Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Genius that is Terry Pratchett

Great A’Tuin the cosmic turtle swims slowly through the interstellar gulf. On it’s Hydrogen frosted back rides four gigantic elephants and upon their shoulders they carry a great land mass. This is the Discworld. A magical world, where wonderfully weird characters call their home. Humans, dwarves, trolls, wizards, witches, vampires, werewolves, zombies and a host of other exciting characters co-exists, in a world where going over the edge means flying off into space.

The most famous city in the Discworld is Ankh-Morpork where anything and everything will happen. As they say in the Disc “All roads lead to Ankh-Morpork”. Here humans live and work side-by-side with Dwarves and Trolls. Over at the Unseen University, the wizards play merry havoc and the Alchemists blow things up. Ankh-Morpork is a true cosmopolitan city, where (species) from all over the Disc comes to make their fortune. To make their dreams a reality.

This is just a smidgen of what happens in the Discworld. A magical world born out of one man’s wild imagination. That genius mind belongs to none other than Terry Pratchett.

The Discworld series of novels includes 25 books, all revolving around the various characters of the Disc. The Disc is a parody for our real world. All the stories have a theme from our real world, but the players are the people of the Discworld. Terry Pratchett manges to give the readers a whole new view point on a subject while being extremely funny.

The Terry Pratchett portfolio is not limited to the Discworld series. There are many other novels written by him. Most of the Discworld novels have been adapted to plays too.

I’m not going into details but for those who are interested can check out these links
Terry Pratchett Biography

Terry Pratchett Books

As far as storytellers go, Terry Pratchet is one of a kind. That is why he takes (a reluctant) #2 place on my list of favorite authors. (#1 being the grand master, Stephen King, who will reign supreme for ever and ever…)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mary had a Little Lamb… (The Twisted Version)

Mary had a little lamb
Whose fleece was white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go

Years went by and Mary grew up
No more the sweet little girl
Her mind filled up with fashion and boys
She became a party girl

The lamb however didn’t give a damn
And stuck by her night and day
This was way un-cool for Mary’s taste
Coz it was cramping her social life

She went to a hip club one night
Got high on smack and booze
The lamb of course went along with her
And learned something cool

Inside this groovy club that night
He met a brand new friend
Who gave the lamb a new kinda grass
That blew his teeny weensy brain

The stoned out lamb saw the light
Knew what the future must be
He packed up his things and moved LA
And started a big grass farm

[All characters appearing in this post are purely fictional. Any resemblance to individuals living or dead is coincidental…and not my problem]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New Seven Wonders of the World

The ancient seven wonders of the world are taking their retirement and the world is voting for the “NEW 7 Wonders of the World”.

There are 21 new contenders competing for a place in history, but only seven will get crowned.

The contenders are:

The Acropolis of Athens (450 - 330 B.C.) Athens, Greece
Alhambra (12th century) Granada, Spain
Angkor (12th century) Cambodia
The Pyramid at Chichén Itzá (before 800 A.D.) Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Christ Redeemer (1931) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Roman Colosseum (70 - 82 A.D.) Rome, Italy
Statues of Easter Island (10th - 16th Century) Easter Island, Chile
The Eiffel Tower (1887 - 89) Paris, France
The Hagia Sophia (532 - 537 A.D.) Istanbul, Turkey
The Great Wall of China (220 B.C and 1368 - 1644 A.D.) China
Kiyomizu Temple (749 - 1855) Kyoto, Japan
The Kremlin and Red Square (1156 - 1850) Moscow, Russia
Machu Picchu (1460-1470), Peru
Neuschwanstein Castle (1869 -1884) Schwangau, Germany
Petra (9 B.C. - 40 A.D.), Jordan
The Pyramids of Giza (2600 - 2500 B.C), Egypt
The Statue of Liberty (1886) New York City, U.S.A.
Stonehenge (3000 B.C. - 1600 B.C.) Amesbury, United Kingdom
Sydney Opera House (1954 - 73) Sydney, Australia
The Taj Mahal (1630 A.D.) Agra, India
Timbuktu (12th century) Mali

So go to and vote for your favorites

[People are voting like mad so there’s a lot of traffic. The site might not work sometimes]

The New 7 Wonders of the World will be announced during the Official Declaration ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal on Saturday, July 7, 2007 - 07.07.07.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Nile Dethroned

The mystic river Nile. The jewel of Egypt. Great civilizations were built on its banks. I’m not sure when it was measured first or by whom, but for a very long time the Nile reigned as the longest river in the world. It’s normal when you have something for a long time you tend to get cocky about it, and don’t work hard to keep it. I guess that’s what happened here. The Amazon, who played second fiddle all these years, has had enough of it finally decided to usurp the throne from the king.

In an expedition by Brazilian scientists, it was established that the source of the Amazon is now further that what was known. They claim it is in the southern regions of Peru, somewhere up in the Andeans. This puts the Amazon at 6800 km, which is about 200km longer than the Nile’s 6695 km length. The Amazon, which already holds the title for the largest river by volume, now has two titles to boast about.

Scientists are still debating about it so nothings yet official, but when it is a lot of text book are going to need re-writing.

Read More

This just goes to show that we humans may think we’re the smartest and knows everything, but Earth still has many secrets up her sleeve, and she’ll only share them with us when she wants to.

[I seriously don’t feel like working these days… Can’t be the weather coz it’s just the way I like it…Gloomy :) . Damn I’m getting laaaaazzzzy!!!]

Monday, June 18, 2007

When the Black Gold Runs Out!

There was an interesting documentary on CNN several days ago, focusing on the worlds dependency on oil and petroleum energy and the consequences of an energy crisis. In this documentary they unfolded a hypothetical scenario set in year 2009, which leads to an energy crisis all over the world.

It all starts with a big hurricane hitting the American Oil country, Houston Texas. It causes severe damages throughout the city, worse than hurricane Katrina. Among the damaged are the big oil refineries which supply oil to America. This results in a total standstill in domestic oil production in USA, causing a shortage of gas.

Meanwhile Al Qaeda is planning the next big attack and knows that the best time to make the most damage is when America is already down. However they do not attack America directly, but hit the next best target that could virtually cripple the entire oil supply. They hijack a plane and crash it into the biggest oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, the worlds #1 supplier. All hell breaks loose from then onwards. It cripples the worlds oil supply, prices sky rocket and the world is plunged in to an energy war, where countries attack each other to get whatever oil they can.

Even though this is all an imaginary situation, it could be real. The world has too much dependency on fossil fuel energy. There may not be natural disasters, or terrorist may not attack, but oil is not a limitless resource. Oil companies are trying to find new untapped oil reservoirs, but it’s getting harder and harder to find. A day will come when it will run out. The problem is, even though the supply is going down the demand for it is increasing day by day.

There are a lot of people and environmental organizations working to change the situation, but what they can do is limited. This is mainly because world governments are lagging behind in giving their backing to these projects. The business of oil is too lucrative for them to give up.

Among the people who have taken up the cause is Sir Richard Branson. Recently he put up a US$ 25 million reward for a solution towards global warming. In addition to investing in ethanol plants and solar power, he has also started a new Venture called Virgin Fuel, to develop a formula for an ultra clean fuel that can power his airlines and vehicles. Other notable people like former US president Bill Clinton and Vice president Al Gore, Celebrities like Bono are trying to make a change in the world.

One of the best success stories about alternative fuel comes from, not the big powerhouses, but from Brazil. They have developed a successful system for developing ethanol fuel from sugar cane, the same stuff that put tingles in our sweet tooth. About half of the vehicles over there are now running on this sugar cane ethanol. They are known as flex-fuel cars, which can run on pure ethanol or an ethanol and gas combination. The best thing is that it’s cheaper than gas. The major automobile manufacturers are also investing more money for R & D into hybrid vehicles now.

So there are a lot of viable alternative fuels available, what’s needed is the imitative and the leadership from the world’s leaders.

The problem becomes more difficult when it comes to developing countries like SL. We just don’t have the resources to spend on research and development on these matters. Of course if we put an end to all corruption, we’d have enough left over, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. However with the way the oil prices are going up here, we definitely need a new plan if we’re to keep things rolling on, otherwise we’ll probably face an energy crisis before long.

One option I see is to start a partnership with the Brazilians and set up sugar cane ethanol refineries here. This will open up new job opportunities to the people. Another benefit is that it can also help revive the sugar cane industry, which is now in ruins. Along with that we can allow incentives such as tax exemptions for hybrid cars that use ethanol. Maybe even our very own Micro cars can start building hybrids. These in turn can lead to opening up new markets in the South Asian region. All in all, it’s a win-win situation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Only in the US of A

For the past few days America has been gripped by another tragedy. A tragedy so awful, that the whole world is paying attention on it. Forget about all the other problems in the world like Iraq and Global warming, this is more important, with American media giving it full coverage. People are crying out in anger at the injustice of it all. Experts are debating about the dire consequences of it all.

So what is this great tragedy? No it’s not another mad gunman on a shooting rampage. All the fuss is about a spoilt little rich girl, the (co called) princess of America, Paris Hilton, or as Anderson Cooper calls her, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, going to jail. That is what all the drama is about.

The whole drama of it is like this. Sometime recently she got busted for violating the probation (yeah she was already on probation for an earlier offence), driving under the influence (of you know what) and driving with a suspended license. So the judge got mad and sentenced her to the slammer for 45 days. She started her jail sentence with a bang by partying the night before. So she’s in jail, and in about 2 or 3 days the sheriff decides to let her go home under house arrest, because jail doesn’t agree with her (Duh…it’s not supposed to agree with you). What a nice man!!! Rumors have it that Grandpa Hilton has been generous in the sheriff’s election campaign. The judge meanwhile gets more pissed by this and orders PH back into court and puts her in the slammer again. So now she’s spending time on the Hospital wing because apparently she’s sick. I think she’s been getting some pointers from our local politicians on “How to get the best of your jail-time”.

She’s then put out some statement saying how sorry she was, and not doing it again, that jail is like being in a cage (Duh…It is a cage), that she found God (Ok I didn’t know that God was lost and what was (S)he doing in jail?), that she was not dumb but acting like that all this time (shocked!!! Who would’ve guessed that it was an act, maybe she has some talent after all) and some other crap to get some sympathy votes.

I still don’t get what she is all about. She has no talent. She did “Simple Life” which I haven’t seen nor have no desire to see either. Put out an album, which died a natural death. She has no job, unless you call parting all night, getting drunk and appearing on self-made porn, a vocation. The only thing working for her is that she’s an heiress with tons of money. Man If I had half of that money I’d buy a big farm somewhere, invest the rest and live off the interest, but that’s just me. If I’d been her grandpa, I’d have cut off her cash flow a long time ago.

Yet this talent less, jobless, drunken, spoilt little rich girl is the sweetheart of America. They keep people like this on a pedestal and encourage them to do more stupid things. Why? I don’t know.

For those who has had enough of her here’s some good news

On other weird news, a judge in Washington is suing a dry cleaners for UD$ 54 million for misplacing his pants. It seems that he has suffered severe emotional damage by the loss of his pants. How emotionally attached can you get to a pair of pants. He was testifying in court and got so emotionally choked up talking about the pants that he had to leave the courtroom to have a cry. I have nothing more to say your honor.

As the great warrior Obelix might say “These Americans are Crazy”.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Just Some Random Thoughts

Life has taken a monotonous turn these days, mainly because of work I guess. Been stuck with a project for awhile and it gets really boring working on the same thing for a long time (at least for me).

Since my office is in the outskirts of Colombo don’t need to go into the city daily. (Thank god for that). The other great thing is that it’s walking distance from home. Yipeee. No overcrowded busses and traffic jams for me. I get an evil kinda pleasure seeing all those people stuck in traffic while I take a leisurely walk to office. I’m so used to it now that I try to avoid going to the city if I can. The only time that I would not mind going is on a Sunday, or a poya day, when everybody else is at home.

World weather is a bit wonky these days. The most recent weather disasters were the Cyclone in Oman and the Storm in eastern Aussie a few days ago. Cyclone Gonu which hit Oman is said to be the worst natural disaster to hit the state since they started keeping records in 1945. It has caused an estimated US$1 billion in damages and 49 people killed. 24 inches of rain has fallen and caused flooding in some areas. Floods in the middle of the desert are not something you hear often. Have some friends over there and the last time I checked they were OK. The storm in Eastern Aussie, billed as the worst in 30 years has left nine people dead.

You think Mother Nature is trying to tell us something with all this weird weather patterns? Or course she is, but the problem is we humans have a habit of not listening to her. Wait till she gets really pissed off one day and decides to kick us all out.

At least the world powers are taking note of global warming and decided to take necessary action during the recently concluded G8 summit, but of course GWB does not want to play fair and wants all the other to play according to his rules, like always. We’ll just have to wait and see if the world leaders are going to stop talking about it and actually do something.

Interesting things that has happened in history today: (courtesy of wikipedia)

1942 – Anne Frank started writing her diary, during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
Here’s a really cool site, which is an interactive monument to her.

1964 – Former South African President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned by the Pretoria Supreme Court.

1979 – English channel crossing was done by a human powered aircraft named the Gossamer Albatross.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Where will it all end?

The big news on all media these days is the eviction of some Tamil people living in Colombo, who allegedly have no reason to be in Colombo. According to reports around 260 people have been sent home back to where they came from. Of course the government claims they volunteered, and the Tamil MP’s are saying that they were forced. Who to believe, you decide.

Daily News
Daily Mirror

Since when does a citizen of any country need to have a valid reason to travel to any part of the country and live there. I should have the right to pack up my things, move to Kandy, Anuradhapura or wherever and live the just because I want to. If I can’t live in Kandy just because I was born in Colombo then basically Kandy and Colombo becomes two independent states. The way these evictees are being treated is like they are illegal aliens from another country. So what is the government implying here?

I agree that the security of a country is paramount, but there should be a proper way of getting on about it. If they have suspicions about people, the best would be to detain them and carry out investigations, not pack them all of to where they came from. By carrying out a proper investigation, the security forces can be certain whether the individuals are a threat or not. With the actions carried out what happens is that the people subjected to this treatment gets more dissatisfied with the way things are going. Who is to say that an innocent individual who was sent back will now think twice about supporting the terrorist? What’s stopping him now from fighting for a separate state, since he knows that the government already treats him like a citizen of another country? These sorts of actions are only adding more fuel to the fire. What were the so called decision makers thinking? Now the LTTE has a free excuse to kick out Sinhalese people in the North and East. The government can’t say anything now because they are doing the same thing to the Tamils over here. They are handing the LTTE more excuses and more propaganda material, and digging themselves a deep hole.

I hate all that is politics and usually don’t bother with it. I know no matter what we say, the idiots at the top will go on doing what they do. However the situation now is becoming a bit scary. Some people are calling it ethnic cleansing, but I wont go that far. There are (still) no genocides and mass graves here, but if this keeps on going, that is where we’ll probably end up. That is a scary thought my friends. I just hope the ordinary folks of this country are smarter than those who are running it and will not let themselves get dragged into a situation where the country is racked with racial hatred, and race riots.