Dec 31, 2011

Good bye 2011! Hello 2012 ...


"What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of a year."

May happy times and warm memories brighten your new year.
Have a great year. Happy New Year.

Dec 30, 2011

Before the walls came down ...


This is the entrance to Maafannu ward cemetery.
The walls came down to about halfway earlier this year.
They said our youngsters were using the compound for doing illegal stuff.
And that they were disturbing the dead. And not showing respect.
Well, now that the walls have come down, lets see how that goes.
I'm skeptical, but I do hope it goes better.


Dec 28, 2011

The yellow crane ...


Saw this noisy machine passing by my house.
This is the view from my third floor balcony. Its pretty big!
Could not capture as much detail as I wanted to. Should try harder.


Dec 25, 2011 This is beyond stupid !!!



Why does our National Budget website have a section to create your own avatar using 31 programme budget icons? I have no vague idea!

I can understand if this was on a private or a commercial website marketing a product or a brand. I might even understand this on Tourism Portal website using unique Maldivian icons to make an avatar which might appeal to a foreign visitor.

I don't know about everyone on the internet, but I would usually visit a government website when I need to look up current and accurate information or when I need historical data for a research project. I visited the Ministry of Finance website to have a look at our National Budget. I wanted to see how much the projected national revenue was and how it has been sliced to be spend on health, education, transport and infrastructure projects among others.

While looking at the budget, I did find some ambitious projects while huge sums of money have a been allocated to highly controversial and still hotly debated projects. I guess that will always be the very nature of every annual national budget of any given country.

However, during no time that I spent on that website did I have the slightest inclination to upload my photo and make an avatar to use on any social network. I don't really know where to begin to tell someone how inappropriate this is. I think its highly unprofessional for an official government website.

But thats just me, your mileage may vary. So, go ahead, give it a shot if you so want. In the mean time I'll visit the Health Ministry website and try to find an online game you can play while you wait for them to activate our free health insurance!


Dec 24, 2011

Marsh land in Kulhudhuffushi ...


Some say its marsh land. Some say its a body of water. Some say its fresh water, others say its brackish water. Whatever they say, This is a beautiful place. I went there one afternoon and it was very peaceful. A must visit if you are in the area.

H.Dh. Kulhudhuffushi,

Dec 23, 2011

Abandoned: Back to nature ...


From where I come, I will return.
Just a stone's throw away from the last house on the main road, an old abandoned truck is being claimed back by nature. Half of it has already gone! I'm told this is one of the first trucks to be brought on to the island for the harbor project.
I wanted to do an HDR of this, but I didn't get enough time set up a tripod and take multiple shots. I should have! Next time, maybe.

H. Dh. Kulhudhuffushi,

Dec 22, 2011

Children's park at Kulhudhuffushi ...


Children playing in an elevated play house at a small children's park.
Malé needs to get more of these children parks soon. We need them more than ever now.

H. Dh. Kulhudhuffushi

Dec 13, 2011

iTunes: Thanks for the free stuff …



I have said it before and I'll say it again. I am not crazy about iTunes. Its one of the most unresponsive piece of software I use on my Mac. Maybe, I'm not using it right, maybe I'm not using it enough, I don't know. But that doesn't mean I won't use iTunes, I will. Especially when they give me free music, videos, apps and more.

I don't exactly know when I started checking out the free stuff they offer on iTunes, but I'll tell you this; some of the songs and stuff iTunes offers for free are really good. Free is not always crappy.

Problem is, they keep the free stuff up for a limited time only. Mostly, a week or so. After that, you got to pay for it.

So its important that you check iTunes regularly for free stuff. Thats easier said than done. However, I did find some blogs that help you find free stuff on iTunes. They keep their blogs updated with all the latest offers in all iTunes markets. They all pretty much have the same information, so subscribing to one of them would probably get you all you need.

Here are the links to those blogs:
Free iTunes Donwnloads 
iT’S Free Downloads 
US iTunes Free Downloads 

Also, if you are in dire need to update your music collection, check out SPIN magazine. They come out with free playlists on iTunes about once a month, I think its called the LSTN series. Just head over to SPIN website and grab the code. Make sure you redeem it and download the playlist from iTunes before it expires at the end of each month.

If you know or use anything free like SPIN playlists to get your music, please do let me know in the comments. I would like to check them out. Free is always good!

Enjoy your music.


Dec 11, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises: The legend ends ...


Looks great!
In the meantime, enjoy the wallpaper.

Dec 10, 2011

Sin tax: Heavily taxing our smokes ...



Rant mode: ON

Cigarette prices have increased dramatically over the past week. Today I paid more than double the price last week for a pack of Camel Blue. Yep, no more Camel Lights!

Smoking is injurious to health. Though there is a continuous debate about the risks of passive second hand smoke, the general consensus among us all is that cigarette smoking puts you and other around you at risk. I believe so too.

There is absolutely no doubt, cigarette smoking is a prominent public health concern in the Maldives, especially with almost 50% prevalence rate in youth demographic. Health Ministry officials must be planning and working on clever ways to deter smokers, or so I assume. I assume, because I've not seen many anti-smoking campaigns in the country. Except to periodically increase excise tax of cigarettes.

It seems our government is on a tax spree these days. They are taxing anything and everything, so there is no reason why cigarettes should not be taxed, especially when tax money is used to build, run and maintain public services — including health facilities. Sin tax for the betterment of the country? Sure!

Simply put, if you are responsible for paying the hospital bills (read: Madhana, national insurance plan) for a group of people, you will want them to refrain from damaging their health. That is a no brainer. Though some people advocate that the government should not try to be the moral compass for smokers, I personally believe that, the government has every right to help the citizens stay healthy.

However, I vehemently disagree with the method employed by the government to curb cigarette smoking. Doubling or tripling excise taxes and thus exponentially increasing the retail price of cigarettes feels lot less like a Government initiative to discourage smoking but more like a callous effort to balance the national budget.

This is the Government we are talking about and I don't suppose we  need to tell them that cigarettes are addictive in nature and that addiction plays an important role in the decision making and purchasing process of smokers. Any regulation that limits smoking or freedom of smokers will be met by stark criticism.

Every society on this planet has its vice. Maldives being a muslim country, the only legal vice we can afford to indulge in is smoking. Drastic changes in prices of an addictive product like cigarettes may actually have unintended consequences. Off the top of my head, here is what comes to mind.

Craving will triumph price. It won't reduce the number of smokers. Smoking is addictive. Price elasticity of demand does not apply to cigarettes. An increase in cigarette prices has had nil to little impact in consumption. Cigarettes remain price inelastic. A price increase has never diminished the number of smokers in a community. However, there is some indication that it may deter potential smokers who light up for the first time. This is the only group of people who will respond to a price increase.

Cheap cigarettes will flourish. This may actually make people smoke more. We all want to smoke fresh top brand cigarettes but when you can't afford the premium, you settle for cheap sub-standard products. Used to smoke Camel Lights? Now you will smoke Lucky Strike from Sri Lanka, Dunhill from Indonesia and Marlboro from China. Cheap cigarettes will flood the market. This will again put existing smokers at more risk. Not good.

Smuggled and contraband cigarettes. Cheap cigarettes for everyone and a decrease in government revenue. If there is enough demand for a product or service, someone will surface somewhere to provide just that. When onerous taxes are levied on cigarettes it will induce smuggling and open up the market for illicit traders to cater for consumer demand for cheaper cigarettes. This will push the trade underground and off the books. Total tax-paid industry volume of cigarettes may decrease. Not good.

Increase in crime rate and corruption. If you can't afford to feed your addiction, you are bound to make hasty decisions which might involve participating in illegal activities. Criminal networks that specialize in cigarette smuggling and street vending operate more comfortably in small countries with high cigarette tax but lack proper monitoring controls. Also, the level of tobacco smuggling tends to rise with the degree of corruption in a country. Naturally.

If the rationale of this sudden increase in excise tax is to reduce smoking amongst the population, that is a sadly misinformed and unfortunate decision. Personally, I think the only way to significantly reduce cigarette consumption in the country is through early preventive education starting from childhood. Price alone won't change anything, not with smokers.

The average politician may think that a staggering price increase may make Maldives slowly and diffidently quit smoking. I think not, it will just make us go more broke!

That enough ranting. Now I need a Dunhill Light.

Rant mode: OFF


Dec 6, 2011

Desktopography: Got some good stuff ...



It goes without saying that these days, one has to spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Be it work, play or both.

I spend a few hours on my laptop everyday and I have this bad habit of saving my current and no so current projects on my Desktop. As it happens, I get to stare at my Desktop more than I want to. I never could break the habit of organizing my Desktop files, but did manage to pick up on changing my Desktop wallpaper in a desperate effort to make my Desktop look better.

I know people who are obsessed to change their Desktop backgrounds everyday. Hell, I know people who use special programs to automatically download and change their Desktop backgrounds everyday. I am much too lazy. I don't change my backgrounds months on end.

The picture you see here is the current Desktop background on my laptop. Got it free from Desktopography.

I went from Landscapes to Gothic to semi-nude girls. Movie posters to pictures I took while out and about to default OS X Backgrounds. Having a liking to dark abstract these months.

What does your background look like and where did you get it from?