"Star Lanka Online" Our NEW Web site And Web TV Channel Launched

TFGE , The Future Global Educational Center Has Launched
the official web site, called
*** Star Lanka Online Dot Com ........................

www.starlankaonline.com will be completed in very near future....

*** Star Lanka Online TV Channel,..................

Just One Click ahead ...

Now you can watch "Star Lanka Online TV" channel broadcasts from Matara, Sri Lanka in most part of the day. Still we are keeping a test transmission also. There is a link right side of your hand to watch our TV channel. You can watch (Click On the Box) live channel on this site without going to another site to watch the TV. and also recorded parts, following the below link.

Place your Own Ad Here

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Totally Free Movies and TV series downloads

Free movie downloads are more common than you think on the Web. You won't find the most recent blockbuster here, but you will find a huge amount of classics, trailers, independent films, documentaries, and more.

Want even more free movie downloads? Try Watch Free Movies Online, Thirty Ways to Watch Free Videos Online, The Best Sites to Watch TV Online, or the Top Ten Most Popular Video Sites.

Please note:If you come across a site that is asking you to pay money in order to view their films, you've either clicked on an ad, or that particular site has changed its policies.

Free Movie Download Sites

Here are a few sites where you can download free movies; they are all free, all legal, and feature hundreds of high-quality movie clips and full-length movies.

General Free Movie Downloads

  • Free Movies and Documentaries in the Public Domain: These are all free movies that have fallen out of copyright - download away.
  • OVGuide: a meta search guide to online movies.
  • Movies: This enterprising website has taken the time to find and upload clips of hundreds of movies.
  • Veoh Cult Classics: Night of the Living Dead, , Eraserhead are all included here.
  • Watch Free Movies Online. This site is full of classic movies, all free movie downloads.
  • The Internet Movie Database. Movie reviews, information about upcoming movie premieres, movie clips, and more.
  • AltaVista - Video Search. Search for movies and videos on the Web in virtually any format. Find free movie downloads easily and fast.
  • Yahoo Search-Video.. Search for videos and movies on the Web. Also includes a link to submitting your own video to Yahoo to be indexed.
  • Singingfish, an audio and video search engine. Search for movies, free movie downloads, short movie clips, and always check "Staff Favorites."
  • Google Video Search. Find videos, movies, and TV programs online.
  • Netbroadcaster.com: Features trailers, shorts, independent films, and more. Most of the films on this site are free, but some do require subscription access.
  • Turner Classic Movies: Lots of trailers, movie clips, and background information on all your favorite classic films. A very cool site.
  • Hollywood.com: Trailers, movie clips, and more.
  • All Movie Guide:Comprehensive database of film synopses and reviews as well as concise actor biographies.
  • Apple Movie Trailers:An extensive collection of brand spankin' new movie trailers.
  • JoBlo.com:Reviews, trailers, scripts, interviews, clips, and a lot more.
  • YouTube: you can upload, watch, and search free videos here.
  • YouTube, GoogleVideo, and IFilm: Nice mashup of all three services; looks like you'll need to know exactly what video you want, however.
  • Google Video of the Day: Another day, another Google Video of the Day. Varies from funny to interesting to extremely weird.
  • LearnOutLoud: free streaming lectures, audio, and video.
  • VideoBomb: "Video Bomb filters up the hottest videos on the internet: people submit links to the 'Incoming!' page and you bomb the best ones. If a video gets a lot of bombs quickly, it makes it to the front page."
  • Truveo:a video search engine that delivers pretty good results.
  • Mefeedia: "Find thousands of videoblogs (video podcasts), and watch them on your computer, video iPod or PSP."
  • The Open Video Project:a shared digital video collection
  • Free Documentaries: "Welcome to the Internet’s top resource for finding free documentaries."
  • SearchforVideo: SearchforVideo is a fantastic video search engine with over 6000 sources available for searching at the time of this writing. News, entertainment, viral videos - all searchable here.

Videos, Indie Films, Documentaries

  • Recommended Online Films: About.com's Independent Film Guide has a great list of free indie films on the Web.
  • Documentaries Online: "Whenever I find interesting documentaries that can be watched online I will post the links here." And he does.
  • Atom Films: Be sure to check out the Star Wars parodies.
  • RatherGood.com: Quite a few movies including a rodent of some kind..singing...you'll have to watch them to really get it.
  • National Lampoon.com: Short films and animations. Some of this stuff is not kid-friendly.
  • Subservient Chicken:This is more of a site where YOU are making the movie. Trust me. You'll enjoy it.
  • Ebaumsworld.com: Definitely funny, but also definitely (mostly) not safe for work.
  • OddTodd.com:Flash animations, games, and Mep the Squirrel. How could you not love OddTodd?
  • Milk and Cookies: A wildly eclectic assortment of mostly animated funny shorts.
  • Vmix.com: A wide variety of user-submitted videos here, anything from funny to strange to crazy.
  • The 3-Second Bunny Theatre: The bunnies do classic films in thirty seconds or less.
  • Flurl: Good source for a variety of videos.

Movie Scripts, Movie Posters, and More

  • TypeNow.net: a wide variety of movie-related fonts and typography.
  • LivePlasma.com:Share your favorite movies with friends and find more movies that you like.
  • PublicDomainTorrents:Classic movies and B-movies, all totally free.
  • The Internet Movie Script Database: You can read entire scripts of movies here; what a great site.
  • TuneFind.com: "Welcome to TuneFind.com where we are working to become the Internet's comprehensive list of music and songs appearing in television and movies."
  • MovieMistakes: Ever wonder if you've seen something that is supposed to be there in the movie? Check MovieMistakes to see if you're right.
  • ComingSoon.net: Be the first to see upcoming movie trailers on your block.
  • JumpCut: Make your own movies using your own music, slides, or video clips.
  • EyeSpot: "Use the Mixer to edit and combine your videos, photos and music online. Share mixes by email, blog, download or cell phone for free!"
  • Drive-In Theater: When you want to find a drive-in theater, use this site.
  • Cinema Treasures Theater Guide: Lists of all theaters worldwide that are currently showing classic films.
  • Double Feature Finder: "Find local showtimes scheduled back-to-back and spend the entire day at the movies!"
  • 80s Movies Rewind: Your best bet to find information about some of the best movies ever made...in the 80's.
  • Flixster: Get movie ratings of current movies from community members; great way to preview movies.

Want even more free movie downloads? Try Free Movie Downloads Part Two: The Sequel!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Choosing a Montessori

Choosing a Montessori

Strictly speaking you cannot choose a "Montessori" but only a Montessori school. It may come as a surprise or shock to many in Sri Lanka that less than 5% of the so-called ‘ Montessoris" show any evidence of following or adhering to Montessori education. The remainder, at best, are play groups offering simple shared experiences and activities relying heavily on colouring, pasting and copy-writing of A B C.: Devoid of materials and equipment, and not having a real understanding of early childhood education, these pre-schools achieve only minimal standards. Should you question parents on how they choose a "Montessori" for their children, you may find that a snazzy and cute uniform, emphasis on A B C, and a concert that has been practiced interminably, complete with fancy costumes - has more influence than child-centered education.

Maria Mont6essori died in 1952. She was born in Italy and trained as a doctor working in a psychiatric clinic for children with learning difficulties. From this she developed her ideas that children under six years are at their most receptive. The education methods she evolved encourages children to learn about the world around them through exploration. They are given the freedom to move around, manipulate and touch, especially through the "educational toys" she designed and activities that support this approach. In this way the children acquire self-direction, skills, responsibility, competence and confidence. The development of social/emotional skills took precedence over early reading and writing. The role of the teacher is to guide and encourage rather than teach, so that achievement and not failure is dominant. Her emphasis on children working alone and silently, focused on a task, is a common criticism of her philosophy. Montessori discouraged children’s free play or developing their own ideas as these lacked a learning focus and this also is a valid criticism of her approach. Paramount to the Montessori classroom is a carefully planned environment, a mixed age structure and minimal group activities.

Few people realize that then term "kindergarten" (garden for children) emanates from the pioneering work of Friedrich Froebel who died in 1852. He opened his first kindergarten in 1837 for three to seven year olds from which his ideas spread across the world. Learning outdoors using the natural environment is as important as indoor activities. He stressed that children should not be confined to desks but able to move around freely. Symbolic and imaginative play such as dressing-up, playhouse, dolls and puppets are part of the learning process as are finger rhymes and songs. Children need to experience and discover for themselves in a child-centered environment rather than a prescriptive series of lessons.

The contribution these two pioneers made to early childhood education cannot be underestimated. Neither should the contributions of Rudolph Steiner who died in 1925, Margaret McMillan (1931) and Susan Isaacs (1948). It was Margaret McMillan who developed the concept of the nursery school and her methods incorporated the ideas of Montessori, Steiner, and Froebel. Her first open-air nursery school opened in London in 1914. While these early educators evolved specific methodologies, the emphasis on child-centered activities and discovery in a non-formal setting is common to all.

More recently, psychologists such as Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Brunner and Sigmund Freud, have contributed their research findings in the way children think, feel, and understand at different stages of their development. Play, exploration and self discovery often achieve more learning in the early years than formal teaching.

Despite the exciting contributions to early childhood education and development made by these and others, all too often the titles "Montessori", "kindergarten", "nursery school" and "pre-school" have been high jacked or borrowed by private and government institutions offering far less than these names should imply. This is especially evident in Sri Lanka, where there is minimal understanding or supervision over early childhood education.

Ideally the pre-school should be eclectic and include the ideas of many educational pioneers. Nowadays, most pre-schools and primary schools in developed countries have been influenced by writers and practitioners who developed the ways we now accept as to how children develop and learn. Despite this greater insight and understanding into child development, the majority of pre-schools in Sri Lanka have satisfied themselves with only the rudiments of good practice. There is far more to good practice than child-sized furniture, English nursery rhymes (unsuitable) and some simple cutting, sticking and pasting activities. Even in this temperate climate, outdoor play hardly goes beyond a slide, swing and see-saw (which are often in poor condition).

An ever increasing number of private pre-schools are opening, mainly for profit, although a fair number are subsidized by temples, churches and NGOs. These are not confined to urban areas but exist even in remote villages, even on tea-estates. Anyone can start such a school either with or without planning permission and no minimum standards are required. Teachers have sometimes received some basic training, and even those who have received an official Montessori certificate are lacking in practical application. Fortunate children have at least sufficient indoor and outdoor space, but the less fortunate may find themselves part of a group of forty or more confined to an area suitable for half that number. In such conditions children spend much of the time at "seat work" producing some art or craft which has been half completed by the teachers. Glance around the room and your eye may rest upon 30 identical ducks, elephants, etc. drawn by the teacher and coloured by the child. Cut, tear, colour and paste are the mainstays of creativity. Occasionally, in better schools, finger painting, hand and footprints, collage and other variations may be included.

A mid-morning snack, toileting, a few songs and maybe a period outside, and its time to get ready to go home. Will they take home their art or craft masterpiece to show parents? Unlikely. These will be stored in a folder or stuck one on top of the other, to be released monthly or end of term, when the children have forgotten what they did and neither parent or child are interested. "So what’s wrong with these activities?". In themselves there is nothing wrong as the child is kept occupied and learns some basic skills, some socialization, and it gives the mother some free time. Hardly what Montessori, Froebel or. McMillan envisaged in either their own schools or their writings many decades ago. No one complains or criticizes. No one withdraws their child. No one expects more. No one makes comparisons. So why change?

Probably the most disconcerting aspect of pre-school education in Sri Lanka is the growing emphasis on filling workbooks and exercise books. This is especially prominent in many so-called international schools. Even on the shelf in the nursery class there is a pile of exercise books for A B C, numbers, colouring and often commercially produced books that offer a variety of innate exercises. "The parents want it" is the usual excuse. Just as in the grades of primary and secondary school, quantity and weight of books equates with learning, the same attitude has been absorbed into the pre-school. "I don’t send my child to school to play" states the mother of a four year-old. "He can play at home. I want him to learn". Thus learning is equated with writing, and using an exercise book formalizes it. The teacher produces a page of the letter A using dots, which will be joined together by the child irrespective of his or her readiness for such a task or what value it has.

What is not taking place probably is more significant than the previous activities described. And it is often not for lack on money, but a lack of knowledge of early childhood education skills, developmental stages and goals. How many pre-schools have a display of picture books for children to share and enjoy, and how many teachers include a daily story or circle time? This article is not the place to list all the equipment, materials and activities that should be basic to any quality pre-school, but let it be said that few such schools value water and sand play, imaginative dressing up, large construction sets and the myriad of other things that encourage concentration, problem solving, coordination, creativity, inquisitiveness and curiosity?

It is alarming to watch some teachers and part-time P.E. teachers conducting Physical Education in a pre-school class or grade 1 or 2 class. The formal individual exercises are in keeping with the physical needs of adolescents or those attending an aerobics class and certainly not fun or beneficial for the youngsters. Where are the large balls, balloons, ropes, beanbags and hoops?

A number of the larger International schools have expanded their enrollment (and income) by offering classes for play group; nursery, kindergarten 1 and 2. It might bode well for their balance sheet but is of questionable value to the child. There seems little hope for much change. The parents have been institutionalized as have the children, and no change or improvement is sought or valued. This can only be detrimental to Sri Lanka in the long run and another thorn in an already prickly education system. If the government does not show a lead then surely the universities have a role to play in looking beyond their conventional offerings.

This article began by outlining the contributions to early childhood development made decades ago by leading advocates in the field. Many developed countries have adapted aspects of these contributions to their education systems. Montessori and others were well ahead of their time and even in this third millennium many teachers in Sri Lanka have not yet caught up.


Douglas King is an experienced educator in both pre-school and English language education. He has worked in various countries and traveled widely. He has published many newspaper articles on education and other subjects as well as books for English language and pre-school.

Some very intriguing words .........

Some very intriguing words

To speak another language is to live another life, says C.J. Moore in his In Other Words: A Language Lovers’ Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World. Moore is only repeating a Czech proverb, a country that has suffered several occupations in the past somewhat like ours. But leaving aside for the moment why the Czech proverb arose, let us take a look at what Moore is discovering as the most intriguing words in the world around us.

It is hard for people from Europe to understand sometimes what an East Asian is saying, so says Moore. The result is a huge international misunderstanding even about a small word like Hai. Now, that word is commonly used, says Moore, when you talk to East Asians.

When an East Asian is listening to you and telling you, hai, you think he is agreeing with what you are saying. No, that is exactly what he is not expecting you to think.

He is only doing (what we tell our children at story telling time to do) hoomiti thiyanna meaning, ‘Yes, I am listening to you’ and not ‘Yes, I am agreeing with what you are saying.’

In this fashion Moore, in his In Other Words, makes very interesting clarifications for us about expressions in, what I call verbal gestures for our entertainment as well as for our information.

The Japanese have an expression - Yokomeshi, literally it means ‘eating rice sideways’ which is in itself a difficult task, but it has helped the Japanese to describe how difficult it is similarly to learn a foreign language.

This expression is derived from the style of writing used in Japan - vertically. If the same words are written sideways it will, to a Japanese, be gibberish and so just as difficult as trying to learn a foreign language.

Now, in the case of Portuguese which is spoken also in Brazil, a former Governor and journalist, Carlos Lacerda says, ‘Brazil is the only country in the world where every word is a cussword - even mother.’ Let’s try one of their proverbial expressions - for a do minico. mijar (four-er-doo pi-nee-koo, meejar) which literally means ‘missing the piss pot.’ which the English people, however, say very properly as ‘missing the target’.

But these language expressions do not get so funny when we cross over into areas far removed from so-called civilisations. The conquering palefaces totally misunderstood these unfortunate people and they suffered and continue to suffer even today as you can see from what an Australian Law Reform Commission found as recently as 1986:

“The Australian Law Reform Commission,” writes Moore, “published a report in 1986, that drew attention to the interrogating of Aboriginal suspects because of the conceptual gaps between English and, for instance Pitjantjatjara.

That tongue has no word for ‘because’ so ‘cause an effect’ and other relational aspects are conceived and expressed quite differently. Notions of time, space, number and kinship are also far removed from those of a typical English speaker.”

You can imagine the plight of such an accused who has no way of telling the police interrogator that he is innocent. The more he tries to explain the more the cop is convinced that the man is lying. Under these circumstances can we imagine that justice can be done in an Australian court to the aborigines?

Misunderstanding of law is one matter, but there are also misunderstandings in diplomacy too. Sometime ago the Chinese President Jiang Zemin was on a visit to the States.

He created a bit of a stir when in the course of one of his speeches he happened to say that democracy originated (may be as so many other things we know) in China some 2000 years ago in the philosophy of Chinese thinkers. Absurd! Thought many American Liberals. Apparently, this misunderstanding turned out to be a problem in translation.

As one American scholar of Asian studies, Elvin Geng, pointed out, “The word Minzhu first appeared in a classic work called Shuji where it referred to a benevolent ‘ruler of the people,’ that is a leader whose legitimacy rests on the people’s welfare.

In Chinese, the one term can mean ‘rule of the people’ and ‘ruler of the people.’” Moore adding a note to this comment says that both uses of Minzhu share the sense that the government ought to meet the needs of the people. This criterion may be fulfilled by an enlightened dictator or a Leninist regime as well as by a US style constitutional democracy.”

Many people here in Sri Lanka are cheesed off with this political doctrine called democracy that prevails today. They are vaguely aware that, historically, we too had a system like the Chinese where it was felt ‘government ought to meet the needs of the people.’ In that system Generosity of the ruler was the first of the ten conditions he had to observe when appointed to that great office.

Among the others listed were self discipline of the ruler followed by virtues like Uprightness, Ill Will to none and also Ahimsa. These conditions had nothing to do with religion but it had everything to do with what good governance should be wherever it prevailed and whatever religion that was followed.

To come back to the question of how the Czechs came by this proverb. It is true that their country was occupied several times over by their neighbours. Did their proverb, To speak another language is to live another life mean well or ill?

Or in other words did those who learnt to speak a new language cease to be Czechs and adopted the style of the occupying Austro-Hungarians or of the Germans or even of the Russians? One never knows.

But since we have the experience of language changes in our own country, and that too happened drastically only under the British, I think the Czech proverb can be construed as being adversarial.

At the end of the column he wrote to the International Herald Tribune Moore agrees that ‘to live another life oneself is, yes, at least to take a step towards international understanding.’

The slight hesitation he makes in saying it indicates to me that though there could be a gain there could also be a corresponding loss. Yes, that indeed is our experience. We may have achieved the dubious merit of attaining international understanding but I think it was at the cost of misunderstanding our own country and its culture.

The education we received both under the British as well as under our own government only succeeded in making most of the leaders we had or have, masters of the Anglicised way of life. Recent examples show their blatant ignorance of our country’s history, geography and our way of life.

One of these gentleman donning what has been described as the ‘kapati suit’ of the politician, derided those who said they would adopt the Dasa Raja Dharma as their model of governance and accused them of taking the country back to feudalism.

So, that is how their learning of a foreign language has helped them to understand their country’s philosophy. While surfing the Internet recently I saw this politician’s remarks on the Dasa Raja Dharma high-lighted as a ‘howler’ made along with the ‘Sinhala’ staff of the BBC’s Sandesaya who were also clueless when running down the Dasa Raja Dharma at one of their chat shows.

C.J. Moore’s valuable guide should certainly help us to understand the way of life of other people, but I am not so sure whether it would help those who lived in the former colonies of the imperialists to understand their own cultural habits better.

The final paragraph of his essay left me in two minds. I leave it to you to judge for yourself. “How does one begin to bridge such gaps?” he asks and answers. “To live another life oneself is, yes, at least a step towards international understanding. A colleague who has seen me breaking into Spanish at book fairs once commented, ‘You become another person.’ I like that.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Exploring the modern coupling phenomenon

Exploring the modern coupling phenomenon

There appears to be a trend of older women dating younger men, notably illustrated by celebrity couples including Demi Moore and Aston Kutcher, Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry, and the most recent fling between 48-year-old Linda Hogan and 19-year-old Charlie Hill. According to a study of 50,000 women daters over 30, conducted by an online dating site in 2007, more than one-third of the subjects showed interest in men at least 5 years younger. And in 2003, an AARP survey revealed 34 percent of 3,500 women (between ages 40 and 69) dated men who are 10 or more years younger than themselves. This trend appears to be shocking to some people, but I don't find it so unusual.

Socially, there's a role reversal of sorts going on, women are more powerful now than ever before and may want men who are younger, and perhaps, more flexible; men who can handle it if the woman's career and lifestyle takes priority over their own. Media portrayals in "Sex and the City" (like movie characters Smith Jerrod and Samantha Jones) and "Desperate Housewives" are also showing women that dates don't have to be older. Women who have high-powered careers - or a well-developed self-image - are exercising more choice. Women who have been divorced and are established single moms may enjoy having a playmate, someone to have fun with; who doesn't try to control her.

Can these older woman/younger man relationships last? In my counselling office, I have seen many relationships succeed with this kind of older woman/younger man scenario.

The media focuses on the age difference, but what really makes or breaks the relationship is how well the couple can form a partnership that works The media focuses on the age difference, but what really makes or breaks the relationship is how well the couple can form a partnership that works.

Age difference is an adolescent worry: When you're a teenager, an age difference of even two or three years makes a vast difference in your experience and your outlook on life. Such a difference can interfere with communication, life goals, outlook, and relationship experience. In addition, for the young, the social reaction to such a relationship is often negative. If one partner is underage, a sexual relationship is even against the law.

But, as you get older, life experience and emotional growth help to equalize your relationship skills and resources. A 10-year or more difference in your ages makes little difference in how well you can conduct your relationship.

Don't focus on an arbitrary numbers difference in your ages. If you are getting along, you have good communication and problem solving, and you love each other, that's a precious thing, and far more important than any age difference could be. If other people have a problem with it, let it be their problem. Whether or not a relationship is healthy is not determined by age differences, but by the interaction between the partners. A 10-year difference is not too difficult to bridge, but a 20-year differences or more in age can lead to some difficulties as the partners get older. For example, the younger partner may mature and reconsider his or her choices, or an older partner may confront aging problems much sooner. But, as long as both parties are adult, and the couple has talked about their age difference and the future possibilities, I don't make judgments about their respective ages. Dealing with the generation gap There are healthy and unhealthy reasons to date someone of a different generation.

One inappropriate motivation for dating a younger person is fear of aging on the older person's part. A younger partner isn't going to reverse the aging process or protect you from old age. Obviously, a man or woman who dates someone as young as his or her children is going to run into some social opposition, but the differences that can cause the biggest problems within the couple's relationship are differing maturity levels.As more and more women choose younger partners for relationships, the question arises: Are women in their late 30s and early 40s likely to be successful with partners who are 10 to 15 years younger than themselves? Success in these relationships depends on what the motivations of both people are. Some older people feel younger at heart than their contemporaries and like to date people who are as active as they are.

Chronological age doesn't always reflect either physical capability or emotional maturity. Sometimes an age difference creates a mentoring relationship when the older person advises the younger one on life or career. This can backfire if and when the younger person decides he or she has learned enough, and wants to move on.If you're asking: "Is it OK for me to have a partner who is much older or younger than I am?" You'll do better off if you forget about your ages and concentrate on whether the relationship works for both of you, or not.What really makes a romantic relationship succeed is the emotional connection.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., of www.tinatessina.com is a licensed psychotherapist service.

--- The Sunday Times

Want to change your profession?

Want to change your profession?

Maybe I should become a programmer? Maybe in theatre? Can I become a psychologist? Or an engineer? And also a chief accountant ... And personnel manager also sounds quite good ... and maybe ...

Here a stream of my close girlfriend's reflexions was interrupted by a phone call from her chief with the request to come to him. A girlfriend left, and I remained to reflect on what causes her desire to replace a profession so cardinally, and whether it is necessary to risk so, working on the speciality for several years.

To change or not to change - here is a question!

Motives which induce a person to change a profession and field of activity completely are numerous. However a principal cause is dissatisfaction. In similar situations we can always accurately formulate what does not arrange us on the given work at all, however intuitively we understand that it is necessary to be engaged in something.. Something that will bring bigger satisfaction, allow to receive more money or open new horizons for development and self-realisation. In certain cases we work as though by inertia, on a habit, and we go for work because we need, because we have received this speciality, because we've been working many years in one collective...

Meanwhile, a person whose career remains without changes for long time, risks to get stuck at this level for ever. Certainly, any modern woman would not like this to happen! We should develop, grow, aspire to new tops, submit them and go further! Sometimes it happens that it is necessary to take a detached view of your work to estimate a real state of affairs. So, let's begin.

Signs telling you can (and probably should) change your speciality:

- Absence of achievements in professional work;

- To a small salary which hardly suffices on necessity, and you would like to receive several times more;

- Your post remains former for a third year, duties - invariable, and the level of authority also has fallen asleep at one place;

- There is no interest to professional work, a necessity to earn money is a unique stimulus to go for work;

- Frequent illnesses: if you combine all sick-lists for a year, it will turn out more than a month. Most likely, diseases are somatic, thus an organism tries to protect us, brings out necessity to go for unloved work.

Here are some basic signs telling your profession can be changed and everyone will just win from it. If any of the named signs are reality reflexion, it is a serious occasion to reflect on work change.

I could become a pilot...

After understanding your present work is not a business of your life, there comes time to decide, what is a business of your life then? It is necessary to define with what profession to choose. In this question you should be very attentive and should not give up available work without that accurate understanding for the sake of what this work will leave for you.

First, it is necessary to estimate soberly possibilities, and already proceeding from it, choose a new employment. For example, if it would be desirable to work as a designer, but thus you've got only "three" on drawing and plotting and no successful drawing in the slightest degree in your active, it is better to refuse from such speciality and make this employment a hobby, instead of way of earnings.

Choosing a future profession is necessary to lean against your abilities and skills. For example, if there is a talent of belief, it is pleasant to communicate with people, you can choose a profession of sales manager. And in student's accounting was your favourite subject, it makes sense to reflect on a profession of a bookkeeper.

Secondly, having decided to change profession, it is not necessary to enter University on the chosen speciality at once, as in this case practical skills and experience are much more important. It is better to work as a trainee or assistant for the expert in the chosen area for some time, for the symbolical salary.Simultaneously you can be engaged in self-education on a theme or register in courses, if it is necessary.

Forward, to the employer! All meditations are behind, a new field of activity is chosen, now it is possible to be arranged for work. Here it is necessary to be ready for the fact that employers do not wait for a person who does not have experience in the field with open arms, therefore it is necessary to be prepared for an interview in advance .It is necessary to manage to explain an employer the reasons why this speciality has been chosen. It is important to show that you are the one who, despite minimum experience or its total absence, can cope with the duties assigned to it (here examples from life when it was necessary to carry out similar problems, and their performance was successful will help). Besides, an employer should be convinced that he receives a loyal employee, who is ready to be trained and work as much, as it is required from him and with full return.

It is very important to read specialised literature on the chosen profession, watch news in this area and visit specialised forums,then it is possible to gather a lot of useful practical information, and also penetrate into a theme more deeply. Besides, it will help a lot on interview with the employer, after all he will see before himself a person who is guided in the basic questions and interested in chosen activity.

Do not become a despair, if from the first you failed to get a job. It is important to analyse the reasons, correct errors , meet possible lack in knowledge and go on following interview or send resume to several companies. The main thing is a serious spirit and optimism, then everything will turn out necessarily!Instead of conclusion the girlfriend returned from a chief, shining with happiness. It appeared, he suggested her passing in other department and heading it! Now she is a head of large department, and thoughts on change of work do not come to her anymore.

Favourite interesting work, worthy salary and fine prospects of the further career growth. She found her work, and she's not going to change it.

Are foreign educational institutions a must for Lankan students?

Are foreign educational institutions a must for Lankan students?

The number of Sri Lankan youth studying in foreign educational institutions has significantly increased during the past four years. Even some parents are of the opinion that their children could find better jobs only if they do their higher studies in foreign countries.

When the Sunday Observer interviewed educationist, intellectuals and the general public on this issue, former student of Maliyadeva College, Kurunegala now employed as a computer hardware engineer, Dr. Lakshitha Wijegunawardana said that he had never studied in a foreign country.

“Since I was unable to become a medical doctor, I focused my attention towards IT education and I entered a local institution which has their parent body in Melbourne, Australia, thereafter without going to Australia I completed my studies here,” he said.

Dr. Wijegunawardana further said that facilities are ample to prepare and sit for many foreign examinations in Sri Lanka today and urged young Lankans not to go to foreign counties for higher education.

Former Central Province Education Minister and present Deputy Minister of Justice and Law Reforms, V. Puththirasigamoney said that local academics and intellectuals must make drastic changes in our education system to attract students. “If not more Lankan students will leave the country in the future to study in foreign countries,”.

He also urged the Minister in-charge of higher education, politicians, academics and other concerned parties to discuss this matter further and take steps to set up higher educational institutions in our country with foreign collaboration.

The Deputy Minister further said a fair number of Lankan students still go to foreign medical colleges and thereafter coming back to Sri Lanka seek employment in government hospitals. “He therefore urged authorities to set up private medical colleges here and it will help Sri Lanka to save millions of valuable foreign exchange,” he said. He also suggested the setting up with foreign collaboration

engineering colleges to stop local engineering students leaving for studies in foreign soil.

Founder, “Pragnapradeepa Concept”, Dr. Jayantha de Silva said that studying in foreign educational institutions by Lankan children has become a menace today.

“At present we have better educational institutions which are conducted with foreign collaboration and therefore attending to foreign educational institutions for higher studies is a waste of money,” he said.

He also blamed certain local employers who give preference to overseas educated in preference to localy educated ones.

Dr. de Silva also urged the Government not to open international universities here since it will adversely affect the majority poor children engaged in higher education in the Sinhala medium in local universities.

Dr. De Silva appealed to higher educational authorities to take immediate steps to upgrade English language education and the knowledge of Information Technology of children from Advanced Level to the university level.

“Lack of knowledge in these subjects has become an obstacle for our children to find better jobs although they have excellent academic qualifications,” he added.

Director, Business Development and Education, Gwendoline Kuhatheva said that due to lack of educational institutions with foreign collaborations many children are going to study in foreign countries.

“Therefore, I urge educational authorities to encourage interested parties to open branches of foreign universities here,”.

However, she said when comparing to the 1980s, our students have now got better opportunities to do their higher studies here since many international study courses are being conducted, in Sri Lanka with foreign collaboration.

Mercantile sector Executive, Susila Gunasekara said that our children studying in foreign countries cannot be stopped unless more branches of foreign educational institutions are set up here. “I wish that educational authorities must discuss this matter further and pave the way for Lankans to have their entire education in our country as the students of India,”.

Student at IPM, Thushani Kularathne wanted the Government to appoint foreign lecturers in local universities, so that our children will be able to acquire upto date international knowledge from them without going to foreign countries.

She said the poor knowledge of English of our younger generation has also become a big problem for them to find jobs.

School teacher, Gamini Punchihewa of Ratmalana did not blame local

students who study medicine going abroad for higher studies.

“If we have private medical colleges as in many countries, our students would never enter foreign medical colleges by paying exorbitant charges,”.

He therefore proposed to the Government to set up medical and engineering colleges here as it is the only way to stop our children going for overseas education.

Chitrangani Samuel of Ratmalana said. “Although we have about nine State owned universities, the current education methods in our country are not suitable to equip them for better employment,”

“This could be clearly seen when thousands of graduates every year demand the Government to provide them employment,”

She said that she has never seen graduates in countries such as India, Australia, Canada, America, China or England engage in demonstrations over employment.

“Therefore, under such circumstances, I think no one should be blamed for seeking foreign education,”

But, if authorities want to stop Lankans going to foreign countries for higher eduction then the education of our universities as well as advanced level classes must be changed to meet the demand of the current job market.

Companies joining to push music on memory cards !!!

Companies joining to push music on memory cards

By RACHEL METZ, AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK - Just as vinyl once gave way to compact discs as the main physical medium for music, could CDs be replaced now by a fingernail-sized memory card? Perhaps not entirely, but SanDisk Corp., four major record labels and retailers Best Buy Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are hoping that albums sold on microSD memory cards will at least provide an additional stream of sales. The companies were expected to unveil plans Monday to sell memory cards loaded with music in the MP3 format, free of copy protections.

The new SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/s Edition line of SDHC memory cards is available in 4-, 8- and 16-gigabyte capacities and are ideal for digital SLRs like the new Nikon D90. (Photo: Business Wire)
AP Photo: The new SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/s Edition line of SDHC memory cards is available in...

Called "slotMusic," the new format is meant to address two intertwined trends. Most albums are still sold in a physical format — 449 million were sold on CDs in 2007, while 50 million were sold digitally, according to Nielsen SoundScan — yet CDs are decreasingly popular. Albums sold on CD dropped almost 19 percent last year.

Given this, the record labels — Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group Corp. and EMI Group PLC — are hoping slotMusic can be another physical revenue source — and one that is more versatile than CDs, given the kinds of gadgets people carry around these days.

Unlike when the CD was introduced and people had to buy new players, many people already have the ability to play slotMusic albums, since many cell phones and multimedia players support microSD cards.

These new albums will come with a small USB dongle that lets buyers use them with computers, too.

"Particularly in this kind of economic climate, the idea of being able to use an electronic device you already own to enjoy music rather than going out and buying a dedicated player is pretty compelling," said Daniel Schreiber, who heads the audio-video business unit at SanDisk, which created the microSD card format and is working on the technology behind slotMusic.

Schreiber said slotMusic albums will be sold on 1 gigabyte microSD cards, which means they will be able to hold a full album and related content such as liner notes and cover art. Buyers will be able to use extra space on the cards to hold songs and photos from their own collections.

The cards and dongles will come in boxes similar to current CD packaging, and Schreiber expects the cost of slotMusic releases to be "in the ballpark" of current CD prices.

It's not yet known exactly when — or how many — albums will be initially sold in the format, but Schreiber expects retailers to give a "sizable amount of shelf space" to slotMusic albums. The albums are expected to debut at multiple retailers, including Best Buy and Wal-Mart stores in the U.S., and later in Europe.

Rio Caraeff, executive vice president of Universal Music Group's eLabs digital music unit, said the label will initially release about 30 titles in the slotMusic format. The titles will include old and new albums, such as one by singer Akon.

"We want to provide the benefits of digital music to people who go to physical retail environments," he said.

Asked whether he sees the format taking the place of the CD, Caraeff said, "I think we would certainly hope that would be the case, but I don't think we are so tied to that."

NPD Group entertainment analyst Russ Crupnick sees a potential for slotMusic to emerge as a compelling format. He said the industry needs "desperately" to give people a new reason to head back into the music sections at brick-and-mortar stores.

"Not that we want them out of the gaming section, but once they're done looking at `Guitar Hero' we want them to come look at the music section," he said.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Protect your child from dark side of Internet

Protect your child from dark side of Internet

President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa recently ordered to impose a ban on immoral websites. Such websites have become a major social menace not only in Sri Lanka, but in all over the world. A clash erupted at the University of Colombo a couple of weeks ago resulting in its closure. The incident that triggered this University clash was also a 'video clip' posted on the Internet. These incidents prompted me to write this short article on the dark side of information and communication technology (ICT), in particular the computers connected to the Internet.

This is the era of ICT. Governments pump in millions of rupees for the development of the ICT sector. Most parents try their best to expose their children to this 'wonder' machine, the computer. However, we must not ignore the fact that there is a dark side to this extremely powerful and eminent technology. Do we place adequate significance to the dark side of ICT?

Beware! The unreserved use of an Internet has the power to ruin your child's entire life. Some of us never see the dangers of this side of ICT. The focus of this article is the computers connected to Internet. Internet is the communication network that connects millions of computers all over the world via satellites and other communication links. It is timely that as responsible citizens and child-loving parents we understand the dangers of inappropriate use of this feature of ICT. That is the dangers and the ways of protracting our kids from the improper use of computers connected to internet.

Power ICT

The enormous power of ICT is uncontested. It is like atomic energy. Atomic energy has many great uses; it powers the rocket engine that goes to moon; it produces electricity to light millions of houses and thousands of factories. However, used maliciously the atomic bomb can destroy cities and communities in a second; see what happened in Hiroshima. ICT is no difference!

Before going into this matter, may I narrate two stories; one from Sri Lanka and the other from New Zealand.

One Sri Lankan family migrated to New Zealand in 1995. The parents' main aim was to provide 'best quality' education for their only daughter. This family was exposed to the modern world, only when they all landed in this foreign soil. The language, culture and the social norms of the west were new to these parents. Being young, the daughter naturalised into the new environment much faster than the parents did.

They love their daughter so much that all her needs were fulfilled with no hesitation. As a result, the daughter got a state-of-the-art home computer as her 10th birthday present. This was with full Internet facilities. The new computer in her room became her 'pet'. Daughter was now 'using' the computer extensively. Once her mother said: (with a bit of pride of course) "you know, our daughter is always "working" in the computer, even up to mid night".

They did not know what this child was up to. Few years later, the daughter miserably failed her exams and 'ran away' with her 'boyfriend'. Poor parents realised only then that the girl had had met her boyfriend over the Internet. Subsequently, the 'boyfriend' was found to be an agent of a gang member involved in a ring of sex industry.

The second case is about a teenager who got addicted to computer games. His father was a consultant medical officer in Sri Lanka. Mother was an accountant. Both parents were busy with work and had been having a good income too. In order to keep the son occupied in 'productive' activities and as a means of exposing him to the 'knowledge society', a powerful computer equipped with many educational programmes and games entered the household.

By the time the boy reached fifteen, he became a computer addict and was also heavily involved with gambling through the Internet. He has secretly used mother's credit card for Internet payments. Ultimate result is that the son is now undergoing psychiatric treatment.

In both these cases, the inappropriate use of the computer and Internet ( i.e. ICT) was the main reason for ruining these children's lives. Who is at fault?

Now we will turn into some of the potential dangers of ICT.

Internet (connected with computers) is used extensively to promote and solicit immoral sexual behaviour. How can an innocent machine like a computer promote sex? It is not the computer, but the malicious people behind the ICT. These boorish minority are in a way sex maniacs or psychopaths, or rude businessmen who place money before humanity. They misuse this extremely powerful tool to make money, in one of the most unethical ways.

Internet gambling

Following words of David Partenheimer is adequate to understand the disastrous impact of Internet gambling.

"People who use the Internet to gamble may have more serious gambling problems than those who use slot machines or play the lottery, according to a new study that is among the first to evaluate the prevalence of Internet gambling.

The study warns that the explosive growth of the Internet is likely to lead to more on-line gambling opportunities and the health and emotional difficulties that come with gambling disorders, including substance abuse, circulatory disease, depression and risky sexual behaviours." (Ref: Psychology of Addictive Behaviours, a journal of the American Psychological Association).

Dangerous drugs

Today, the Internet has become an extremely popular 'drug shop'. Drugs are advertised on the Internet and any person can buy them electronically (e.g. using credit cards, electronic funds transfer) without any restriction.

The problem in this business is that there is no control over the sales. If it is in a country, the laws of the land governs the businesses operations.

For example, in Sri Lanka, the sale of certain dangerous drugs are totally banned; alcohol and cigarettes cannot be sold to under 18s. The business on the Internet has no boundaries; no geographical barriers. That is the danger!

United Nations warns that some of these banned drugs are associated with 'lifestyle' enhancements. One of the difficulties facing the medical profession is how to curb these so-called 'lifestyle' medicines.

Some drugs sold on the Internet are fake and contain ingredients bearing little resemblance to the medicine named on the bottle.

In one example, a 64-year-old woman in the UK had taken the drug through Internet for four years after making a self-diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. In February 2006, she was admitted to a public hospital complaining of failing eyesight. The doctors diagnosed that she had glaucoma and cataract, caused by the excessive doses of 'steroids' (the active ingredient contained in the drug prednisolone). Later, the doctors found over 1,000 websites selling prednisolone tablets.

Marijuana (and heroin) is always one of the top 100 words looked up on the Internet search engines. This means the Internet users can 'type the word' and search these words most frequently. People who promote marijuana know that teens spend more time online than any other age group and target much of their advertising directly to children and teens.

Danger of social networks

There are a number of free chat rooms, also called social networks, in the Internet. MySpace, Facebook, are to name a few.

Anyone can join these social networks and make "friends' with others and 'chat' through the Internet.

Not only they can talk, these sites are full of variety with text (written communication), audio, video, animation, movies, graphics, etc.

These networks have become extremely popular, especially among children and young.

Virtually no extra cost is involved in joining these social networks.

Dangers of social networks are manifold. It is an utter waste of time, if you are not talking something useful. These 'sampappralapa' chats may eat into many hours of your precious time. Some teenagers spend the whole night chatting.

Certain online activities are illegal.

They may download music, video etc without licence.

One other snag is divulging personal information through Internet and that may lead to many forms of crime. As well as leaving yourself open to theft, personal information can be used by identity thieves to open loans and credit cards in your name. Only a small amount of personal information is needed for these criminals. Certain teenagers have listed not only their names and addresses, but even cell phone numbers and after school schedules.

Another major worry in the minds of Internet safety experts is the dangers of posting party invitations onto social network sites. These 'parties' can be of many forms; some may propagate sex; others the drugs like marijuana.

Community responsibility

This article presented a number of potential dangers of inappropriate use of Internet particularly for children and teenagers. Though there are many benefits of ICT, which we have not discussed here, we can see that computer (Internet) can cause much harm to society, if not used carefully.

However, this article in no way suggests that we must avoid (or not promote the growth and development of) ICT. Our closest neighbour, India has shown the world that ICT can be a major engine of growth. On the other hand, we have to embrace ICT, whether we like it or not. That's the global trend! The reader must be warned not to form a negative image of the ICT after reading this article. All what's needed is to use this powerful tool with extreme care. We must find suitable strategies to use this enormously powerful tool in a productive manner. In particular, we ought to find ways of protecting our very own children - the ever loving sons and daughters, the future leaders, of our soil - from the potential dangers of ICT. Certain nations have taken this issue very seriously and have taken major steps, individually and collectively, towards correcting the situation.

The recent directive of our president mentioned at the beginning is praiseworthy; but that itself could not make the change. We all have to act swiftly. Otherwise Sri Lanka may also become 'famous' for 'online computer abuse', as some western countries are. It's our role. It is quite timely that we, the parents, elders and professionals, take a deep breath and think through to look after our next generation from the dark side of ICT.

The writer is the Head, Department of Information Systems and Business Management of the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology, Malabe.

Stem Cell and Cloning controversies

Stem Cell and Cloning controversies

Human-Genetic researchers tackle the issue by Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

The last few years have seen an upsurge of public attention in the scientific world to the ethics of cloning, as well as stem cell and human-embryo research. There has been a steady stream of media interviews, letters to editors, and articles or op-ed pieces. Although these included some contributions by individual scientists, there are few if any reports on the actual percentage of scientists who support or oppose such research.

Human cloning limited to cells

The most striking distinction is that between the cloning of whole human beings and the therapeutic cloning of human stem cells. In scientist’s open-ended comments, respondents emphasized the importance of such stem cell research and its likely medical benefits for humanity, its great potential to develop replacement tissues and organs, as well as its potential for gene therapy.

The only rationale for cloning a human being that is tolerated to a small degree is to enable infertile couples to have a child; even this motive, however, is not considered satisfactory by the vast majority. Other reasons, promoted by cloning proponents in the literature and in the media, fare even worse: to avoid the risk of passing on a genetic disease by cloning the parent free of the abnormality, to produce a genetically identical sibling of a sick or dying child for compatible tissue, to ‘bring back’ a beloved relative.

Paramount dilemma for Stem Cell Research

In political discussions and in the current national political debate even in Sri Lanka, opposition to therapeutic is based most often on the reliance on human embryos for the development of potentially therapeutic stem cells.

In theory, millions of people suffering devastating diseases may one day be helped or even cured with treatments derived from human embryonic stem cells. But human embryos must be destroyed to obtain these stem cells. So, research involving them is mired in controversy, with each side arguing passionately for the rights of the sick or the rights of the unborn. These arguments evoke ‘the moral status of the embryo’ and ultimately scientists discovered induced Pluripotent Stem cells to overcome the issue.

Induced pluripotent stem cells are…

Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, commonly abbreviated as iPS cells or iPSCs, are a type of pluripotent stem cell artificially derived from a non-pluripotent cell, typically an adult somatic cell, by inducing a ‘forced’ expression of certain genes. This could provide a way to generate all kinds of tissues from individual patients. That would make it easier to study diseases with genetic components, and perhaps, to generate replacement tissue that would not be rejected by patients’ immune systems.

At Kyoto University, a team led by Shinya Yamanaka published a paper in Cell, showing that differentiated human cells could be reprogrammed to an embryo-like state, using the same formula that he had previously used to transform differentiated mouse cells. First the researchers engineered cultured human skin cells (called fibroblasts), so that additional genes could be inserted more easily. The team added viruses engineered to introduce four genes (OCT3/4 SOX2, KLF4, and c-MYC) into cultured skin cells collected from adults. After several weeks in culture, the team started to see colonies resembling those formed by human embryonic stem (ES) cells. When these cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells, were expanded and tested, they were very similar to ES cells. Cell populations doubled at about the same rate; the chromosome-preserving enzyme telomerase, active in ES cells, was also active in iPS cells. Several pluripotency genes that are silenced in fibroblasts but active in ES cells were active in the iPS cells. Genes from the retrovirus were also silenced, indicating that the transformation happens by shifting gene expression of endogenous genes. The iPS cells could be differentiated to make beating heart muscle and proteins characteristic of neurons. They could also make representatives of the three major cells types (ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm) in vivo and in vitro.

Ethical perspective of other bio-social issues usually does not involve the same degree of universal concern for the effects on mankind that are bought to mind by the bioethics of therapeutic techniques by iPS. No more fear, then, of a slippery slope does not appear to be justified, but even though it’s safe ‘Social and ethical issues will increase, not diminish’.
-------------The Island

Increasing domestic food production

Increasing domestic food production

I received my baptism in ‘green revolution’ agriculture at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines in the mid 1960s. It was an exciting time. IRRI had just released the rice variety IR8, which was widely hailed as "miracle rice"by the world’s media. It was a truly outstanding rice variety yielding 8-9 tons per hectare. Scientists had finally found the missing link- a rice variety with the desired plant type (short, stiff-strawed and non- lodging); high fertilizer response, desired growth duration (120 days), and non-sensitive to day length. This variety was believed to be the key ingredient in the recipe for filling the empty rice bowls of over two thirds of the World’s people. The other ingredients- inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, assured supply of irrigation water, farm machinery and correct cultural practices could easily be found (so it was thought!). All that was now required was to transfer this package (high yielding variety, other inputs and a ‘prescription’ describing the correct cultural/agronomic practices to be followed) to any one who needed it.

Spreading the gospel

Scientists from Asia, Africa and Latin America flocked to IRRI to observe what was going on there and to have themselves trained in the development and application green revolution technologies. They were to be the ‘missionaries, entrusted with the responsibility of spreading the gospel leading to bountiful rice supplies. On returning to their home countries, these Scientists would test the performance of IR8 in their specific locations. They also provided valuable feed back to IRRI scientists.

Cracks begin to appear

Before long, the first cracks began to appear. Many farmers in South Asian countries did not like the taste of IR8. Some claimed that being short strawed, this variety of rice was inferior to their traditional varieties in thatching their roofs. Others said weed control was posing to be a more difficult problem in their paddy fields. Still others found the variety to be more susceptible to fungal diseases (such as ‘rice blast’) and insect damage (‘brown plant hopper’, stem borers etc) in their specific locations. There were even more serious weaknesses – IR8 lacked seed dormancy. This meant that its seed would even germinate on the panicle (ear) itself should rains occur at harvest time. Traditional and indigenous rice varieties did not suffer from this weakness. Perhaps the most serious weakness of all was that the package of inputs (fertilizer, pesticides, assured supply of irrigation water etc.) so essential for IR8 to perform well (produce high grain yield) was proving to be very costly and difficult to provide.


Over the years IRRI researchers created many new rice varieties which did not have the weaknesses of IR8.

Even more significant, was the ability of local scientists in the various rice growing countries to correct many of the initial weaknesses of IR8 themselves by breeding new rice varieties that were better adapted to their specific regions. Sri Lankan plant breeders have had an outstanding record in this respect. Some rice varieties bred by our plant breeders at the Batalagoda Rice Research Station have been able to out yield even many of the best varieties produced by IRRI. All these efforts have had an undoubted positive impact on overall availability of our staple food.

Concerns and Explanations

Conventional science-based research and extension activities have focussed on ‘modern’ agriculture with high levels of external inputs, e.g. hybrid seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and fuel-based mechanization. Technologies have been developed on research stations and experimental farms in better endowed areas, and attempts have been made to transfer ready-made technology packages to farmers. The primary aim of these efforts has been to increase production of specific commodities (rice, maize, wheat etc.). These efforts have mostly benefited ‘better off farmers’, but have brought little benefit to the majority of small holders, and have sometimes worsened their situation. When resource poor farmers were reluctant or slow to adopt recommendations emanating from research stations, they were blamed for their ‘laziness’ and ‘ignorance’. " In the 1950s and 1960s, non-adoption was often attributed to ignorance, and extension education was the prescribed solution. In the 1970s and early 1980s, non-adoption was more often attributed to farm level constraints; gaps in yield between the research station and farm were analyzed; and the prescription was to try to make the farm more like the research station. In the1980s, however, a new interpretation, more challenging to the agricultural profession and to science, has gathered support. It is that the problem is neither the farmer nor the farm, but the technology; and that the faults of the technology can be traced to the priorities and processes which generate it" " (Robert Chambers, 1989.)

High external input (‘modern agriculture’) has also resulted in environmental degradation and exploitation of natural resources ( soil, water). Nitrates and Pesticides have contaminated soil, ground-water as well as streams and reservoirs resulting in harm to wild life, disruption of eco-systems, and possible health problems to man.

Farmers can overplough and overpump with impressive results in the short run, but the short run is fast running to a close. In the Anuradhapura district, ‘agro-wells’- open dug wells which exploit shallow groundwater for the cultivation of high value cash crops like Hybrid Corn, B-onions and Chilli during the dry (‘yala’) season, had already reached the ecologically permissible limit (15,000) in Sept-Oct (2000), according to the Provincial Director Agriculture. Scientists (based at the Mahailluppallama research station) warn that exceeding the above limit is likely to seriously deplete ground water resources, and may even subject perennial tree crops to serious moisture depletion.

Another worrying concern is the realization that consecutively mono cropped ‘modern’ cereals appear to be unable to maintain their initial yield levels, whether fertilized or not. At IRRI, the yields of the highest yielding entry rice variety in long-term fertility trials have fallen steadily between 1966 and 1988. (Pingali, 1991 ; Ponnamperuma, 1989). Similar yield reductions have been observed in Thailand and Indonesia. At Patnagar in India, rice yields have fallen from 6.4 to 5.2 tons per hectare (Gaur and Verma, 1991). Indian researchers have also reported wheat yields to have declined from 4.4t/ha to 3.3t/ha over a 16-year period. Some of these yield reductions have only been corrected by a 50 per cent increase in fertilizer applications. Why this is happening is unclear though pests, diseases, chemical toxicity and certain trace element deficiencies, changing soil carbon-nitrogen ratios are all believed to be possible explanations. Peter Kenmore, an IRRI scientist sums it up: " The degradation of the paddy environment, whether by micro-nutrient depletion, atmospheric pollution, pest pressure or accumulative toxic change in soil chemistry, is greater than the capacity for genetic improvements in yield potential that breeders can select".

It is against this background that our government is spending over 40 billion rupees in fertilizer subsidies to farmers. Next years’ budget is said to increase the fertilizer subsidy to 60 billion rupees. Let us not forget that all this fertilizer has to be imported! Worse still, how much foreign exchange are we squandering in importing inappropriate agricultural machinery into our country at the present time? It has taken our policy makers well over 30 years to realize that a considerable amount of the bountiful rice yields produced by high yielding rice varieties, subsidized fertilizer, costly pesticides, irrigation water etc. was being wasted on the threshing floors for want of effective threshing machines. This problem was brought into sharp focus early this year (February-March 2008) when incessant heavy rains lashed the rice bowl (see ‘The neglected Social Dimension’, on page 11 of ‘The Island’, Monday, 15th September 2008). Suddenly, barely six months later, we see a flood of harvesting and threshing machines (many of them highly inappropriate, and imported) all over the country. The captains of big business may even be tempted to complement the private sector for its efficiency in running to ‘help the poor rice farmers’!

Who benefits?

Are massive, fuel guzzling harvester combines needed by small farmers who rarely cultivate more than one hectare of paddy land? We also need to realize that in most cases, the ‘liyaddas’ are small (stamp sized). Worse still, one shower of rain, and these heavy machines will get bogged down in the muddy fields. Witness the damage caused to the levees (niyara) by these enormous machines, and the shattered grain scattered all over the fields. These machines that were presumed to help the rice farmer, are in many instances driving the small farmer into deeper debt (to the Mudalalis who own the machines). Barely two weeks ago, a Mudalali was charging rupees 17,000 to harvest one hectare of paddy in the Dehiattakandiya area using a harvester combine. Farmers saw the waste, and damage done to the ‘niyaras’, they still felt compelled to use this machine because the rains were threatening, and they were scared stiff by last season’s bitter experience (when some of them lost over 50 percent of the harvest due to rain). How much did the machine (Combine harvester) cost? Over 4.5 million rupees.

There were many other stationary threshing machines (‘Sunami’ machines) also operating on the threshing floors (‘Kamatas’), or out in the fields where a threshing mat or canvas could be laid out. These threshers were operated by 4- wheel tractors. These were said to consume 5-6 liters of Diesel per hour. They would take about 3 hours to thresh a hectare of paddy (yielding approximately 5 tons of grain). They too were owned by ‘Mudalalis’. The Mudalali charged the farmer 6,000 rupees to thresh his one hectare crop. These threshers cost rupees 750,000 to 800,000. They were imported from Thailand. The Agri-business Company which imported these machines, boasted of having sold over 1000 such machines all over the country during the past few years.

A Crying Shame

In August this year, we spotlighted a ‘Multi-grain threshing machine’ manufactured by a Sri Lankan technician (see page 4, ‘The Island’, August 11th 2008). This machine was operated off a 2-wheel tractor (Kubota type). It had a threshing capacity of 800 kg per hour, and consumed only 1 liter of Diesel per hour. It cost only 150,000 rupees. The local manufacturer/technician had obtained a national patent (patent No.13341) for his innovation in 2005. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had purchased 25 of these machines for distribution in the Mannar, Trincomalee and Ampara areas. Some local farmers in the Thambuttegama area (where the technician had his workshop) had purchased this machine. They found it to be useful and cost effective. But our local manufacturer could only produce 2 machines per month in his little workshop employing 4 skilled workmen. He couldn’t raise the capital necessary to increase his production because he lacked the collateral (security) demanded by our Banks. Isn’t this a crying shame?!

Whither ‘Deshiya Arthikaya Naga Sitawamu?’

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