Monday, October 25, 2010

London borough becomes 'Islamic republic'

I really dont know anything about the UK. The final comment on this article was what made me re-post to a SL audience. (Hat Tip Sepia Mutiny )

  • Finally, something else which Tower Hamlets is not. Some of my commenters are fond of saying that the borough is an example of “Third World” politics in the UK. There are indeed similarities – but actually the claim is an insult to the Third World. Bangladesh has got to grips with Islamism; the IFE’s Bangladeshi parent, Jamaat-e-Islami, gets about two per cent of the vote in elections there. No Islamist sympathiser in Bangladesh has unfettered control over a £1 billion budget. Bangladesh, in short, has less of a problem with Islamic radicals than Tower Hamlets.
Reminds me of the ultra nationalists, Sinhalese or Tamil in the First World. Ms. Jan Jananayagam and H.L.D. Mahindapala come to mind.

  • Outside the Wellington Way polling station in Tower Hamlets yesterday, as at many other polling stations in the borough, people had to run a gauntlet of Lutfur Rahman supporters to reach the ballot box. As one Bengali woman voter went past them, we heard one of the Rahman army scolding her for her “immodest dress.”That incident is perhaps a tiny taste of the future for Britain’s poorest borough now it has elected Mr Rahman as its first executive mayor, with almost total power over its £1 billion budget. At the count last night, one very senior figure in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party said: “It really is Britain’s Islamic republic now.”
    For the last eight months – without complaint or challenge from Mr Rahman – this blog and newspaper have laid out his close links with a group of powerful local businessmen and with a Muslim supremacist body, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) - which believes, in its own words, in transforming the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed… from ignorance to Islam.” Mr Rahman has refused to deny these claims.

    We have told how the borough’s change from a conventional council leader to a mayoral system came about as a result of a campaign led and financed by these two groups – and how the IFE, in its words, wanted to “get one of our brothers” into the position.We have described in detail, again without complaint or challenge by Mr Rahman, his deeply problematic two years as council leader until he was removed from that post six months ago, partly as a result of our investigations. After he secured the leadership with the help of the IFE, millions of pounds were channelled to front organisations of the IFE, a man with close links to the IFE was appointed as assistant chief executive of the council despite being unqualified for the position and the secular, white chief executive was forced out. Various efforts were made to “Islamicise” the borough. Extremist literature was stocked in Tower Hamlets’ public libraries.

Chinese workers in India

From the Washington Post

  • IN CHANDANKYARI, INDIA Perched precariously on scaffolding, several Chinese workers showed Indian laborers how to weld the shell of a blast stove at a steel plant construction. Step by step, the Indians absorbed the valuable skills needed to build a large, integrated factory from scratch in record time.
    Their presence in a nation of more than a billion people with staggering unemployment may appear incongruent. But the government says Indian workers lack the technical skilled needed to transform the country into a 21st-century economic powerhouse.

    Until the gap is bridged, companies are relying on the expertise of Chinese workers to build mega infrastructure projects. Chinese workers have worked on ports, highways, power and steel plants in India. Chinese equipment and expertise have also been used in a crude oil refinery, a cable-supported bridge, the telecommunication networks and even the glass facade of the new airport terminal in New Delhi.

    "India may be an IT superpower and producing thousands of doctors, lawyers and MBAs every year. But the biggest gap is in the availability of skilled electricians, carpenters, welders, mechanics and masons who can build mega infrastructure projects," said Raghav Gupta, president at Technopak, a consultancy that released a report on skill development last year. "Most of these workers have to be trained on the job. And that often delays the projects and makes it more expensive."

  • Jayalalitha on Chinese Worrkers

  • Chinese workers at present employed in contract works relating to highways and railways in Sri Lanka is a threat to India's sovereignty says AIADMK chief J. Jayalalitha. She says Chinese spies and intelligence personnel with a specific mandate to commence anti-Indian surveillance and espionage operations are among the more than 25,000 Chinese workers landed in Sri Lanka to engage in work relating to highways and railways.

  • Ms. Jayalalitha
    Why do you see the mote in Sri Lankas eye, but dont see the beam in yours.

    Hat Tip:

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    US: Cautionary Tale of deregulated Banking

    Below, a video from Jon Stewarts Daily Show on the Foreclosure Gate (crisis). The basic question is how house mortgage loans were done and were there errors and flaws in the paperwork (equivalent to Sri Lanka transfer of deed and recording in Land Registry) due to fraud or gross negligence.

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    Foreclosure Crisis
    Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

    This is a non trivial issue for not only foreclosure, but mortgages that are current and the US economy, for the following reasons.
    a) Total mortgage debt of the US is 14 trillion. Even if 10% of the mortgages are questionable, thats 1.4 trillion !.
    b) These mortgages were bundled up and sold as Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS, Residential (RMBS) and Commercial (CMBS)). These are cash flow assets like bonds, where the cash flow is generated by the mortgage payments. These MBS were then sold to among others
    • To pension funds such as CALPERS. So if these MBS start loosing value and default in cash flows what happens to pension funds and their ability to pay the pensions.
    • Other banks and other Financial institutions such as Asset Management companies. These MBS are considered Level 2 or 3 assets, i.e. hard to value. What happens to the balance sheets of these institutions, could they be insolvent.

    c) Were the rise in house prices, due to lax lending standards compounded by fraud and negligence in the processing of documentation. Will an owner of a Underwater Mortgage (Mortgage is greater than the current value of property) be able to question (have recourse against) lenders. i.e. In plain English, lenders pushed up prices by giving loans to all and sundry, without the right paperwork. Now that the reality is apparent, the prices of houses have dropped and the house owner is paying through his nose for an overvalued house. Can the house owner sue the lender?. Even if a few house owners, start litigation, regardless of the courts decision its going to create havoc in house prices, mortgages and the whole shebang.

    So the whole housing securitization market is a mess. Currently the thinking is there are two options out of the mess.
    a) Pass regulation that accepts the shoddy paperwork by banks overriding all accepted real estate practices and law. i.e bail out the banks and screw the home owner.
    b) Modify existing mortgages to reflect current house prices and re-do paperwork. Then the MBS securitized with these mortgage are at best going to be devalued (Not going to address if thats considered a default and what it does to CDS' s taken against the MBS. That means the bank balance sheets are screwed.

    This is really a cautionary tale, of how de regulated lending and banking (repeal of the depression era Glass-Steagall Act) can destroy even the largest economy. Golden Key, was just a blip (I know those who lost life savings think other wise) in the Sri Lankan Economy. Imagine if the commercial and state banks were allowed to operate like Golden Key.

    You can read more on this at

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Odder and Odder: Curtis Mayfield

    Curtis Mayfield in Superfly Pusherman

    The Start of Pusherman, for all who remember Harlem before 1990.

    Even more Odd: Bootsy Collins, a Mr. Funk

    Bootsy Collins a Mr. Funk from the late 60's

    More of an Odd: 70's Harlem Music

    Marlene Shaw and Gil Scott Heron are some of the oldest (recent past) influences on hip hop. Poets writers with words that still have relevance today

    Marlene Shaw: Woman Of The Ghetto (1969)

    Gil Scott Heron: Home Is Where The Hatred Is (1971)

    Rap from the late 60's. Gil Scott Heron: Whitey on the Moon.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Compressed Soil Bricks

    Compressed Soil Bricks at Saram Block Machines, Negombo
    Its been over four months since I last posted. Not for the want of material, plenty of that. Just having the time and motivation both at the same occasion.

    Could not postpone this, as Compressed Earth is pet project of mine. During the Tsunami managed send down two of machines  to make the block. One is lost somewhere in the customs and the other is under utilized in a Christian agency.

    So whats the excitement, First I saw a place that actually sells machines to make Compressed Soil Blocks and with a little digging around found a place that sells the manufactured blocks/bricks.

    Compressed Soil Brick Machine
    A little background on why Compressed Soil Bricks are green, they dont use sand. So much sand is being dug up from river beds its not funny. When did you ever hear of 30-40 foot deep rivers in Sri Lanka. That is whats happening, the rivers are 30-40 feet deep, lower than sea level and becoming salty.

    Compressed Soil Bricks are sold by Eco Ceylon

    Compressed Soil Brick Machines are sold by Saram Block Machine, Negombo
    Phone: 031-2220557 Cell: 0777 386390
    More info on Saram Soil Brick Machines here including prices.

    More info on using Earth as Building material here including CEB

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Galle Fort: Corals and Fish in Waist Deep Water

    The title says it all. The location is to the right of the cliff diving rock (while looking out to the ocean. See photo below). There are steps in front of Rampart Hotel to a small beach. Use a mask and snorkel or even swimming goggles to see the fish. Its too bad the underwater camera I brought to specifically to capture this area is at the bottom of the Dodanduwa Lagoon.

    The corals and fish are one tenth of what we saw as children about 40 years ago (we were sent here to our grandmothers for the school holidays). That said its still a wonderful experience.

    Many thanks to my cousin Ranjan Perumal and his friends Praki (Parakramabahu) Thomas, Errol Thomas, Intaco De Silva and many others who took the time to show us how to look around in the sea.

    Galle Fort Cliff Diver

    A Galle Fort Cliff Diver.


    A reservoir/pool in which we had a swim in Madolkelle. Madolkelle is on the Panwila, Kabaragala Road. Lots of thanks to Shantha Weerakoon for introducing me to this part of the Sri Lanka.

    The view from Madolkelle. Its a part of the Knuckles Range. The rock is Goomara Kanda. According to Samaranayaka a local the name is in the "Namapotha" and Goomara is an animal. The Estate below it is Goomeriya Estate.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    Modernized Traditional Paddy Seed Storage bin (“Wee Bissae”)

    A really nice Modernized Traditional Paddy Seed Storage bin (“Wee Bissae”) on the way to to Sri Bodhirukaramaya RajaMaha Vihara in Wellewa.

    Excerpt from the FAO on Wee Bissae
    • The paddy seeds were stored for next year's crop in closely woven large cane baskets (Wee bissae). Storage bins called ‘Atuwa’ were made of strong hardwood obtained from Jack tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus) for large quantities. In the home of a farmer (Anamaduwa area), an about three meters high traditional seed storage bin (“Bissae”) was kept in the courtyard. It was made of closely woven bamboo, with a protective cover of clay with cowdung (“Goma Meti”), to insulate it against the external temperature and humidity variations and against the growth of various saprophytic fungi and insects. The dried seeds were mixed with Neem (‘Kohamba’) leaves for added protection against harmful insects. A small thatch covered the bin, which was kept on a wooden base, about a meter high. This bin could store 85 bushels (45 bags) of paddy.
    • Such traditional paddy storage bins have almost gone out of use. The paddy is now kept in bags made of waterproof synthetic material, which are usually stored within the home. The paddy bags are also being stored under large tailored waterproof tarpaulin housing.
    Please read the FAO article. Lots of info on traditional Sri Lankan Eco friendly Agriculture management

    Temple for Aged and Destitute Monks

    A couple of weeks back went for dear friends Dana which was given to the Sri Bodhirukaramaya RajaMaha Vihara in Wellewa, situated 3km inland from the 18th-km post on the Kurunegala-Polgahawela Road. Not too much of the "Rajamaha" left in the temple except for the paintings dating from the late 18th century. Its a temple for aged and destitute monks and about 30 samaneras who are orphaned or from destitute families.

    Excerpt from an article in the Nation
    • As he reminisces, one day, while he was walking in Kurunegala town, he was shocked to notice an old monk abandoned on a pavement. Since no one had taken care of him even on the second day, Ven. Amilasiri Thera had eventually decided to bring him to his temple, where he would take care of the destitute monk, together with his student samanera monks. This place which started with Ven. Amilasiri Thera’s personal endeavour, now shelters more than 80 monks. Presently, eight ailing monks are receiving treatment and care, while two other monks are being housed at another two temples, because of insufficient room, as mentioned by Ven. Chandivimala Thera, a student of Ven. Amilasiri Thera.
    The hospital donated recently (after the December 2009 article in the Nation)
    Paintings from the late 18th Century. The hand was fixed recently with plaster of Paris.

    All the faces have the same look. Apparently its temple tradition to for the painter have his likeness painted all/some of the faces. Not quite anonymous, just no signature.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Knuckles or Dumbara Mountain Range

    These photos should illustrate why its called the Knuckles. Its the knuckles of a closed fist. The whole range is given the same name.
    The Sinhala word for this mountain range is Dumbara Kanduwetiya. i.e. Dum=Smoke/Mist Bara= Heavy/Laden Kanduwetiya= Mountain Range. i.e. A direct translation would be Mist Laden Mountain Range.

    Below two photos: View from West (Near Hulu Ganga, MadolKelle) looking east

    Below Two photos: View from East (Tennekumbura, Kandy, Mahiyangana Road) looking West

    A Kavaiya Fish, Climbing Perch

    The Climbing Perch. This guy lives in the well and was kept in a glass of water, while the well was cleaned up. Apparently they can live for a few days out of water. Found in water around paddy fields and streams in Sri Lanka. They were abundant many years ago and now their numbers have depleted due to pesticides in the waterways. During the rainy season, it will swim upstream. (info from Karunaratne Weerasooriya).

    See here for complete list of Sri Lankan fresh water fish.
    Apparently "the kavaiya is a fish and ergo a flag with a kavaiya depicted on it is the Makara Kodiya."

    Koiya a Lagoon fish

    A deaf and dumb individual who comes to catch fish from the Lagoon. The black color fish is a Koiya, very common in the Lagoon. The other probably is a fish that swam in from the ocean.

    Pigeon (Dove) Orchid (Paraviya Mal)

    The Paraviya Mal in bloom.
    Excerpt from Spot.Lk
    1. This wild orchid is commonly known as the ‘Paraviya’ or pigeon orchid in Sinhala. Its flower bears scent that penetrates through the garden air! It can be established by attaching a plant to a tree trunk or branch. It prefers shade, mild warmth and moisture.
      Once established it needs little extra care. Sad to say, it flowers only a few times a year and the flowers last just one day. As the flower unfurls early in the morning swarms of honeybees flock around for nectar – a scene to watch!

    Finally got around to having a personal blog

    As the Blog title says Odds and Ends, there is no central theme to this blog. This is a a blog to share ideas, little practical tips and photos I have taken.