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Friday, April 18, 2014

Sach's Ultimate Non-Personal Bucket List

We all have those personal desires we so hope would come true; we would like to get 'busy' with the hot waitress at Starbucks, date that hot guy you can never take your eyes off, own all the video games every made, get married and have 11 babies - wait, no, NOBODY should want that - or find all by yourself a unified theory of everything, depending on what your thing is.

But for me, there are other things that I would so dearly love to see come true before I die and thought I'd write them down. So here goes, Sach's Ultimate Non-Personal Bucket List.

1. A Supernova Explosion
Know Betelgeuse? The big red star in Orion's right shoulder? Yes that's a big ass star so much so that were it at the center of the Solar System its surface would extend to almost the orbit of Jupiter. And it's so big for a reason: the star has so much mass it burned up all its energy very quickly and is swollen to its red giant stage. Now all is set up for what is probably the coolest (not exactly the right choice of words though, given it's anything but cool over there) event in the night sky that we'd be able to see. Betelgeuse will eventually explode in a supernova, something that's so fiercely bright it can outshine an entire galaxy for a brief period, and given that it's only 640 light years from us, we should be able to see it with our naked eyes during the day. Nobody knows when it will happen, it could be in a million years, few centuries, decades or even tomorrow. I dearly hope it's tomorrow.


2. Artificial Intelligence
Not the Siri kind but the real deal. We've all heard about it, the Hollywood always think it'll spell doom for us, the Sci-Fi writers are marginally better and yet we have no idea how close or far away it would be. When it comes to technology, I think I have a soft spot, so I always like to give it the benefit of the doubt. I suppose we have to figure out what consciousness is if we are ever to construct an AI, and that's no mean feat; we probably know much more about Pluto than our own consciousness. But who are we to say that it won't evolve on it's own without any of us knowing?


3. Bring back the Dinos
If you were a kid and you didn't like dinosaurs there's something wrong with you. Like seriously. For all practical purposes it could be made a mental health test for children: you don't like the dinos, you get thrown in the mental asylum. But the fact is that even after you are grown up, which most men aren't, chances are you still like them. Big time. In all honesty it probably isn't a very good idea to bring them back, they had their shot and had to be wiped out to make way for us so humans walking alongside them dinos is just not meant to be unless you also believe the earth is 6,000 years old. But I'll be damned if I could bring them back and didn't.


4. Reboot the Space Program
I want to see a human on Mars! In the 60s if they could send humans to moon using microprocessors less powerful than my mobile phone today, we most certainly are capable of sending few people to Mras if we put our minds into it. Minds and money. How sad is it that the America's annual defense budget is larger than that of next ten countries' put together? So we are definitely capable of it, it's just we've got our priorities wrong, not just wrong but very wrong. But dreams are free and I dream the day we send someone to Mars. It'll be doubly sweet if it's a woman so they'll have to come up with something better than "it's a giant leap for mankind".


5. A World Without Religion
Organized religion to be specific. I have good reason to hope for it: most of the wars we fought throughout our human history had something to do with religion, whenever religion gathered even a little bit of power people were made to suffer, and science was made to go into hiding dragging whole civilizations back centuries, and despite the popular belief when there's religion doesn't have authority on morality (rather, morality precedes religion) and worst of all, nothing divide people like religion do. Like Steven Weinberg once so eloquently put it, "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."


6. Flying Cars
Hollywood promised us them by the 1980s. Seriously, where the hell are these!?!?!?!?

And finally, with a drum-roll and all...

7. Life Elsewhere!
Yes that deserved a drum-roll and an exclamation mark. It doesn't have to be fancy aliens with warp drives, I don't want spaceships, hell they can be exceptionally dumb for all I care, I'll just take single celled extraterrestrial life as long as it's... life. Should we discover single celled most primitive life hidden beneath the Martian polar ice caps or underground oceans in Europa, it's gong to be the most profound discovery in the history of humankind. The implications of extraterrestrial life will reach far and wide, eventually, and it will force us to think again about our whole perspective of the universe while answering one of the oldest questions we ever asked; are we alone? It'll be insanely interesting to know about their biology, whether DNA based life is the only way around the problem of life (if the first form of extraterrestrial life we find is also DNA based, it's very unlikely that it's by chance, life will have to need DNA), whether it's also carbon based, will they share any similarities to terrestrial life. The list goes on. And with the amount of access we have to the outside world today, compared to a decade ago, we're in for a treat. Also, should we discover a different life form within our own Solar System, that'll all but confirm that the universe is teeming with life, that it's more common that Twilight jokes.

While we're here, let me speculate a bit more. If we ever discover intelligent life, that'll be ten times awesome not to mention outrageously lucky. The universe is so hopelessly vast, unless wormhole like traveling is a possibility, there is a good chance that we'll never come in contact with other intelligent species during the entire duration of our species even if the universe is teeming with life. If we do make contact, it could very much be some sort of radio communication at first at least, like what's in Carl Sagan's Contact. Primes FTW! Or in the extremely unlikely event, if they appeared next to earth someday I wouldn't complain. Despite what Hollywood's hell bent on convincing us, I think they wouldn't really want to laser us to death or something. For starters, if they are capable of interstellar travel that would at least suggest they are a species capable of getting their shit together - unlike us - and thus they'd probably be friendly. At least until we start firing our nukes at them. But if we somehow were able to get past that, and establish some form of communication (they could very well be a species who communicate using echolocation like the bats) who fascinating would it be to learn from them. I'd have millions of questions; what's your biology, is it carbon based, did you discover the origins of life in your planet, what's your culture like, do you have something akin to religion or beliefs, how does your economy work, governance, is there something like the concept of countries, do you have music and art, have you met still other aliens, if so are there any hermaphrodites among them, are you hermaphrodites, do you have sports, will you stand a decent chance in cricket? Oh I could go on.

Seriously, I could live with not having all the other six if I could have just one single celled alien. I could just die in peace.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Get your shit together, Men!

November 25th was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. That's pretty sad; the fact that in this and day and age we still need such a day. If you're not convinced, try replacing 'women' with 'blacks' or 'Jews' and say it aloud, and you'll realize how horrible it sounds. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the same ring to it when it comes to violence against women. When in fact it should be as horrible if not more. This is half the population on earth we're talking about.

Apollo program was ahead of its time. When the NASA was funded and the moon program was launched (despite it being a political game) we didn't have the technology to take a human being to moon and bring back in one piece, yet within a decade we had achieved that extraordinary feat. It was truly a triumph of not just America but the whole world, of all the people who ever lived. We needed every bit of knowledge and wisdom we as a species had gathered for millennia across cultures to make it happen. It was the culmination our species' brilliance; we were no longer bound by the planet we were born in. And yet in that historic moment we chose to utter the sad words "that's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" and thus spit on the faces of half the entire species who contributed to that victory. One could argue that it isn't proper literary device to say 'humankind', but bollocks to that. If it isn't proper, it's time we make it proper. Language changes more than most and why are we still stuck with mankind instead of humankind and he instead of he or she? Just like calling a black person 'nigger' is something to be ashamed of today, same should go with 'he' and 'mankind'.

The history of how men have treated women throughout the history across pretty much all cultures is something to be embarrassed about. Up until less than a century ago women were more or less glorified incubators all over the world. There were exceptions, but that's kind of is the point. All that was expected of them was to breed like rabbits and raise the bunch of them. Education was limited to only that which she needed to take care of her man and the children. Voting was out of the question. Even the progressive fields like science horribly discriminated against women. Of 826 individual Nobel Prize winners between 1901 and 2011, only 43 - a depressing 5% - are women. If the achievements of NASA are a celebration of how exceedingly brilliant we can be as a species - to burrow from Christopher Hitchens - the plight of women is a sad reminder that we are only a half a chromosome away from chimpanzees.

But past is past, and there's not a thing we can do about it except to learn from it. Which brings us to the point of this rant (pretty lot of words to get to the point, yeah, but that's why this is a rant) that it's a sad day when we need a day to educate people not to hit women. That's like having a day to tell people not to murder or steal. But that's the kind of world we live in even today; according to a 2013 WHO global study, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence. The figure raises to above 70% in some nations. Worst of all a large portion of this abuse is coming from their own partners. This happens irrespective of whether it's a developed world country or a third world nation, and it's only worse in the latter; in most of the the third world countries women put up with the abuse because the culture is such that a divorced woman is permanently damaged goods. In some parts of the world people are still being trafficked into prostitution and forced labor, a more than 80% of it being women. 80 percent of victims of hand-held weapons in war are women. About 17% of the world adult population is still illiterate, and a staggering 2/3 of it - which amounts to more than 500 million people - are women.

All that needs to change and that's not up for debate.

It's a universal rule of moral code that you take care of the weak, not abuse them, and women are physically weak. While women are in no way intellectually inferior to men (sometimes, you can make a good case for the other way round, though) the society is such that chances are they are not in a position to use their full potential. Even today, the powers that be are men, and it is upon them to set things right. Only if men take the initiative - not because they are superior but because they are in a position of power - the change can be made; in all honesty, some men aren't aware and some simply don't care. And this is a small attempt to make them aware - at least - if not care.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Farewell, KS!

This blog completed five years of its existence about three or four days ago. I meant to put up a customary post about it's been that long and how I don't blog enough anymore. Perhaps fittingly I even forgot to do that so I said screw it and decided not to. Later yesterday, though, I was reading through my RSS feed and found a post from Magerata after about couple of years or so, so I gleefully headed there only to be shocked and depressed about the death of Kalu Sudda, or KS as we used to call him.

So yeah, screw the happy birthday post, this is for you, KS.

I've got to admit I was never the best pals with him. Nonetheless we had a few memorable chats during those days especially with the connection we had; I was living in Japan and his wife is Japanese and he had a great love for Japan. He used to talk so fondly of his wife, Miss Fukuoka, who had actually learnt of the existence of his blog only few days ago as it seems and was kind enough to let us know. Apparently it has been about four years since KS passed away.

As it happens, I still remember the last conversation we had, and it was about the very sea voyage that would turn out to be his last! I've always wanted to spend a few weeks on the sea and he was telling me that we should make it happen sometime. Then he said 'see you' but the bugger never kept his word. Life really isn't fair sometimes.

All I can say is he was a fun bloke and the world will be poorer without him. May you rest in peace, KS.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

MIXEDRICE

Don't think I was going to bore you about my culinary skills although I must say they are pretty good. Even if I say so myself. This is about something much more timely, topical and dare I say, necessary.

I love our good old Paradise, but, sometimes the stuff that's going on there is just ridiculous and embarrassing. You probably know what I'm talking about by now, but in case you don't, I'm so pissed and embarrassed about these bigots who have sprung up in Sri Lanka of late who are trying to oppress other people's rights to live peacefully just because they happened to be of other faiths and/or races.

So I and a bunch of good friends of mine have put together a web site and a social media campaign in order to invite you all to participate in some sort of discussion and let the world see that not all of us are fools. We just don't want to sit around and watch while these douchebags ruin our motherland and the love we have for it.

Mixedrice, not about rice.


Please visit the site, subscribe via e-mail, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and help us spread the word. Even more importantly, please join us to take a stand against the forces that threaten the unity and peace in our motherland.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Evil Humanlike Aliens. Seriously?

What is Hollywood's obsession with 'evil' aliens? And what's with almost all Hollywood's 'intelligent' aliens having some kind of resemblance to humans? In fact this doesn't limit to Hollywood. Even most of the Sci-Fi writers are culprits of being stuck in this template so to speak.

One could argue that a rocky planet, as opposed to a gassy one, is a must for life. One could also argue that having a set of free limbs is a necessity to evolve into being called intelligent. Or having a fairly large brain or being able to work with fire. But really, those are weak arguments for they are based on the assumption that life in the universe is life as we know it. However when you think of the scale and the diversity of the universe there is no reason why life elsewhere should be life as we know it. And theoretically there is no reason why life elsewhere should bear even the remotest resemblance to us let alone looking just like us. Think about it; all life on earth is related. Not just you and me, if we go far back enough we can find a common ancestor of you and the alpha male of a lion pride in Serengeti or of me and the first dinosaur to die on that unfortunate (or, rather fortunate) day where a meteor wiped them all out. Point is, all life on earth is related on some level and yet they look so much different to each other. Think of a cheetah, a dragonfly, a jellyfish, an amoeba, a bird, a dolphin, a tapeworm, a wasp, a spider and a woman. They look so different they might as well be from different planets. So why should we bear the remotest resemblance to aliens whom we have no relation whatsoever with?

I have a theory as to why.

I think the reason is that Hollywood and Sci-Fi writers take the easy way out. It is indeed such a difficult job to construct a new life form from scratch just by using your imagination. If you don't believe me, try describing an animal to a person whom never have seen it just by using words. You'll find that a mighty difficult job. I know I have. Conjuring up an alien is far more difficult. It's much easier to go with the shape you know best, stick an antenna here, change color there, a bigger head perhaps, probably bald as well and you're good to go. Alternate would be to think right from the beginning. What kind of a planet they live on? What is their biochemistry? What do they breath? Do they breath at all? Are they also DNA based or is it something entirely different? Would they fit the scaled we know of or would they be giants? Or microscopic for that matter. Will they have something equivalent of language as we know it or would they communicated in an entirely different way? Would they be single entities or would it be a collective intelligence? Would we even recognize it as life if we encountered it? Think of a tapeworm and a human, only, this time we are the tapeworm and aliens are the human. I'm pretty sure the tapeworm has no idea whatsoever who and what a human is. Who are we to argue that we are any different confronted with an intelligent alien race? There are all kinds of questions like these that the writers don't bother to answer. It's much easier to go with the little green men.

The evil aliens of Hollywood is also due to this lack of imagination. It is far more easier to think of evil aliens who wants to kill you for no apparent reason and then fight them back than think of doing something constructive with them. After all you'd think that a species capable of traveling all this stellar distance is intelligent enough to put petty wars behind them. Technically earth should be of no interest to them. The earth is made out of most common stuff in the universe, and with the data we have now scientists think it is very likely that the planets outnumber stars in the universe. That's a lot of planets if you ask me and law of the averages says that there should be gazillion earths out there. Why should our earth be of so importance to them? Only plausible reason I can think of is as a research project for an alien PhD student. Lab rats might come to some people's minds, but really, I'm willing to take the risk. Maybe I'm an optimist but I'd like to think they'd be more civilized than evil warmongers the Hollywood like to portray them as. If we ever come into contact with intelligent aliens chances are that we'll probably learn something from them. In fact it's highly unlikely that they'll fly here in fleets of their super fast disc-like (why is it always a disc?) spaceships anyway. I'm not counting the possibility of interstellar travel out, just that it's more likely we'll come into contact with life elsewhere with something like radio signals first.

So, Hollywood, and writers, I'm not impressed. Give me something better next time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

FOUR YEARS

It's been 4 years, folks.

That is all.



Saturday, September 1, 2012

First time in a Brothel


It has been a while since you guys had a slice of my life. Ugh, that didn't sound right. What I mean is that it has been a while since I wrote something about my life. While things are mostly boring and mundane over here sometimes they do get spiced up, and when they do, they really do. This is the story of how I went looking for brothels in Tokyo and almost ended up with a prostitute. Well it looks a silly sentence for you go looking for brothels in order to find prostitutes, but there's a catch so read on. In case my children or their potential partners come across this post when they do a background check before the arranged marriage, note that the keyword here is almost. By the way, why I thought my children, if I had any, would need arranged marriages, baffles myself. I have no idea.

So couple of months back, there I was happily munching on a particularly good cookie while staring at the computer screen, i.e., browsing the Internet. Because that's what we software engineers do when we come home after staring at a screen for about 10 hours at work. Anyway, my Skype went 'blongg' and there was a chat from an old mate who lives abroad. Well the mate isn't particularly old, our friendship is. For reasons you will understand in a minute, I need to keep the identity of this friend concealed, so let me call him, let me think about it... Aladdin. Suffice to know that he lives in another country. Turns out he was thinking of spending a few days in Japan en route to somewhere from somewhere else. So Aladdin and I made plans to meet up since it's been a while since we saw each other and all.

Fast forward a couple of months, the bugger arrived in Japan. But we didn't meet at once for he had planned his trip so that he would arrive in Osaka (which is a few hundred kilometers south of Tokyo), travel around there with some of his relatives, then head towards Tokyo where he will eventually leave from. So after his stay in Osaka, Aladdin finally arrived in Tokyo a couple of days ago. I met up with him that evening, took him to see the Tokyo Tower and then had a good old Japanese dinner with a beer catching up with each other's news. It was good to see him after a long time (well, I didn't think the same next day though) and finally I took him to his hotel and we said goodbye. But it wasn't the final goodbye because we arranged to meet up the next day for a beer as well as he was to leave Japan on Saturday and didn't have much to do till then.

Next day we met up as decided and I took him to see the Shibuya junction (this is probably the only road crossing in the entire world that tourists go to see), then a bit of this and that before heading towards a sort of famous bar where you can get foreign beer. We ordered a couple of Guinness with 'Fish and Fries' and were chilling when Aladdin started a very odd conversation.

Aladdin : Dude... erm.. you see I need to ask you something... I dunno if you know... I mean maybe I should have told you before...
Me : Man, what the hell, are you going to propose to me or what? Don't fret if so, ask me out like a man.
A : Oh please... I have better better taste than that.
A : But it's kind of something like that too. I mean...
Me (very concerned) : ....
A : Umm... do you like know any place around here... erm... I can like hook up with... you know... an escort or whatever you call that here?
Me : HOW THE FUCK ARE THOSE TWO THE SAME?
A : Okay maybe they aren't. Shut up that's not the point. Do you know any?
Me : You think I'm a pimp or what? Or that I frequent Tokyo brothels?
A : Oh okay sorry man...
Me (laughing) : Just kidding dude. Are you sure about this?
A : Yes you fuck, Jesus I thought I offended you. These Jap chicks are cute.  Can you...?
Me : Well, I don't know any but if you really want to... I think I know where to look.

Now I'm not a fan of hookers, never been with one and never will be (I swear, my future daughter in law) but that's just me. If anybody wants to go to a prostitute that's quite fine by me. I'm not like the people who think two other men getting married affect their own marriage. I don't judge people. And to see the cup half full, some poor Japanese girl gets a few thousand bucks too. So I said yeah, and though I've never been to a brothel before I knew generally where to look for one. There are a couple of famous areas in and around Tokyo where you can supposedly get 'full service' if you know what I mean. Prostitution being illegal in Japan, they generally disguise it under various kind of massages so that's where you want to go. I took out the iPad and a couple of searches with safe search off told us the details we needed to know. Internet FTW! So we finished our beers and got on a train.

Several minutes later we got off the train in a station in the area where we needed to go. Normally if I want directions here I ask a Jap, but that was out of the question this time. However, Internet FTW again! This time Google maps told me where to go and a couple of minutes later we ended up facing a bit dodgy looking street. Usually, in evenings, business streets in city areas in Japan are buzzing with all kinds of people. You have colorful blinking lights, shop owners - especially in restaurants - employ people to go outside the shop with a menu and shout to attract people, you have street vendors; simply put an atmosphere I suspect you would not see in most if not all the other developed nations. These streets are like improved versions of Pettah if you catch my drift. But this street was a bit different. It had all the above but it also had a range of shops with advertising boards of bikini clad pretty chicks, and a bunch of thug-ish looking guys in front of every one of them, trying to snatch clients for their 'massage parlours'. Not to mention a couple of girls at the doors dressed not very different to those in the pictures. However, there's a catch. I've often heard that not every such place take foreigners in so I was kind of reluctant because though chances of that happening are very rare, getting stabbed in the back of a dodgy ally in Japan was not my favorite way to die. I also had a feeling this would not sit well with people close to me once I'm dead, especially with me not being able to tell them the story and all. So we walked to the end of the street, Aladdin ogling at the chicks and me listening to what the goons were shouting. I realized that a few guys asked us to come in too so we turned back and chose one shop my 'desperate' friend fancied. 

Then I realized that there was another problem.

Aladdin doesn't speak a word of Japanese. And I was pretty sure the Japs who were there don't speak a word of English. Now this was a problem that I hadn't counted on. My initial plan was to leave the bugger there but now that option was fast flying out of the window. And almost immediately he realized it too.

A : Umm... so... how does this work now?
Me : You son of a bitch, now do I have to go inside with you too?
A (grinning like an idiot) : Can you?
 By now the goons around us were also looking at us like are you going to go in or what?
A : Oh well. Waren ithin. Mee haraka.

So for the first time in my life I stepped inside a brothel, even if it was a disguised one. I must admit here that I was kind of curious to know how this thing works as well, so actually I didn't mind. One of the two hotties at the door led us into a nicely lit room with a comfy sofa and a few flower vases, and beckoned us to sit. We did as asked and she brought us some Japanese tea. Looks like they are classy even at a brothel. While we were sipping the tea I explained to her that my friend doesn't speak Japanese so that I will have to translate to him everything and help him out. She was cool with that. The type of 'massage' they provide is called 'Soapland' (Google, with safe search off, if you want to know further details which I'm not going to go into here) which apparently is very popular in Japan. She went on to explain that we first needed to pick the 'course', meaning length of time, and then pay the relevant amount. We did so, then she said we can pick the girl if we wished so, to which Aladdin responded with an eager nod so we said yes. And then she went inside an adjacent room and a moment later returned with few gorgeous ladies following her who proceeded to stand in front of us. You've got to give it to them; they were hot and they also had very 'appropriate' clothing for the occasion if you know what I mean.  However, here it popped up in my mind that slave trade must not have been very different from this except for the fact that the slaves were not wiling. This just felt wrong. Anyway, Aladdin picked the girl he liked and she took his hand and led him towards a corridor out of the room.

Then the cutie turned to me and said,

"So... would you also like to take the same course?"
Me (confused) : What?
Cutie : Umm... would you like the same course?
 Then I realized that I never told her that only my friend was going get the massage, not me.
Me : Oh... I'm sorry... it was only for my friend.
Cutie : Oh... I thought you just wanted to first send your friend in and then pick one for you. Are you sure?

To make matters worse the cuties were still standing there looking at me with very suggestive looks. This whole standing-in-front thing really put me off; as I said before I don't have a problem with prostitution but this just felt wrong. This was not at all what I had in mind an hour ago when my godforsaken friend asked for some help and I decided to help out a 'bro'. This whole bro-code thing is overrated I tell you.

Me : Yeah... I'm sure. Oh and... could you please ask them to leave?

Our host signalled the girls to leave, with what I thought was a bit of a disappointed look on her face. Then I realized that I couldn't arrange to meet up with Aladdin once he's finished and I most certainly did not want to stay in there for an hour. So I asked her if she could tell him to come to a nearby coffee shop which was at the start of the street and she said she could do that. So then she proceeded to lead me to the door where she bid me farewell with a typical Japanese "bye byeee" and a wave.

I stepped onto the street and upon seeing me leave one of the earlier mentioned goons turned towards me.

Goon : "Sir, what happened? Are you leaving?"
Me : Umm.. erm... never mind.

Explaining the whole story to a random pimp on a street seemed too much of a hassle, and even if I did the chances were that I was going to come out looking a bit silly anyway. I just shook my head and turned to leave.

That, my friends, was how I almost ended up with a prostitute. Or as they call them, a 'massage therapist'.