Monday, September 19, 2011

Poverty is Global

Going through western media, it is easy to think that the west is bubbling over with milk and honey, and its roads paved with gold. It seems like that the people in the west don’t even know the meaning of the word poverty. It is a word only for us who are categorized as developing nations. However, the reality is that poverty is a common situation throughout the world. The trick is that the developed countries have enough money to hide it so that we on the outside can’t see it.

According to the new report released by the US Census Bureau, 46.2 million Americans, i.e. one in six people, lived in poverty last year. The poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, from 14.3% in 2009. This is the highest number since poverty details were first published in 1959.

The data presented here are from the Current Population Survey (CPS), 2011 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), the source of official poverty estimates. The CPS ASEC is a sample survey of approximately 100,000 household nationwide. These data reflect conditions in calendar year 2010.
·         The official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent — up from 14.3 percent in 2009. This was the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points, from 12.5 percent to 15.1 percent.
·         In 2010, 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009—the fourth consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty.
·         Between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (from 9.4 percent to 9.9 percent), for Blacks (from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent), and for Hispanics (from 25.3 percent to 26.6 percent). For Asians, the 2010 poverty rate (12.1 percent) was not statistically different from the 2009 poverty rate.1
·         The poverty rate in 2010 (15.1 percent) was the highest poverty rate since 1993 but was 7.3 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available.
·         The number of people in poverty in 2010 (46.2 million) is the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
·         Between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate increased for children under age 18 (from 20.7 percent to 22.0 percent) and people aged 18 to 64 (from 12.9 percent to 13.7 percent), but was not statistically different for people aged 65 and older (9.0 percent).2

1 The poverty rate for Blacks was not statistically different from that of Hispanics in 2010.
2 Since unrelated individuals under 15 are excluded from the poverty universe, there are 422,000 fewer children in the poverty universe than in the total civilian non-institutionalized population.

What irks me is that even with all these problems, the US still insists on poking its nose where it doesn’t belong. They should concentrate on cleaning up their houses before trying to mow the grass in the neighbor’s lawn. If the so called “developed countries” are true utopian states, then they would have the right to correct the rest of the world.

I don’t blame the ordinary people of America. I blame the policy makers. Ordinary folk just want to get on with their lives in peace. I haven’t dealt with Americans, but I have dealt with Canadians. They are hardworking people with the same problems that we have. Paying their mortgages, leases, healthy lives, good education for their children, etc. I believe that there is a common dream for any society, which is to provide a situation better than what exist today for future generations.

There is an interesting documentary by Michael Moore called Capitalism: A Love Story, which looks into the fall of the US economy. They showed it on one of the HBO channels sometime back. According to that, the economy is run by powerful businesses, and even the congress is sometime powerless to stand in their way.

The disparity in wealth exists everywhere and will exist until the end of time. Equal wealth distribution is a fairytale. What we should work towards is to reduce poverty, so that everyone is able to satisfy their basic needs, and is able to live comfortable lives in peace.

This is just the trailer, you can find other clips on YouTube. 

US Census Bureau reports on poverty


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Fisherman’s Plea

Before the new dawn breaks
I set sail on the great ocean
rowing my old wooden boat
drifting further from land
riding upon the waves
I cast my net into the water
praying for bounty
my fate eternally bound
to the kindness of Poseidon
what my net brings forth
keeps the hunger at bay
from me and my family
so, please forgive me
noble creatures of the sea
if I seem heartless
I honor you deeply
for you are our salvation

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pasikuda and Maalu Maalu

Too much work is not good, so me and the folks at the office packed our bags and headed for Pasikuda last weekend for a well-deserved break. The journey itself was a bit tiring because it took nearly 10 hours. This was mainly because we went in one of those big tourist coaches, comfy, but not good if you want speed. There was also a huge traffic jam along the Dambulla Habarana road due to road-works, which also added to the delay.

CJ had post last week about the pros and cons of Maalu Maalu. While I have to agree on some con points, for me, the overall experience was good. The overall response of the folks at office is also positive.

What won me over was the food. It was excellent. I’m a foodie, so for me, good food will triumph over everything else. I left my diet in Colombo and stuffed myself, consequences be damned. Their soups and salads were top notch. I think I ate more of the salads than the main courses. Event he kola kanda they had for breakfast was good. I’m not a big fan of kola kanda, but this one I gave a try. The same goes for the deserts too.

The place is built as close knit cottages, with 2 rooms on some and 4 on others. There are also two family suit cottages with four rooms (I think), with its own private pool, a Jacuzzi and a steam room. The rooms themselves were quite comfy. The bathroom was huge. I think it was about a third of the whole room. You could have easily put in another bedroom in there if you wanted. 

The land on which the hotel is built is not that large, hence the cramped feeling. They have had to bring the front of the hotel right up to the front boundary. Because of this, the area left for parking is limited, unless they have some external location. The main building which houses the reception and dining areas is small compared to somewhere like Cinnamon Lodge. But the design of the chalets gives a sense of space. I think this is what the architects might have envisioned. To accentuate the sense of space for the chalets they have built them on a V-shape, extending outwards from the entrance. The infinity pool also adds to the sense of space. As a layman, I think it is a great piece of architecture which enhances the sense of space on a relatively small land extent. Even though the main building area is small, it does have two upper floors. The top one has a Karaoke Lounge and a night club with a superb sound and lighting system. The DJ on the other hand has lot of room to improve.

Now, for the important part; the beach. Awesomeness!

The area is part of a huge bay. When you stand in the middle looking out at seas, the white sandy beaches curve out on both sides. The sea isn’t rough and stays shallow for some distance, ideal for a dip. If you walk north along the beach you come across a coral reef. The water is so shallow that you can wade in for quite a distance and see the corals and the marine life using a snorkel. There is also the option of taking a glass bottomed boat and going a bit further into the sea. This area is also shallow, so you can jump in with a lifejacket on and do some snorkeling. Unfortunately other than the beach, sightseeing option are limited in the area, unless you go to Batticaloa, which about 40Km away.

The only side effect of the place is the sun burn you get. I have a dark complexion and even I’ve gotten a tan. However, because of the constant cool breeze coming in from the sea, you don’t feel the heat, but it does burn. A hat and sunglasses are a must.

In my opinion the best way to enjoy the place is to become a night owl. Sleep during the day and party all night. Ideally start around 4pm with a dip in the ocean, a game of beach volleyball or cricket, and finish off with a long soak in the pool till the sun goes down. At night, a good barbecue on the beach accompanied by alcohol of your choice and you can have an excellent time. End the party while watching the sunrise and go to bed afterwards. The sunrise is definitely not something you want to miss. It’s a beautiful site. Both times when I went to Trinco, I missed it thanks to my laziness so I made it a special point to catch it this time.

Passikuda is not crowded at the moment and very peaceful at the moment, but there are hotels coming up all along the beach, which is good for the economy of the area. These new enterprises offer direct job opportunities and indirect tourism related income opportunities for the people in the area. If the people have enough money to satisfy not only their needs, but their wants as well, they tend to be happier. When the people are happy then it will be difficult for external factors to influence them into unrest. Once these hotels come up, it would be ideal to make Passikuda also an air taxi destination. It already goes to Arugam Bay, so it can be part of the same trip. This will drastically reduce the travel time and leave more time to enjoy the place. This is especially good option for foreign tourists.

We are all too familiar with the environmental destruction caused by ad hoc development. The challenge here is to accommodate development while preserving the environment and the beauty of the area. For this to happen, proper planning and management is a must. Hopefully, the related authorities will take this into heart and have an environmentally friendly development plan so that the natural beauty of the place is not destroyed for the sake of progress. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

International Literacy Day

On the 17th of November 1965, UNESCO proclaimed September 8th as International Literacy Day. The idea behind it is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

Literacy is a very important factor when it comes to human development and economic growth. However, according to data from 2009, there are about 793 million adults around the world who lack even the basic reading and writing skills. From this, two thirds are women.

Knowledge is empowering, more so than money. Sadly, these days it feels like it’s the other way around. However, as long as you have knowledge you can make something out of yourself.

Knowledge rules!!! :)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Skyscraper Day

Image source:

 I heard about this in the radio this morning. Apparently the 3rd of September is the day when all those tall buildings are celebrated.

 Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much literature about its origins on the net, Except this

I’m somewhat of a fan of architecture, and do admire a good design, whether it is a house or a skyscraper. They are testaments of human ingenuity and imagination. These structures may not live and breathe like organism, but I think they do have a personality.

Skyscrapers can are the concrete equivalent of the tallest and widest trees in a jungle. They rise above the rest and provide shelter to millions of organisms. When you consider it, they provide food too, because we work inside them to make money. The houses are the shrubs and we are the lowly insects.

Facts about the Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world

Wikipedia list of tallest building and structures

Thursday, September 01, 2011

A celebration on the day you were born

Image from here

Another year has come to pass
but the world at large is unaware
this is for you, your personal year
to celebrate that special day
when the world was blessed with another child
rest of the world may not rejoice
but the people to whom you matter the most
will shower you with their love
embrace it, share it
take stock of the life you have led
remember the good times
the laughter and the love
forget the bad times
the hurt and the tears
mistakes are a part of life
learn from them, and mature
what is done is done
move on soldier, move on
when one year ends another one begins
what the future holds no one knows
trials and tribulations are part of life
be strong and defeat them all
greet each day with a smile on your face
go forth and conquer the world!