Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Hills of Nuwaraeliya

Two of my friends and I decided to take a much deserved break from the daily grind, so we took a road trip to Nuwaraeliya over the last weekend. It’s so refreshing to get away Colombo and to at least spend a couple of days without the smog, dust, dirt and the noise.

We started off at around 5.30. The original time of departure was around 3.00 am but no one got up at that time :D. Since we stayed the night at RC’s place in Wattala, we decided to take the Kandy route. Fortunately due to a navigational error we ended up going to Hatton from Gampola and going through that route. I call it fortunate because we were planning to come back through that route, but the return journey was in the nighttime and we would have missed a lot of the scenery and great photo ops. It worked out for the best anyway. So after taking the longer scenic route, we finally made it to Nuwaraeliya around 2.00pm. Spent rest of the day wandering around the town and taking some photos. Sunday went to Horton Plains and did the whole runaround.

One thing I’m proud of is that this is the first fully sober trip I’ve been since leaving school. Thanks to the other two, who are civilized, respectable people, who don’t drink…he he :D. Otherwise would never have managed the whole Horton Plains route.

No matter how many times I go there I always love going to Nuwaraeliya. Not just the town, but the whole route itself. Reminds one how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country. Truly a paradise island like none other in the world.

Anyway, enjoy the photos. You can see more of them in our officially unofficial photographer Harshadewa’s Flikr page.

More Pics here


St Clair's Falls
© 2007 Harshadewa

Bakers Falls
© 2007 Harshadewa

Brrr... Someone Gimme a Coat
© 2007 Harshadewa

A view of the town

© 2007 Harshadewa

Monday, July 30, 2007


Lady Divine mentioned in one of her comments that I must be someone who likes to read a lot, and I thank her for reminding me of a topic to write a post about. Reading is my #1 hobby so I thought it should deserve a mentioning.

I’m not sure when I got addicted to it or anything, but it’s something I’ve been doing since I was a little kid. I would read anything that I could get my hands on. In the early days it was the Enid Blyton series, The Famous Five. The Five Find-Outers, Secret Seven and so on. Then came the Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators, and now, anything and everything. From Asteriks, to the works of Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, Agatha Christie, P. D. James… well the list goes on and on and on…

A special mention must be made of Enid Blyton. All of her series are timeless. I still love reading one of those old books, especially the Five Find-Outers series, Fatty and the Gang on one of their adventures, with Mr. Goon the policeman trying to meddle in them. I think I’ll enjoy them even when I’m old and grey.

I guess I can thank my grandfather for my love of reading. He was a big reader too. Most of his stuff is gone now, but I do have his collection of Reader’s Digest magz, dating back to 1940s through to the seventies. And yes, I think I’ve read them all at least twice over. ( Not all at once, but over the span of 20 years or so :D). Guess I’m still continuing his tradition.

So why do I like reading so much? Because it creates a world where you can loose yourself, have adventures, be a hero, a lover or even the bad guy. You can go to the ends of the world, fly through space and time, discover new worlds, fight evil sorcerers and many more. And you can do all these things without leaving home. In my case I prefer to create my own movies when I’m reading, putting my favorite actors in the roles and so on. Makes the whole thing definitely more fun.

The other thing is that while engrossed in reading, you can forget about the real world, at least for a while. Personally I am someone who likes to be alone. I know what you are imagining, a psychotic loner holed up in a room stacked with books, who hasn’t seen sunlight for a long time. Well you can stop right there, coz that’s far from the truth as can be. I like hanging out with my friends and traveling all over. It’s just that I am someone who wouldn’t mind solitary confinement, as long as there’s an infinite supply of reading material.

I do have a small confession to make, which I feel guilty about. I don’t read Sinhala Fiction. Non-fiction, informative stuff I don’t mind but, not fictional stuff. It’s just maybe I haven’t come across any good contemporary Sinhala fictional works. I’m not talking about the old stuff from the likes of Martin Wickremasinghe and others of that genre, but new stuff. Ok maybe I haven’t done a good enough search, but most of the stuff I’ve seen on racks is the usual sob stories about girl meets boy, boy dumps girl, or parents put a stop to affair and both kill themselves, or something similar along these lines. No thank you… I’d rather read a label off a packet of biscuits. I must do a search and see if I can find anything interesting in the Sinhala fiction arena.

I take my leave with a few quotes about books and reading.


Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
Sir Richard Steele

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
Arnold Lobel

Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.
Horace Mann (1796 - 1859)

Never judge a book by its movie.
J. W. Eagan

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Riding the Rails

Ever since I was a little kid I loved trains and riding the rails. I know… I know it’s one of those boys and their toys stories, but what the heck! And no, I’m not a train fanatic either. It’s just that traveling by train is more fun than traveling by roads, especially in a bus. There’s something about those big diesel engines that is cool. The power generated is impressive, more than enough to tow several rail cars full of passengers through all kinds of terrain.

An average diesel engine weighs about 270, 000 pounds or 122, 470 kg. It can generate about 3,200 horsepower and the generator in turn converts this into about 4,700 amps of electricity. This electricity is used by the four drive motors to generate about 64,000 pounds of thrust, which can take a locomotive into speeds of up to 177 kph.

More on how diesels engine work

More on SL Railways

I guess trains are in my blood too. My grandfather was a station master and some of his relatives were engine drivers. So my father and uncle practically grew up on the tracks with the trains. During his career, my grandfather was posted in various stations all over the country and the family too traveled as the job took him. The best thing about that is that they got to experience a lot of wonderful things during these stints, traveling all across the country. My dad still talks about the stuff they used to do in the good old days. That’s probably where I get my love for traveling too.

Anyway I too recently became a member of the Train Gang. No they are not a bunch of train robbers. They are the people who commute to and from work in trains. It happened because we changed houses. We were living closer to Colombo and the new place is bit further, but I love the new place coz I grew up there and it’s a great neighborhood. A lot of people are commenting why we want to move further away from Colombo when all the other people are trying to get closer to Colombo and blah blah blah. That is the EXACT reason I want to get away from Colombo. I HATE COLOMBO!!! It’s crowded, noisy and dirty. Unfortunately all the jobs, especially in the IT sector are concentrated here. The day the whole islands get a high bandwidth, reliable broadband network, I’m going to pack up my things and set up home somewhere in the hill country and find a stay at home job. Ok that’s for another story…

As I was saying, since we moved, the only downside I can see is that I can’t walk to office anymore. I’ve had to join the ranks of the commuters. The problem is traveling on the roads in the morning is an absolute nightmare. Get caught to rush hour traffic and you spend more time idling than moving ahead. Add to that overcrowded buses, without any breathing space and you just feel like quitting your job and staying at home. One solution to all of that is to catch a train.

Now everybody can’t do this coz the rail network is not wide spread. If there’s no train station near to the start of your journey or end, your better off going by bus or private vehicle. Luckily for me, our new place and the office is closer to their respective train stations, so there’s no extra traveling involved, just a bit of walking.

The SL railways has always has a bad reputation as inefficient, always late and so on. However, at least the morning trains come and go on schedule. Whatever said about the state of the railway department, there are some plus points to consider.

• It’s Cheap – Ticket prices are about 40 – 50 % of bus fares
• Fast – Takes about half the time it takes to travel by bus (this is for short journeys. It goes the other way around for long journeys, especially the upcountry routes. )
• More spacious – Even if you have to travel standing, you can at least travel in comfort, without suffering like in busses.
• It’s a smooth ride – You have to stick to the rail tracks, so no need to worry about death defying antics of drivers, no sudden breaks to send you flying, and no high speed chases with other trains
• And the best thing is, as my friend Harshadewa puts it "No Traffic on Rail Road"!!!

Well here’s hoping for the expansion and development of the SL railways, so that we don’t’ have to suffer in the hands of the private bus operators.

"when the pistons keep on turning and go round and round
and the steel reels are cold and hard and the moutain ain t no down"

(Long Train Running – Doobie Brothers)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Carlos the Jackal

The mere mention of the name should send shivers throughout the western world. Their secret service agents hunting for this elusive criminal mastermind, who has caused much havoc in the world. And until recently I thought he was just a fictional character.

The original Jackal was introduced to the world by Frederick Forsythe in his masterpiece “The Day of the Jackal”, published in 1971. In it “The Jackal” is a master assassin whose identity is a mystery, and he is hired by some terrorists to assassinate the then president of France, Charles de Gaulle. While he makes the assassination plans, the secret service agents are trying to stop him from carrying them out. In the end his plan doesn’t exactly go his way and the Jackal dies. That should have been the end of it, but fortunately or unfortunately the Jackal was reborn into reality and became immortalized.

During the seventies there was guy named Vladimir Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, who was starting out in the terrorism business. Born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1942, his father was a devout Marxists, hence the names Vladimir Ilich. During the course of his life he became involved with guerilla warfare which led to the life of terrorism. To make things short, he did the usual terrorists stuff, and made the good guys angry. So the good guys made it their number one priority to catch him. Somewhere along this cat and mouse game, they reportedly found a copy of “The Day of the Jackal” among some of his belongings. That small insignificant find helped to make Ramirez Sanchez the most well know baddie at the time, thanks to the friendly media. They got hold of this information and made him into the larger than life person that he has become.

So now the spy novelists and movie makers have a new bad guy to toy around with. Many novels and movies featured him (or the character) as a lead player in the plot. Two of these (which I have read) is Tom Clancy’s “Rainbow Six” and Robert Ludlum’s “Bourne Ultimatum” the final book of the Bourne Trilogy. (Supposedly Carlos is featured in the first two books as well, but still have to get my hands on them :)...). In both of these books, his real name Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, is used.

Read more about the real life of a terrorist

I seriously didn’t know that this guy was real, and thought all these authors were resurrecting the character created by Frederick Forsythe. For one thing I guess he is old news. He was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1997 and he is still there in a prison somewhere in France. Furthermore these days there are much worst terrorist and nutcases around to keep the news media happy. Same also goes for the authors and film makers. As the times change, new bad guys will take the center stage and the old ones are given the boot. Out with Carlos and the Soviet communist cronies and in with Osama, Saddam and the Jihad Gang. After that? Who knows what new maniac the future will give us. Until that time comes, the “War on terror” should keep the storylines moving forward for a long time.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Glorified in Death…

I’m sure some of you out there would have wondered what your kith and kin will put on your gravestones when you’re dead and gone. Or for that matter whether they’ll even a put up a gravestone for you. Some people really don’t care about these things but for some it’s a very big deal. The ego maniacs want nothing better than to be immortalized in granite or marble. For them the bigger the gravestone the better they rest in peace.

The Russian city of Ekaterinburg is famed as the most mafia ridden city in the country and a visit to the local graveyard will shed some light on how far they take it. This is where all the Mafia men ultimately end up. However they don’t want to leave the world without making sure the rest of the people remember them. So what do they do? They get life sized marble sculptures of themselves as gravestones.

These life-like engravings or sculptures show them in their bad-ass posses, smoking, or showing off their tats or clutching the keys of their favorite ride. Some even go the extra mile to get a memorial for their favorite car they drove around in. One Father and son mob duo has two life size figures standing side by side, while in the middle a smaller engraving of their Volvo is placed. Some are even buried with their mobile phones, so they can keep in touch with their gangs. Talk about highly inflated egos.

No matter how bigger a memorial you put up for yourself after your dead, it doesn’t change the way you lived your life. Something some people will never understand…

Read More

(Pic. Source: The Mail on Sunday)

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I come from the heavens above
For all mortals young and old
When the time is right
To pass judgment on their lives
It matters not
If you are rich
Or if you are poor
All mortals equally I judge
How pure the lives you have led
The only thing that matter at last
Sinners repent
For my judgment is final
Cast off into the depths of hell
Forever more till the end of time
Who am I, you may wonder
Who speak such arrogant words
And pass judgment on others
I am what I am
I am Azrael
The Angel of Death…

Monday, July 09, 2007

New 7 Wonders Announced

As I mentioned in an earlier post, voting was in progress to select the new 7 wonders of the world. After 90 million votes cast by the citizens of the world, the new official list was announced on 07.07.07.

They are:

Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Christ Redeemer, Brazil
The Great Wall, China
Machu Picchu, Peru
Petra, Jordan
The Roman Colloseum, Italy
The Taj Mahal, India
Some people argue that creating such lists are not fair, because there are many more wonders around. That is a 100% true. The world we live in is a unique wonder in it self. However these are man made structure of a bygone era, when they didn’t have the technology we have today.

Just because there is an official seven wonders list it doesn’t mean that we have to forget about the others. This list should be used sort of like ambassadors for all the wonderful things we have in this world, to remind every one to protect them and preserve them for time to come.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Imagine leisurely walking down the street when that familiar tune comes to your ears. The latest rock song you downloaded on your mobile coming to life. You check to see that your best bud is calling and you answer. Then bang, everything goes blank, your brain is totally wiped out and you don’t even know what you are. All the sanity in you disappears and the primal urges takes over. A maniac is released. Murder becomes the prime directive.

That is exactly what happens to all the mobile users in the world. That is at least according to the King of Horror, Stephen King, on his book ‘Cell’. Just finished reading it and frankly I’m a bit worried to use me mobile now. I guess that’s what he was aiming for in the first place when he started the book. :D. It seems that he doesn’t use a mo-fo either.

I don’t want to give away the plot and ruin it for those who haven’t read it, so I suggest all to read it. Damn good. Not as scary as some of his other works, but this explores some interesting facets of human nature.

"At the bottom you see, we are not Homo sapiens at all. Our core is madness. The prime directive is murder. What Darwin was too polite to say, my friends, is that we came to rule the earth not because we are the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have always been the craziest, most murderous mother-fuckers in the jungle. And that is what the pulse exposed five days ago." - Charles Ardai
(Stephen King, CELL)