Thursday, December 29, 2011

And the war drum beat again!

In the past, military conflicts have been preceded by acts of aggression involving the occupation of land or resources, ethnic violence or stealing Helen away from her domineering husband. But today, the precursor of an armed invasion is often a concerted campaign of mis-information and a body of evidence that substantiates the eventual decision to take action against “the evil ones”.

Past experiences have included testimony to a US congressional committee that Kuwaiti children were tipped out of their incubators by Iraqi soldiers and left to die on the floor. It was this testimony, of a 15 year old Kuwaiti girl that tugged at the heartstrings of the American public and was the public relations coup that effectively sanctioned the US led 1990-1991 invasion of Iraq ( click here for a full account of this story). It was subsequently discovered that the girl was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington and had never been to Kuwait during the period in question.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises

The web has been buzzing this week with the launch of the teaser trailer for next years blockbuster "The Dark Knight Rises". The final chapter in Christopher Nolan's trilogy promises to be as epic as the initial two installments and what I loved most about the trailer was that it gave nothing substantial about the movie away. The trailer has just broken an all time iTunes download record, 12,5 million views to the iTunes Movie Trailers site in just 24 hours! This is notwithstanding the fact that the trailer, initially an iTunes exclusive is now available on youtube and other sharing sites. Refreshing (actually more reassuring), to see that I am not alone in my excitement. Ironically, the previous record was held by Marvel's The Avengers trailer (10.5 million views in a 24 hour period), my second most anticipated movie for 2012. Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" would have to settle for third spot in this list.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rather leave the window bare!

In less than a month, leaders and policy makers from around the world will descend on Durban for COP 17 to debate  how much time humanity has left on earth before the dolphins declare, "Goodbye and thanks for all the fish". Any outcome is bound to be a success if measured against the Kyoto Protocol, because let's face it , there will be no meaningful change unless America and China agree to any emission targets. As a South African I should ashamedly be the last to throw stones because we are ranked amongst the highest polluting countries per capita. We talk the talk but when push came to load shedding, we opted for our old familiar friend, Mr Coal. But I am certain our leaders will take to the podium at the conference and talk about how conserving the environment is "enshrined in our constitution" and how we "intend" building a 100 MW concentrated solar plant to offset the two massive new coal fired power stations that we are building. Seems a bit like killing off an entire family, but offering to pay the funeral expenses!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A year has come and gone

It has been a year since I posted the first entry on knightlynotes and even "half full" me ( in reference to my optimism) could not have guessed at the kind of impact it would have had. I had been writing freelance articles in Watt Now, the official publication for the SA institute of Electrical Engineers but I had opinions on many issues unrelated to engineering. Opinions on technology, movies, politics, society... to be honest, on just about anything. I had often thought of concentrating on just one genre or registering multiple blogs for the different topics but I knew that I would have never had the time to devote enough time to them. I actually expected to only have just enough time to possibly add one, maybe two entries a month. With 72 published posts in the last year, it would be fair to assume that that was an under-estimation!

Today, I would like to step back and review the year that passed with special mentions and updates on some of my favorite posts and the many doors that knightlynotes had inevitably opened.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New 7 Wonders of Nature: Vote Table Mountain!

I must be honest. When I first heard about the online voting campaign to vote for the “New 7 Wonders of Nature”, I though, “What a load of bullshit!” (Yes, I always think in inverted Comma’s). After numerous “Idols” disappointments and coping with the knowledge that the candidate I believed to be the best representative for our ward, losing the recent municipal elections, let’s just say, my faith in any voting process could do with a coat of Micatex. Because, all it boils down to, in the end, is a popularity contest. People will vote along national, ethnic and egotistical (I went there, so it deserves to be on the list) lines. If you are hoping for the sweeping phrase that tells you how I now refute all that I wrote before, don’t hold your breath! I still think that capitalism and ‘popularity contests’ are beneath the surface of this campaign, but that does not mean that I believe it has nothing to offer.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Would the I/O port of the future please stand up!

Over the last week I have written two new posts for Bandwidth Blog on the future of I/O. My first article focused on the emergence of USB 3.0 (or Superspeed USB).

My primary intention for writing this post was to just make more people realise that this was out there and that you could get a USB 3.0 portable HDD on sale for the same price as one that is only USB 2 enabled. Furthermore, USB 2 HDD is bound to start dropping in price considerably, so if you were toying with the idea of getting an additional one perhaps get one that is USB 3.0 compatible or pick up a USB 2 drive at a reduced price.

The really awesome thing about this post however was that it was the lead story on NEWS 24's tech page for almost 2 whole hours. This was completely unexpected but extremely satisfying. It unfortunately brought out the "Grammar Nazi's" from their bunkers (Thanks for teaching me a  cool new word @yuvaan_gugrajah), but perhaps I should stop writing articles at 2 in the morning and pay more attention to grammar. Although I am making light of this, I was grateful for the corrections. I much prefer being corrected than to allow an error to remain on a post.

At the request of my editor at BandwidthBlog, I then set out to write an article on the "other" superfast I/O Port, Thunderbolt.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why Apple does not support Flash (and why I support Apple)?

My latest article on Bandwidth Blog discussed the fallacy that using an iPad does not expose you to the "Full web" as due to Apple not supporting Flash on iOS, you would be unable to view over 70% of the video content on the web. I agree that Apple try and direct most things via the iTunes store and although I wish it were otherwise, one has to accept that they are a business and this is what makes them money. However, the support of flash, in my opinion, has little to  with iTunes as we are primarily talking about content on the internet.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Have the anti smoking lobby lost the plot?

I suspect that this post is going to draw strong criticism from various quarters but I humbly request that you forget which camp you belong to and read it objectively before calling me a "tar-lover", "lobbyist" or "baby killer". To start there are two things that should be borne in mind. I am not calling into question the  ill health effects of smoking, neither am I arguing that the current level of regulation is too stringent and should be relaxed. Secondly, this entire post began at my frustration at not being able to complete my model Mclaren MP4/4 authentically i.e. all Marlboro stickers (the main sponsor) were left out. Since it is the most superficial, I will discuss the latter first.

I recently completed my model Mclaren Honda MP4/4 and loved the experience and the outcome save for one detail, there is no logo on the rear wing and all the original Marlboro decals were either removed or replaced. Had this been the 1992 McLaren MP4/6, that would have been understandable since tobacco advertising regulation was beginning to make an impact in Formula 1 and the Marlboro sticker was replaced with the strobe barcode design on that car in some races. This is what my car looked like...
My Model Mclaren Honda MP4/4

And this is what it looked like in real life...

Ayrton Senna's MP4/4

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My McLaren MP4/4

Almost 2 months ago, I stumbled upon a model car that upon seeing, knew that I just had to build. I discussed it and the significance of the car (McLaren Honda MP4/4) in a post at the time which included a trailer for the must watch documentary on the life of Ayrton Senna.

My initial blog after purchasing the kit

This blog spoke to the history of the car and to a time when the racing was almost indistinguishable to what we see in a F1 champioship today. It took me a significant amount of time and patience but I finally finished it. Introducing, my Mclaren MP4/4...

My replica kit of the McLaren Honda MP4/4 (by Tamiya)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The City of Jerusalem

The city of Jerusalem is well known in modern times for all the wrong reasons. The status of Jerusalem remains one of the core issues in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and has been the site of much violence and attacks in recent history. It is of extreme religious significance to all three Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) and regardless of the dangers associated with making a pilgrimage to this great city, it is one that should be made.

This trip was our gift to each other (my wife and I) to commemorate our 5th wedding anniversary. It worked out perfectly because on the day of our anniversary, we miraculously overcame delays at the border and detention at a road block to perform our Jummah Salah (Friday prayers) at Masjid ul Aqsa, the third holiest site in the Sunni Islamic faith. The experience remains unforgettable to this day and I doubt anything will extinguish the elation of that occasion.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Petra - "A City half as old as Time"

There is nothing spectacular about Jordan as a country. The capital city of Amaan is modern but nothing life altering. It is not a particularly cheap place to shop, nor did I find the people to be as warm or as welcoming as the neighboring Palestinians. There are however two significant reasons to visit Jordan. The first being, that it shares a 'friendly' border with Israel and is therefore a necessary stop en route to Palestine and secondly to visit one of the "40 places to see before you die", as chosen by the BBC. Petra - "A Rose red city half as old as time"

People of my generation may remember it famously as the location for scenes in Indiana Jones - The Last Crusade. Younger readers (who managed to stay awake long enough) would have seen it recently in Transformers 2 - Revenge of the Fallen. Pictures are worth a thousand words (which means I get to write significantly less in this blog) but they do not begin to compare to the experience of actually visiting this world heritage site. 

To enter the city of Petra today, you have to approach from the East. It takes you down an impressive long, sometimes very narrow gorge, known as The Siq (The Shaft). Be warned. This is not a short walk and is considerably more difficult on the return journey, so visitors to Petra are advised to dress for a comfortable hike. Walking down the Siq, one gets the distinct impression that the mountain has majestically parted to allow visitors access to this site. The truth, however, is that the area is prone to flash floods and the walkway was caused due to water erosion.

Walking down "The Siq" towards the city of Petra

There are donkeys that may be used to ferry people up and down but I consider this to be an unthinkable mode of transport for all who are able. The reason for this is apparent in the video below of our entry into the city. Who would want to approach a monument such as this, galloping on a donkey!

A quick background to this city. Petra is believed to have been constructed around the 6th century BC and was the capital city of the Nabataeans. This city controlled the commercial routes around the Middle east during the second century BC. Excavations have revealed that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to this artificial oasis. They used a combination of dams, cisterns and aquaducts to control regional floods and store water for use throughout the year. Being in control of the regional commercial trade routes at the time, it comes as no surprise that the most famous and elaborate building in Petra is the treasury, "Al Khazneh".
The Treasury of Petra - Al Khazneh

I have to admit that it took some time for me to move from this building. It was not just it's sheer size or beauty that capivated my imagination, but how well it has stood the test of time. Do you think modern structures like the Empire State Building or Big Ben is still going to be around in the year 6000 AD?
Close up of the Rock Sculptures of the Treasury in Petra
You eventually start to explore the rest of the city, and it is only then that you remember that it is a city! I could not find an easy way to depict via photography how vast this city is. It is as if you are walking down a city street and there are buildings on either side of the road, some simple cut outs that lead into caves. Others are more elaborate and signify a greater purpose in city life.

The Amphitheater of Petra - Even desert people need a show every other weekend!
From this point on, regardless of all the Indiana Jones merchandise you saw en route to Petra, all I could think about was the city of Minas Tirith from the Lord of the Rings and to some extent the fortress of Helm's Deep. This could be because I loved the movies or... you be the judge.

Can you see the people?

By now, you are possible thinking that I should have wore my cap the right way around becasue there are obvious signs of heat exhaustion. Where is this city? You have only seen pictures, of impressive, yet singular structures. In the next few pictures I will try and show you more of the city but in my defence, I was a bit starstruck and getting the perfect picture was not high on my priority list at the time. You just have to be there, and having the imagination of a 12 year old would help considerably.

The Nabataeans obviously preferred Coke to Pepsi

Admittedly the tombs started looking similar after a while

As can be seen in some of these pictures, the site is still under excavation. It was famously revealed that another chamber was discovered below the treasury but I doubt anything of value will be found because looters probably discovered it first. Even the Pyramids at Giza did not impress me as much as the City of Petra and I hope that I have shown you enough to make you want to visit for yourself. Luckily in this tour you can now just close the window. We had to walk back up the long narrow shaft in quite a  hurry to ensure that we did not miss the tour bus!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Paris of the Middle East

As I was going through the pictures of my Middle East trip, I began to realise that there was so much that I had not shared with people. I remember returning form that trip thinking that I need to write a travel book, start a tour company, become a mercenary, anything just to spend more time there. (Dear Reader. For the rest of this blog and any subsequent post on my middle east trip it would be safe to assume that I have found my tourist googles at the bottom of a suitcase and that I am ignoring all the socio political aspects of traveling in the Middle East. Believe me, it is a lot more fun reading about how I eat Baklava from a street vendor in Old Jerusalem than how I was detained without reason at the Israeli border).

Beirut - Paris of the Middle East

If you have to visit just one place in the middle east and have no inclination for this being a spiritual journey, but rather one of countless splendours, then Beirut and Lebanon will be you destination. The food in Beirut is legendary and can best be described as the fusion between French Cuisine and Middle eastern authenticity. Regardless of whether that last phrase made any sense, trust me when I tell you that the food is so good that had Elizabeth Gilbert started her journey of self discovery in Beirut rather than Italy, she would have never got around to any praying or loving! Tragically, the gastronomic experience that stands out for me is that Beirut will forever be remembered as the city where I had my first Burger King Double Whopper. It too was awesome :)

Beirut - Paris of the East

I am not very well travelled but I doubt many sites would compare to the Mediterranean (on a good day). Beirut is a city that is sandwiched between a mountain and the ocean which means that many people get to experience this kind of view from their homes.

Of course, being an electrical engineer, I was quick to point out to our tour group, the silhoutte of the power station that was famously bombed in the last Israeli-Lebanon conflict. I got comments like "what an eyesore", "Who would put a power station in the middle of the city" etc etc. , but honestly. Look at those towers and tell me you are not thinking, "What an awesome city to host a Red Bull Air Race!".

In any event on this morning, we were told we were going to play in snow. I though they were nuts. Look at this weather. If I told you you will be frolicking in snow in about an hour and a half, would you believe me? Exactly. It therefore came as no surprise when I looked out the bus window and snapped this picture, thinking this may be the most snow I see in one place.

My tune soon changed when I next saw this out the same window!

Who goes on a tour to the middle east and expects to go Snow Biking? Seriously! Camel Ride, maybe. Dune karting, hell yeah. But Snow Biking! I can not recall another incident in my life where I was so elated to be proven wrong. But a note to you novices out there who have never been in snow before. Pack your sunglasses. I am not trying to squint like John Cussack in the picture below for artistic effect, it is the reflection of the sun, off the snow (First world problems :))

P.S This was me still smiling after 2 hours!

Our Lady of Lebanon

Our lady of Lebanon

This statue is not done any justice in any of my pictures so I have taken one of the net.
It is a statue of the Virgin Mary that was built by the French in 1907. It stands 20m in height and overlooks one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, The Bay of Jounieh. This entire journey to the Middle East started out as a spiritual journey to get closer to Mary, or Mariam as she is referred to in Islamic Texts so to unexpectedly end our journey at a site like this was memorable indeed. The architecture of both the mosques and churches in Lebanon were truly breathtaking.

A Maronic Cathedral outside Beirut

 Jeita Grotto
Actually our journey was to end at the Jeitta Grotto. Our tour guide informed us that it was "like Cango Caves". For those of you unfamiliar with the cango caves it is a moderate cave with stalagmites and stalactites in South Africa but one quite remote so I would not recommend it as an option to most international visitors. Having been to the Cango Caves, I was not excited by this trip and when I saw a placard on a lightpole outside asking us to vote for the Jeita Grotto as one of the "seven wonders of the world", I cannot remember what exactly I said but the majority of the bus found it very amusing. Not having learnt from my experience with the snow, I soon found myself touring one of the most truly breathtaking natural wonders of the world, with egg on my face!

The Jeita Grotto is actually two caves that span 9 km. The upper cave houses the worlds largest stalactite and the lower cave can only be explored by boat since it channels an underground river that provides fresh drinking water to the residents of Beirut. We explored both caves and after an amazing but tiring trek, I finally caught up with our South African tour director. As it turns out, he has never visited the Cango Caves, but has always assumed that it looked the same as this! he was clearly a patriotic optimist so I assured him that the Cango Caves bears as much similarity with this natural wonder as a Ferrari does with Hyundai Getz. Unfortunately, photography is prohibited so I got two pictures from the net.
Jeita Grotto - Upper Cave

Jeita Grotto - Lower Cave

I spent two days in Lebanon. Imagine what you could do in a week!

P.S. If anybody from Lebanese tourism reads this, please contact me for banking details regarding any tourism commission that may be due. I am willing to forfeit the commission if you do not charge me for using these pictures without permission :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia should beware of falling glass

In my post yesterday on the beauty of Damascus, there was something I really wanted to say but decided in the end, not to, as it would detratct from the topic of that post. Furthermore, I did not want to vent my frustration while it was still raw. It began with a scrolling news headline I saw the other day on Al Jazeera news,

"Bahrain recalls ambassador from Syria"

My initial thought was obviously that somebody had changed the channel and I was watching the Daily Show. After the absence of anything slightly humorous and confirmation on my cellphone that it was not bizarrely, April Fool's day, I resigned myself to the thought that I was sleep deprived one night too many and had finally lost my mind. Only after my father laughed at the story which was now being discussed, did I realise that amongst all the traits my father and I have in common, Mutual Concurrent Hallucinations, was not one of them.

Let me be clear form the onset. My personal bias towards Syria, and Damascus, in particular does not extend to the despotic leadership presently in power (Bye Bye Visa). The manner in which the uprisings have been dealt with has been excessive and the people of Syria are entitled to the same civil liberties that we enjoy. So, I am in no way, condoning the actions of the Syrian Government. I just find it insanely ludicrous that Bahrain has decided to publicly jump upon a high horse on this issue.

I know that I am generally critical of Arab monarchies so I have chosen to begin by quoting from the "Amnesty International Report 2011 - State of human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa, January to Mid April 2011". I really wish I could quote the entire report on Bahrain but if anybody would like the report, mail me and I will send it to you. I am going to include excerpts detailing the response of the Bahraini military on recent protests in that country. It may be argued that these are excerpts taken out of context, but including all the text would just be too much.

" The worst violence happened during an early morning raid on 17 February on those camped at Pearl Roundabout. Massed ranks of riot police stormed the area to evict the mostly sleeping protesters, firing shotguns and using tear gas, batons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Tanks and armoured vehicles later blocked access to the roundabout. Five people were fatally wounded and at least 250 were injured, some critically. Among the injured were people clearly identified as medical workers who were targeted by police while trying to help injured protesters in or near the roundabout, as confirmed by an Amnesty International fact-finding team"

"On 15 March, Saudi Arabia intervened and sent 1,000 troops in tanks and other armoured vehicles, reportedly at the request of the Bahraini government. Bahrain’s King imposed a state of emergency – termed the State of National Safety – and authorized the armed forces to take extreme measures to end the revolt. For the next two days, Bahraini riot police and soldiers fired at protesters."

"Since then, more than 500 men and women have been detained; at least 40 people were said to be missing and at least four people detained in relation to the protests died in custody in suspicious circumstances. The government said that all deaths were caused by illness. "

The last excerpt is important to my discussion and may seem familiar to most South Africans. In my opinion, The Kingdom of Bahrain is a modern era Apartheid state. The Al Khalifa Royal family has rule over Bahrain since the 19th century and have maintained their authority with the aid and support of the British Empire. What was it about Britain and it's support for minority led governments? In any event although there is no physical separation enforced (legally), the language of the ruling family is very similar to the Whites in Apartheid South Africa or the Zionists in Israel. According to them there cannot be a democracy in Bahrain because the Shia majority are uneducated and will undo all the prosperity and good they have achieved in recent years. How this kind of BS can be used to justify keeping out 70% of a countries population from seeking employment in the military or police force is a tall order. Why Bahrain would therefore try to publicaly rebuke Syria for the manner in which it treated it's protestors was puzzling? It is as stupid as the only country to have ever used a nuclear bomb in warfare, today being allowed to police the rest of the world on nuclear weapons.....perhaps not the best example.
Saudi Arabia has also recalled it's ambassador to Syria, with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz saying in a statement, " What is happening in Syria is not acceptable to Saudi Arabia". I am going to stop now because I am going to start fasting soon and I would be unable to discuss the hypocrisy and idiocy of Saudi Arabia without swearing. Suffice to say that the legs of the high horse that Saudi Arabia sits atop is a lot more shakier, than that of Bahrain.

The beauty of Damascus

The horrific events unfolding in Syria saddens but does not shock me. The Syrian people have for many years been too afraid to stand up to the authorities and for good reason. The authorities is Syria are scarcely tolerant of any dissent and are known to severely restrict ones right freedom of expression. They are aided in this injustice by a State of Emergency that has been continually kept in place since 1963. I hope and pray for a speedy resolution to the conflict and hope that the Syrian people get the freedoms that all people deserve. Furthermore, I hope that this blog does not prevent me form ever visiting Syria again because Damascus, to me, represents one of the most awesome cities in the world. 

Three years ago, I visited Damascus for about 38 hours and in that time, I slept a total of about 5 hours. It was phenomenal and I remarked to my wife that the city seemed to revitalise me. I did not mind the short duration of our visit, because I believed somehow that one day I would return to this great city. I would like to share some of the images of that visit with you.

The Great Mosque of Damascus

The Grand Mosque of Damascus
No description of Damascus would be complete if one did not include "The Great Mosque of Damascus", also known as the Umayyad Mosque. It has always, in it's various incarnations being marveled at for its architecture and continues to remain the heart of the city. Without going too deep into the history of this building, it began in the Iron Age as a temple to the Aramaean god of rain and thunder, Hadad - Ramman but was converted after the Roman conquest of Damascus to a temple to honour the Roman God of Thunder (not Thor!), Jupiter. Signs of the old temple still exist today and I found that truly amazing.
Remnants of the Temple of Jupiter - Damascus
Towards the end of the 4th Century, the temple of Jupiter was converted into the Cathedral of Saint John by the Christian emperor  of the Byzantine empire, Theodosius I. It is believed that the site is the burial site for the severed head of John the Baptist, a legend that was further fuelled by the discovery of an embalmed head in a sealed tomb during the construction of the grand mosque and the famous visit by Pope John Paul II in 2001 to visit the site thought to contain the remains of John the Baptist. this was incidentally the first time a Pope paid an official visit to a mosque.
The Umayyad mosque is most beautiful at dawn
Damascus was captured by Arab forces in 634 AD and later became the administrative capital of the Muslim world. It was only then that the cathedral was converted to a mosque after an agreement with the Christian leaders that all other confiscated churches be returned to the Christians as compensation. It was this understanding that has led to Damascus been one of the few sites in the Arab world that contains churches from that era.

The tomb of Saladin
Saladin (Salah ed Deen Ayyubi) is one of my greatest heroes. His military prowess and compassion was so well documented that even in Europe, where he should have been hated, he became known for his chivalry and justice earning the respect of European leaders including Richard the LionHeart. His tomb is in a garden outside the Umayyad Mosque. When emperor Wilhelm II of Germany visited the mausoleum centuries later he was shocked to find that the site was not more elaborate. he donated a new marble sarcophagus to the mausoleum. The remains of saladin was however not moved so today the mausoleum contains the empty marble sarcophagus and the wooden one in which Saladin was originally buried.
Mausoleum of Saladin - Damascus
 The tomb of Zaynub bint Ali
By now, you are possibly thinking that I did not sleep much in Damascus for spiritual reasons but the last tomb that deserves mention is that of Zaynub bint Ali. Grandaughter of the prophet, she remains one of my favourite women in Islamic history (to the point that if I had my way, my daughter Sulaym would have been named Zaynub which means "the adornment of her father" :) ). After the battle of Karbala, where she lost in battle both of her sons and her brother, she was captured and taken to Damascus. En route she spoke to the people in the towns they passed and to the people of Damascus, planting the seeds that ultimately led to the overthrow of the regime of Yazid I. I often site her example when confronted with Taliban-esque people who insist that muslim women should  "be seen and not heard" and should not address mass gatherings, but that is a debate for another time.

Mausoleum (mazaar) of Zaynub bint Ali - Damascus
The Mausoeum Mazaar of Zaynub bint Ali was in my limited travels the most beautiful building I have ever visited. My daughters would have loved it for it resembled a "crystal palace befitting a princess". If you ever visit Damascus, I strongly recommend that you veer slightly off the beaten track to visit here.

I know that most of you are by know thinking that all I did in Damascus was visit spiritual sites but I assure you I did not. The reason why I hardlyt sleep was because I am experienced all aspects of Damascus life (with my tourist goggles firmly in place). I even found the time to take a traditional Turkish bath in a Hamam that was established in the 1800's.
Relaxing after a turkish bath with my friend Shameel enjoying a hookah and tea
The bath involved being led from room to room where the temperature in each was higher than the next to allow your body to acclimatise to the heat you are ultimately exposed to. Without going into too many details, it is another highly recommended activity. in the end you are not towel dried but several layers of cloth are applied and then re-applied to ensure that the oils used are not immediately rubbed off. Walking in the city at night, we found cool coffee shops, clothing stores etc. and at night the Bazaar was where we did the majority of our gift shopping for friends and family. Unfortunately you don't generally take pictures of yourself shopping and window shopping so their is unfortunately not many pictures of these activities.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Plunging into the world of eBooks

It may surprise you to note that although I claim to be technologically savvy (geek) and an early adopter (pretentious), I have only made the transition to eBooks today. I have often spoken about it and I have four apps on my iPad that are primarily used for eBooks (iBooks, Stanza, Kobo and Kindle). For correctness, they are primarily used as eReaders by others. I used them to either read comics/ magazines or to take up space on my screen. I have downloaded many free books from iTunes that I am sure many iPad users have on their shelf (Winnie the Pooh, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Art of war, The adventures of Sherlock Holmes) and I often page through these books when showing people how amazing an iPad is, but have not ever read any of them and neither to be honest do I ever intend reading them. The only books I have read is some of the free children's books and sometimes I even take the time to read these to my daughter.

I am very aware of why eBooks make sense. It is more convenient (entire library in one device), it takes less space when packing to go on holiday, it is more environmentally friendly, it is cheaper amongst others. However, the library cannot be shared (legally), the books cannot be sold on Kalahari marketplace when you are done reading it, and it does not have the same 'feel' of a book (regardless of the type of leather cover you attach to your device). These Pro's and cons will be expanded upon in an article I intend writing on this topic, but for now feel free to comment on your experiences. Especially if you have a Kindle. I know that the Kindle is much easier on the eyes (in that there is no backlight! The iPad would definitely win the swimsuit segment of that pageant), but do you find yourself doing the majority of your reading on the Kindle now?

I bought two books form the iStore today. The first I know I am going to love is "Bossypants" by Tina Fey. I splashed out and spent the extra $1 to get the enhanced edition which would hopefully also include Tina Fey's opinion on eBooks. The second was Bill Bryson's, "Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors". Having paged through this book numerous times at Exclusive Books already, I feel like it is a book I already own but the problem with a lot of the entries is that it gives the correct use of words and phrases which if used would be assumed incorrect since the incorrect usage is much more popular. An example from the book,

"Between you and I: is always wrong. Make it "between you and me". The object of a preposition should always be in the accusative. More simply, we don't say "between you and I" for the same reason we don't say "Give that book to I"

Another one I liked was

before, prior to. There is no difference to these two except length and a certain inescapable affectedness on the part of prior to. To paraphrase Theodore Bernstein, if you would use 'posterior to' instead of 'after', then by all means use 'prior to' instead of 'before'

As can be clearly seen by the above two examples, I am still in the "B" section of the dictionary. I remember thinking during LRE (Library Resource Education) a teacher in primary school suggesting that we try and learn one new word from the dictionary every day to improve our vocabulary and language skills, that that idea is as idiotic as the need to have a subject in school to encourage people to read. I feel ancient know having admitted to being old enough to have had such a subject as LRE and the realisation that I know find enjoyment in reading a Dictionary. Admittedly, this is a lot funnier than the Concise Oxford version but an 'over the hill' feeling remains. To be fair I suspect your opinion of LRE as a subject would be very dependent on the educator in charge of the class.

For now, I believe the only eBooks I will purchase are those that offer something 'extra' to the normal experience  (i.e. the Tina Fey book has chapters read by the author) or those that are unavailable in South Africa or a lot more expensive. I doubt that the future of books is in danger because the majority of the world have no access to iPad's or Kindle's but publishers may want to take notice of the potential threat that this new medium poses.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dear Diary

An excerpt for my new online diary which is anonymous but extremely calming. I chose to create an online diary after enjoying the latest installment of Adrian Mole (The lost diaries 1999 - 2001) and realising that it may help if ever an autobiography is to be commissioned :). Being anonymous, means I can be completely honest and I cannot describe what an amazing feeling that is. In any event, I decided to share today's entry since it has no relevance to anybody I know.

Dear Diary

Today, my girls and I bought take out and had a picnic at Mitchell Park. It was an amazing Durban winter's day and no birds crapped on me. Evertything about the trip was idyllic up until the point where my wife and I separated. Tim took Siddiqa to the playground whilst I took Sulaym (13 months) to see the birds and animals.

She loved it and I could see her taking everything in, and made a mental note to do this more often. At the Flamingo enclosure I stopped carrying her and she walked around looking at the ducks and curiously touching the bars, as if checking whether they were electrified or not. I took the backpack of my shoulder so I could put away the bottled water in a side patch and it was there, in that instant, that my self worth was irrevocably diminished.

My adorable daughter decided to pick up a fallen nut off the floor and a nearby mum shouted and ran to her asking her "Not to touch that kaka". This of course created quite a commotion in the serenity of the park so everybody in our vicinity turned to look. My daughter obligingly handed to nut to the the lady and gave her a look to say, "Thank God you arrived just in time!". Had I tried to take the nut away from her, I would have been met with a wall of tears and a possible tantrum. Maybe I should consider wearing my hair in a bun to get the same kind of compliance.

It was a while before the pain of countless eyes burrowing holes into my back subsided and admittedly, moving rapidly to another part of the park aided that greatly. It was then that a lady walked up to me and asked if I could please take a photograph of her with her husband and daughter. I oblidged but it became quickly apparent that they were present at the flamingo enclosure earlier. When I asked if they were happy with the picture, they responded by asking me, Why am I by myself?, where is my wife? and.... If this is the first time I am spending time alone with baby?


I was going to respond by telling them that my wife had been killed in a freak flamingo incident but The abruptness of their questions caught me completely off guard. I mumbled a response and made my way out of the park.

Regardless of this experience, I must make a conscientious effort to come out more often. It is pointless laughing at everyone from JHB when they complain about the cold, when we do not take advantage of our awesome Durban weather.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My review of the Viber App

I have been asked to become a contributor on bandwidth blog which I am really excited about. My first article went live this week, where I reviewed the Viber App but also in the context of VOIP (Voice over internet protocol). People posted comments on the article which was great as it introduced me to new technologies/ insights.

My review of Viber on Bandwidthblog

Of course, the thing that I was most excited about regarding Viber was that it would be an awesome way to stay in contact with loved ones when travelling abroad. I hope to make use of the complimentary hotel WiFi to achieve this and it will be much simpler than having to use WorldCall cards or buying international prepaid sim cards etc. The one major snag to this plan however is that the App currently only exists in the iStore which means I have to convince my wife to get an iPhone or give her mine if (when) I chose to upgrade to the iPhone 5 :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Mclaren Honda MP4/4 - The Best Ever F1 car!

I am a big believer of "Kismet"(Destiny). The feeling that everything is happening for a reason. That sense in your gut that recent events are somehow not a coincidence but happening for a reason. I also find 'Kismet' a convenient scapegoat when indulging my habit of buying stuff. It just seem less superficial when there is a grander plan unknown to all that has guided my hand into my wallet to pull out my credit card yet again. But, even I have to admit that the circumstances/ coincidences that surrounded my latest purchase is quite uncanny.

Last week I found the time to watch the majority of the European Grand Prix and this, in itself, was extremely rare. Unfortunately the race was not that exciting and I got to watch the dominant Sebastian Vettel ease to yet another victory. He has now won six races out of eight and come second in the other two. Naturally this dominated tea time discussion amongst the guys the next day. Will he beat Schumi's records? Will Formula 1 sink back to the boring days of the Schumi/ Ferrari dominance? What is the most dominant car in F1 history? Stop! That was my cue!

I have a well researched, flawlessly prepared argument for this particular question, and like a spider coming to feast on those that had become trapped in my web, I launched into my presentation, honed after many hours presenting in front of a mirror. The answer is simple. The Mclaren Honda MP4/4 that dominated the 1988 F1 season in a way that no car since has been able to emulate. has to be the most dominant car ever in F1 history. Admittedly one could argue that the the Ferrari 2004 (winning 15 of 18 races) is also a contender for this title as is the Williams that Nigel Mansell guided to victory in the 1992 season. Let's debate this in the comments section! However, for me it was the MP4/4.I urge any F1 fan to read the story of this remarkable car for I will lose half my readers if I dwell on it here. Check this link for starters.

Wikipedia: McLaren Honda MP4/4

In the 1988 season this car had won 15 of the 16 races which included 10 1-2 finishes. and 15 pole positions. Far form being boring as one would expect from this level of dominance, these were still exciting times with Senna and Prost having the most exciting rivalry that I could ever recall in F1. In that season, Senna won the title by winning 8 races compared to Prost's 7 victories. If you are too young and have never heard of the Senna- Prost rivalry then I urge you to google it and read up on the most intense rivalry in F1 which tragically ended with Prost being a pallbearer at the funeral of Ayrton Senna after he tragically died at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Ayrton Senna  was the last driver to die at the wheel of a F1 car. This was ironically also the year that Michael Schumacher won his first F1 World Championship.

Ayrton Senna (1960 - 1994)

Then on Thursday, the FIA announced that Formula One would switch from 2.4l V8's to 1.6l Turbocharged V6's. Due to my obvious bias, I was thrilled by this decision and more importantly it gave me a chance to within the same week, deliver my presentation on another group of unsuspecting people. You maybe wondering what the hell could this possibly have to do with Kismet !'s like this. I walked into a hobby shop today looking for my next project. I am searching for a race version NSX but this shop had a very small range. They basically had different variations of  the Porsche 911 turbo, Nissan GT-R and Ferrari 360 Modena. It  was then, by chance ,that I noticed a smaller box stacked with all the airplanes... and, you guessed it...

Who am I to come in the way of Kismet? :)

Updated ( 14 July 2011)

I had intended including this in my initial post but had hoped that it would have have formed part of the lineup at the Durban International Festival (DIFF 2011) and would have discussed it there but it was unfortunately not included. I really hope however that this documentary on the life of Ayrton Senna makes it to SA. Watch the trailer below and you will understand why. Winner of the prestigious audience award at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just assassinate Gadaffi!

Just assassinate Gadaffi. It is possibly the most legal/ just/ humane thing that NATO could do.

Those of you who know me, or read my blog or continue reading this sentence would know that I am often not to be taken too seriously. I prefer writing more light hearted posts on popular culture or  to find the humour in some serious stories. Because the one thing the web does not need is another muslim blogger with half baked conspiracy theories challenging the status quo. I mean, we are talking Muammar Gadaffi here. You've seen his pictures. Heard the eccentric stories of him living in a tent outside Central Park whenever he visits the UN. Listened to snippets of him shout angrily in a foreign language. Who can or would want to defend him. Definitely not me!

However I think it's time I risk being unpopular to speak about an injustice regardless of whether I may be perceived as a Gadaffi symphatiser. The injustice I refer to is of course, the Nato War on Libya. Of course, people in the Obama administration are quick to label this, anything but a War, as there is a very heated legal debate currently underway in the US Congress regarding the legality of this war, or as the Obama administration prefer, ' A time-limited, scope-limited military action'. This 'military action ' involves the daily bombing of Libya, a strict naval blockade, the destruction of the Gadaffi family compound (wherein both his son and three grandchildren died) and the deployment of special forces in Libya. 

Before proceeding, I should clarify the title. Inspired by a weekend of sheer chaos by NATO wherein they admitted mistakenly bombing the rebels on Saturday, bombing (in error) a civilian target on Sunday that included children amongst the dead and on Monday not being able to confirm whteher the building they hit was a command centre or a private home but they could confirm that here too, children were amongst the casualties. I am not trying to naively gather sympathy for pro Gadaffi supporters because one accepts these kind of events as part and parcel of the ugly consequence of war, but therein lies the problem with this entire affair. Who sanctioned this War? Why has it been sanctioned? And what is it's ultimate aim? If the aim is to effect a regime change, then I propose that Muammer Gadaffi be assassinated. I believe this would be in the best interest of the Libyan People you are striving to protect. Less infrastructure to rebuild, fewer unnecessary loss of life and an assurance that the economic interests of the NATO nations will be taken care off.

The Case for War

Muammar Gadaffi is the perfect villain. He is arguably insane, eccentric, prances around in military costumes and prefers living in a tented compound even when visiting other countries. All the Western media would have to do is show demented images of the African leader coupled with tales of his war crimes and eccentricity and the public would support this military endeavor. Unfortunately Joe Soap is not so gullible anymore. One of the most notorious pieces of disinformation and propaganda, in recent history, that greatly helped to rally support for the 1990 - 1991 war to free Kuwaiti's and re-install the monarchy was the appearance of a 15 year old Kuwaiti girl who testified to a US congressional committee, how she witnessed Iraqi soldiers tip babies out of incubators and leave them to die on the floor. Her account of the incident created an outrage until some time later it was revealed that she was  in fact the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to Washington and had consequently never left the US during the Iraqi invasion.

After having done 'dying babies' and the 'search for WMD's', Muammar Gadaffi picked the next most vile thing to killing babies, ordering the mass rape of all woman who opposed him and going the 'extra mile' by acquiring viagra-like medicines to encourage them to do so. As stated earlier, Gadaffi could be insane so I am in no way going to stick my neck out in his defense. What is shocking however, is even after, what must have been a significant pharmaceutical bill, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both found no evidence of such government ordered mass rape despite extensive investigations. Ms Diana Eltahawy who is Amnesty International's Libya expert has been quoted as saying,

"We spoke to women, without anybody else there, all across Libya, including Misrata and on the Tunisia-Libya border. None of them knew of anybody who had been raped. We also spoke to many doctors and psychologists with the same result." 

Of course this does not stop  news channels from perpetuating uncollaborated stories about all the mayham and war crimes presently being perpetrated by the Libyan leader. Things that further frustrate me about the war on Libya are:

  • The Hypocrisy - In recent times both Syria and Bahrain have committed heinous crimes against unarmed civilians yet they are not rebuked or sanctioned for their actions.
  • Follow the money - On March 15th, Muammar Gadaffi stated publicly that he did not trust Western oil firms and that future oil contracts would be going to the Chinese, Russians and Indians. The bombing started a few days later.
  • Who are the rebels? Do they represent the people? Have the rag-tag National Transitional Council that has now been deemed, 'The legitimate representative' of the Libyan People ever stated any vision/ plans for democracy.
  • Is NATO adequately testing offers for a truce and supervised elections?
  • Libya did not attack the US or any embassy or any member of NATO for that matter. 
  • Who is going to get the contract to rebuild all the infrastructure that is being bombed daily?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The latest trailer for the upcoming Harry Potter movie

Now that X-men has come and gone, this is the movie event that I am most looking forward to. The conclusion to an amzing cinematic experience that took us from a little boy still trying to find himself in a strange new world and concludes, as those of you who read the book know with... don't worry. No spoilers ahead. However (ha ha fooled those of you still reading), I think it should be borne in mind that most of the events in this final movie happen over a single day. That is the either the recipe for non-stop action or a pace too quick for proper appreciation. I am hoping for the former.

In my opinion, this movie, which I though was titled "The Battle of Hogwarts", will undoubtedly be compared by all geeks to the legendary Battle of Helms Deep (Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers). In my personal opinion, nothing would ever compare to that battle. I still get goose bumps when I see Gandalf lead the riders of Rohan down into battle, still laugh when Gimly asks Aragon not to tell the elf that he had to be tossed onto the bridge. Needless to say, I am biased. I am confident however that this movie will do justice to the battle ( I should henceforth be known as, "He whose expectations are easily raised" ). The movie comes out in July and I am thinking of watching them all again over the next couple of weeks. My favourite thus far has been "The Goblet of Fire". 

P.S. If you have never yet experience Harry Potter as an audiobook read by Stephen Fry then you are missing out on what I believe to be the best possible way of enjoying this tale. But then again, that may be my bias again :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Google backs Renewables. Why don't we?

"If you had the choice to pay less for clean power than you currently pay for dirty power. Wouldn't you do it?"...

Unless you own major shares in a coal fired power station, you would probably answer, "Hell, yes!". If not, I fear you may have stumbled upon the wrong blog. If not for the obvious chance to combat climate change, the question is essentially asking would you be interested in paying less for the power you consume today! This is what Google are now offering to US citizens. Google has just invested $280 million to create a fund that will be used to finance solar installations. In partnership with SolarCity, a company that helps homeowners make the transition to solar energy by leasing the cost of the installation and maintenance of the solar system. What is more, is that SolarCity guarantees the maintenance, warranty and power output of the panels. This effectively removes two of the major issues for homeowners when deciding to make the transition to renewable energy, High initial start up cost and whether it will deliver as promised.  The concept and investment is best described in the video below.

I know that I am an Apple fanboy and all things Google should be considered  'Anti-Jobs', but I would expect nothing less from a company that has continued to push the boundary of innovtion especially in the environment of cloud computing . This investment brings the total investment made by Google in the renewable energy sector to $ 680 million. is the charitable sector of Google and they are in essence ensuring the success of their company by investing heavily to combat climate change thereby ensuring that they still have customers in the years to come. Whereas most corporations talk green, Google has already invested a further $168 million in a Mojave Desert solar energy plant and have recently purchased 20 years of wind power to power one of its data centres in Oklahoma. Their most innovative plan for the future has to be the patent they recently applied for, for floating data centres powered by wave power! This is what can be achieved when you foster a culture of innovation in your organisation. A book that talks about this culture in detail is 'The Google Story' by David A Vise and I would unwaveringly recommend it to both geeks and non geeks alike.

Lets put these figures in perspective, shall we. The cost for the Medupi Power station in South Africa is estimated to be in the region of R 125 Billion and Kusile will cost Eskom (i.e. the taxpayer) a further R 140 Billion. Assuming a very conservative exchange rate of R10/ $ that gives the total investment we as a country are making in the next 8 years for dirty power as $ 26,5 Billion. Of course this excludes and carbon tax that may be levied by the government in the future because although that will not increase the cost of the power stations, it will definitely increase the cost that you and I pay for power. Remember also that this does not include all associated projects that would be required i.e. strengthening of transmission infrastructure.

For as long as Eskom is left in control of our country's Demand Side Management Program, I cannot see us progressing in the right direction. The country insists that Eskom needs to be efficient and function as a business, making profits to fund future capital expansion and yet we ask them to convince people to use electrical power ( their only product) sparingly and less wastefully. Is the conflict apparent to you? I believe the time has come for us to start thinking out of the box. No. I am not asking for something that extreme. I am just saying isn't it time we at least start pursuing some of the proven technologies and funding models out there. Instead of continuing to chase short term solutions that would result in long term problems.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lunar Eclipse 2011

On the 15th June 2011, there will be a total lunar eclipse visible from all of Africa, Central Asia and parts of South America. The show starts at 20:23 with the main event scheduled to start around 21:22 and lasting till around 11 pm. Other than total cloud cover, you have no excuse not to witness this event, unless of course, you are a werewolf and prefer not been caught out in mid howl, naked  and confused. Actually if you were planning a lunar party and the weather does not play it's part, you could always project the webcast of the event from

My family and I are planning a little lunar party in our driveway (if there was no lunar eclipse we would have just been having a regular Ides of June party). Thankfully, Thursday is a public holiday so the kids can stay up late as well. I would prepare the little ones for the event though. I am telling Siddiqa that I will be performing a magic trick and making the moon disappear, just like Colombus did to the poor 'Indians' he found in Jamaica.

There are of course lots of superstition surrounding an eclipse and my mother told me a story today of how my grandfather banished her to her bedroom while she was expecting me. It is an Indian superstition that pregnant women should not hold a blade during an eclipse, otherwise they would have children born with a cleft lip or other deformities. My thinking around such superstition is, what harm could it do?, if your in laws insist that you effectively 'take a day off'.

So banish the X-Box, PS3  and Nintendo and enjoy this great spectacle that nature has to offer. Note that the iPhone was intentionally excluded from the list above!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Rationality of Pi

Disclaimer: To all my regular readers, I have a feeling that this blog may not appeal to you so I offer you the link below which I found to be extremely funny and proof yet again that the internet is extremely effective at destroying all our childhood memories.

I would urge you to continue reading however because what follows is a remarkable story that has at its core the most least understood, yet universally known, irrationality that exists. Pi .

Pi is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter and is often expressed as 3.14. The truth is, as most of us are aware is that pi is an irrational number that continues into infinity in it's approximation. What is amazing about this number is that most serious mathematicians would tell you that they know nothing about Pi, yet the definition of Pi is really simple, It is just the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. Or, is it?

It is believed that Pi first entered our history in Ancient Egypt. It is there that the earliest know reference to pi occurs, written on a papyrus scroll in 1650 B.C by a scribe named Ahmes. Ahmes titled the scroll " The entrance into the knowledge of all existing things" ( I have to assume that Ahmes was not known for his modesty) and after some lengthy calculations he found the area of a circle using a cruder form of Pi. Thereafter, the great Greek philosopher Archimedes, who is now more commonly known in schools as 'that douche who has ruined my early childhood with all his damn theorems' found pi to be between 3 10/71 and 3 1/7. That is about 3.14 and you have to cut the Greeks some slack as they did not use decimals in 200 B.C. and this discovery was probably made using various circles and pieces of string. This approximation was more or less universally accepted until the German Mathematician Ludolph van Ceulen spent the greater part of his life approximating it to thirty five decimal places in the seventeenth century. This gave him such a sense of accomplishment that he had the digits engraved on his tombstone. The German's still call Pi 'the Ludophian number' but they are alone in this as they are with their obsession with David Hasselhoff music. The first person to use the greek letter Pi to represent this constant was the English mathematician William Jones and thus has it remained ever since.

There are many who believe that Pi holds within it a great mystery known to nature (and by inference God) similar to the uniqueness of Phi which Dan Brown explored to death in the 'Da Vinci Code'. With the advent of computers and mathematicians with nothing better to do, the race to determine the mystery of pi re-surfaced. Whilst we were watching the Olympic Games or Dallas, the nationalist battle to approximate Pi heated up. It began with George Reitweisner who derived Pi to 2037 decimal places. When the Japanese entered the battle things started getting silly quickly (Yasumasa Kanada and his team at Tokyo University used a NEC supercomputer to compute 2 million digits of pi, and found no signs of order). this continued in it's absurdity until the Chudnovsky Brothers announced to the world that they had obtained four hundred and eighty million digits of pi, a world record at the time. The record stood at one billion one hundred and thirty million one hundred and sixty thousand and sixty four decimal places in 1989 and was obtained by team Kanada. Surprisingly, to everyone but themselves, they still found no pattern!

Finally, this brings me to the main reason I wrote this blog ( I hope however you enjoyed the journey). It was the amazing story of the 'Chudnovsky brothers'. In short, these brothers were born in the Ukraine and eventually settled in America. They are brilliant mathematicians who one day concluded that it would be cheaper and more convenient to build a supercomputer in their apartment so that they could work with numbers to their hearts content. Gregory Chudnovsky suffers from a severe disease called myasthenia gravis which in his case has resulted in muscle weakness and difficulty in breathing. He is therefore confined to his apartment and used to do his research by dialing into a supercomputer and waiting many hours for a result. The result was often a message telling him that he had lost his connection! This therefore prompted these brothers to build their own supercomputer which they have  done using mail order parts with a combined cost of seventy thousand dollars. They thankfully have wives with conventional jobs and big hearts. This is in comparison to a Cray supercomputer which cost somewhere in the region of thirty million dollars.

I have recently read a significant amount regarding the lives and accomplishments of the Chudnovsky brothers but was most surprised (shocked) to learn that these great minds have no commercial backing or conventioanl academic jobs. Putting aside for the moment their genius mathematical ability, these guys built a working supercomputer in their apartment at a fraction of the cost! Nobody thinks that they warrant an investment? The thought of David Beckham being available for two months after the close of the US soccer season is unthinkable with European clubs trampling over each other to have the benefit of his services at remarkable costs. For some perspective, Beckham's deal with the LA Galaxy, those marauders of world club football, is $ 32,5 Million over 5 years.

Contrast this to Gregory Chudnovsky who was described by Herbert Robbins (emeritus professor of mathematical statistics at Columbia University) as the greatest mathematician since David Hilbert (don't feel stupid, I never heard of him either) and that he is the last of his breed. For years, the brothers were supported by their wives and modest grants from the National Science Foundation of America until eventually, after campaigning by a select few academics they were appointed as Distinguished Industry Professors at the polytechnic institute of NYU.

This is part of what is wrong with the world. Our priorities are all messed up. We pay millions for people to play sport or act (don't get me started on that topic!) yet we don't reward academic brilliance forcing most of the brilliant minds into the corporate world where their passion to explore and break new ground is crushed. Of course, I (as both a bad football player and self confessed geek) will see it that way and who cares about how many digits you can approximate pi to anyways. I think it is safe to assume that if you did not find a pattern in a billion, you are probably not going to find a pattern in the next billion. But behind the search lies an algorithm that could one day solve a much more pressing problem like "What is the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything?" I assure you that David Beckham will not have a clue that the answer is 42!

P.S. I have added a reaction widget to the bottom of my blog posts and would love if you could give me feedback on what you thought. Comments would be great but if you don't have the time then perhaps just a tick in the appropriate box. Thanks.