Thoughts Sans Boundaries

Estonia, the land right out of middle ages

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on January 31, 2011

Am sitting at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Helsinki writing this post. We just arrived in Helsinki and met with the fourth member of our gang (Scott), who was flying in from China to join us in our trip to the Lapland.

This Saturday and Sunday was spent in Tallinn old town in Estonia. The trip to Estonia was one of the spur of the moment decision as we had 2 days in our hands in Helsinki before our friend would meet us. It was a decision well worth the time and effort. There are a number of ferries between Helsinki and Tallinn and it takes about 2 hrs to get to the town. We had booked ourselves in a hotel in the old town area in Tallinn which feels like nothing’s changed since the middle ages. Buildings over 500 years are plenty in this town and the neon lights and souvenir shops gives it away, as modern life exists in this middle age town.

We stayed in a boutique hotel called St. Petersbourg, bang in the middle of the downtown in the old town. Sitting in a cafe that’s housed in a 700 years old tower it was eerie yet exciting. People were quite curious to see us; probably not may from Asia travel to these places or it was just plain curiosity to see a bunch of Indian guys in the middle of winter wandering around as tourists.

Earlier on Saturday, having nothing planned to do for the day, we rented a tiny Toyota car and decided to just drive with no destination in mind.

Turns out that we drove north east of Estonia to a place called Jagala where in the 1980s they discovered one of the oldest graves dating around 3000 BC. There was a tiny museum with the unearthed artifacts on display. Having indulged in some Estonian history, we learnt that there was a waterfall nearby that place and one of the popular tourist destinations in the summer time. We are not the ones to miss a chance to see a water fall and we quickly took directions and were on our way. This water fall called Jagala Juga is the highest waterfall in Estonia. At 8 meters, it was definitely worth the visit. The waterfall was almost frozen save for a small stream trickling down. We managed to walk, slip and slide close to the frozen waterfall and spent some time exploring the stalagmite like formation of the frozen water. @Nat was not too keen to go down the path and he was looking for some locations to shoot the scenery.

The person, from whom we rented the car, suggested that we visit a popular manor and marked the location in the GPS. The way we were driving on impulse, the GPS was constantly showing us the new route to the destination and we decided anyway to go there. It happens to be about 70 Kms north east of Tallinn and by the time we reached the place it was getting dark and started to snow. It so happens that Estonia has over 1300 such manors all over the country. It was in fashion to build these in the 17th – 19th century by wealthy individuals to be used as summer houses. Today they are tourist attractions and serves as a source of income to many small establishments in and around that area.

It was quite dark by then and we decided to stop for a quick bite at a nearby restaurant. We had excellent food prepared by a German guy. His restaurant was called The Coffee Pot in the Land of Bays (the English version of his Estonian name). It was a pleasant experience to find vegetarian food in almost all of the restaurants we’ve had food so far.

We finally reached the hotel at around 6 in the evening, returned the car and started to explore the old town on foot till late into the night.

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First glimpse of the land of thousand lakes

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on January 28, 2011

Just landed in Helsinki and encountered a beautiful and perfect weather. -3 celcius, sunny and mild breeze. Last February I was at the cold land of Russia and this year it is the Nordic country. Pretty much the same gang minus couple of guys. @nat, @aish, @scott and I.

Took this picture from the plane with bright sunshine just before mid-day above the Helsinki airport. Few pleasant surprises, English is spoken by most people I’ve encountered so far, restaurants have vegetarian options and the airport is just nice, small cozy and nice coffee place to sit and browse with free Internet!

Once @aish arrives, we plan to take the bus to the harbour and a ferry to Tallinn. Two days there and then off to north Finland and hope we catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

Civilisation, Structure and the Meaning of Life

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on December 24, 2009

Every act of human beings that has been an outcome of civilisation has a structure to it. A general conception is that, structure is for rational minds and not for the artistic. But I beg to disagree. If we dissect an act to its core, we will encounter a structure behind it. And an act that does not have a structure will not have a following.

Allow me to explain this in a little bit more detail. We can straight away assume that any scientific act has a structure to it and we will not ponder on that too much. So, let’s look at some artistic acts like painting and music. My contention is that however abstract a piece of art or music might be, but the one that generates at least a handful of followers or fans, will have an underlying structure based on which it has been built. Most of us are unable to appreciate abstract art is because, we are incapable of seeing the underlying structure and hence unable to appreciate the beauty of that piece of work. And the ones who ‘see’ it either are greatly impressed by the trick the artist has played with that structure or at the least appreciate the twist the artist has created using the structure underlying to it.

The reason I use civilisation in this context is because, I think the first discovery by the people of the first civilisation is the discovery of the human ability to recognise structures and build something on top of it. The moment, you develop the innate capability of observing these structures, you become compelled to act and build on it and that in turn makes that individual or group of individuals civilised. I think it does not necessarily apply to human beings alone. Even in the animal kingdom, one can observe acts of civilisation such as the monkey’s using a straw to draw the ant out of an anthill. This is possible only if they are able to see the underlying structure of that act which results in the ability to draw ants for food. If we extrapolate this to all acts of living beings, you realise that none of them are a random act but an act coordinated to achieve an objective, which means there is a structure (or framework) behind it. Now, I am getting close to the metaphysical argument of whether there is any act of nature that is based on randomness alone without any predetermined objective.

I have read about the quantum physics experiments that shows at an sub-atomic level, we influence the experiment, when we observe them. But for this argument, let’s keep the sub-atomic state of affairs aside and look only at the macro side of things.

Now for argument sake, if we take the premise that every act of nature has a predetermined objective unless interfered by an external force, then does that not indicate that there might be a predetermined objective which explains the meaning of life? The caveat here is the interference by an external force, which in the case of human beings, manifests as the ability of choice. The counter argument could be that the ability of choice prevents a presupposition of an exact meaning for life. But as earlier demonstrated, that an act performed by a person has a structure / framework underlying it and any act based on randomness is detrimental to the actor. So collectively speaking, the choices however numerous, is limited by the frameworks underlying them and hence the choices themselves are predetermined. The net effect could be that we are moving towards a destiny that is already configured and our choices are only giving us an illusion that we have the ability to make our own future.

Is this possible?

Peace.

Economy Moving Forward

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on November 14, 2009

I had a thought this afternoon about the economy.

Disclaimer: I am not an economist and probably understand0.0001% of economic principles and the way of the world.

My understanding goes this way: America is the biggest consumer of the world, closely followed by Europe and Japan and a bulk of the world’s production is being consumed by a relatively small population of this planet. For this argument, let’s look at just America as the key consumer. America borrows significantly large sums of money to foster their consumption and the producing worlds lends the monies to America to sustain the consumption. I don’t wish to go into the details to justify this as it is too complex and there is a good possibility that my understanding is flawed.

If the above it mostly true, then it poses an interesting problem. Beyond a critical point, the lending to the consumers does not make sense as you don’t see your earned money appreciating enough as the borrowers are not returning money and neither does the money grow. So what can the producers do to safeguard themselves? For one, they can foster internal consumption so at the least the monies stays within their economic domain, which is probably what Japan did and China and India are trying to do.

This poses an interesting situation. If the developing economies no longer depend on America to consume their produce, they no longer need or care America to consume so much and which means, they are no longer a cheaper destination to produce goods as the local demand increases so does the cost of production (as the demand out paces the supply, at least in the short term, the cost of goods will go up). That leaves America with two choices (loosely speaking) – reduce consumption or produce locally to support internal demand. The first option is harder to implement unless there is a social and cultural change. The second option looks like a practical one, only that the cost of production has reached such a high point that it is too expensive for peoples to afford it unless they borrow more.

Where does this leave America and the rest of the world. Some thoughts:

– Is this a harbinger that America will no longer be the most powerful country in the world and there will arise a community of powerful nations?
– Is this a harbinger for an exponential increase in consumption to sustain the economy and put a big strain in the natural resource of this planet
–  Is this a harbinger for power struggle to stay on the top by a new community of nations when in the past it was a de-facto single country

The above thoughts sure look like bleak ones, but it need not be all bleak. There might be some silver lining. This could foster a cultural / social change of sustaining economy with reduced consumption – which means, new economic / social models evolving out of this bottleneck situation. America is known to be a land of innovation and they could innovate themselves out of it. This could also cause the wealth to be more evenly distributed around the world thus reducing envy, anger and frustration which happens to be the cause of most violence.

There are several ifs and buts and it is hard to really predict what could happen but there sure is a change that seems to be driving the focus away from the Americas as the leading nation in the world and lesser known voices being heard.

So brace yourself for an interesting ride that potentially you might see before your lifetime and I do sincerely hope that is a positive one.

Borrowed a Tikit to Ride

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on November 14, 2009

A housemate of mine recently bought a Bike Friday Tikit. He’s, what I would call not-a-keen-biker. But one ride in a foldie changed his perception completely. He was totally smitten by the comfortable ride and the compact folding of the bike. So much so, that he immediately went to a local Bike Friday dealer Diginexx and bought a tikit. And since then he’s been riding it pretty much daily (unless he’s got a date that evening ;-).

I for one have been riding my Trek 1200 SL for couple of years, mostly for recreation. I used to commute to work when I had a bike lodging place in China Town, Singapore but that was intermittent and it was never a convenient thing to do given that the work can sometimes extend the normal working hours. And then there was the Nature as a variable to contend with – rain, hot sun etc and of course, last but not least, the traffic. For an avid cyclist, these are of course a welcome thing to contend with, in some sense it is for me too. But sometimes it can become an annoying thing especially if you’d a long day.

I’ve been a bit suspicious of a foldie unlike @nat, who’s a big fan of the bikes. I refused to try one for a long time. Of course laziness counts a big part of it. But recently, my housemate had a minor surgery and he stopped riding till he’s healed. Now was my chance to take it out for a spin and test it out for myself if the foldie was living up to its reputation. First I tried a long distance ride, about a metric century in Malaysia. The ride went perfect except for my fitness.

Next I decided to take it to work. And I should say, the foldie passed with flying colours. Let’s see how:

– I take about 30-35 minutes by bus to work and I take 20-25 minutes by bike
– The roads are fairly flat which means, I exert less energy than if I were to climb up and down
– I cool down at office / home after my ride in about 15 minutes
– The bike stays right under my desk, so no need to lock it down or find a safe place
– A good exercise regime without specifically taking time off
– Friendly to the environment and if we scale this habit to more people, less traffic and pollution
– People appreciate and sometimes awed that someone is riding to work in this equatorial weather
– and several more…

I’ve been riding for about a week now and it’s been great. I’ll definitely recommend this to everyone. There are several foldable bike options in the market today. Hit the nearest store, do your research online, read @nat’s blog on parts, bike choices and reviews and get one and start riding.

Wowed by speed

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on November 11, 2009

As you may have already read an earlier post about the Yahoo! CEO’s speech at AmCham Singapore; something interesting happened today. Someone from AmCham called me today following up my previous post and informing me about the other events that AmCham organises throughout the year. I was totally surprised – not much by the fact that they read my post and tracked me down to call and sell their other products but by the fact that it was less than 24 hours since I wrote that.

I work in marketing and I know how difficult the new social media is in managing from a marketing perspective. And I must say, I was thoroughly impressed by the speed in which AmCham followed up on their leads. Kudos to their efforts and I am sure things like these are the ones that sets apart the successful from the not so successful.

I am sure someone from AmCham will read this by tomorrow morning!

Hougang to Kota Tinggi

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on November 9, 2009

I’ve been on long hiatus in posting anything to this blog. Blame it all on laziness, lack of motivation and quality content to write.

But some of that changed this weekend (not the laziness if that’s what you were expecting). I went on a biking trip to Kota Tinggi in Malaysia with my brother on Sunday. The road distance we measured from our home in Hougang, Singapore to Kota Tinggi and back was approximately 120 kilometers. I wasn’t too worried about the distance as we have done this kind of trip in the past and I felt reasonably fit having ridden about 20 kilometers the previous day to TR bikes, a bike shop in the east coast of Singapore. I know what you must be thinking now but let’s just say, that I was psychologically feeling fit about the ride and I love riding in Malaysia, one of the friendlier places to ride a bike.

We started at about 8.30 in the morning and by the time we crossed the border and stopped for breakfast it was 10.30 in the morning. Had some sumptuous Indian breakfast and we set off on the Malaysian highways. For those of you who have not ridden on Malaysian roads, they tend to be a little daunting for an occasional rider (like myself). There is never a long (about 1 KM or more) flat patch of highway for you to relax and stretch your legs.

I normally ride my Terk 1200 SL but this time, I picked up my friend’s Bike Friday Tikit and it was super comfortable to say the least. It has 20″ (updated) 16″ wheels and can be quite slow compared to my road bike but I don’t like riding fast so it was just nice. By the time I hit the 45 KM mark, I started to feel the strain. Tells a lot about my current fitness condition! When we reached the 60 KM mark, we stopped for tender coconut and I realised I was scraping my last reserves. We still had another 8 KM to Kota Tinggi and the whole 68 KM back home. But we decided to turn back as I was not sure if I could go up the additional 8 KM to our destination. Looking back, it was a good decision to have turned back without pushing further. I almost lost it when we were about 10 KM to Johor Bharu the town just across the causeway from Singapore. I had to push my bike up a hill on one stretch. My brother was feeling quite fit on the contrary.

To cut a long story short, we reached Singapore after 10 hours completely exhausted and burnt out. Now that I’ve had a day to reflect on my ride, I think the highlights of it were that we did 100 KM in a day after a long time and discovered the whole new riding experience of a folding bike. The lowlights were of course my fitness level and the incredibly hot sun. I think it must be my hottest ride ever.

@nat had taken some photos which I’ll try to post once he’s processed it. Hopefully, I keep riding most weekends from now on and of course, write about my road trip in an engaging way!

From non-profit to profit

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on February 13, 2009

My brother forwarded me a link – www.kiva.org and after I looked at the site it struck me as to how closely it was related to an idea of mine, which I wrote about a few days ago. Of course I don’t claim to be first here but it is nice to see that I could think of something original which has materialised elsewhere even though I wasn’t the first.

I think KIVA is a great initiative and it seems like it is a natural extension of my idea. I wanted to build a portal that will bring the charitable organisations and volunteers together in a seamless way and generate huge man hours at the disposal of these organisations. And as in any charitable activity everyone recognises that the people receiving the charity would eventually like to stand on their own legs (no pun intended). There are of course exceptions such as old age home, tree planting etc which would have to be a continuous effort. But where there is effort to help people rebuild their lives, we would want them to start managing their affairs by themselves at some point. That is when a service like KIVA kicks in where it takes my idea one step further by allowing people to “loan” small amounts of money to small entrepreneurs around the world through micro-finance institutions with which they partner. The micro-financing institutions ensure the proper disbursement of money and collection and eventually pay it back to KIVA who then disburses the money to the original lenders. So in effect someone requiring a loan of US $500 in Cambodia could be getting the loan from 20 different people who would have donated $25 each. The Internet ensures that the money is collected properly, accounted for and handed over to the financial institution with which the borrower is associated with and it works in the reverse when the money is paid back by the borrower. There will be tons of nitty-gritty issues in managing bad debts, lead time for collecting the loan money, service charges by KIVA and the financial institution etc. But I think they can all be ironed out with minor compromises.

Micro-finance is a powerful tool which was popularised by Muhammad Yunus through his venture called Grameen Bank. He jointly won the Nobel Peace prize in 2006 for his efforts to bring people out of poverty through small credit facilities without collateral. Many agree that this is one of the most powerful tools we have today to uplift people from dire straits. There are also criticism levied on this process since the micro-credit scheme levies a higher than normal interest due to the risks involved and the cost of managing several accounts in the place of few. But nevertheless it is still a wonderful way to provide capital to small and micro businesses by cutting through the bureaucracy and red tape.

Coming back to the main argument, that Internet can and does indeed change lives in several ways. In fact, KIVA can then be further diversified to offer investment options for medium to large business – but then I am getting ahead of myself. The core argument that I am trying to put across in this blog is that we can and must do something to change lives of the peoples of the world. We face numerous problems today from different dimensions – religious, political, economical, natural etc., and beyond a certain stage we lose track of what we are trying to solve as one resolution seems to fuel as a cause for another problem from a different dimension. An example would be a political solution to resettle the Jews during the Second World War has caused a religious problem in the Middle East post that event. If one takes a step back and has a holistic perspective, I am sure we would be able to see a cause-effect outcome in most of the solutions to problems. One of the best ways to have the right lens to see the larger issues is to get most people in the world into some sort of a common platform so most of those people see the problem with similar variables attached to it. We have divided this planet into different countries, different races, religions etc and all this has disintegrated the fabric of a common human society. We should all be seeing each other in the same standard and the way we can achieve that is by ensuring that everyone has access to all the knowledge about the other. If only I understand the sentiments of a particular race, I would be careful not to upset it and it works vice versa. And this works in all levels like if I can understand the role of a scientist then I would be sensitive enough to provide them the space and tools necessary to continue their work or at the least not do anything to upset them.

The only way we are ever going to do this to ensure that there is free and fair access to knowledge, structured, malleable and willing to grow as and when it learns of more and more types of people. This should be some sort of an intelligent Internet organism that feeds people with what they want, learns from them and adapts to their needs. I am not talking about Wikipedia but something that is more structured as an University course but provided free with no strings attached.

Where do you stand?

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on July 6, 2007

Can you try this and tell me what was your score? I just found that my pizazz is better than a raw potato.

http://home.iprimus.com.au/siegloff/clark/flotsam/other/creativity_quotient.html

Welcome to my new blog space

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on June 27, 2007

If you are looking for older posts, check out http://kanmoorthy.spaces.live.com

My newer posts will be on this site from now on. I have used wordpress before and I think it is a very intuitively built tool. Hope they keep making the enhancements and kudos to the wordpress team.