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Ruminations. Reflections. Refractions. Code.

Dec 4, 2008 - personal philosophy


I get these occasional epiphanies. Here’s one for today, that the world is relative, our laws, our customs, almost everything – is reflected even in the economy, our purchases and sales1. It is said in many teachings that the way of the world is relative, the way of the Divine is absolute, heck, ‘The Absolute’ is yet another way of describing the Divine. Of all the Divine’s qualities, perhaps the one that brings us closest to It2, is the notion of unconditional love. I have to say, this is often the hardest to practice – unless I suppose when you’re a parent, then your love towards your children is generally unconditional, or the love in some rare friendships, or in some teacher-student relationships. The outward form does not matter.

Perhaps therein lies the need for most people to have a family, to experience such a relationship. Try that with an ordinary relationship3 say between a male and a female – once things end, everything usually goes wrong, there’s nothing to preserve, even if you offer some form of friendship, it just doesn’t work out, for the terms and conditions change, the outward nature of things are no longer the same. It hurts when nothing you give is acceptable anymore – interestingly it leads me to another epiphany, that we truly receive in giving. So perhaps I am starting to understand this whole unconditional love business, it hurts a little still, but it hurts less than before, perhaps one day only the joy and love will be left.

In case you’re wondering how today’s epiphany came about, I was reading Paulo Coelho’s4 The Witch of Portobello: A Novel. A very interesting read – it exemplifies that society still has some time to go before it can accept differences, that to many power and maintenance of the status quo is preferable to a disruptive change for the better; this is however changing I believe. But perhaps because what I am going through, the most striking thing about the book was its definition of love: “love simply is.” – no terms or conditions. I can understand today why there are people who leave the world to serve the world, for there’s an inherent conflict in the life of the world dweller – conditional vs. unconditional. A saint I read about said he did not have a family of his own, because he wished to belong to everyone. This is not to say I disagree with the idea of a family and children, etc. – I think in some ways it is a harder path, albeit a more suitable one for today – for in the noise you have to find the stillness.

On the topic of worldly activities, I read somewhere5 as well that the heart of a good CEO can be very saintlike – he looks after his clan, his company, perhaps it is not the world he serves, but it is more significant than looking after one’s immediate family. The uber-kewl founder of my Karate organisation has said several times that in his prayers, he first asks for prosperity of the organisation and their members, then he requests the same for his family – significant order methinks.

Enough pondering for the day… finished a book, wonder what to pick up next. Breaks are fun once you see that inactivity is activity – interestingly, the last epiphany – the The Witch of Portobello: A Novel speaks of this, that the blank spaces like the pauses within a musical composition are just as significant as the musical notes. Reminds me of an ancient Hindu teaching, between the 2 OMs (sound of the Universe6), lies enlightenment. (/me looks at you mystically, almost contented).


1 Terms and Conditions Apply

2 I could use Him/Her but that duality of the sexes really doesn’t apply to the Divine I think, for the Divine has qualities of both and beyond, and our personal sides may choose to use Him/Her depending on the kind of assurance and strength we’re looking for – when we look for strength we use Father, and when we want love and caring and accomodation, we use Mother. All aspects of the One. I know I use both when praying.

3 Speaking superficially here, I know there’s nothing ordinary about it.

4 Of “The Alchemist” fame, another classic, definitely a must-read.

5 Truly I do not remember where, thankfully this is not an academic publication, so do forgive my tardiness.

6 One Ubuntu repository is called the multiverse – I wonder, perhaps it is a better term to start using, since there are parallel worlds and universes manifested from the Divine. Perhaps the rationale behind the use of Universe as an all-encompassing term was to simplify the idea of all is one and one is all… perhaps I shall be quiet.

Dec 3, 2008 - arts

“Miles Away”, Madonna

Catchy song, one of Madonna’s better ones :P, lyrics and fan video. Enjoy!

— Kamal

PS. For some reason, “So far away” sounded like something very different up until I read the lyrics… and no I was not drunk at the time (or anytime really, unless it was a natural state of intoxication with the love and joy that I am always in *cough*cough*).

Dec 1, 2008 - software dev


As much as humans love to multitask, we are still better at doing one thing at a time, well more precisely, we still do one thing at a time, even when we multitask, assigning a quantum/time-slice to each task. Much like the use of a time-slice process scheduling algorithm, multitasking is not free, the cost of context-switching still exists, to most of us, that means getting in the ‘zone’ for particular tasks. Unless of course you have some form ADD or ADHD, then you thrive on the ability to multitask and having many things to do at any one time. I find however that even this basic idea is often not recognised in the workplace, developers need contiguous blocks of time to effectively get work done, constant swapping of priorities, or frequent meetings are major hurdles to producing effective and quality code, and thus quality software.

But of course, for many places quality software is not a priority, software that works in as far as the customer is concerned is what matters. Even if the poor codeform (I’d say lifeform, but then you’d think I’m crazy which would be true too…) is hurting inside, begging, nay crying for a refactor, as long as it does what the customer asks, all is well. Sometimes this is fine, especially when we code to unreasonable requirements which really mess the code up. Reminds me of a tenet from Kernighan & Pike’s The Practice of Programming on programming for the general case first. Non-standard requirements often break elegance and symmetry. This is not to say they’re wrong of course, but they take a bit more effort to get right in software engineering terms.

A digression (I love doing this): one could argue however that given more time, one could modify the code so it remains elegant in handling the strange requirements. One could even argue that if there are a lot of strange requirements, either the customer or the developer or both have not really translated the domain’s needs into a software-consumable form (read: modeling), or that form is just plain wrong. That in fact, those requirements may not be so strange after all, that they carry more value than the ‘standard’ ones. I mean if there are too many special cases, perhaps they’re not so special!

Anyway, on multitasking again, I have been luckier than most in this respect, as I have had team leads who code and recognise the value of having dedicated time blocks for tasks. Just an observation methinks.

— Kamal

Nov 30, 2008 - software dev

Automatic Transmission == Garbage Collection?

So. As I drove my manual car (don’t worry about the brand or type, it’s not worth mentioning), I started wondering if the difference between driving a manual vs. an automatic was analogous to using a language with explicit memory management vs. a language with a garbage collection (GC) facility. Thing is, I love driving a manual, in spite of the Jakarta traffic – I love the control I get, the feeling of driving as art. But I would not use a non-GC language for most of the apps I write (web/enterprise); indeed for a very large class of apps, the convenience of GC far outweighs any non-determinism or performance losses.

So (that’s that word again). I have answered my own question, transmission types are not analogous to memory management mechanisms. Time to get back to my Sunday and do more pondering, or perhaps resume watching Heroes.

Nov 28, 2008 - gripe politics

Malaysian Council Attempted Ban on Yoga

People may have heard about this, it caused a fair bit of controversy within Malaysia, and Indonesia (because the Indonesian Ulema Council decided to consider the notion too… speak about aping). Anyway, all looks well, reason has been victorious, and the ban has been lifted since there was no unanimous agreement. I actually first became interested in the matter reading this article in the Jakarta Post, an English-language Indonesian newspaper. Since the topic of spirituality is dear to my heart, I wrote a letter to the editor which unfortunately did not get published (though I can see why… but I rock regardless ;-)). I thought I’d share the letter on my blog – ah the joys and power of self-publishing – sit back and enjoy the ride.. er read.

  • * *Dear Editor(s),

This is to comment on: November 23, p. 2, News Highlights: Malaysian Council bans yoga

Malaysian Council Ban on Yoga?

I read that article, and fell to my knees (metaphorically), thanking the Divine/Ishwar/Allah, that I live in Indonesia, where until great poverty struck, we had a very sensible, very moderate form of Islam (we still do for the most part). A place where people are united by intrinsic values such as respect and tolerance. The article reminded of the silly porn bill passed recently – amid the various things we have to deal with – what’s on our mind? Sex. Truly it is a strong primordial drive – mad as Freud was, he got stuff right – for or against, we can’t ignore it. But I digress. On this ban, a couple of points:

  1. Hindu prayers: Actually they’re mostly mantras which have subtle effects on the body and psyche, much in the same way recitation of verses from the Quran do. By the way, the prayers develop love for God and the Divine’s various aspects, they’re not packages sent to the Great Jinn of Mount KinabaluTM. The prayers – like prayers from all religions – promote compassion, not division and hatred.

  2. Blasphemous God Union: Gosh, that’s a mouthful. I am no expert on Islam, but I have spent time reading esoteric material, including Islamic texts (perhaps they were blasphemous?), at their very core religions do not disagree. Humans and their often half-baked (read: shallow) interpretations do. Discovery and realisation of the Self as being part of the Whole (== Yoga) is a theme and a goal common to all major religions. The relationship between a human – an emanation of the Divine – and the Divine, is a very personal one. So long as that emanation has not caused harm to others, what right does a council of just-as-fallible humans have to call that relationship blasphemous?

A plea perhaps to the hearts of those in the council who see the absurdity of this ban to lift it. In the long term it will do more harm than good for Malaysia as a member of a diverse World. Malaysia – Truly Asia. Last I checked India and it’s culture was very much a part of Asia. As was the notion of unity in diversity.

— Kamal

PS. Checked again, yep, still there folks.

PPS. Dear Editor(s), besides grammatical errors, or redundant sentences, if you intend to cut parts out, please either discuss it with me, or don’t bother printing it. I will understand – thanks to my oh-so-great degree of tolerance, even if our religions may differ :-).

PPPS. “==” is a bit of a computer programming thing, let it be an obscure joke.

When I wrote that, I did not realise that the ban was only applicable to Muslims, so perhaps I kind of understand the problem with Hindu prayers – anyway, still pretty silly overall.

— Kamal

Nov 23, 2008 - arts

Native American Music

While YouTube-ing for Reiki material, I came across some Native American music, very interesting. Thing about traditional music is that the simplicity is often astounding. Consider the didgeridoo of the aboriginals. Such music is often deep, trance-inducing, and ancient (I know, duh), dare I even say spiritual.

Anyway, at some point I may look for some Native American or Aboriginal music CDs (feel free to comment on suggestions). In the meantime, here’s a site with streaming internet radio playing Native American music (if the link is broken, just find it from the site, note that it uses an IP address – potentially different hosts are active at different times for load balancing, if the site is broken.. er GIYF™). Not bad at all :-). Those on Linux can use the VLC media player to play most streams. Not sure if mplayer works, but VLC works a-okay.

Okay something strange is happening, for some reason the radio stream is playing something that clearly does not sound native… let’s consider it an interlude – too much depth probably drowns. Especially since I don’t swim, heh.

— Kamal