Monday, 28 September 2015

Alien Travels

Forget little green's all about cold metal. Interesting article on how alien explorers could travel across the vastness of space, where flight time may potentially be measured in centuries. 

Researchers from Edinburgh University have said 'self replicating' robotic space probes from alien civilisations could already have arrived in our solar system.

The probes, which mathematicians Duncan Forgan and Arwen Nicholson referred to in their paper 'Slingshot Dynamics for Self Replicating Probes and the Effect on Exploration Timescales', could be so hi-tech that they're invisible to human beings, the researchers said.

The two mathematicians analysed the possibility that probes could travel through space in a study published in the Journal of Astrobiology.

The paper raises the question of whether alien races could have used the gravity of stars to “slingshot” probes in order to gain speed: a technique humans already use for probes, such as the Voyager. The Voyager space probe uses a 'slingshot' technique but uses planets rather than stars as the Scotland-based mathematicians suggest.

The researchers also analysed how a fleet of probes could 'self replicate' and build new versions of themselves from dust and gas while traveling through space.

Dr Forgan said: "The fact we haven't seen probes of this type makes it difficult to believe that probe building civilisations have existed in the Milky Way in the last few million years."

According to the researchers' calculations alien probes would only need to travel at one tenth of the speed of light in order to explore every part of our galaxy within 10 million years.

The scientists said: 'We can conclude that a fleet of self-replicating probes can indeed explore the Galaxy in a sufficiently short time...orders of magnitude less than the age of the Earth.'

The research chimes with that Jacob Haqq-Misra who in 2011 suggested that alien objects could already exist in our solar system without us knowing - because we haven't looked hard enough for them.

The new piece of research once again raises the so-called 'Fermi Paradox' about the search for alien life.

The paradox, suggested by physicists Enrico Fermi and Michael H. Hart, is the apparent contradiction between the high probability extraterrestrial civilizations' existence and the lack of contact with such civilizations.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

What's your time horizon ?

I guess as one gets older, you have more time for reflection to dwell on both the past and a potential future. On a latter, given our finite existence, I often wonder how I would react or behave according to different timelines ?

For example, I ask myself sometimes what would I do if I had one month, one year or 5 years respectively to live ? How much of a different person would I become according to each time horizon option ?  Would I travel the world, seek out past friends and family, write my memoirs, start a new hobby ? The possibilities, though endless, would need to be realistic according to time. And that my friends is the do you know what to do if you don't know what timeline you're on ? It is a well-worn cliche to say you "live life like there is no tomorrow". But suppose there is a tomorrow, in fact several years or decades, then what ? Questions, questions...

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Everyone in America is middle class ?

One of the more interesting phenomena relating to the US Presidential campaign, is the almost constant daily reference to how to protect the ‘middle class’. An alien from another planet would not be wrong to think that everyone in America lives in gated communities, with large houses and obligatory swimming pool. As an outsider and as someone who grew up in Europe and now living in Canada, it seems almost incredulous that there is no audible mention of ‘working classes’ and with only occasional passing reference to billionaires and welfare recipients. Which is all the more surprising considering since Republican candidate Romney in that now infamous video made explicit reference to 47% of the US electorate being victims and creatures that could be written off immediately as total losers. 

I would put forward the view that to use the term working class in the US electoral race would a) concede that the American Dream has left the majority of the population economically disenfranchised and b) provides a ‘subversive’ class dimension to domestic politics which none of the 2 major parties want to entertain. To my ignoramus view from north of the border, it seems almost as if anyone who has a white collar / office job is labelled middle class. Back in the UK, I always had a visual pyramid view of the social class set up, with narrower/fewer people as you go up from working > middle > upper etc. There are also social, behavioural and cultural attributes which define 'class'.

I recognize that class labels are at best fluid and constantly changing, but I think I'm missing something with respect to the US scene. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Turning Pages....

I still can’t bring myself into buying an e-reader. Trust me I’ve tried. I’ve played around endlessly with demo models in tech stores – some were dead on arrival (no power), others would blink/flash annoyingly as the page turned, whilst others would almost sullenly respond in resentment to me having woken them from a deep slumber.

There is still something intimate and personal about picking up a paper book, holding it in your hands and turning the pages for yourself. The books on my bookshelf all vary in size, font, cover artwork – some are yellowing from age and others still have to be broken in. Some have been re-read, borrowed and re-borrowed, whilst others may have only been touched once.  Some have travelled to exotic beaches  and others have been used to pass time on a train. Sometimes the ownership history of a book is more telling than the contents inside, and maybe that’s what I don’t want to lose.....

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Am back !

After a 2 year hiatus, I am back in the world of the blogosphere. I find it hard to comprehend that this blog has been in existence for around 8 years. A lot has happened in that time, and it's interesting to note some of my earlier writings reflect a different persona - which is not necessarily a judgment call - but which reflects changes that can come through time. Some older posts I have deleted as they no longer resonate with the person I am today and would represent a block to breaking free from previous mental constructs I had created for myself.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Our Jewish friends in Waziristan

Oh the irony of it all... :)

Can't help but want to be a fly on the wall in one of those heavily walled compounds in the Af-Pak tribal areas when Ibrahim realizes he's an Abraham...

From The Guardian:

Israel is to fund a rare genetic study to determine whether there is a link between the lost tribes of Israel and the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan.

Historical and anecdotal evidence strongly suggests a connection, but definitive scientific proof has never been found. Some leading Israeli anthropologists believe that, of all the many groups in the world who claim a connection to the 10 lost tribes, the Pashtuns, or Pathans, have the most compelling case. Paradoxically it is from the Pashtuns that the ultra-conservative Islamic Taliban movement in Afghanistan emerged. Pashtuns themselves sometimes talk of their Israelite connection, but show few signs of sympathy with, or any wish to migrate to, the modern Israeli state.

Now an Indian researcher has collected blood samples from members of the Afridi tribe of Pashtuns who today live in Malihabad, near Lucknow, in northern India. Shahnaz Ali, from the National Institute of Immuno¬haematology in Mumbai, is to spend several months studying her findings at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. A previous genetic study in the same area did not provide proof one way or the other.

The Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Israel some 2,730 years ago, scattering 10 of the 12 tribes into exile, supposedly beyond the mythical Sambation river. The two remaining tribes, Benjamin and Judah, became the modern-day Jewish people, according to Jewish history, and the search for the lost tribes has continued ever since. Some have claimed to have found traces of them in modern day China, Burma, Nigeria, Central Asia, Ethiopia and even in the West.

But it is believed that the tribes were dispersed in an area around modern-day northern Iraq and Afghanistan, which makes the Pashtun connection the strongest.

"Of all the groups, there is more convincing evidence about the Pathans than anybody else, but the Pathans are the ones who would reject Israel most ferociously. That is the sweet irony," said Shalva Weil, an anthropologist and senior researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Pashtuns have a proud oral history that talks of descending from the Israelites. Their tribal groupings have similar names, including Yusufzai, which means sons of Joseph; and Afridi, thought by some to come from Ephraim. Some customs and practices are said to be similar to Jewish traditions: lighting candles on the sabbath, refraining from eating certain foods, using a canopy during a wedding ceremony and some similarities in garments.

Weil cautioned, however, that this is not proof of any genetic connection. DNA might be able to determine which area of the world the Pashtuns originated from, but it is not at all certain that it could identify a specific genetic link to the Jewish people.

So far Shahnaz Ali has been cautious. "The theory has been a matter of curiosity since long ago, and now I hope a scientific analysis will provide us with some answers about the Israelite origin of Afridi Pathans. We still don't know what the truth is, but efforts will certainly give us a direction," she told the Times of India last year.

Some are more certain, among them Navras Aafreedi, an academic at Luck¬now University, himself a Pashtun from the Afridi tribe. His family trace their roots back to Pathans from the Khyber Agency of what is today north-west Pakistan, but he believes they stretch back further to the tribe of Ephraim.

"Pathans, or Pashtuns, are the only people in the world whose probable descent from the lost tribes of Israel finds mention in a number of texts from the 10th century to the present day, written by Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars alike, both religious as well as secularists," Aafreedi said.

The implications of any find are uncertain. Other groups that claim ¬Israelite descent, including those known as the Bnei Menashe in India and some in Ethiopia, have migrated to Israel. That is unlikely with the Pashtuns.

But Weil said the work was absorbing, well beyond questions of immigration. "I find a myth that has been so persistent for so long, for 2,000 years, really fascinating," she said.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Two Words

"What if..."

Two words….one syllable each, 6 letters in total - yet combined together probably amounting to the most powerful powerful phrase in the English language, guaranteed to initiate some degree of introspective soul searching and omphalic contemplation. Each one of us will occasionally come across that fork in the road and make a considered choice as to which path in life to follow. Hindsight will ultimately prove to be the judge of such choices, and yet we will always come back to the 'What if' train of thought….how would things have turned out if I had chosen A instead of B or C instead of B ?

Even so, I still prefer the 'What if' analysis to the alternative variation of 'If only' which implies a degree of regret or hapless resignation to the former's implied positive affirmation of having at least made a choice with the best available information at the time.

Either way, enjoy the journey. We'll leave the destination part for another day…… :)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Friday, 31 July 2009

Goodbye Mr Robson

Sometimes you define a certain time in your life by an event, an object, or a person. Today witnessed the passing of a great sporting legend, Bobby Robson, the former manager of the England football team and who won club trophies in four different countries from England, Holland, Portugal and Spain. My youth and university days of soccer tribalism followed the joys and pain of watching Bobby Robson take England to World Cups in Mexico 86 and the unforgettable Italia 90, as well the 88 Euro Championships. I found watching and listening to his interviews an intriguing mix of introspective Zen-like philosophy, realism and hardened determination.

So, yes, it with a certain sense of sadness that I am saying goodbye to Bobby Robson. Peace be with you.

From the NYT today:

LONDON — No matter where in the world you mention the name Bobby Robson, the response is the same: a man of soccer. A man who lived his 50 adult years for the game and through the game.

A man, above all else, whose passion never tired and was never defeated by culture, language or ultimately by the insidious impact of money on the sport.

Sir Bobby Robson died in the early hours of Friday in his native Durham, in northern England. He was 76, he fought five different cancers from 1991, and even last weekend, even in a wheelchair, he was on a soccer pitch in Newcastle.

Some of the great players, his players, formed a guard of honor as he was wheeled on. They thrilled him by reenacting the 1990 World Cup semifinal, which the England side he managed lost on penalty kicks to the West German team of Franz Beckenbauer.

Each of the players still able to kick a ball played last Saturday for as long as they were able. The match was to raise yet more money for Robson’s last great venture, his foundation for a cancer research center to trial new drugs on patients in his home city.

To that end, his life’s full circle had turned from playing the game as a coal miner’s son to managing world renowned players in England, the Netherlands, Portugal, Canada, Spain.

He was raised in a terraced coal miner’s cottage and left school at 15. Until soccer intervened, he was destined to follow his father down the local pit, as an electrician. “My father Philip,” he would say on introducing his parent to anybody he met. “A wonderful man, he only ever missed one shift in 51 years down the pit.” And Philip would settle into the background as people either fawned upon his son, or in his time as England team manager from 1982 to 1990, would seek to tear down his authority.

It was ever thus. From Fulham, the London club where Bobby Robson started as a professional player in 1950, to Ipswich, then Eindhoven, Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona and finally to take over Newcastle, the team his father loved, Robson was single minded, combative, dedicated.

“I saw Frank Sinatra sing when he was nearly 80,” Robson once said. “And I thought it was the best thing I witnessed in my life. It depends who you are and where you are.” His treatment of players is legion. He took the Brazilians Romario and Ronaldo when they were in their teens and far from their culture, in Eindhoven and Barcelona. He dealt with boys and men, with turbulent personalities and meek players.

Often he could barely pronounce, or remember, their names. He often mispronounced Josep Guardiola, now a successor of his as coach to Barcelona, as Gladioli.

But the guiding ethics of his life were hard work and love of the game.

I still have the original text he wrote for a speech at a coaches’ conference in 1977. He was then the team manager at Ipswich Town, a small club he raised to a bigger one in England.

His subject was “The period of Apprenticeship and selection of Professional Material.”

“What do I look for in a young player?” he wrote. “The same things that I look for in a player who might set me back more than one hundred thousand pounds in the transfer market.

“He must have pace, control, understanding and dash. He must be enthusiastic, brave, courageous and dedicated. He must have a certain amount of technique, although that can be added as he matures. If these raw materials are evident, you have something to work from and you have a good chance of producing a professional player.” The script then cautioned: “The qualities are developed during the apprenticeship years by sheer hard graft.” He was to spend the rest of his days nurturing boys from varying walks of life, and from different nationalities, though homesickness and alienation into developing the most precious thing they possess: talent.

I recall a day in Poland where his father had gone along to see an England game, and Bobby asked his guest to take the old man out of the hall, buy him a beer, make sure he does not see the bear baiting of the England manager by the English press.

I recall another day, when Robson was coach to a World XI chosen to play for a Unicef match against the then world champion Germany in Munich. Players arrived by the hour from the far corners of the world. He couldn’t pronounce or remember their names, but he knew their faces, and their talents.

Within one training session he had somehow gelled those disparate players into a team that played a coherent 4-4-2 formation. Each of them called him “Mister,” all played a charity match as if it were the World Cup final. And each of them to this day can remember that training session, that communication, that fun day.

Underlying it was the cause, and underlying Robson’s last cause, his cancer charity was what brought the German and English players of 1990 back to Robson’s boyhood stamping ground, Newcastle United. He had worked through his recurrent bouts of cancer — in the mouth, the lungs, the brain — with humor and fortitude and, his single most evident trait, sheer determination.

The million pounds raised by his charity in its first few months astounded him. It should not have.

People responded to the man he was, the enthusiasm he imparted. “Its difficult to compare achievements, and this is different to football,” he said of the cancer trust in February. “We are talking about saving lives, not winning matches.

“But this is up there with anything I have achieved in the game. Football makes a huge difference to people, but what the people here at this research center are doing is more important.

“Soccer is about beating your opponent, this is about beating death. I have met unforgettable people, and this has been a great year.”

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

In a German mood...

Never really considered myself a World Cinema fan, but given the recent lack of cinematic quality output from Hollywood, Bollywood or England, I decided to allow Germany to have an opportunity to shine on the big screen at home. First rented 'Downfall' - a fly-on-the-wall perspective of Hitler's last days living out an increasingly paranoid existence in a Berlin bunker , and then took out an option to try 'Goodbye Lenin' - a black comedy with a touching view of a son trying to reconcile her East German mother (who has just come out of a coma), to the fact that communism has fallen and the world has changed forever.

Verdict ? Excellent, deep and challenging - both of them.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

An accidental discovery: Carménère wine

I don't normally make oenological type blog entries, but I recently made an accidental discovery at my local wine store that is worthy of writing. Whilst searching for a decent New World wine which would also be bottled in a screw cap (thus dispensing with the need to use my ageing ye olde rusty corkscrew), I purchased a bottle of Chilean wine that was made with the Carménère grape variety. And my verdict ? Absolutely great taste full of character, spice and smooth tannins. It has gone straight to the top of Spherical Musing's nasha chart, usurping such perennial favourites like Bacardi, Baltika and Campari.

Found some interesting info on the web:

Carménère is an ancient variety, thought to have been one of the ancestors of several of the more common French varieties, and one of the original grapes of Bordeaux. It arrived in Chile during the 19th century in a shipment of Merlot vines, and growers inadvertently kept it alive for the next century and a half under the mistaken assumption that it was Merlot. Because the Carménère grapes were processed right alongside the Merlot, Chilean “Merlot” had a very distinctive taste unlike any other Merlot in the world.

Eventually, researchers decided to look into the reason behind this difference, leading to the identification of Carménère vines in the 1990s. Chile immediately latched on to its new discovery, and there are now many single varietal bottlings of Chilean Carménère on the market, as well as several Cabernet-Carménère blends.

Interestingly enough, the exact same thing happened with Carménère in Italy, except there it was confused with Cabernet Franc. In 1990, several vines at the Ca’del Bosco winery were identified as Carménère, not Cabernet; shortly afterwards, several producers in other Italian wine regions also discovered that they had been harbouring this vineyard stowaway.

While some esoteric wines can command ridiculous prices on account of their obscurity, Carménère’s low profile has kept its price down. A good bottle of Chilean Carménère usually goes for around $20 a bottle, often less.

Carménère tends to make deeply coloured wines; indeed, the name of the grape comes from the French word for crimson, carmin.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Scenes from Punjab

Better late than never....finally got a chance to post some of the 700+ shots I took on my recent trip to India.

^ ^ At a rest stop along the GT Road somewhere near Patiala.

^ ^ Waiting for a bus (I presume). They look uncharacteristically calm...prolly still half-asleep...LOL.

^ ^ My parents' place in Moga City.

^ ^ Millions of these Tata trucks on the road....the subject of many a Punjabi song.

^ ^ Punjab framed. :)

^ ^ Apna Punjab.

^ ^ LOL....I think I know how you're gonna drive. I think this was the most ridiculous thing I saw on my travels.

^ ^ Feeding time at the zoo ?

^ ^ The Golden Temple, Amritsar.

^ ^ ^ Oh the irony of it all.

^ ^ GT Road again. In Punjab, overtaking and double over-taking are a national sport.

^ ^ ^ Personal transportation has definitely progressed over the last 5 years.

^ ^ The evening commute.

^ ^ 
The dreaded shopping trip

^ ^ ^ Punjab's Gold Reserves.. :)

^ ^ ^ 
The latest shopping mall developments are on a par with the West.

^ ^ ^
Having a 'Mirinda' at Delhi Airport. It's definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone.

^ ^ ^
Departure Lounge at Delhi. Was not asked for a bribe pleasant. :)

Friday, 20 February 2009

Flying high with Singh is King

It's quite a psychedelic experience watching 'Singh is King' at 39,000 feet - the lack of oxgen and cabin pressure must really play havoc with one's perceptions of reality - but this was the case as I flew on British Airways from London to Delhi a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the in-flight entertainment system was on the blink and the usual 30+ choice of movies was reduced to watching either Singh is King or some inane documentary about flower arranging. Given my failure to bring aboard any alternative reading material, I was forced to watch this film about 2 - 3 times and I'm sure the soundtrack has deeply embedded itself in my DNA by now...LOL. However, I guess I wasn't was a weird experience returning from the washroom towards my seat and seeing rows of white sahibs in their seats watching 'Singh is King'... :) In their case, I hope they can distinguish between reality and bakwaas....we are not all like that you know... :)

I wouldn't necessarily go as far as the Guardian newspaper did in asking the question: "What happens when a mentally subnormal Sikh peasant becomes the don of the Australian mafia ?". Yes, Happy Singh (played by Akshay Kumar) definitely displays some retarded tendencies....but 'mentally subnormal' may be taking it too far....LOL. (ps. somebody should really tell the Bollywood studios how to spell 'King').

However, I fully concur with the rest of The Guardian's observations:

The plot has more holes than a typical Indian highway, and even a seasoned artisan like Om Puri is made to look wholly incompetent as he plays Happy's grouchy kinsman, Rangeela, grappling with a script that seems to have been written by a five-year-old who's been drinking way too many bhang lassis. At one point, British Airways mistakenly lands Happy in Egypt rather than Oz, where he cavorts amid the dunes with the deliciously lithe and coffee-coloured Katrina Kaif, playing his love-interest, Sonia. One of the most gorgeous but breathtakingly untalented women on earth, watching this former London-based model is like staring at a black hole – a thing of unspeakable beauty and infinite emptiness. There's even a cameo by Snoop Dogg who, in the title tune, the first ever Bollywood-Compton crossover record, raps the historic lines: "Watch me zoom by, make it boom by. Word-up to all the ladies hanging out in Mumbai".

Monday, 26 January 2009

Time to get political....

I recently tested my political attitude on the website Political Compass, and here are the results. According to this I should be sipping Havana Club rum and playing cards with Castro and Chavez. :)

I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised considering I spent my formative years reading Marx and Lenin, and that one of my favourite sayings is "walk softly with a big stick"..LOL.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Western hypocrisy over Georgia

As I tried to make sense over recent events in Georgia, I was struck by a sense that things didn't quite add up as presented by the West's media outlets. Trying to achieve a high moral ground sounds a little hollow after the brutal invasion and illegal occupation of Iraq by US forces and ill-disciplined private mercenaries.

Lesson to Georgia (and it's puppet master) - if you're going to punch a bear on the nose - please consider your next step also.

From The Guardian:

The outcome of six grim days of bloodshed in the Caucasus has triggered an outpouring of the most nauseating hypocrisy from western politicians and their captive media. As talking heads thundered against Russian imperialism and brutal disproportionality, US vice-president Dick Cheney, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown and David Miliband, declared that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered". George Bush denounced Russia for having "invaded a sovereign neighbouring state" and threatening "a democratic government". Such an action, he insisted, "is unacceptable in the 21st century".

Could these by any chance be the leaders of the same governments that in 2003 invaded and occupied - along with Georgia, as luck would have it - the sovereign state of Iraq on a false pretext at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives? Or even the two governments that blocked a ceasefire in the summer of 2006 as Israel pulverised Lebanon's infrastructure and killed more than a thousand civilians in retaliation for the capture or killing of five soldiers?

You'd be hard put to recall after all the fury over Russian aggression that it was actually Georgia that began the war last Thursday with an all-out attack on South Ossetia to "restore constitutional order" - in other words, rule over an area it has never controlled since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nor, amid the outrage at Russian bombardments, have there been much more than the briefest references to the atrocities committed by Georgian forces against citizens it claims as its own in South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali. Several hundred civilians were killed there by Georgian troops last week, along with Russian soldiers operating under a 1990s peace agreement: "I saw a Georgian soldier throw a grenade into a basement full of women and children," one Tskhinvali resident, Saramat Tskhovredov, told reporters on Tuesday.

Might it be because Georgia is what Jim Murphy, Britain's minister for Europe, called a "small beautiful democracy". Well it's certainly small and beautiful, but both the current president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and his predecessor came to power in western-backed coups, the most recent prettified as a "Rose revolution". Saakashvili was then initially rubber-stamped into office with 96% of the vote before establishing what the International Crisis Group recently described as an "increasingly authoritarian" government, violently cracking down on opposition dissent and independent media last November. "Democratic" simply seems to mean "pro-western" in these cases.

The long-running dispute over South Ossetia - as well as Abkhazia, the other contested region of Georgia - is the inevitable consequence of the breakup of the Soviet Union. As in the case of Yugoslavia, minorities who were happy enough to live on either side of an internal boundary that made little difference to their lives feel quite differently when they find themselves on the wrong side of an international state border.

Such problems would be hard enough to settle through negotiation in any circumstances. But add in the tireless US promotion of Georgia as a pro-western, anti-Russian forward base in the region, its efforts to bring Georgia into Nato, the routing of a key Caspian oil pipeline through its territory aimed at weakening Russia's control of energy supplies, and the US-sponsored recognition of the independence of Kosovo - whose status Russia had explicitly linked to that of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - and conflict was only a matter of time.

The CIA has in fact been closely involved in Georgia since the Soviet collapse. But under the Bush administration, Georgia has become a fully fledged US satellite. Georgia's forces are armed and trained by the US and Israel. It has the third-largest military contingent in Iraq - hence the US need to airlift 800 of them back to fight the Russians at the weekend. Saakashvili's links with the neoconservatives in Washington are particularly close: the lobbying firm headed by US Republican candidate John McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has been paid nearly $900,000 by the Georgian government since 2004.

But underlying the conflict of the past week has also been the Bush administration's wider, explicit determination to enforce US global hegemony and prevent any regional challenge, particularly from a resurgent Russia. That aim was first spelled out when Cheney was defence secretary under Bush's father, but its full impact has only been felt as Russia has begun to recover from the disintegration of the 1990s.

Over the past decade, Nato's relentless eastward expansion has brought the western military alliance hard up against Russia's borders and deep into former Soviet territory. American military bases have spread across eastern Europe and central Asia, as the US has helped install one anti-Russian client government after another through a series of colour-coded revolutions. Now the Bush administration is preparing to site a missile defence system in eastern Europe transparently targeted at Russia.

By any sensible reckoning, this is not a story of Russian aggression, but of US imperial expansion and ever tighter encirclement of Russia by a potentially hostile power. That a stronger Russia has now used the South Ossetian imbroglio to put a check on that expansion should hardly come as a surprise. What is harder to work out is why Saakashvili launched last week's attack and whether he was given any encouragement by his friends in Washington.

If so, it has spectacularly backfired, at savage human cost. And despite Bush's attempts to talk tough yesterday, the war has also exposed the limits of US power in the region. As long as Georgia proper's independence is respected - best protected by opting for neutrality - that should be no bad thing. Unipolar domination of the world has squeezed the space for genuine self-determination and the return of some counterweight has to be welcome. But the process of adjustment also brings huge dangers. If Georgia had been a member of Nato, this week's conflict would have risked a far sharper escalation. That would be even more obvious in the case of Ukraine - which yesterday gave a warning of the potential for future confrontation when its pro-western president threatened to restrict the movement of Russian ships in and out of their Crimean base in Sevastopol. As great power conflict returns, South Ossetia is likely to be only a taste of things to come.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Zimbabwe - 4 legs good, 2 legs bad

The parallels between Orwell's 'Animal Farm' and the current state of mis-rule and despotism in Zimbabwe are becoming more and more apparent each day.

Mugabe's corruption of the ideals of the war of Liberation is breathtaking to say the least. 28 years later, the former breadbasket of Africa has been brought to economic and social ruin. Just like Orwell's fictional head pig, Napoleon, all despotic decisions by Mugabe and his cronies are justified in the name of the revolution.

I say it's time to get out the pitchfork and start making the pig squeal.....

Friday, 8 February 2008

Spinning wheels

Yesterday I felt like a stranded German Panzer tank commander on the Russian Eastern front during the Second World War. The cruel Russian winter was one of key factors in halting the march of the Third Reich. Roll on another 65 years and in another part of the world, and lo and behold another marvel of German engineering is stopped by the elements. To be fair to the V-Dub, we had a huge dump of snow (our third snowstorm in less than a week) and I hadn't shovelled the driveway before attempting to make a quick getaway. It took several attempts at pushing and shovelling before I was back on the road again......

Friday, 1 February 2008

Staying Dry

Today represents the completion of a whole month since I last drank alcohol and I feel great ! To the men-of-god sadhu/hermit types who live in a forest it might not sound like a big deal, but the last time I can recall being this dry was back in the early 90s. Rather than setting a New Year Resolution, I've decided to set different challenges for each month of the year....but things that money can't January was Prohibition :)

The experiment was good while it lasted and I proved to myself that I could do it, but tonight I party.....and here's a glass to that. :) Stay tuned for next month's challenge, but in the meantime I'm ready to party like these dudes..... :))))

Sunday, 6 January 2008

In the year 3025

Ontario recently effected a ruling which made it illegal to put an expiry date limit on Gift Cards. The systems analyst inside of me wondered about how store IT departments would make the relevant software programming changes. Would they set the expiry date to 00/00/0000 or spaces ? Would their applications accept zero values or spaces in the Date_Expiry data field ?

Well, the answer is clear in the case of Sears. In my hands I have a receipt for a Sears Gift Card, and the expiry date has been set to 1st January 3025. Yep...3025. Wonder what I or you will be doing then ? :)

But seriously folks, what will the world look like in the year 3025 ? How many wars will have occurred by then and what scale ? What will the climate be like, as well as the economy and technology ? How will our moral values have changed ? Questions, questions, all....because of an ordinary gift card purchase......

Friday, 28 December 2007

Word of the day is.....Implosion

"Implosion is a process in which objects are destroyed by collapsing in on themselves. The opposite of explosion, implosion concentrates matter and energy. An example of implosion is a submarine being crushed from the outside by the hydrostatic pressure of the surrounding water".

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto must rank as one of the worst days in Pakistan's short history to date. The country is reminding me more and more of Yugoslavia, and we all know what happened there.

It seems that the vision of Jinnah’s democratic nation-state will remain an unattainable utopian one. The experiment has failed.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Southall Sikh Temple

Images from my recent trip to England, which included a visit to the Southall Gurdwara. I was in total awe of the re-design and architecture, which was built to replace the previous temple on the same site.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Meeting dynamics

I just stepped out of a meeting at the office today and I noticed how people put others goes something like this....

If you ever want to put someone down and and categorize them as an uncouth peasant, just choose one of the following statements:

[After 20 minutes of detailed discussions]........

Person A says: "I think we need to step back and look at the big picture" (The implication here is that everybody has their nose so close to the detail they cannot see significant trends)

Person B retorts: "I agree somewhat, but we need to step back even further and understand the wider context"

Person C joins the fray (not wishing to be outdone): "Actually we need to get back to the core basics and go back to the beginning"

Finally, Person D chimes in with their own unique twist: "We need to approach from the bottom up, as top down approaches are now redundant".

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The Joy of Car Pooling

Who does it here ? I have currently been car pooling with 2 other visible minority chaps and this is our 4th month of car pooling - and we each drive every third week in rotation.


1) One's driving expenses (petrol and mileage) go significantly down.
2) You get to know the other person(s) very well.


1) You get to know the other person(s) very well....
2) The other pooler's car may not be in a road worthy state (eg bald tires, bad brakes, weird noises, no auto breakdown policy coverage)...
3) One guy talks non-stop about their homeland which in my opinion should be re-named 'Absurdistan'.....
4) You get to hear some animated conversations at 130 kph (esp where one of them is a vegan Hindu 'Om Shanti Om' type and the other is a pro-Hizbollah jihadist carnivore)....

Sunday, 18 November 2007

V-dub in der haus !

I've always wanted a German Shepherd dog, but knew I'd never get the chance to fully exercise it, so as a compromise meet 'Amadeus' - the latest turbo charged addition to the family.

Eight months ago I ditched my mind numbingly boring Toyota SUV for a Made-in-the-Fatherland VW Passat. This is my first ever German car, and if cars are supposed to be an extension of one's personality, I have been practising adopting a more serious Teutonic demeanor and smiling less, drinking more Blue Nun, and trying to score some very lucky goals on the soccer pitch...LOL.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand - 'Amadeus' is fast, very fast. This is the first car that actually makes me grin like a Cheshire Cat just by flooring the pedal. The turbo engine makes light work of accelerating during my daily commutes on the autobahn and feels rock steady. My only regret is not getting the manual transmission, but that said, the 6 speed automatic with the Drive, Sport and semi-manual Tiptronic mode is very responsive with zero turbo lag. For me, the big difference between this and other Japanese vehicles I've driven is how solid and well built it feels. The power steering feels heavier but that's not a bad thing compared to the feather light steering-with-one-finger feel of Japanese autos.

I just love taking the 'dog' out for it's daily exercise.... :))