Photography: May Edition


Here is a new set for a new month. I Actually took these during April when I went down to New York.

I hope you like them 🙂

 

 

No One Can See Us

No One Can See Us

Lights

Lights

Decaydence

Decaydence

Capital-isms

Capital-isms

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Gender Segregation is Wrong!


2013-11-27

Image Originally Posted a@ WHY EVOLUTION IS TRUE by Jerry Coyne

I came across this article a few days ago on The Guardian website. It covers a hot topic issue that I mentioned in my coverage of the debate between Hamza Tzortkis and Prof. Lawrence Krauss.  In brief, that event was being held at UCL and was promoted as not segregated.  Unfortunately, the religious dimwits who set up the event chose to do otherwise, going against university policy, and invited the ire of Lawrence Krauss.

Here is his original reaction and answer when questioned on it:

The UCL ended up banning that Muslim organization from conducting future events on their premises. I think it serves them right for bringing their archaic views to a place of knowledge and forward thinking. Unfortunately, Universities UK didn’t get the memo.

Universities UK, the representative body for universities across the UK, has seen it fit to produce a 40 page document which, essentially, grants external speakers the right to demand audience segregation. In other words, speakers now have the right to demand that men and women sit apart. That doesn’t sound too maddening. What if a speaker asks black people to sit at the back so the white people have a better view? How about asking one religious denomination to not partake in a lecture because they eat pork? What if a speaker separated gay people from straight people? Where do we draw the line?

Here is the excerpt from Universities UK:

“…concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system”. If “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

There have been multiple cases in the UK where such segregation has taken place, mostly at the behest of religious speakers. The problem here is that society in general is becoming too tolerant. We don’t want to allow ideas that could be seen as harmful or insulting to pervade the psyche of those we fear. Let’s keep everyone happy and not ask for trouble. Sadly, the trouble starts when you allows anachronistic ideas to gain footing because one party wants to honor and respect the wishes, no matter how ridiculous, of another. Really? Let’s be mindful of the religious beliefs of the speaker who thinks segregation is a bonafide idea? Fuck that.

On October 3rd (My birthday. Send gifts!), two Athiest students at LSE wore amusing t-shirts with a religious inflection to their message. The authorities (gung-ho campus security) was on them in an instant and they were told, not asked, to cover up their t-shirts for fear of offending others. So what? Fuck the others if they’re so offended. Life, and certainly hallowed halls of education, exist to challenge our notions and beliefs to create smarter, free-thinking denizens.

Here is a quote from the most gentle of gentlemen, Stephen Fry:

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”

Let’s take a modern example: the world is fawning over how Malala has stood up to the persecution and violence that the Taliban have wrought on women in their campaign to keep them from the evils of education. Heck, she’s given speeches at British universities and been nominated for peace prizes. What if Malala was asked to sit apart from others for being a Muslim, or a women, at a university in the UK? I hope that you can see the point I am trying to make. She does not let anyone tell her that she cannot take part in education because of her race, creed, or gender. The fact that the representative body of institutions across the UK thinks it is ok for a speaker to do so is pathetic. Additionally, if you choose to partake in such a deplorable exercise, then you have already failed the first test of education and should stop wasting your parents money.

Once again, education is a supremely powerful tool. In fact, a lot of the bigotry and hate that has inflicted the world is because there is a severe lack of it in many corners of the globe. People resign themselves to the ideas and livelihood placed upon them by the cosmos or their families and leaders. That’s not how it should be. Personally, I hate the fact that religion is building a foundation in education across different countries. For instance, states in the USA are trying to get Evolution banned from being taught in school. Also, faith schools are cropping up in the  UK where admission is based on your religious beliefs and staff are forced to wear headscarves or something equally asinine. What’s even more beguiling is that they are 100% state-funded. Yup, your hard earned money is being used to fund discriminatory education practices.

Where did we go wrong? When did finding answers for ourselves and revelling in our differences and the world become such an intolerance? When did we halt our dissent of ideas that fail to advance the ideals of an equal and educated society? When did we stop giving a fuck and start sanctioning bigotry and assisting persecution? Tolerance is a dirty word, and the fear of offending sensibilities should not keep us from speaking our mind.

I hope that universities will choose to uphold the ideals which they were founded upon and rescind the farcical document published by Universities UK.  Polly Toynbee sums up my beliefs perfectly in her piece:

“My own view is that religion is like any other opinion and deserves to be subjected to the same challenge or mockery as anyone’s political views, with no special respect or forbearance. Universities are the anvils for hammering out these ideas, not for setting religious sensibilities above women’s rights, and beyond challenge, trumping all other argument.”

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Who Really Won The War?


As I surfed the web, flipped channels and sifted through topics,  I hoped to find the world’s latest fixation to be mildly tolerable. What is everyone discussing these days? Better yet, what are they thinking but not discussing?

Salvation appeared in the form of comedy (what else?). More accurately, the messenger of salvation was one called Jon Stewart and his satirically hilarious faux award ceremony. Two clear winners emerged from that episode:  Daniel Day Lewis (what hasn’t he won?) and China. No one can argue with Daniel Day Lewis’ talent to get to the heart of a character, but China? Well, it just so happens that China is not only winning the war in Iraq but it’s on its way to becoming a local hero.

Chinatown Iraq?

Let’s define winning within this context. From my perspective (and that of several journalists from Bloomberg to the NY Times), winning is defined in terms of economic benefit. Winning should not be confused with profitability because by that standard Western companies –Exxon and Shell – are still the most profitable companies in Iraq.   Based on economic benefit, China is whistling a victorious tune all the way to the bank. In fact, China is  highhandedly acquiring half of the entire oil production in Iraq. However, China’s role is not just confined to purchasing oil.

The Chinese state owned corporation CNPC has acquired development rights for the next 20 years with an investment upwards of $2 billion. Besides pouring cash into a cash strapped nation (and cash strapped oil industry), China is willing to play by the current government’s strict rules. Another game changer to the oil development industry brought about by China is the CNPC’s willingness to accept lower profits. Slowly, intricately and manipulatively China is suffocating Western companies by undercutting them. Essentially, China is changing the way business is being conducted in Iraq. Whether or not these new business practices are actually benefittingl the Iraqi people is yet to be determined. This is especially troubling when one considers that Iraq is a volatile mix of economic, social and religious issues that could implode if not handled assiduously.

From a macro perspective, the US and India are by far Iraq’s strongest trading partners. Together they account for a combined 45% of the country’s entire export market. China comes in at distant third place with only 13% of the total exports. China may be producing and consuming the Iraqi oil but the US still remains a key partner in the country (and the entire region). The question is for how long? It is indisputable that balance of power is shifting.  China is already on a course to overtake the US as the largest trading partner in the world. With China’s insatiable appetite for oil and growing demand for other commodities, it is likely that China will use its vast industrial power to tilt the region (and the world) to its personal benefit.  What will be the USA’s next move in this game of diplomatic and economic chess? More importantly, who are the pawns?

Does It Matter If China Wins?

 From a romantic and idealistic perspective it is acceptable that someone else emerges as the winner. Having said that, Iraq is now a free market and the country should be judicious about contract allocation. Hopefully this nascent democracy will set its own rules and focus on developing the country and responding to needs of the people as opposed to those of corporations. It’s a delicate situation on a tightrope, and I’m sure that the reality with which the Iraqi people live everyday is much more complex than the Utopian imaginings of this author.

Still, America (or at least some parts of America) feel cheated with this result, especially considering the FUBARs Iraq and Afghanistan turned out to be. This is a product of  typical colonialism mentality where individuals and nations are treated as bounty prizes that can be split among would be conquerors and liberators. In short, it seems like a modern day retelling of the Treaty of Tordesillas.

It’s Not All Bad

In actuality, this end result isn’t all  bad for the US. In fact, a Chinese victory benefits us all. I can think of at least three crucial benefits from China’s growing presence in Iraq. The largest benefit the US receives from China’s hold in Iraq comes at the expense of Iraq’s neighbors. By allowing China to become the key player in the region, long time US frenemies, such as Russia and Iran, are immediately weakened. The US has effectively stirred the power struggle between China and Russia. With the victory of China in Iraq, Russia is starting to lose relevance in the region. A second benefit from pawning Iraq to the Chinese is that China is allowed to satisfy its need for oil without denting global prices. Because China has the upper hand in the exploration and development of oil, it has literally picked up the slack created by the Iranian oil embargo (yes, there is an oil embargo on Iran since 2012). China, through the CNPC, has done a hell of job expanding the oil production in Iraq. Finally by allowing China to bear some of the costs of the war (and thus the oil production and infrastructure) the US has “saved face” with the American people. Officially it’s the CNPC enduring lower profit and larger investment requirements. The sore losers here are Exxon, Shell and BP, who are now forced to compete under new conditions that they cannot control. That’s certainly not a bad thing.

So, who really won in the end?

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Open Source Guns: The Dark Side of 3D Printing


There is no doubt that 3D printing heralds a new technological frontier. The potential for this technology to redefine industry is unprecedented. We’re already pushing the boundaries of the current generation of 3D printing by producing bionic organs. There are also companies experimenting with food, textiles and human stem cells. Our imagination and ingenuity will progress with the technology and open up new avenues in manufacturing.

Then there’s Cody R Wilson.

Of course, every technology can be bastardized and has the potential to used with malicious intent. But this isn’t what Cody is trying to do. He wants to be “intentionally disruptive” as if he is trying to prove some point. He tries to appear erudite by spouting out verbiage about that makes next to no sense. The same goes for his disciple who comes across as some bullied kid that Cody took under his wing. In essence, they both sound like teenagers fascinated with rebellious ideas that have a lot of growing up to do.

The distressing part is that he is putting this information online for others to freely use and collaborate on. If you follow the news, then you know that gun control is a hot topic within the USA. Cody and his friend argue that the gun is merely a tool and should not be banned because of the intent of a few misdirected individuals. Well, how does posting the recipe for 3D guns help this cause then? 3D printers are quickly becoming affordable, and it won’t be long before someone who wants to intentionally cause harm will invest in it and build an arsenal at home.

Currently, there is no law in place to block the dissemination of such information. In fact, officials report that it might be impossible to regulate 3D printed weapons. I don’t believe in the restriction of information, but in a country already beset with gun violence is it a good idea to make weapons open source property? What happens when it reaches the shores of countries that have outright banned firearms?

I suspect that Cody Wilson’s crusade will prove to be the canary in the coalmine. No government in the world wants people making their own weapons in their garage. This is not a 2nd Amendment issue, nor is it an infringement of some God given right dictated by the founding fathers. Both points are used by the gun lobby to appeal to the emotions of their followers. Other countries around the world function just fine without guns in public hands. With the advent and mainstreaming of 3D printing, I hope that this is not a lesson that America learns too late.

Ω

Unemployment (Underemployment): How Is It Shaping The Future?


Things Falling Apart

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You don’t need to wait for the next jobs report in the USA or Europe, to realize there’s something inherently wrong with the job market. With unemployment soaring above 20% in some countries, it’s very hard not to ponder about what’s going on. However, the numbers ( high or low) don’t always reveal the whole the story.

Contrary to what the US and German governments would have you believe, things aren’t getting much better –or at least not fast enough. Take Germany’s example, a juggernaut economy proud to state that it has the lowest general unemployment rate (under 6%) within the Euro zone.  Sounds good doesn’t it? Unfortunately, after closer inspection, and for the first time in decades, it appears that the harsh reality is that the future is not presently being considered.

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No matter where you look unemployment seems to be a youth issue.

The recession hit young people, especially graduates, the hardest. Millions of youngsters are out of the job market or, equally worse, underemployed. In fact, many are suffocated with student loans they are unable to repay.  According to The Economist, about 290 million people between the ages of 15-24, are unemployed or employed in sectors not related to their concentration or capacities.

The Blame Game

After several years of expansive growth the financial bubble (and several other bubbles) burst. As a result, growth stalled and a prosperous economic cycle was brought to its knees.  The ripple effect of the financial crisis affected every section of the globe. Globalization connects everyone on the planet; thus, everyone felt the punch. Six years into the recession, governments are facing sluggish growth and through harsh austerity policies.

Meanwhile on the other side of the spectrum, things couldn’t be more different. Companies are still hoarding massive amounts of cash and becoming less risk oriented. This is never more evident than when companies choose experience over education. Hiring a person with little to no experience implies a greater risk, one that requires time and money. However, the crawling economy is not the only culprit for the high levels of youth unemployment. There is a dissonance between the career paths chosen by Gen Y and the reality of the workforce. How many English, Liberal Arts and Sociology majors does a country need? I have great respect for everyone who pursues their passion, but I do wonder at times if one should consider usefulness over passion. Unfortunately everyone is bound to the reality of having to earn a living, which is not always aligned with one’s personal interests.

Each generation has unique situations that profoundly impact their lives, career decisions etc.; aspects that will be carried on for years to come. With such a high number of the future unemployed/underemployed, what will the next 30 years look like? What will retirement mean for Gen Y? One thing can be assumed: the way we enjoy and envision certain aspects of life like college, retirement or work, will vary significantly from today’s definition and expectations.  For instance, in one of their skits The Daily Show pundits make light of the current value of college and try to prevent people from entering careers with no future. College is no longer seen as the gateway to the acquisition of social mobility. Not because education isn’t necessary, but because the current education system is immensely flawed and is not in tune with the economic and social zeitgeist. Education became a profitable business that long ago forgot its mandate of usefulness and relevance. Unless things change for the better I doubt future generations will continue to ‘invest’ in higher education.

Retirement is another example. Can Gen Y afford to retire? In direct contradiction to practices of the past, Gen Y is already unfashionably late to the employment party. Crushed by debt and low asset ownership it doesn’t seem like life will begin in earnest for Gen Y anytime soon. Current trends suggest that consumer spending will not be the driver of growth and innovation for the future. Companies and government be aware! Forcing consumer spending is not a sustainable long term solution.

It’s not just the future that is in jeopardy because the present continues to crumble before our very eyes. High unemployment contributes to poverty and poverty fuels radicalization and extremism, especially in terms of immigration-the fallacy that foreigners take jobs from locals and devalue wages. Such views have even reignited the debate of racial supremacy. It is no coincidence that a neo-Nazi controls 10% of the parliament in Greece and anarchy reigns supreme. Radical groups with their own agendas have always taken advantage of the hopelessness of the masses. Today these social parasites have uncovered a new niche for the aggrandizement of their flawed ideals by preying on disenfranchised youths that are looking for someone to blame and any cause to give their lives meaning.

I predict that life will be significantly different for the next 30 years. The rioting and demonstrations will continue unabated if things don’t change. As such, companies should lose their fears of hiring youngsters and rather use this as an opportunity to cultivate and mold talent in accordance with corporate needs. On the other side, Gen Y should drive innovation and discover new ways of doing things. It cannot (and should not) be content with the status quo. It’s time Gen Y stops living under the shadows of Gen X and Baby Boomers and starts writing its own rules towards progress.

“The great Mother, Of all productions (grave Necessity).”

George Chapman The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, 1608.

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