Cable jam

February 19, 2009

Last evening my good friend Drops (Maich) came to my digs to borrow an old Nokia charger that I stopped using sometime last year. The perfectly good charger had been orphaned when I lost its parent, my phone at that time. Since then, it has been uselessly lying there together with a collection of other similarly abandoned electrical and electronic junk waiting for either rescue or disposal. There was no way I was going through the wire mishmash to get it for him so I made him seek himself out by going through the impossible labyrinth for the stuff he wanted. You see, the things are strewn carelessly in one drawer which I’ve designated for just that; junk. The dude must have been desperate enough because he patiently undid the tangles… ending up with the wrong tip several times and starting over again, until he pulled the cable with the correct end from the mess.

Inevitably, some of the wired jumble from the drawer has found its way to that spot below my TV stand where the power multi-plug socket is. Some have traveled a little further. I have cables snaking behind cupboards, beneath tables, underneath beds, carpets, all over. Even my walls have hanging, swinging tendrils of cables reaching for the windows like climbing money plant arms reaching for sunlight. My TV’s aerial strand is particularly notorious for getting in my way all the time especially as I have to keep shifting its position depending on the channel I want to watch. Others are my bed switch and power cables from my bedside lamps. Cables, cables, cables. Insulated wires everywhere. My house is full of them. Needless to say, this has caused me untold exasperation. Identifying the correct cable for the task at hand is like a layman trying to figure out buttons, switches, inlets and outlets when playing on DjDrop’s Vestax music mixer. Or like literally disentangling a single strand of cooked spaghetti without it dismantling it. No end is easily traceable from the other corresponding end.

I’m still unsuccessful in my bid to understand how I came into this predicament. You could say my situation was brought on by my unwillingness to do away with old, obsolete items. In my adult life, I have owned many electrical and electronic items. All these come with long tripping cables, both for power and for interconnectivity. They also come with an estimated lifespan of expected service.

Since everything electrical or electronic comes with wires, it got me thinking; why don’t these engineering geeks come up with one universal cable for all interconnectivity? Atleast in the power department there’s talk of a developing wireless electric conductivity in the pipeline.

It’s encouraging to note that the mobile world big boys and players are thinking of doing exactly that. On 17th February 2009 The World GSM Association gave an indication that they will be coming to my rescue. For our collective convenience (and sanity), operators and handset makers (excluding Apple, surprise, surprise!) agreed to a standard charger by 2012. It is said that chargers generate 51000 tons of waste a year. A mentioned French study says that every 20 months between 48 and 51 million cellphone chargers become obsolete. I have owned quite a number of phones since their introduction and general proliferation. When these have died or outlived their useful lives, the chargers which are surprisingly resilient have often remained intact. Because of my third-world frugal mindset, my first instinct is to preserve. So I keep the chargers in the hope that they will become useful someday in the future. But do they ever become useful again? Not much. That makes me wonder why I still hold on to them.

My drawer is still full of cables waiting to be rescued or disposed of. Since I can’t bring myself to throw them away (am green like that!), I’m inviting my friends over to help me dispose of them conscientiously. Come one, come all!

It’s Evolution, Stupid!

February 12, 2009

It is 200 years to the day since Charles Darwin was born (February 12 th , 1809). His groundbreaking book “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life” is almost 150 years old. The theory he propositioned has touched on all fields of knowledge that endeavour to understand life, from its origin to its conduct. It has stayed a hot topic ever since with its proponents intractable and its detractors unyieldingly adamant. That is how they have been for the last century and a half. That is how they look to be in the foreseeable future.

Darwin sought to answer one of the questions that has most baffled man since his known history; how did we come into being? Conceivably, that is how religion came into being. His theory, however, removed the need for divine explanations.

Converse to conventional thought, it is man who created God as an answer to all the questions he could not comprehend. As time went by, repeated probing and observation enlightened humanity. It comes as a surprise when we still have to debate on whether we were created or we evolved. That is even more baffling for the US than the developing world. While most of Western Europe is secular, it boggles the mind how and why America should have over 63 % of the population still believing in creationism. It beggars belief that only 14% percent believe in evolution there. Surely, how can you reconcile such scientific advancement as can be found in the United States with such ignorance?

This does not augur well with evidence. According to research quoted in The Economist, February 7 th 2009, “Gregory Paul, an independent researcher on evolution, and Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College in California, have argued controversially that a belief in God is inversely correlated with the level of what might be described as the intensity of the struggle for existence. In countries where food is plentiful, health care is universal and housing is accessible, people believe less in God than in those countries where their lives are insecure. A belief in God, and rejection of evolution, they suggest, is most valuable in those societies that are most subject to Darwinian pressures.” That applies everywhere save the US.

In America, the controversy surrounding the theory has inevitably been dragged into schools. The Economist further reports that teaching of evolution has become a part of the nation’s culture wars, manifest most recently in the 2008 presidential campaign, particularly in the attention paid to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s statements in favor of public schools teaching creation science or intelligent design along with evolution. That is retarded!

The evidence that life has evolved through natural selection over a long period is standard for a 21 st century homo sapien. This is a statement of principle, honed through scientific observation, reasoning and experimentation.

It is understandable to want to believe that man has a higher purpose and not just reproductive success… that there is an intelligent designer watching over us and directing the world as a director does the theater stage. But all evidence points otherwise.

On this day, stop trying so hard not to understand and digest the reality that we are here by accident. Just live well as you only have one life to live.

Let’s give kudos to Charles Darwin for helping to enlighten us. If Einstein is the person of the 20 th century, then Darwin sure is the person of the 19 th century.

As the dust surrounding the global financial crisis settles, 19 million houses stand repossessed–in the US alone (with bank losses amounting to a trillion dollars to show for it!). We have witnessed total collapse of an entire country–Iceland due to the crisis. Unemployment rates in the rich world are at an all time high.  Spending and production are low. The overall gloom is nothing like the world has seen since the 1930s. ‘Recession’ is the euphemism used everywhere, but deep down we know better than that. It’s a full scale crisis. A ‘Depression’ it is. Yet no simple solutions can be foreseen.

Frantic efforts by rich-world governments to stay afloat have included lowering of interest rates and provision of fiscal stimulus. Desperate voices are even calling for nationalisation of banks (So much for liberalisation!).

That’s all good. Until you are reminded about the advice given to Asian countries during their financial crisis a decade ago. At an IMF meet in 1997, Malaysia’s then leader Dr Mahathir Mohamed had blamed their situation on speculation and shortselling. He blamed deregulation but was dismissed as ignorant. The IMF chief, then Michel Camdesus, had disputed this and argued that speculation was normal in free markets. The west had instead blamed the crisis on poor management, cronysm and corruption. They prescribed raising of interest rates to counter inflation and attract investment. The unexpected result was a full recession and dampened investor confidence. Contrarywise, when the US, Britain and other rich countries now find themselves in a similar situation, they have banned shortselling of financial stocks. And that with current IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s blessing! While the Asian nations were forbidden from assisting failing companies and banks with claims that that was a waste of money, the same western countries are falling over themselves in offering capital injections as they purchase banks’ toxic asset/loans and guarantees for new unsecured loans!

Talk of double standards!