“The simple reality that we can trace back the elements that are found in us and everything else around us to processes in the cosmos is nothing short of awe-inspiring. That “We are all stardust” has to be highest form of exaltation we could give ourselves. That as much as we are in the cosmos, the cosmos is in us. If there is anything close to what I find spiritual, then that is it.” – Me.

Though the thoughts aren’t new, the realization is: Of my personal relation to the cosmos. It brings me to tears, almost, when I understand the scale of things, of what is out there, that unlike stories & religion’s bullah, this is a real relation. Sure, it is just my highly developed, reasoning brain, which seeks to find meaning in everything I see, that brings about this realization. Oh, the universe doesn’t care, but I care to find out more.

Late Dr. Carl Sagan was right when he said that astronomy is a “humbling and character building experience”. Damn right.

Three links:
Pale Blue Dot

Dr.Richard Dawkins – Open Your Eyes

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson at Beyond Belief (Start from 01:02:00, ~20 minutes) 

This post is a response, a part of what will be an ongoing conversation with my friend wwf who has given this all-too-familiar-but-wiped-under-the-rug topic a (re?)start.+

To make a case for atheism and a case against the need for organized religion*, I do have to make a few assumptions about belief:

i. Your god did, at least, direct someone to write those books, if he (ever wondered why it’s usually ‘he’?) didn’t write it himself.

ii. The books claim mutually exclusivity in being correct.

iii. That, in fact, there is a great deal of similar phrases, ideas, metaphors (oh I like this one), stories, beginnings, endings & predictions amongst all these books or as some claim: complete each other. (“Spiritualists”, yes, that one is for you).

iv. That your god somehow intervenes in the workings of this world and our lives. Even now.

There is a reason I named this blog “Infinite Ascent”.

So, lets begin, what is atheism? It is purely a rejection of belief in the supernatural, the god-of-the-gaps, the creator of any caste, creed or religion. That is all that this term dictates. It does not describe morality, scientific inquiry or political ideologies. I will come back to this, maybe later as the conversation progresses. I think at this point, quite early indeed, I should mention why I take this stance and perhaps that would be my opening statement.

“I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet, that I haven’t understood enough, that I can’t know enough, that I’m always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” – Christopher Hitchens

I am considered to be one amongst the many nerds that inhabit this planet along with the ‘normal homo-sapiens’ on this tiny planet in a rather ordinary solar system. (I resent the term nerd, by the way.). Now I have been bought up in a very normal home and a quiet neighborhood almost completely shielded from the perils of the normal world (Though, I doubt the meaning of ‘normal’ and how biased that term is), but, indeed, it did direct my approach towards many things – education, behavior towards others, view on politics, religion etc. My grandmother, who was a chemistry professor with a zeal to teach that is similar to how Dr. Feynman would explain magnetism, is my Jonathan Livingston Seagull (if you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend you do.). Indirectly, without my conscious knowledge, she taught me to be inquisitive & questioning of authoritative claims. I accept that I haven’t been very vocal in my school or undergraduate days unlike now. My father, a scientist and professor,  remains a constant of source of encouragement in my pursuit for understanding this world better and my mother who, again, without ever having to directly mention any words, taught me to see all people without coloring them by their beliefs. But neither my grandmother was, nor my parents are people without faith. A lot on the liberal side, indeed. This is where I come from.

Losing my religion.

I get questioned a lot, especially these days – surprisingly from people who have been on my Facebook friend list for quite a while, who do give their opinions on topics such as sports, tech, music, humor etc. “Are you an… atheist?” they ask. (How do people actually use their Facebook app? – a topic for another post, I guess). A simple ‘yes’, of course, doesn’t suffice, and then I, yes, I have to do the justification – and not them – for disagreeing to reject the obvious: that there is no plausible & provable way a ‘allah’, ‘jesus’, ‘brahma’  or FSM can exist. Funny how the world works.

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” – Douglas Adams

Now, I have never been really ‘religious’. Though I was indeed someone with tremendous amount of respect for this divine entity that was presented to me – in various forms – many in the hindu community, one in the christian, one in the muslim. I could never really make out the difference. Even as a kid, these holy books never made any sense to me. Really, why would god need a book to communicate with? and chants and prayers? Why would he (why ‘he’? was a question too) would create us to do a role play when he knows what will happen in the end? Many questions that were never answered when I was a child, and now I know for a fact that it cannot be.

I can’t pin point from when on I never believed in a deity of any that is clearly defined. But there are several factors that have had a compounded effect in helping me conclude that I need no such belief. The first was my interest in the stars. Sometime during my 4th – 5th grades, I was gifted the “Childcraft Encyclopedia”. Book #7 – The Universe was one that absolutely blew me away. A few years later, it was the ever popular “Brief History of Time” that completely changed my understanding of the universe and gave me a small sample of what is out there and what part is still unknown. Come undergraduate, I read Dr. Michio Kaku’s “Hyperspace” – a fun read on space in higher dimensions, possible explanations for the origins of the universe. I had never connected all this to a god. I had almost no interest in any such beings, any religion. But the spark came from fiction, surprisingly: Da Vinci Code – an average piece of fiction. And this was 6 years ago.

In these past 6 years of being an atheist, I have never had a single moment where I have had to reconsider my stand.

Against all gods.

That was a slight digression into my past, perhaps amusing to you. Now back to what I was talking (rather, typing) about earlier: the questions I get. I will try to answer as parts – why god, why faith & why religion.

“Why is the purposeful suspension of critical thinking a good thing?” – Bill Maher

When we were young, we have all wished for miracles – of various kinds – god to help us in exams, to win that game, to get that game you longed for etc. A year ago, my young cousin told me about her tooth-fairy to which I could only give an amused smile. I wasn’t sure if I should break the superstition. But she is still too young to understand.

What I am getting at… is that this same superstition (is there another?) is seen amongst adults. “Oh I believe that allah has this n that planned for me if I blow myself up”, “My faith tells me he made the universe in 6 days and adam n eve made us all…”. I really have to ask you – are you even thinking about what you are saying? Faith is by definition belief in that which has no proof and usually claimed by the faithful (even the liberal ones) as what we should have, to hope… or rather wish for.

I agree, we have all have faith in some or the other. I have faith in reason & the Enlightenment, in the spirited adventure of scientific discovery, in the ability of humanity to rise above itself and in love towards ones of our own species and the rest of it. I am not arguing against that which has gotten us this far. (Before you say “ah, even religion took us forward”, no, religion only slowed us down.). I am arguing against superstition and its, yes, sale in bulk. Some of you might say “Ah, we eat the flesh of christ on sunday but astrology… ah, pure hokum” and some vice-verse and others would say that both are superstition but that their god spoke to a desert nomad who was probably a schizophrenic as well. Really, aren’t you being hypocrites? Where are your critical thinking faculties which you so very correctly apply to everything else but your religion/faith?

“Religions tell children they might go to hell and must believe. Science tells children they came from the stars and presents reasoning they can believe…” – “Phil-Hell-Eenz

That one quote captures almost everything I despise about religion and why I embrace science as the only tool available to us which can reveal the deep mysteries of the cosmos and at the same time help us lead better lives.

As far as I can remember, religion has asked me to believe – in the eternal, ever existing being – the multitude of gods that are a part of the religion I had once followed. Many a times I have wondered – why do these beings seem to be an anthropomorphized versions of the natural world, only to answer to myself that maybe these are the gods taking care of all these events. Slowly these beliefs have eroded, making way for naturalistic explanations. Not for all, I will get back to the ones that have not been answered.

Similar cases can be seen in other religions as well. Like Christianity’s (rather, the church’s) vile idea of  limbo which is now taken off (it was not a core doctrine, but practiced.), its sale of indulgences, its pathetic excuses for pedophilia & Islam’s intolerant stand on free speech. Christianity’s rise also saw the end of the great library at Alexandria – and death of amongst many, the philosopher & mathematician – Hypatia (maybe for other reasons as well)  who had almost discovered what Copernicus would find out 1300 years later – displacing earth from the center. They took nearly 400 years to apologize for Galileo being right. To save their own ass (at least), they sided with Hitler. And Rwanda? How so low its teaching that some one was crucified for my sins which I may or may not make or were made? Its obsession with what marriage should be defined as as if it has some moral right to say so. This (Set aside ~40 minutes; part of a big debate which ended like this) is a better summary of why the catholic church is far from being any good unlike any claims made about its greatness.

Islam? Should I even start on this? And what about hinduism? I must praise it for coming quite close to modern cosmology, but still it too is filled with its superstitions, its vile (now mostly defunct) practices – sati, its caste system – part of the books or not, it was and is part of the culture and mostly, for its current ardent followers – its absolute obsession with making India a ‘hindu state’ (a topic I will get back later).

What has religion done other than segregate? Even today – at least in my country – religion plays a role in who you can be with, family “statuses” make and break relations – be it christian, hindu, muslim or division based on geography. Religion stopped science advances – even in the past decade – by the stupidity of the decision to ban stem cell research to take an example.

If (not A) does not imply B, so why science then?

When I became convinced that the Universe is natural – that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, of the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust.” -Robert Green Ingersoll

In these past 4 years, I have read, watched, listen to more about the study of the natural world than ever before. I have learnt a bit of what is already known – at least I think of it that way. And what is known is certainly hinting that we know more n more about less n less. Compare what the the last 400 years of scientific advancement and the 4000 years of religious history. Our ever increasing knowledge gained through science and reasoning has showed us our real place in vast cosmos, birth of life, our relationship to earth and the universe, improved our way of life, made us realize that beyond our color difference, beliefs, education, location on the map, age or sex – that we are all the same. It has given us a new understanding of our existence and continues to enrich us with reality – that though we may be insignificant and even the planet doesn’t consciously know of our existence – we are, as the late Dr.Carl Sagan says, a way for the cosmos to know itself. In the whole of the cosmos – though unlikely – we might be the only beings capable of understanding all this. At every stage – religion has had to recede its claims of god and his magical ways when science provides a natural explanation. flat world, wrong, (imperfect) sphere. center of universe, no, far from being significant. diseases? no witchcraft or prayer, yes medicine. religion says yes slaves, humanism & science – no, we are all the same. etc etc…

I find this path to be more enriching than to live in hopes of living past my death or praying to something for there is no evidence or even a single good reason (at least one plausible reason for any one god). Better to be living for the now and to ensure a future for our species than to let people maintain superstition and have delusion make claims in public spheres. I also find our reality to be grossly out of place with belief in organized religion out there. The fundamentalists are cuckoo into ‘believing’ nonsense over provable fact. And the liberals are already walking on thin ice attempting to be accommodating of both science and religion when clearly the two have no correlation. Really – jesus n resurrection when the bible seems to be all messed up n conveniently read as metaphor or literal so as to fit current scientific understanding? that allah spoke to a desert nomad? that gods n demons actually churned the seas? all or some of this and you agree that we are a product of astonishing natural phenomena? I am surprised anyone can call themselves rational and still have this cognitive dissonance within them. I mentioned earlier that I call this blog “infinite ascent” for a reason: its just as a celebration of the ever ascending human spirit. Victory over dogma, superstition, improving our life, and preparing ourselves for the future.

I simply reject or rather, do not even begin to accept a case for god of the books because of the implausibility of such a being ever existing. I shall go into more details as the conversations progresses.

pardon, the thoughts might be a bit mixed up. I shall make up for it in the later posts.

peace,

-Suraj

P.S

+ – It is also in response to the many arguments/debates/discussions that some notice and take part on my Facebook page.

* – This is necessary because devoid of religion, god has no ‘specific’ meaning; we would be all atheists with respect to another’s belief. A case against organized religion and its spin-offs is necessary condition, certainly not a sufficient condition for proof against a personal, interacting god.

 

Recently, well, in the past few months I have been receiving some (mostly offline) comments on the posts I make on facebook. The status messages, the articles, the videos & even pictures. Well, let’s say there is some truth to it. I am not trying to make a case against it. In fact I don’t have to.

The accusations, if I may use the word, came from slightly varying angles. The main one is that all or at least majority of my posts are about atheism. I will attempt to, shortly, refute with reasons. The others are more genuine concerns like if I am pushing my atheism religiously across the social networking platform and the least bothering was why I can’t I just live n let live?

For the first point, in the past 4.5 months, I have made a total of 392 posts including the status updates. (This does not include me commenting on other pages, of course). And 304 posts, if the status updates aren’t counted. These include articles, youtube (or other video sharing links) & photos on my page/albums. The total number of links, with even a shade of religion in them, comes up to 82. Or 102 if status updates (even remotely) related to religion are counted. I have counted in some evolution related links/status updates within religion-related posts because the discussions that ensued on those posts were mostly me (and some others), not just, defending evolution, but also having to take the writers-axe at those trying to mix up religion and evolution.

So now 82 out of 304 is like ~27%. Or almost 1 in 4 posts (sometimes, remotely) related to religion. So to say that my facebook page is all about atheism is wrong. It is almost the case of seeing the hits and forgetting all about the misses.

This answers the 2nd question (Taking my atheism to a religious level), though not in its entirety. There is more to it. I agree that I see religion in a negative light. But I really do not want to spend any time with religion, or even debate it. I’d be happy if it did let me go on my way. When I say ‘me’ – I mean – the rest of the world that does not care about a particular religion, say X. Now extend that to every religion – I would let it be if it just remained ONLY with people who want to practice it. When it stops rearing its head where it is not supposed to be – which is progress of science, freedom of speech/expression, human rights, I would stop taking a stab at it. (On a side note: that should also make it clear that I do not bother with people having any sort of faith). But it just can’t. It has to intrude my news-seeking radar and I don’t hesitate to share it. I am sure a few minds are intrigued, some think, some try reasoning, some argue. And that is the intention: raise awareness, actively. (I am happy no one ever came up with the (by default – doomed-to-fail –) argument that I am trying to ‘convert’ people to atheism!)

Adding more to the case I am making, I do post a LOT that can be classified under the broad category – science. I don’t have the exact statistics now, but from the 222 not-related-to-religion posts, over a 100 would in the science field. (A wide variety of topics comprise of the remaining 100 odd posts). Most of the science topics come under cosmology and some in the field of evolution, some in cognitive neuroscience, and some in the field of computer science. I do post with intent.

There are two reasons. First is interest, just as much as others post videos of movie trailers, or their horoscope, favorite song of the day, what they did that day and anything and everything that interests them, I do the same. I find study of the natural world and the cosmos and everything in between to be absolutely awe-inspiring and be in a position where I can make a miniscule of addition to the vast knowledge our species has gathered over the ages, thrills me. Also, it was the best way to spend time (Consider the fact: in the past 1 year, my travel means and budget is highly limited).

The second reason: The intent is to keep the people informed. Of course, I am sure 85%+ of the people in my friends list just give it a pass. Some put in an effort to read, some are genuinely interested, some more knowledgeable than me who give me extra information or correct me. Here is where my belief kicks in – I believe, very strongly, that an educated crowd, at least those in some touch with the world of science, like me, can in fact make a difference or at least attempt to. Once scientifically literate – the world really does look a lot different.

And scientifically does not mean atheism.

I use facebook as a platform to share my interests. It is that simple. It just so happens that my likes are not in line with the usual stuff people post.

Cheerio!

-neo.

P.S: And I finally break the writer’s block!

I finally went for a movie. No, it wasn’t Avatar or Hurt Locker. (Though I wish I could’ve seen those as well). This was sort of like a cult movie. Depending on how you define ‘cult’. I watched the movie ‘Creation’ – the story of Charles Darwin – his life (After the Beagle voyage to the point where he publishes the book).

I am sure some of you would’ve read the reviews. Some may have kept it aside for later viewing. Some may have not heard about it. And still some – would never ‘dare’ to watch it. But I fancy the possibility that you haven’t watched it yet for some reason and attempt to review it. If you have seen it and digress from what I would have to say, leave it as a comment. :)

The movie isn’t so much about the fact of evolution as much as it is the story about the relation between Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany) and his wife – Emma Darwin (Jennifer Connelly), and the relation between him and his daughter Annie (who passes away due to a mysterious illness, but appears to him as alive) – of course, culminating in the publication of what is probably the most important idea/theory/fact of our time.  I went with 3 friends, but once the movie started, I was more than absorbed by the life of 19th century genius and naturalist. The depiction moved me to tears. I should, now, point out that I went there with a certain mind set split and set by 2 preconceptions – 1.) I was watching a movie that is sort of like ‘Passion of Christ’ for naturalists (I will get to this a little later). And 2.) The reviews were rather average – and I wasn’t very impressed then. (On further thought, it is almost like the story of John Nash. Of course, in a very different way)

Now, from the books about Darwin, I come to understand that the movie is almost entirely accurate in its story. I was particularly moved by the depiction of the dilemma caused because of his wife’s faith and his love for her on one hand and his indisputable findings of the nature of life and Nature itself on the other hand. And his daughter’s “ghost” – rather “vision”, almost, haunting him – coupled with the just mentioned dilemma pushing him to the verge of losing his mind.

I mentioned twice now that this was sort of a cult movie and that it is something like the “passion of christ” for naturalists/rationalists/atheists like me; here’s why: I saw P.o.C when I was in the 3rd of under-grads. I watched the movie with rapt attention. I wasn’t moved to tears watching it. I couldn’t explain why I didn’t feel any sort of emotion to what any christian would consider amongst their most important if not fav movies. I am coming to realize my inner, unconscious reasoning now: I just couldn’t believe it was real. (I wasn’t really an atheist then, mind you). I found it to be a little to grating on my intellect that someone would put themselves through all this to save us of our sins which we would committed eitherway because the same fellow getting tortured had already set it all up to happen, in the first place. Stupid circular logic. This topic is for my next blog entry.

You are perfectly right to ask me why I would compare “Creation” with “Passion of Christ”. The latter (attempts to) reinforces the old myths of creation whereas the former is the story of a man (for one, really existed) who put across a completely natural explanation for the origin of species from the point life was first conceived. (The beginning of life remains a mystery still). We have come nearly 150 years since the publication of this book. All, and I mean *all* of what we have learnt about biology, chemistry, physics, and every related branch of science that advanced past the publication of “Origin of Species”  points and reinforces what Darwin explained from his work that spanned nearly 2 decades – meticulous collection of evidence. So much for the digression from the movie.

Back to the topic at hand: This movie took sometime to be released in the US of A. Any guesses why? I add this insanity and inanity to my ever growing list of religious madness, and an addition to Hitchens’ line: ‘religion poisons everything’.

Anyway, this movie isn’t about destroying or blasphemy of god. This movie is the story of an highly respectable man and his family, ever so clearly, succinctly and intelligently demonstrating the extraordinary simplicity and elegance of the fact of evolution and the natural world.

The movie closes with Darwin’s unusually poetic last paragraph of the ‘Origin of Species’:

“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

I highly recommend this movie to you. Unless you amongst those who are vehemently against Darwin, you would definitely enjoy the movie.

I was chatting with a friend of mine, and it was Jan 26th in India. She goes off for nearly 20 minutes and returns, asking me to check out the new version of  ‘Mile Sur Mera Thumhara’ (Old & New). I was about to end my work shift, and being halfway across the globe and no TV – my quick search for the video on youtube/google ended with me getting 1 minute clips. She confirmed that the song was nearly 15 minutes long (turns out its 16+ minutes long).

The first of the 1 minute clips had one by a singer unknown to me – it sounded ok. The next had Deepika Padukone in a new-age bollywood *cough cough* dress doing something like a rain-song singing ‘msmt’ (shortened it :P) in an (for lack of a better word) erotic tone, and evidently lip-synced video. I wasn’t sure if this really was the song my friend was talking about: it sort of didn’t reflect the ‘spirit’ of the song. I checked further – Priyanka Chopra doing something that looks like a song bit from a cliched … i mean, bollywood… movie. Totally out of place, with kids – out of place because of her lack of sync with the song, the setting and the emotion (if there were any). Then I realized the ‘Zoom’ channel logo towards the end. I had a dread growing in my mind that it was a hostile-bollywidiot (not my original) takeover. But I thought to myself  – “hey, this is just 3 out of 16 minutes” and I left my workplace.

The next day (when it was 26th where I am), I check my facebook to see posts by atleast 2 people who said it was awesome and one by my schoolfriend who completely detested it. I got a couple of 8-minute-each links to the new ‘revived edition’ of ‘Phir MSMT’. It took me atleast the rest of the day to get a link to the entire song. It started off with traditional AR Rehman playing what I understand if a ‘Fingerboard’. In a post I shall link to, towards the end, the blogger doesn’t really put that instrument at par with other music-machines. Anyways. About 1 minute through what sounded really soulful, here comes Big B with the Taj setting. Now I was beginning to form some sort mental image about this video (combining it with what I saw the previous night).

I am going to keep this short and not detail what the other singers did. It was what can be put mildly as crass, narcissistic bollywood piffle. Those ratbags of bolly-morons have made what is being elevated as ‘The Song of India’. They have tried to make Bollywood the face of India. Which it isn’t. These bunch of actors who are just the clay for those, rarely creative and even more rarely original, directors and script writers have been hoisted as the new face of our country. Only if I had dictatorship for just one day…

I do not want to reiterate this excellent review of ‘pmsmt’, but I want to, just, highlight the lows of this disgraceful rendition of the original:

1.) Bollywood overkill

2.) Disappointing editing – with plenty of lip-sync issues, clear-as-day-with-sun mismatch between the bollyacting (read: overacting) and the setting and lyric.

3.) Failed attempt to add the armed forces towards the end to wither out of all the inanity that preceded it. (This is the last one minute).

4.) Just the movie stars? Where is everyone else?

5.) Specifically – the Salman bit – is he selling his brand? The children in the background are only hearing impaired. He is mentally impaired, well – so it seems are many others in that video.

6.) I am developing this new found disrespect for Aamir Khan for his part.

7.) There is no ‘Soul’ in this song, no life to it. It looks like a marketing gimmick, and confirms that once the ‘z00m’ logo comes up at the closing. (Now that’s one retarded channel, imo).

8.) Shahid Kapoor doing the singing bit. Come to think of it – every thing that an actor in this song does is replication of what they did in one of their movie. Damn, they copied their own actions as well. Not that those ‘stunts’ have any coherence with what the song is all about, its that they (of course, the director’s involvement as well) can’t be original. how hard they try, they just can’t. And Shah Rukh Khan really has to stop the arms-wide-open stunt.

I have been thinking, how did this come about to being? Our media is now almost free-for-anything.Maybe we should reconsider our opinions and support for this industry. Perhaps reminding the bollywidiots that they are just actors. That would be a start.

Directors/Produces/Actors/whoever-related, perhaps it was done with all ‘your’ real interest in mind, but it didn’t reflect on anything that the rest (majority) of the sane nation has to display. This remains a marketing gimmick and I hope its soon forgotten. The 1988 version still remains the only one. And there no need for revival – it is still timeless. As for this – it ain’t in phase with me or almost anyone I know nor with almost anyone that anyone, I know, knows!

Really, “Mile Apasur Mera Thumara”.

Damn, a nice holiday spoiled by some disgusting news. Hypocrisy oozes. The double standards of the catholic church came to light – actually just news that piles on.

Here it is-

Link 1 – the Int’l version.

Link 2 – the Indian version.

I hear people praise the church for its greatness, kindness and being the cornerstone of moral values. Ah, “What a f***ing Joke?”.  When a bad news comes along – only those people involved are picked on. As can be read, nearly 4 archbishops were involved in keeping these scandals down. I wouldn’t be surprised that others are involved. These ‘Men of God’ are just humans, and evidently involved in pedophilia – how could they be the ones who pass on the word of the great santa jesus? Not that I am accusing the pope – but he too came through these ranks – ought to be a human just as much, so how can you be even sure what he is saying is something God told him (like the birth control joke)? How can be considered to be someone greater than us (of course, lesser than jebus)? Yet these very people are still looked up to. Kinda double standards, aint it? Ah, add the word ‘Religious’ to any act, and lo n behold, its an one that is beyond human control and laws of the land. Everything becomes legal. Christopher Hitchen’s made a statement in his book “God is not great”, a one liner – ‘No child’s behind left’ – pointing out the issues of child abuse within the catholic ranks (using the tag of the NCLB law that was passed in 2002 in the US). And the atrocities continue. Moderately religious people, knowingly or (most often) unknowingly become the facade/wall for these sexually repressed people, just as much it fuels the fundamentalist. Please take a look at the cost at which your solace and comfort comes.

This is what happens when moral values, religious beliefs, politics & money are conflated. “But I believe in the church” is really a stupid statement in this regard. It is based on circular reasoning. The church is the very body consisting of the clergy. and those are the very people involved. A great many number, I hear. Maybe I am wrong about the number, but still. And I also agree, there are good people as well. But lets look at it this way – when satyam computers was charged with the scams (actually its CEO), a lot many number of employees were considered to be a part of the sham. The actions of a few people in charge defamed everyone else, just because we couldn’t be sure. Why is the church so immune to this? The very clergy who are part of this atrocity are the people who ‘pass on the good message’. Just because they pass on a good message don’t make them good people. When was the last time someone went to a convicted criminal to seek some good values? Something I can’t understand is the lengths to which people go to justify these atrocities.

Take this: (from Link 2)

Dr Paul Thelekkat, a spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Catholic church said he had some sympathy for sister Jesme, and respected her freedom to express her views, but he believed her claims were trivial. “How far what she says is well-founded I can’t say, but the issues are not very serious. We’re living with human beings in a community and she should realise this is part of human life,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

Just wow. :|

My point is – we are all human – even the pope/mullah/high priest. Understand that they are fallible. How silly are people when they look up to priests, esp when many are tainted by such crimes? Hence ergo, that what all the leaders of the religions say/preach should be reasoned within our current framework – morally, logically and be evidence based. Just because we find something going against our belief doesn’t mean that the evidence is wrong or fabricated, but that we may have to reevaluate our sources of reason and in this case – morality. The pillars of faith are only as strong as what the constituents of those pillars are. And we can see, now, clearly, that these break down. Hence be sure the ‘high ground’ built on these pillars might fall.

Be humble, we may fall, our beliefs might be proven wrong, but realizing that these beliefs might be replaced by new ones would help a lot in preserving our ability to reason, to be objective, to be moral, and not let such cretins and bigots run the show.

I am torn between the meaning of the day – ‘Thanksgiving’. I had great time with my friend’s at a home, the family had invited us. Yes, I did enjoy the lunch and the time there – very nice people, but these questions lingers in my head where I am unable to get a clear picture –

Do we really have to pay such a price to enjoy such a holiday? How far are we going to remain silent? Have we lost sight of our humanity in the name of the divine? Really, has evidence no more value with rise in subjective thinking, that objective truths have no value?

Most importantly – who is to blame?

Shakespeare’s quote that is apt, and true:

“But then I sigh, and with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil.
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stolen forth of holy writ,
And seem I a saint, when most I play the Devil.”

:angry & confused:

neo.

The past 3 years are definitely my most cherished. I have been, for a while now, searching for the reason. Then suddenly, like Michael Jackson’s father, it hit me! It was because of ‘the brotherhood’: the symbiotic, invisible entity that kept a few of us at “Flat No.2” running on “crazy_godmode ON” for the past 3 years and is still continuing to.All the madness, the insanity that constituted our day, everyday for those 3 years, made “Flat no.2” transform into “Makkanville” – a home for the mentally unchallenged, creatively eclectic and ingenious, psychotically friendly, suicidally instinctive, constantly high even without a single drop of alcohol or drugs,  & of course completely MAK! (No, only the privileged few know what ‘MAK’ means, so if you don’t and want to  – you need to qualify through a few tests or otherwise I could, but then I will have to shoot you. heh :P)

The very description of the orkut community – an outcome of that very instinct – reads:

“22 years of each of our lives we have tread through different roads culminating in an exquisite tapestry of events, which in the words of lesser theist mortals is described as providence. The world taught us to think demanding our silent and obedient consent.

But now we sought to end that silence.”

And ‘end’, we did. We were so loud that we are pretty sure the rest of the families and other bachelors who stayed in the adjacent flats were deaf. :D

I was discussing the current state of makkanville with mr. neo ‘kuttominium’ kurian (yes, as destructive as a uranium bomb), recently. We are both not in India now, and came to the same conclusion about Makkanville – it was paradise… a para-dise. a home away from home.  Even Prony agrees! In all the chaos and disorder, there was real life. Not a moment of stillness or dullness.

Almost every thought was followed by action – no matter what time of the day / night – hunger, gaming, discussions, movies, photography sessions, bike/car drives through the city or even across state for happily missing the train! :D. Act-on-instinct was a part of the makkan culture. And also extremely similar tastes in music, movies, games It was what really bonded us as really fast friends than just being roommates working in the IT sector. Our interests were all varied with some overlap – just enough that every one remained an individual, yet didn’t live oblivious of the others living in the same home.

Gaming and movies was the first to catch on. Killer CS gaming rounds followed by Tekkan massacres and Gears of War DMs and Guitar Hero and Kratos mania! Movies – English, Old comedy mallu was available on tap. Those night long discussions sometimes went from deeply spiritual topics to absolutely silly ones where each of laughed our head off to no ends. Usually after such discussions, someone (:D) would get hungry and the entire group would get to the bikes and the car .. in 5 minutes we’ll  be hogging off to glory at paramount or empire. (the 2 restaurants that remain open till 3-4AM in the morning.). Some may ask – why can’t these people just cook something rather than going out at night? – well, beyond the fact that all of us love to ride bikes, cooking has been a ‘special, highly restricted” procedure at Makkanville. Cooking rice and a curry could never have taken more time. 4-5 hours. Don’t ask further. Click here to know. Oh the birthday parties – we make sure the person celebrating his birthday wishes that he were never born, atleast on that day. The ‘brutal’ (:P) beating has been a trademark procedure (patent pending :D). Then there were the photography sessions. My goodness. Most start with the simplest click – probably a watch kept at an angle in a particular lighting. From there, it would start. Maybe for the next 5 hours or till the batteries last. Tech was always available. A quad core comp w/ ati4870 & 22″ LCD monitor, 5 laptops, x360, ps2, over 15 games, dSLRs, a HD handycam, and people who knew how exactly to use it. Time would just while away with each one getting the rest to learn something from him. And all this was so indirect, so without an intent to learn, but just to enjoy the time. Oh wow… what a time!

A few memorable incidents would be:

1.) That silly april fool trick that backfired!

2.) Mr. StapleCropofSrilanka messing up the train timings to getting us to rev up those bikes across the blore-cochin route!

3.) All the birthday ‘bashes’.

4.) Kuttominium and Gefa discussing the fish and ball story (KaPra and I were the witness to that, UltraPJ filled yet spectacular, 1 hour discussion.)

5.) Kuttominium, Gefa, Abhyen, KaPra & I on CS servers… with nade deaths!

6.) Cleaning up the mutant-testing lab… ahem, in other homes – it would be called…. no, you guessed it wrong,… its the kitchen! :D

7.) Late night bike ride to Bang 4 (when I had just got my bike).

8.) KaPra’s movie shooting and the death of Kuttominium! (in the movie!)

9.) “Veedu Aveshyam Kidu Chanda” and all the likes!

10.) Playing on one song over n over n over again…. :P Talk about overkill… ;)

11.) Gefa’s downloading sprees.

12.) KaPra’s movie rendering mania on his ol’ PC.

13.) Double Kill on the pressure cooker.

14.) Final cooking attempt

15.) Kuttominium’s Car tricks and the moonwalk. =)

There are many many more….

It was where life was truly celebrated throughout the year, at least for those of us who were a part of makkanville. It was madness.. but that kept us human.

Cheers to all the makkans – Ashu, Abhyen, Kuttominium, KaPra, Gefa, StapleCrop_Rubber, Porny, Arin, Faul, Kolla & Codey (There are some who are non-residents, to them too- you know who you are!).

“We are the Lords of all creation!”

\m/!

KK ;)

As many would’ve seen those status messages on gmail/facebook/twitter – saying how happy I am, and how I am really enjoying my studies, there is another side to the coin. Something disturbs me, unsettling me. I want to tell you a story, it ain’t my original idea – this is from Crazedream – shortened and abridged:

“Year 3000: Humanity has fallen, the great war, which happened 900 years ago, wiping away nearly the whole of human race. e-bombs wipe away almost the whole of the information networks and communication systems. Pushing back our life to 1500’s – so to say, technology wise, an entire generation passes away with people scattered in little pockets around the globe with no way of communicating with one another even a few 100 miles away. no radio, no morse code wires. A life spend attempting to survive – education remains on a low priority. Almost an animal way of life. With no real way of remembering how things were back before the war, those who eventually gather together try to piece together the history. Fear ran amok. Feared the black, smoke filled skies, the black waters filled with what they could guess to be garbage. There practically no to understand what has happened – atleast to fathom the change that has happened. Desparate to find a way to ward of their fears, they look for something to give them strength. There was a strange bright light that shown through the dark skies once in a day, it gave them warmth, the air felt less sooty – for a moment they felt better. There was a growing admiration amongst ‘the gathered’ for this ray of light. Everyday at around the same time of the day(or night) it would shine on a old wrecked out building which had board reading ‘library’. Inside they found some partially burnt copies of books. Some read of the amazing wizard kid who did (what we now know as) magical stunts, another showed pictures of a group of men and a women who strived to stop violence, of a man who was beyond ‘space and time’ known as dr.manhattan. They were amazed. People started making predictions. They really thought Dr. Manhattan or the Magic kid could be a divine entity. Some believed the former, some the latter…. hence there came up two races – one called themselves the ‘Watchmen’ and the other ‘Gryffindor’. The groups grew in number. Some became followers of ‘Moloch The Mystic’, some of the ‘Slytherin’. Some even of ‘Captain America’. Some of ‘Batman’! Some became absolutists and started drawing moral binary systems like those of ‘V’ and ‘Rorschach’. Eventually the population began to grow, people started to travel spreading the word. The usual order of peace was broken when, occasionally, when people started to debate the possibility of which God really existed. The worlds didn’t appear to coincide. It didn’t take long for debates to flare up, eventually rioting, fights, murders started to happen in the name of their God. No one till then had read the original copies found at the ‘library’. The copies were distributed. Once the fights started to ensue, some people protested. And requested the heads of each religion to show the original. Then people found out this that the word ‘Novel’ was written on the top left corner. Something no one had bothered to check – to dust away all that fine dust over the print. And when the religious books of other God’s were checked – they all had similar markings. There they understood the tragedy and their misunderstanding.”.

That is the story I wanted to tell you all.

I want to make a few of points here:

1.) I am sure many would’ve thought “What? Harry Potter? Dr. Manhattan? How silly can people be? Isn’t it obvious that its a story?”. Ask that to what you are believing in. Isn’t it EXACTLY based on this: Please click here. (That applies to any religion, btw).

2.) Another argument may come from the timespan, well, its a story I wanted to put across. I am not a futurist. But I do know the history. Most remain inconsistent with their origins. The Hindu books have no really specific time, but only a period in which these came into existence. The bible took almost 300 years to come out, in a  council convened by a power hungry ruler.

3.) How many of you have tried ‘dusting away’ the ‘dust’?

—-

So what is that I really want to convey here?

My point is that we are biased, almost involuntarily, to our beliefs. And I am talking about our religious beliefs. Some find that the man who walked on water and fed 100’s with a few loaves of bread is absolutely plausible whereas they find the events of Vishnu’s avatars to be clearly a parable, or that Muhammad  couldn’t have actually taken off on a flying horse is really a silly thing to say. Just because their holy books says that Christ is the only way. Its exactly what is shown in the link in Point #1.  That their beliefs are just as much a parable (not a really good story at that, btw) as the rest of them. There is something about indoctrination from childhood that makes believe so strongly that ‘our God’ really did visit earth and the rest are just making up stories. It is really childish to think so, almost as much as the belief is childish.

Dr. Francis Collins, Head of the NIH & the Genome Project, a remarkable scientist if you read his profile, makes one fallacy in his theory that there is an intelligent designer – that our morals is the most important ‘signpost’ left by God. Well, even I, a non biologist and non-psychologist and @ 25 years of age, can prove him wrong. I ask you, whoever is reading this – If you are a christian, then you must be aware that some parts of the old testament aren’t very human-friendly and pretty much violent. Right? Same – if you are a Muslim – again – many violent quotes? That is not actually what I wanted to point out. What I want to point out is – many say – “oh thats in the old testament” or “that is to be interpreted in a different way” or that “those quotes were written in their time” – do you observe an obvious fallacy on their stand regarding humanitarian values and ability to differentiate between good and bad? (Hinduism doesn’t work exactly in this way, but doesn’t mean its different) Very few may.

My friend mentioned it to me. The real question is – if you are able to find out what is good and bad about “God’s word” on your own and make a judgment to follow or reject those phrases – are you really getting your moral values from the ‘good book’?? Everytime you copy in that odd exam, or help someone with their assignment work? or trick someone into divulging information, or download a pirated software, or lie to a person, what is your moral premise? If most of us can’t justify our morality even in such trivial circumstances, how can we justify a rape, a murder, the holocaust (Hitler was a Christian, a weird one at that, and no, his books do not refer to Darwin/Evolution), the wars? And now for a really technical talk, by Dr. Andy Thomson who explains why Dr. Francis Collins and almost every who believes that they are moral because of their holy book, get it wrong. (its 51 mins long, so take time out to watch it, if you are interested. But I would insist.)

Another reason to write this entry, and to watch that video is that most of us just believe. Some to go with the tide, to be accepted in the community, some from fear, some due to pre-conceived notion of reaching heaven, some even for the money it tends to bring in. The most important factor, the one that tends to be overlooked is that just because we ‘believe’ it to be true, doesn’t make it true (as much as many have argued with me that just because I do not believe doesn’t mean that there is no God {I dunno why I use ‘G’ rather than ‘g’. Probably the last strain of ‘tolerance’ for this idea, that’s left in me. :P}). I read one page about the mail Prof. Richard Dawkins sent his daughter (ah, this site)- producing a part of it here:

“…And how do we know that Earth is a smaller ball whirling round one of those stars, the sun? The answer to these questions is ‘evidence.’ “.

Faith by its inherent explanation is believing without evidence. (I know you might be prompted to shout out about evolution, and astrophysics theories, hold your horses.). Answer this to yourself, do you have ANY proof outside of that ‘circular proof theory’ (link on Point#1)? Bet you don’t have anything but faith! Yes, getting back to what I wanted to say – most of the believers are just believers.  There is no real ‘reasoning’. I am not asking people to drop their faith, but analyze it. Scrutinize it. Observe if it holds with everyone. Oh, best is to apply the Baloney Detection Kit. (Its a really good way to test theories, of ANY kind.). Its both funny and sad that people who are otherwise, so knowledgeable and able to comprehend complex equations and diagrams, tend to see the irrationality of their faith.

Coming down to Darwin’s theory. Its the bicentennial year, and 150th year of publication of the Origin of Species. To be honest – I could accept this in class 6 or 7 of my school. But I didn’t connect this to what it meant to my, then theistic, beliefs. I never connected the two. I dunno if my teacher was thinking about its implication as well. Anyways. I submit that proof of evolution is not equivalent to proof that there is no higher power. But it does take apart, almost completely, the religious beliefs. Which is why its so controversial. Hell, I read about Darwin – even he couldn’t fathom, initially, what he had discovered. But now the controversy is really silly. There is almost an insurmountable proof for the theory of evolution by natural selection. Recently Ardi adding to the set already rock solid evidence. But many reject it, they have to accommodate their religious beliefs. This is absolutely criminal – to overlook evidence just because we have to accept that we were wrong in believing in something magical, if I maybe harsh. Like Prof. Dawkins call them – ‘History Deniers’. I like that term.

Many say people should accommodate others ideas. No, not the absurd ones!! When did you last accommodate the theory of a flat earth in your science class?? When did you last accept that ‘witch-hunting’ is good or ‘sati’ is acceptable or honor killings??

I am not sure if you’ve noticed, but we are, by nature & even choice, inherently ‘programmed’/prone to resist change. It is like the force of friction. A sense of fear. It opposes motion by acting against the applied force. But little given thought to,  is the fact that it is friction that allows for any motion. Overcoming that frictional force  is change. Evolution by Natural Selection is a prime example of the forward moving force, and our ‘resistance to change’ the necessary frictional force. Maybe our ability to lead an anti-Darwinian lifestyle where we actually are more altruistic than competitive (only in our capacity. But, to watch competition – look at a job fair :P). Its because of our highly evolved brain that we are able to do so. If you are altruistic because of your God, then how do you justify this? If only your religion is right, how was what happened inthe video possible? and how about the capability of elephants and dolphins to be astonishingly altruistic?  Any effort to point out that ‘God made them too’, I direct you to the picture on ‘Point# 1’ above in this post. If you continue to reject Evolution, you are just being ignorant with some desperate hopes. Get used to it – there is probably no one up there.

I talked to couple of my friends before writing this. Both theists and very close friends of mine. 1 person asked me to go ahead with this. The person didn’t reply due to a busy schedule. I have decided to go ahead with posting this because, though, this may sound unpleasant and grating on ones ‘closely held beliefs’ – there is something to be told – respect and tolerance are two different things. I have only the latter towards religious beliefs, but not much of the former if there is no way to question it. and it is important to question faith, religion and their gods just as much as any theory out there. (think I am getting over using the ‘G’!) Its important to know and to understand. Critique of a long held belief should happen and only with evidence should it be accepted.

To those who still doubt (not that I could convince you otherwise), should read the book ‘The greatest show on earth’ by Prof Dawkins, and ‘Why Evolution is True’ by Prof Jerry Coyne. Keep yourself informed and THEN if its still not a plausible theory to you, then you can continue with your 6000/2000/1400 year old belief systems. There is no real other way to explain to people than by presenting evidence. Evolution by Natural Selection is not a hypothesis. Its a fact. Just because we cannot gauge 4, 5, 60 million years, doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. It happened. And what we see around us and the change we see every minute is a proof affirming that theory. We think 2000 years was a long time ago when it was possible for a magic man to have done a lot of things, but 60 million – na! How absurd of you. Even the Church of England accepts evolution (I agree with it a little in its content.).

To question like why are we here, I honestly don’t think there is a reason why we are here, as in a pre ordained purpose. We create a purpose for ourselves by using our brains and skills to understand our world. The reason of our existence is a part of continuous process of evolution, this is our time. Don’t assume.

I am an atheist, not because I know everything, but because I accept facts for what they are, not due to any emotional inclinations. I find it irrational to overlook at the advancement of our specie, how much we now know from what we knew a few 100 years ago. I find it inhuman to accept a loving God of any religion when I see the state of many countries in Africa. Facts remain facts. Avoiding reasoning and  ignoring them for emotions/beliefs is a crime and the victim is our own integrity.

I always wanted to quote Bill Maher (this cannot be phrased better) (I think I have mentioned this before as well), from Religulous:

Religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having key decisions by religious people, by irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state, not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken. Faith means making a virtue of not thinking. It’s nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith and enable and elevate it, are our intellectual slave holders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings, who don’t have all the answers to think that they do. Let’s remember what the real problem was: that we learned to precipatate mass death, before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That’s it. Grow up or die.”

Its not far from the truth, if you think about it.

“Wonder. Think. Reason. Understand.”

peace.

-neo

Well, this is not, by definition, an ‘ode’.

I miss my old friend. Here is why.

I met him when I was in 3rd or 4th. I don’t exactly recollect. I remember he didn’t seem to like me at first instant. He was moving from his old place, so his folks asked me n my folks if we could help him get settled down in a new place – my place actually. I still remember the tears in his eyes when he knew that he would’ve to leave from his old home. He reluctantly moved along with me. We reached home late that night. He wouldn’t get in, we were surprised at first. But then he eventually did come into the living room. He ate well and I spent sometime with him sitting on the porch outside until it was 11pm or so.

For the next 4 years he spent his time with us. He was my best friend during that period.

He died of a snake bit, and died on the way to the vet-hospital. Right in front my eyes. Bleeding from his mouth. My first pet. A doberman.

I have two pet dogs now, but I, still am, reminded of those times.

Dogs ARE man’s best friend.And I miss him.

:(.

-neo.

I have kept aside 2 other entries to write this one. This one is pretty serious and may be helpful to a lot of people minus the uber tech-minded. I can easily list a dozen who would find this useful. Anyways, never know how many more. This one about is protecting our identity on the net. Writing it in the wake of an incident/conundrum that my friend was caught up in.

A few years ago, identity stealing on the net wasn’t as rampant – at least it was not as devastating as it is now.That statement shouldn’t be misunderstood or undermined – I meant it wasn’t as important because of the purpose and the kind of information that was put up which also has a lot to do with our age. Its a lot different now. Social networks are key in helping us develop contacts over the net, maintain relations with people we can call up every other day or mail lengthy stories – there are many people we would like to keep in touch with, yet this is as direct we can get with them, many like to share their information online – pictures, videos, news etc. Orkut, Facebook, Twitter: how we communicate with others has changed in way we couldn’t imagine. With the ease of keeping all our friends and colleagues updated, comes a huge problem of identity theft. It is not because of ‘hackers’ that it happens – more often due to our mistakes- rather – due to what we overlook.  We tend to overlook the importance of information that we put online – birthdays (coming to US, I realize that birthdays can be ‘confidential’ information.), work place, where we live, phone numbers, sometimes tons of personal pictures left open for the millions of the networks users to see – or will be exaggerating if I say -‘exploit’? My father is an avid user of technology, but has always remain wary of using his credit card on the net. In fact, if I am right he has used it less than 5 times.

Staying off these networks are not really an option for us, these days – at least for those my age – where the entire group of friends are spread around the world – due to work, study – whatever the reason. So how do we use these sensibly and safely? Point is – the framework to protect our identity, atleast within the boundaries of the network, exists. Many aren’t aware, but most aren’t bothered. It is shocking that most don’t take a little time off to secure their profiles on Orkut and Facebook, many aren’t aware of the people following them on Twitter(unless you are a public figure!). Most aren’t aware of how pervasive these platforms are. These have become a part of our lives and it is just as important to be careful using these as we are with our Social Security Numbers or securing our home. These sites are our identity in the virtual universe, though it maybe not be held in a court of law(I am not sure), but it has its impact within the society. Of course, how secure can we keep it, well there are limits.

My friend found out about a fake profile of hers when it popped up in her ‘Suggestions’ list on Facebook. Shocked and Depressed would be an understatement to express the feeling. That fake profile contained every bit of her information that would be usually found on Facebook – work location, city and the display picture. Facebook may – rather should accept our request to ban the profile. But it doesn’t really stop the person from making another profile. It is scary, a purpose unknown – but definitely not in best interests. Its scary especially because anyone can do it and that someone has done it. The latter part gets more emphasis.

It is a Matrix in a way. We are all plugged in. We all have our own ‘digital self’. We are all dependent on it as much as the ‘machines’ are dependent on us to survive – no users, no social networks or many users – more popularity. Get the drift? Similarly, getting ‘killed in the matrix’ can get you ‘killed in the real world’. Though, probably, not literally.

So how? How do we protect our identities from the ‘Agents’?

The most important point is that we need to be aware that we are responsible for our profiles and everything that goes with it. Security of information starts with us.

Next would be to understand the framework – the privacy settings available on sites like Orkut, Facebook & Twitter.

Third, unless you are the kind who wants to make all your information public or treat every ‘friend’ you add, or every (specific case: ) facebook application to be reliable as trustworthy – be careful who gets to know what info about you.

Many of us may think – ‘Yes, we all know this. What is your point?’ – well, what I am saying is, maybe I am paranoid about my identity on the net, but I prefer that people I don’t know don’t get to know me more than I want them to. Also, many know about this – but are too lazy to use it. Keep things on a need-to-know basis. But it helps. Yes, I do have to put ‘faith’ in the Orkut and Facebook team that they adhere to their policies, but beyond that – I want to be in control. Again, I agree – the limitation being that – someone who knows me outside of a social network creates a profile in my name – well, I really can’t stop that. All I am talking about here is privacy from strangers.

Here are a few tips:

For Orkut:

Information visibility can be controlled ‘Profile Settings’. Access to Photo Albums, Scrap book, getting requests can be controlled in the ‘Privacy tab’ in ‘Settings’. Now 99% of you may know this and 99% of you may use it as well. Photo Tagging can be disabled. Albums can be given access on a per-person or group basis. These can make the person visiting your profile see only that which he/she should see. Orkut is not as good as Facebook when it comes to information hiding, but its simpler and more straightforward.

For Facebook:

-Use the ‘Limited Profile’ feature. I hear that many newly created profiles don’t have that facility. Just make a list – in the ‘Friends’ window. Add people to this limited profile who needn’t be knowing everything about you, but still need to communicate with you – like your office colleague may not need to know about your personal blog page – so he/she can be pushed into a list in which your blog page isn’t shown. Another list in which some people get to see some set of photo albums whereas the rest of them don’t see it at all. Facebook is highly flexible with respect to protecting every bit of your information. Just needs to be tuned to your needs. Oh, yes, after adding people to a particular list, head to the ‘Privacy’ settings under the Settings button. Then to ‘Profile’. There – you can setting to ‘Custom’ where you get an option of ‘Except these people’ – where you can type in the list-name and save the setting. Well, try it out. Leave a comment if you can’t figure out how to use it, sure can help.

-Another setting thats hidden away is in the ‘Search’ option under ‘Privacy’. Here you can change settings to suit your need so that you aren’t searched for, by just about anyone on facebook. Also – the reduce the info shown when your profile shows up.

-This one – ‘News Feed and Wall’ – under that – there is another one called ‘Facebook Ads’ which may use some of your profile information (pictures, application use, interests) to create custom ads for showing to your friends. Its not really a loop hole in privacy per se, but again, you can opt out of it.

-Under ‘Applications’ (still within ‘Privacy’) – there are set of controls for information being passed on to ‘Applications’ (like Mafia wars, what is your personality type?, etc..) – best to uncheck all, imo. (But check  – ‘Don’t allow … to view membership … Facebook connect’, the ‘Beacon sites…’).

Tweaking these settings can really shut you out from any stranger trying to view into your profile.

To end, I remember, my friend from coll – a comp wiz and a master at explaining technology as he took a seminar on ‘Computer Security & Hacking’ when we were all in the 1st year, telling me – “There is no perfect security system, otherthan, probably, enclosing yourself and the computer inside a radiation proof room, then seal it around and then sink yourself to the greatest depths of the ocean. Even then computer security may not be at a 100%!”. We can only keep improving, but there is no real end to it all.

Hope this has been of some help and consciousness raising to a few. Some of you may not have used these features. Some may know better. Comments welcome.

-neo.

Who Am I?

Hume's philosophy says I am just a figment of imagination.

Physics demonstrates that I am, like everyone else, made of star dust.

Biology explains that I am, like everyone else, a product of evolution by natural selection.

Neuroscience clarifies that I, like everyone else, have no free will.

Reality, almost, threatens that I, like everyone else, occupies an almost negligible portion of time & space.

Whatever may be the case, where ever it may lead me to, I am on a journey, as should you, to find out more about the world and universe(s?) I live in and love so dearly for all I have. After all, we have this one life.

The World Through My Eyes

Rabble in a Box

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