intuitive for most. Perhaps humans have evolved to go along with the arrow of time for pragmatically solving immediate problems with high survival value and only few have capability to rewind their thoughts back in history.

Could this be the fundamental reason why so many people find it hard to understand evolution. Reluctance, lack of resilience or inability to ask and track back the ‘why’ question.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Conjecture

In recent years a new breed of urban muslim prototype emerged who sometimes call themselves “purists” (eg. “only-koran” movement in Turkey). They refuse late day interpretations of Koran (hadis-i sherif), claim Koran is highly metaphoric and shouldn’t be taken literally in today’s terms.

Rather than questioning validity of their own religious belief system they conjecture and henceforth seek wider acceptance in intellectual and academic circles of urban societies they are part of. Elbow to elbow with intelligent design movement in the West, their retrofitting of god and religions on the facts of evolution should be seen as last minute desperation of saving what has already been lost, religions' credibility.


Living species evolve not as a result of design but via natural selection on random (probabilistic) variations. It does not make sense for a deity to press the button in a stochastic process.

Every human being starts their life with approximately 50 of 3-billion base pairs in their genome mutated randomly. It is preposterous to think that an intelligence could have foreseen, and controlled evolution of 3-billion base pairs of human genome from its single cell origins over billions of years and over entire generations of species they evolved from.

Even if you insist that there lies a super computer that designed "evolution", you should philosophically ask "what for?", "is it you say in order to create us, carbon-obsessed species which emerged from single cell organisms eventually falling into each other's throat for they can't agree on which one of them deserves the never-seen super computer's attention?". And undoubtedly your next question should be "who designed the super computer and why?"

There is nothing remotely special about us humans nor there is a universal reality we can attach our existence onto. There is no evidence that there is more to our physical existence. Believing that we have 'soul' beyond our physical capacity is nothing more than wishful thinking. Our consciousness evolved to make different models, in order to make sense of what is surrounding us. We have not one but many models and related definitions of realities. At times human beings made models of presumed realities -fantasies- that do not exist or cannot exist.

Whereas many of our scientific models, the theory of evolution, special relativity, gravity, quantum mechanics are working, supported and tested by evidence i.e. they allow us to make useful predictions about respective realities, religious models do not propose testable realities but instead they conjecture our existence upon insensible fantasies including the delusion that they can be compatible with science.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Best things in life

Did you know that Steve Killelea is Australia's largest individual donor of overseas aid.

Steve has successfully floated two companies, which he started from zero, and gained international recognition as a global philanthropist.

He is an IT entrepreneur who floated his company, Integrated Research in 2000, picking up $85.9 million. He also placed a good portion of proceeds -$45 million- in a charitable foundation. Unlike some entrepreneurs he didn't name the foundation after him, he simply called it The Charitable Foundation.

Steve has about 30 aid projects under way at any one time, and he donates roughly $5 million a year.

He is a powerful, fit, yet, down to earth, peaceful man.

Literally. As he invented the Global Peace Index.

"Peace is good for business" is his mantra.

The idea is if we can measure peace we can then focus on areas of improvement much easily, plan, channel and prioritise our efforts in a more rational and effective manner. As the peace index improves the economy improves as well. This is I think one of the most innovative ideas of social entrepreneurship.

I don't know you but personally contributing to peace gives my life the most meaningful dimension. And I think this is really where Steve is coming from. As Derek Sivers once said:

"Best things in life aren't things."

On a personal note I am fortunate enough to know Steve as I have been working in Integrated Research for 12 years now.

Links:

The Global Piece Index Map

The Global Peace Index Vision

The Charitable Foundation

An interview with Steve Killelea in Diva International

Thursday, March 31, 2011

How we lost it

This is from Neil Tyson's tweet:

Causes of death worldwide in March 2011 - Starvation: 3,000,000. Malaria: 250,000. CarCrash 100,000. Quakes&Tsunamis < 28,000

It seems we are not really worried about human suffering or deaths. We selectively hear interesting stories, stage-lights, the drama, the headlines, a record breaking quake, a tsunami, nuclear accidents and we still pretend that we understand and share human suffering.


Well we don't. All we care about is our fat bottoms. Someone else's drama makes our entertainment.

And media wouldn't sell if there was no demand.

How awfully we lost it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Films - Kamal



Our hero Kamal emerges from the woods almost on the verge of collapsing while spinning in enthusiasm. He is holding a small piece of paper, supposidly a letter from his sweetheart.

The spin action continues on the banks of a small garden, around a pole (hence we now know Indians must be familiar with pole dancing), then back on the grass.

Unexpectedly Kamal decides to jump off from the garden bank on to a pathway and this is when things get weirder.

Kamal takes us with surprise when he suddenly leans back in an attempt to roll back on to the garden. Certainly there is no shortage of athletic moves in this film.

In the next move in what I call the most bizarre dancing scene in the history of World cinema Kamal shows us how not to roll on the grass.

The camera pictures him in horizontal position and for some reason rolling continues despite him worrying audience that he might in fact injure himself.

I tend to think perhaps he is desperately trying to communicate his excitement due to the letter he received. We would never know.

I also urge you to wait until you watch wrestling scenes of Kamal with his sweetheart.

Regrettably we have a small surviving segment from this masterpiece.

This movie is one of the best in its class. When it comes to action and entertainment Kamal delivers.

Ten out of ten.

Friday, March 11, 2011

That little box

Our brain’s wiring is changing.

I am a programmer.

Early in my career back in mid-eighties nineties when we were confronted by a problem and needed information, we had no option but seek documentation, read lengthy manuals, and sometimes pay truckloads of cash to ‘consultants’.

When we needed to learn a new programming language or grasp a new technology such as a new API or operating system we had no option but to read thick manuals and sometimes attend courses.

Our brain pretty much operated on its own with input mostly taken from static material. This was after all how our brain was wired through education systems of pre-Internet era.

We were used to the idea that our consciousness is unique and isolated. It seemed the best way our mind’s clockwork could operate was when we were in complete solitude provided that we had every material we need in front of us.



Nowadays I hardly open a book for solving problems. In the past few years I learned three computing languages (out of seven) through Google.

At work every other second my mind reaches out and extends its memory through that little box, Google search.

That little box almost became a cyber-extension of my brain. It seems all I need is a well functioning short-memory from my biological end and whatever my frontal lobe is capable of.

My thought process is no longer driven by a static, hardwired and error-prone organic memory which is subject to birth, physical and age related weakness, but by a more dynamic, accurate, ageless and colossal machinery.

That little box makes me smarter, I make better judgements, I think faster, and I can reliably test my assumptions at a much faster rate. Despite my age my productivity at work increased in several orders of magnitude.

I am no longer Homo Sapiens. I am remade as Cyber Sapiens.

These are exciting times for our generation. We are lucky enough to witness the best of both worlds and we are representing a generation at the dawn of post-Internet human brain evolution.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Paper

In my article Mixed Feelings I wrote about inevitable decline of printed books. Sadly everyday I see evidence of my prophecy being verified.

Angus & Robertson and Borders bookstores are closing down.

We are loosing forever that romance, that warm feeling of visiting a nearby bookstore and simply browsing books for pleasure.

In middle ages for a decent copy of a book or a manuscript an average urban wage earner had to pay at least a quarter of his annual income. For peasants buying or even seeing or touching a book was an impossible dream.

Within a millennium the cost diminished by a factor of 1000.

For many hundreds of years despite endless catastrophes, fires, burnings, wear and tear, paper continued to carry the knowledge of humanity which is estimated to be around 10 EB (1 exa-byte is 10 to the power of 18).

And now like LP records we are beginning to see books thrown into the corners of moldy second hand bookshops.

On the upside e-books will easily be accessible and transportable. E-book will continue to carry the flag it took over from its overweight but humble cousin.




I still think socialising is a big part of book reading experience.

Perhaps it is time to design new bookstores (e-book stations) with Wi-Fi access, comfy chairs, coffee and cookies, smooth background music.

Patrons sit down, relax, chat, review, download and buy e-books in special discounted prices.

On the walls of the e-book station images of authors shifting, instants from their life are projected, Tolstoy in his farm, Hemingway in Africa.

In that corner a famous author is digitally signing his newest e-book which is automatically downloaded and overlaid in e-books of his audience.

References:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ultimate bit

How many bits of digital storage capacity humanity has right now in hard disks?



"How many computers?" I asked Wolfram Alpha search engine.

The answer came back as:

Estimated number of personal computers worldwide:

over 1 billion


Then I had to make a bold part guess of average storage per computer. Big fat machines that belong to governments and fortune 100 companies will have substantial capacity per computer. But there must still be many old machines around with small capacity as well. I estimated that 64 GB per machine would be too conservative as it was the benchmark 4-5 years ago. I thought 100GB would be a good figure.

So the number of bits came out as:

1 billion X 100 GB = 100 EB (exabytes) = 8 X 1020 bits

That is

800,000,000,000,000,000,000 bits

This number would be equal to eight times estimated information content of all human knowledge (10EB).

This means we have a growing memory surplus that we could meaningfully fill, also we still have no operational or economical capacity to store everything we know on hard disks.

I am not ignoring the fact that gene technology trends will require huge amount of storage to keep gigantic databases of gene sequences required by genetically modified food, bio-fuel research and so forth. But I still think it will lag behind available storage capacity as the global consumer market will always put huge pressure on reducing storage cost. Also the main problems in gene research seems to be indexing and CPU cycles rather than storage capacity.

So I estimate available storage will always be 10 times of human knowledge and at least 100 times of used storage.

Where is the most vulnerable of those useable bits that when flipped would cause the maximum catastrophic impact on humanity I wonder?

One nasty bit that its redundancy is incidentally non-existent.

Like all physical systems hard disks do fail. When hard disk fails software almost always fails.

On ageing nuclear missile sites?

On ageing GPS satellites?

One freak magnetic storm in space?

Where?

It would take just one bit to flip forever from 1 to 0 or from 0 to 1 out of 8,00,000,000,000,000,000,000.

I would like to buy a new notebook computer nowadays. I think I am going to pick a machine with a solid state drive (SSD).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Patchwork

Human body is full of evidence indicating it is not an elaborate form of design by a supernatural force but more of a jumbled patchwork shaped by evolution.

Vestiges are structures, anatomical configurations that has lost or nearly lost its primary function. If it has any current function, it is either a persisting secondary function, or a function gained sometime after the loss of primary one. This process is called exaptation or co-opting.

Examples of vestiges are plenty.

The middle ear bones of mammals are derived from former jaw-bones (Shubin 2007).

Early tetrapod limbs were modified from lobe-fins and probably functioned in pushing through aquatic vegetation; at some point, they became sufficiently modified to allow movement on to land (Shubin et al. 2006).

The vestigial hind limbs of boid snakes are now used in mating (Hall 2003).

But the most impressive of all, my personal favourite, is evolution of gonads –a gonad is an organ that produces gametes; a testis or ovary-.

The gonads of sharks, other fish, and even humans develop in same place, the chest. This works well for sharks, since they stay there, but in human males, as the embryo grows the gonads need to travel all the way down into the scrotum to keep cool. This causes an unnecessary looping of the spermatic cord, which causes a weakness in the body wall, leaving them prone to developing a hernia (Shubin, 2009). This is consistent with descend with modification from an ancestor we share with modern fish.

Click to enlarge
Evolution presents countless examples of co-opting. Whether you like it or not the theory of evolution is strongly supported by empirical evidence and scientific studies including DNA analysis that weren’t known in Darwin’s time.

There is mountain of strong evidence for evolution, and each day research laboratories around the world conduce more. At the same time the case for designer god is weakening.

The next question to ask is if it wasn’t design what is god for?

Resources:


Original Scientific American article by Neil H. Shubin (PDF):
http://www.mukto-mona.com/Special_Event_/Darwin_day/2009/english/SA_old_bodyShubin.pdf

Vestigial evidence:
http://www.evolutionarymodel.com/vestigialevidence.htm

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Arab uprise

What does democracy mean to ordinary Egyptians?

As mobs fall into each other’s throat, looters ransack shops and houses; democracy and freedom resonate in the air. Sure, get rid of Mubarak the dictator yes, but then what?

Neither Egypt nor any other Arab state has democratic traditions. Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party movement has governed most, a degenerated socialist club established in the Soviet era that quickly turned into ugly and corrupt dictatorships, anything but socialist. Of course they had to start one way another you would think, a democratic process just like French did in 1789.

Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party emblem
But there is one crucial difference between French revolution and the Arab uprise. Powerful secular elite designed political process and drove the French Revolution by enormous intellectual vigour despite turmoil and violence. Evolving towards democracy wasn’t easy as they suffered the eras of Terror and Napoleonic Dictatorship but in the end intellectual throttle paid off.

Whereas today’s Arab uprise in the Middle East lacks genuinely pluralistic and sufficiently organised democratic ideas backed by a powerful yet non-existent middle class. They simply don’t have it. The only organised political power watching and waiting on its prey seems to be radical Islam, and therefore radical Islam will have the greatest chance to seize power subject to US intervention.

US, the architect state of ‘moderate Islam’ policy against radicalism is now caught aghast in premature timing of events and unprecedented ripple effect of Arab uprising. The chaos opens a large window of opportunity for radical Islam to exploit. After Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, why not Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? It is no longer a distant prospect. An enormous power vacuum is rapidly sweeping the region that surely enough traditionally sound, legitimate yet feeble democratic institutions will not be able to fill.

Economic downturn, endless war in Afghanistan, endless violence in Iraq, rise of fundamentalism in Pakistan, nuclear-ambitious Iran, and now the Arab uprise. The West and US in particular is in real trouble in terms of their crippled capacity to intervene not to mention even if they do given their track record it would unlikely produce results. Yet now that oil reserves are at greater risk and Israeli-Arab peace deal in jeopardy they simply can’t ignore the turmoil. The West needs to get on top of the situation despite their limited ability to engage.

Drinks

This is a warning for secular friends who still think there is such a thing called 'moderate Islam' and therefore Islamic lifestyle can be tolerated in a modern democratic society.

Saturday night.

We watched “Black Swan” in the Dendy cinema theatre near Opera House. Then we walked up to harbour banks where Opera Bar stands.

This is probably one of the best places on Earth to have a drink in late afternoon or at night. Lean your back casually on inclined stone chairs, facing the Sydney City skyline, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Harbour Bridge, or the Opera House in opposite direction.

http://www.operabar.com.au/

Beautiful women and men at almost any age, tourists, hundreds of people enjoying their drinks, gently rocking, dancing, laughing, chatting. Nobody is disturbing anyone, no one feels intimidated, a pleasant, peaceful atmosphere.

My eyes caught a couple, a semi bearded man and a woman wearing a headscarf watching the bubbly crowd below from a terrace with expressionless dim eyes.

What were they thinking? 

Islam bans drinking alcohol and restricts women to express their sexual identity. To them the crowd must be committing a mortal sin punishable by burning in Hell. 

During the last decade or so Turkey, the country I was born has been under the rule of pro-Islamic governments formed by AKP (The Justice and Development Party). Since they came to power in 2002 AKP partizans have been busy gradually transforming country’s secular traditions towards an Islamic lifestyle.

AKP and followers call themselves ‘moderate Islamist’. 

Recently the AKP government declared that they are going to ban alcoholic beverages served in restaurants or in social gatherings such as art exhibitions, wedding ceremonies and so forth. A person until the age of 24 will not be entitled to buy or drink alcohol, and if such a person is present in a social occasion, for instance in a wedding ceremony no one in that gathering will be able to drink regardless of their age. Yes you heard that right, no one.

And they call this ‘moderate Islam’, leaving a tiny window of freedom and tolerance for secular lifestyle (ie. you can still buy or drink alcohol on your own if you are older than 24, at least for now), whereas religious lifestyle is promoted and allowed in its full right.

For the record Islam by definition cannot be moderate (ironically this is the only point I agree with Islamic fundamentalists). Islam is a collection of static unchangeable decrees descendent from God. You are not allowed to alter them or apply them conditionally. 

So in a secular democracy Islam either needs to be kept in people’s personal spheres strictly outside of politics, or else it may gradually evolve towards forming medieval-style theocratic governances like in Iran, Afghanistan.

Anything in between is sheer hypocrisy, a painful, discriminatory and blunt lie. But evidence suggests that AKP has an agenda. Instead of an abrupt Islamic revolution like Iranians did, they would gradually transform the country towards a totalitarian religious regime. 

To a great majority of people living in Australia or In the West where Islamists are a tiny minority 'moderate Islam' myth might seem like a plausible argument. 

The presumption of 'we shall respect them' and in return 'they shall respect us'. 

Well it all depends on numbers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Responding to change

It has been a month since I drafted and put my new year’s resolution into action.

There were 13 items in the December 2010 list.

(F) 3 failed.
(H) 4 still hopeful. There are signs of failure but it is not too late to recover.
(L) 4 lost. The items that lost validity, i.e. too impractical to follow with little value.
(S) 2 successful.
(T) Total number of items = 13

My overall success rate is S/13 = 2/13 = 15%
Validity of my original plan = (T-L)/T = 70%

So. Where do we go from here.

Did I fail? Should I throw the towel? Does this mean new year resolution is a fad?

No, not really..

It seems ironic but I realised that the only way to make a new year resolution work is to accept failure. A new year resolution should not be seen as a final decree, a heavy stone with ten commandments of personal improvement engraved on it but rather a starting point for an iteratively improved plan and action strategy.


So at the end of January 2011 I now have an updated resolution. Critical items with high value and hopeful ones are still in the list. The low value impractical ones are dropped. And there are new items. Coincidentally I still have 13 items but it is a new set.

The critical difference in my strategy is I am now responding to change and learning from failure.

It’s OK to make mistakes. For instance curfews or cold turkey effects such as “no Facebook for 2 months” proved to be not working and the value of them are equally questionable.

I will revise the resolution once a month (at the end of each month) and the whole process will continue until the end of year. By the end of year I anticipate my success rate improved higher than 15% and realistically lower than 100%.