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Singularity

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“By 2030 we would be able to access and share, experiences, thoughts, the wisdom of every human being similar to how we can access the internet today. The need for speech would be removed as we will be able to connect only by our thoughts”

“Singularity”, a phrase derived from mathematics to describe a mathematical object for which the exact properties cannot be analyzed, or where the laws of physics cease to exist. Therefore, it is simply the hypothesis that explains how the advancement in technology would be so complex that even the brightest minds among us will not be able to comprehend it.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) when categorized by intelligence, we have

  1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) – The level of AI that exists around us today, from Google assistant to Siri and even advanced as the self-driving car. They’re specialized only in one area and operate only in the range of activities that they are programmed for.
  2. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – The form of AI that would be similar to the intelligence of a human being. AGI can learn, innovate, create, imagine, dream, reason and be driven by emotions similar to a human being. Even Though this type of intelligence has not yet been discovered, most people working in the field of AI are convinced that an AGI is possible.
  3. Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) – When an AI doesn’t just replicate human brain power or behavior but surpasses it, it is called an ASI.

 

How will a singularity begin?

If an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), were to be invented, it will start to freely improve its own software and hardware to become more intelligent or will design a machine that is smarter than itself. This new and more capable machine would then go on to design a machine which is even more superior to any of the previous ones. So, the cycles of self-improvement and unfolding of machines with higher and higher intelligence continue, until a runaway technological growth beyond any hope of control is triggered. That would result in a rapid emergence of Artificial Super Intelligence that could far surpass all human intelligence. The point which is known as the technological singularity.

 When will it happen?

The tools needed to make such a rapid technological transformation is still unavailable or still at the initial stages of being created, however with every new invention that comes to the market and with the increase in opportunity for anyone to access them , technology advancement is likely to make an exponential progress in the coming few years, instead of a linear one . Suggesting that creations that we were thought might only happen in “a million years”  will most likely happen in the next century.

Ray Kurzweil, a famous futurist, with a track record of 30 years of accurate predictions, who predicted the evolution of the internet well beforehand says

“We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”.

Accordingly, Kurzweil predicts that by 2030 Artificial intelligence will be smart as humans,

and by 2040 AI will not only exceed the brain power of a single human but all humans on earth combined.

Should we Fear it?                                                      

Since the reasoning and insights of an intelligent species such as that of an ASI will be far beyond the understanding capabilities of man, the possibility of not being able to keep up with AI and therefore being dominated by them (similar to the sci-fi movies) is a possible outcome. Physicist Stephen Hawking stated, ” I believe the development of full AI could spell the end of the human race” while public figures like Elon Musk and Bill Gates has also raised concerns regarding a similar future.

However, the more optimistic views on the opportunities that a singularity can bring include, the ability to solve issues such as world hunger, global warming, poverty, etc. Help man become a multi-planetary species or even immortal

Instead of machines ruling over us, people such as Ray Kurzweil believe that humans are likely to modify their biology to implant computer chips to the brain in a way that enables massive intelligence amplification. He stated

“What’s actually happening is machines are powering all of us. They may not yet be inside our bodies, but, by the 2030s, we will connect our neocortex, the part of our brain where we do our thinking, to the cloud.”

Furthermore, cracking the secret to immortality has never been more realistic. Either through the insertion of nanobots to kill viruses to stop the aging process, or by proceeding to an AI body, and abandoning our biological bodies to go live in a simulated virtual world for eternity. Privacy, the consequences of ending the natural process of life and the purpose of living, are all topics that can and will be intensely debated in the coming few years with the dawn of such an evolution. If forecasted accurately this would mean that by 2030 we would be able to access and share, experiences, thoughts, the wisdom of every human being similar to how we can access the internet today. The need for speech will be eliminated as we would be able to connect only by our thoughts. Elon Musk’s neural lace concept of a mesh that allows you to wirelessly connect and interact with computers through your thoughts via an implant in our brain allowing the brain to expand with it, demonstrates how a human brain and computer can be merged.

However, In Spite of the fact that a technological singularity may or may not happen, the world around us is changing at a much faster rate than what many of us are aware of, and we are to witness some of the most groundbreaking inventions in history.

Rtr. Hashini Wickramasuriya

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Featured

Decision Review System

DRS

“The Umpire’s decision is final.”

 This was universally accepted in cricket until the 2008 test series between Sri Lanka and India where the Decision Review System was first tested, and the cricket world would never be same again. The Decision Review System (DRS) was officially launched by the ICC on 24th November 2009 during the first test match between New Zealand and Pakistan at the University Oval in Dunedin. It was first used in ODIs during the England’s tour of Australia in January 2011.

The DRS is a technology-based system used in cricket to assist the match officials with their decision making. Television replays, technology that tracks the path of the ball and predicts what it would have done (known as Hawk-Eye), microphones to detect small sounds when hitting the bat or pad (known as Snickometer or Ultra-Edge), infra-red imaging to detect temperature changes as the ball hits the bat or pad (known as hotspot) are the main elements that are been used currently with DRS.

It’s been 10 years since the DRS has come into the cricket world and it has certainly proven to cause a major impact on the final outcome of some matches. As a kid, I remember watching the first series where the DRS was first tested. I thought to myself that day itself that this system is going to cause a big change in the future. A few decisions were overturned during that match itself. One such decision was when TM Dilshan was given out caught behind early in his innings and he opted for a review. The decision was overturned, and he went on to score a century which gave Sri Lanka a huge advantage into winning that particular test match.

Appealing for a review.

As I mentioned above, DRS has caused a major impact on the final outcome. Even though this system was introduced in a way it would cause a good impact, there have been many times where the DRS decisions have been controversial. Initially, DRS came under heavy criticism especially from the BCCI due to a perceived lack of clarity in the review process. When this system was first used, the protocols and the technology was half-baked. The process was badly handled. There was no one really in charge of the system by then and the TV director was the person who had to take charge. As an example, when reviewing an LBW decision, the point of impact is very important. Even the slightest changes can cause a big difference at the end. During this series, the point of impact was manually amended by the operators and which led to some obviously inaccurate decisions. Now the technology is solely controlled by the ICC. Still, the technology has some major confusions. One such example is the ball tracking mechanism. Only a handful of people know what the exact mechanism behind this system is. If the ICC could take the veil off the system and explain it to the entire world, it can avoid a lot of confusions caused.

The major problem with DRS now is in its protocols. Why does the benefit of the doubt go to the umpires? If the umpire gives a batsman out lbw, the batsman is even out if the even if a minute fraction of the ball is shown to be clipping the stumps. If on the other hand, the umpire has given the batsman not out, he will remain not out even if 50% of the ball is showing to be hitting the stumps. These are huge margins given for umpires. If the system is to be claimed near perfect, then what is the need for margins? Even if there are margins, why not have a clear protocol? For example, more than 50% of the ball hitting the stumps mean out and anything less than that is not out, irrespective of the decision of the on-field umpire.

Then there is another major question of what actually constitutes DRS. In some countries ball tracking, hotspot and Real-time Snicko are all included. But in others, only ball tracking is enough to constitute DRS. It’s true that all this technology is very expensive. There are boards which can’t even afford the ball tracking system. So, the system becomes unfair where some countries can afford the technology while some can’t afford, so they are forced to go with a truncated version of the system.

The DRS should comprise of a single universal system and should be applicable across the cricket world.  I believe this can be achieved by having a central fund allocated to providing the system wherever international cricket is played. I believe cricket should have enough money to be able to set up a corpus for technology.

The DRS is a good option to omit human errors which can change the decisions at crucial moments in crucial games. It must be provided with the right environment and a rigid protocol to reduce the confusions that can be caused by the system. I would like to leave everyone with a question.

Do you believe that the Decision Review System has proven to be beneficial or not to the cricket world?

Rtr. Thisura Ramanayake

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Featured

E-RYLA 3.0

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“Goal to make a 100 friends” , was always the vision of ERYLA. It was a project that started as the brainchild of Rtr Avnish Jain, with a simple idea of “Strangers to friends.” The project had numerous unique tasks that were conducted and completed on social media platforms, and giving rise to its popularity. Rtr Avnish was able to refine his project idea, and was able to work with RSAMDIO(Rotaract South Asia Multi District Information Organisation), eventually creating ERYLA to what it is today. ERYLA quickly gained traction and currently in its 3rd consecutive year, ERYLA 3.0 was done bigger than ever, with participants facing a variety of challenges over a period of 7 days, all while making new friends and connections. Under the guidance of RSAMDIO, this year’s ERYLA was hosted by District 3170 with DRR Nishita and Rtr Avnish at the helm.

The event kicked of on the 16th of september with over 150 participants representing 29 districts from 4 countries. Representatives from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal registered for the 7 day event, prepared to do challenging team building tasks. All participants were randomly split into whatsapp groups of approximately 20 per group. Members in each group were guided by group moderators, who took every step to make the experience as rewarding as possible , while maintaining a certain decorum expected of Rotaractors. As the first task, participants were asked to introduce themselves to the other group members with details such as their names , locality , rotaract experience and other general information. This simple team building task, was meant to “break the ice” and familiarise members with each other.

At this point my personal experience of ERYLA had already progressed further than I thought. I managed to meet some of the most exemplary rotaractors, from countries such as Bangladesh and India. For the second task, the entire group had a certain time limit , within which members had to pick a team name and slogan, they thought that best fit their group. The group I belonged to quickly set about making suggestions and voting, with us eventually settling with the group name Flyers(Pitched by me!) and the slogan “Love,Learn,Lead”. Once the group members had finalised the name and slogan, they had to vote a group leader. This role alone would give a unique perspective on leadership,
and was considered an invaluable experience. My group flyers, had a particularly interesting “voting” process, with Rtr Rahul and myself tied with equal votes, till another contender broke the deadlock voting me as the group leader for Flyers. While Rtr Rahul would become an unofficial vice captain, and one of my closest acquaintances from my first ERYLA.

The next days 6 days involved many creative challenges, such as “Story Day” challenge, which involved all the group members pitching in to write one amalgamated story, with the moderator starting the story, and adding occasional twists to plot, to make writing more difficult. The dynamics within the group, made the story writing extremely challenging, with individuals preferring contradicting endings. As we progressed further into the week, the groups were paired up, and added into one WhatsApp group, edging towards the goal of a 100 friends. My group “Flyers” were joined with group “Stellars” , and the two teams were pitched with competitive tasks. One such interesting task was the debate, where Flyers were arguing for pro “arranged marriage” while Stellars were for pro “Love marriage”. This again sparked a flurry of messages from all participants eager to defend their topic and make sound arguments.

As expected ERYLA 3.0 created a digital platform for which participants could interact, learn and build connections. With the final few days approaching , all members belonging to all groups, were added to 1 single WhatsApp group. The sheer amount of messages flying across was unbelievable, as participants continued conversations with multiple new individuals. This was a digital gathering of participants eager to meet members from the other groups , and maybe meet the goal of making a 100 friends.

My personal experience of ERYLA was rewarding , specially having held a leadership role, gave me valuable insight into fulfilling one’s duties. Even though I did not manage to make a 100 friends, i did meet some amazing rotaractors from extraordinary backgrounds, and managed to make a few lifelong friends along the way.

Rtr. Navin Suresh

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Featured

Millennials vs Gen Z

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For all the millennials who still think it’s them who run the world, it’s about time they had a major reality check and move over, because the generation Z is entering every major phenomenon as we speak, and they are here to stay!

There has been quite a contradiction as to how we can differentiate between Millennials and Gen Z from the birth years, as there are no such precise dates. Despite the confusion, the demographers state that the cohort starts from the year 1995 while some say it’s 1997. So, if you were born in the year of 1995 or later, then it can be safely said that you are a proud member of the Gen Z that makes up 25% of the world population.

Already emerging as the biggest threat to the millennials, the Gen Z purchasing power sums up to $44 billion according to the latest reports and these numbers will only keep rising in the time to come when who are now teens, but soon-to-be adults start entering the workforce. So how different are they from the Millennials? Are they just the same? You are about to get some answers.

The Gen Z differ from the Millennials in so many ways, be it their ways of thinking, patterns of shopping and what not. Regardless of the majority’s belief that they both represent all the same qualities the constant research has proven otherwise.

Gen Z are thought to be more pragmatic than idealistic. They are driven by what is real and practical. Often cited as pessimistic for following this approach but infact pragmatists are known to visualize the bigger picture to eventually get to the result. Millennials are however idealistic thinkers who believe there is always a way for anything.

Gen Z process information much faster since they have been living in a world full of technological advancements while many of the millennials have lived their childhoods without even cell phones, let alone smartphones. However, their span of attentiveness is much lower compared to millennials or any other preceding generation. All the same, people who belong to the generation Z are believed to be better than millennials at multi-tasking. While the latter counterpart needs to put in their maximum effort to one task at a time the gen z are experts in juggling between many, being resistant to any distraction getting in their way.

 

Gen Z are much thriftier than millennials. Having spent their childhoods in a world with a positive economy, the millennials did not need to give much thought or concern towards economy but gen z, they are very much concerned of it. It is very likely because gen z was born in an era of recessions. Hence, they are very realistic and more likely to start off their careers at a younger age.

Millennials do think that a college degree is a must but Gen Z, not so much. The latter is more in to self-employment and will be the future entrepreneurs. They are much thrifty as mentioned earlier and ‘Student debt’ is not something they would fancy. Millennials, however, are driven by the degree concept despite of the student loans.

Individualism is also one of the things that Gen Z value the most. They are all about representing who they really are, exploring gender norms and doing things that no one has ever done before. Unlike the millennials they have no brand loyalty, they just like to dress, eat and live as it fits and not into lavish spending. Always more vocal about their viewpoints, gen z is working towards social justice and accepting the world as it is.

Gen Z also prioritize privacy more than millennials do. They are conscious and have seen many vicious events take place all their lives from global terrorism, financial crisis to cyber-attacks and think that the world is not such a safe place. They believe the privacy is at stake and take great measures to secure their space.

 

All in all, millennials and the Gen Z are drastically different, and the latter are all set to outpace the millennials in no time. By 2019,32% of the global population will comprise of Gen Z and consequently will be the biggest contributors to the world economy.

 

So, let’s set the stage for the new entrants to the world economy and prepare ourselves for the GENERATION Z.

 

Rtr. Nethmie Pasqual

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General

Colombo: The Heart of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Sunset in Colombo

When you’re in Sri Lanka, this is the one place that you won’t miss out on. The whole country is based on this small city, which is the most populous in the country, which in turn makes it very busy and noisy and you will always be surrounded by about 50 people wherever you go. Even though this is the economic capital of Sri Lanka, and even though this is becoming a concrete jungle each passing day, there is still a surprising number of trees and greenery to be seen. Combined with the humid climate and the unpredictable rainfall, the essence of a true tropical island is still there in this city many of us call home.

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Out of the 22 million population of Sri Lanka, a staggering 5.6 million live in the Colombo metropolitan area and around seven hundred thousand people live within the city limits. Among this seven hundred thousand are Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Sri Lankan Moor and relatively small groups of Chinese, Portuguese Burgher, Dutch Burgher, Malay, and Indians. Add to this the growing number of European expatriates who find peace in this tropical climate, and the number of ethnic groups continuing to expand, makes Colombo an even more diverse city, both ethnically and culturally.

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In addition to accompanying a multi-cultural society, Colombo is also one of the most important tourist attractions in the country thanks to its historical monuments that were built in the time of the Kingdom of Kotte and as a colony of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. This has been aided by the recent developments in the city to attract even more attention from all around the world. For a city that is small on a global scale, Colombo is home to some of the most important landmarks in the entire country and the world, including the Royal Colombo Golf Club, Viharamahadevi Park (previously known as Victoria Park), Gangaramaya Temple, etc. In the heart of the city is the Galle Face Green, which is a 12-acre park stretching along the coast. It was used as for horse racing from 1820 to 1893, when it was called the Colpetty Race Course, until horse racing was moved to the Colombo Racecourse. It was also used to play  Golf, Cricket and Rugby during the Colonial times. At present, on the 4th of February every year, the Independence Day Parade is held here.

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Situated south of Galle Face Green is the Galle Face Hotel. Built in 1864 by four British businessmen, it was initially called the Galle Face House. This hotel, which has a history of over 150 years, has welcomed celebrity guests including Mahatma Gandhi; the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin; John D. Rockefeller; former British Prime minister Edward Heath; Princess Alexandra of Denmark; Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh; First Prime Minister of India Jawahar Lal Nehru; Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India and so on.  It was also known for Kottarapattu Chattu (K.C.) Kuttan, the iconic doorman who is considered as one of the oldest and the most famous hotel employees in the world, who worked here as a doorman until his death at the age of 94.

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Kottarapattu Chattu (K.C.) Kuttan
Kottarapattu Chattu (K.C.) Kuttan

Colombo has it own natural harbor, which was used by Indian, Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab and Chinese traders over 2000 years ago. In 1505, the Portuguese landed in Kotte due to a lucky accident which started the colonial era of Sri Lanka. They managed to establish control of Colombo by 1593 and used it as the capital to maintain their control over the coastal area and their major base in Goa, India. The name “Colombo” was first introduced by the Portuguese. The origin of that is still a mystery. One theory is that is it derived from “Kola-Amba-Thota” which translates to the “harbor with leafy mango trees”. Another belief is that it is derived from “Kolon thota” which means the port on the river Kelani. Then came the Dutch in 1638, after they signed a treaty with King Rajasingha II of Kandy, to aid the King in the fight against the Portuguese in exchange for island’s major trade goods.

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But the most important of all, the British managed to capture Colombo in 1796 by signing a treaty with the Dutch and they eventually managed to extend their control all over the island by 1815, unlike the other two who tried before. They are responsible for most the architecture and planning of the city, that still serves as the base for today. The buildings, structures, names and cultural roots of these three colonial eras has shaped Colombo in a unique way, that makes it stand out from any other city in the world.

It is no wonder you feel like you are walking through time when you are in Colombo, because it is indeed similar to a journal written about the history of Sri Lanka. The buildings, the places, the people you meet, are all part of its identity and character, which have their roots set over thousands of years ago by the numerous events that took place, and you can begin to understand why it feels so special to be a part of all this.

Rtr. Pruthuvi Fernando

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General

Maldives – Beyond The Beach

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A few months back I was blessed with an opportunity to visit Maldives for a tournament. Even though this country is just an hour away from Sri Lanka, I had never been there before. I always thought Maldives was just another island with beautiful beaches but that all changed after I arrived in Male, the capital of Maldives.

THE PLANE RIDE

We decided to take the 1.05 pm plane as we wanted to see the view of Male in broad daylight, and it was the best decision that we ever made.

The flight to Male was a short a1 hour and 15 mins (wasn’t even enough time to watch a movie). Nevertheless, the great blue sky and the spectacular arial view of the Maldives kept us occupied. As we drew closer to Male, we witnessed a great deal of small islands almost everywhere. Later, I got to know that Maldives comprises of over 1,190 Islands ( damn that’s a lot)!

Regardless of all those Islands, the Maldives is illustrated as the smallest Asian country with only around 427,756 inhabitants. It is also the world’s lowest country, with even its highest natural point being the lowest in the world, at 2.4 metres (which basically means not to dig holes in your backyard). However, putting all those facts aside, Maldives is a MUST VISIT DESTINATION, and I’m about to tell you why.

 

 

THE AIRPORT

We landed at VELENA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT on the island of Hulhule. This is the only international airport for the entire Maldives and this entire island contains just the airport. Once you land and step through immigration, you will just see the ocean. Yes, just the big blue ocean. No people, no houses and no roads, I stood still for about 5 minutes just staring at the ocean. You would’ve done the same. Why you may ask, and that is why pictures speak a thousand words.

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I’ve seen the ocean many times, but never like this, the beautiful blue water sparkling in your eyes.
Never have I ever seen water so clean and clear.
The ocean was glistening, it was just so beautiful and calm. Trust me, it would’ve taken your breath away.

Now comes the fun part, we had to go to Male, the main island. At the airport you are given the choice of travelling in a speed boat or by ferry. What did you think we chose?

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BEST RIDE EVER !!!!
The boat was so fast, it was literally flying across waves.  Since it was our first ride it was pretty scary as the boat was bouncing so much and there is no back door, and all you can see is the vast ocean. So guys, seatbelts are a MUST OKAY?

MALE, THE CITY

After surviving the 15 minute speed boat ride, we arrived in Male, the capital of Maldives. We got picked up by one of the tournament organizers and he took us to the Male Youth Center where all foreign teams of any sport are housed at.  What we noticed first from the cab ride was how small the roads were. Most of the time it was just one vehicle that could fit in a road. Secondly, what amused us was that Male was deserted, we did not see a single local on the street. This was extremely weird and led me to ask the cab driver the reason.

Well, we landed on a Friday, and apparently every Friday until 5 pm, Male is closed. Friday is prayer day. Maldives is a pure Islamic country and on Fridays, all shops, offices,  and almost everything is closed. Since there was absolutely no one on the streets, we decided to stay in and start exploring the next day.

The next day was an entirely different story! The place that we were staying at was next to a football ground, and at exactly 6 am we started hearing whistles blowing. I was curious, so I decided to take a stroll early morning and it turned out to be pretty interesting,

In Maldives, 70% of the local guys have curly hair. Maldivians can be clearly differentiated from a Sri Lankan or an Indian. They have their own dialect in which they space out every word when speaking in English, which was also very new to me. And then there were the females, wearing “Burqas” ( a cloth that covers the head) and as it is a pure Islamic country, the women do not wear exposed clothing. However that does not stop them from having fun, I passed a futsal ground which was hosting a tournament for women and man those girls had some crazy skills.

About Male…

Male is the mostly populated island in the Maldives, it’s the only island which is pretty hectic with buildings and many many sports arenas. The roads in Male are pretty small but its quite a maze, where if we were to drive a vehicle, we’d get lost. Nevertheless, the people always seem happy, there are shops every single corner and the food is pretty decent.

Artificial Beaches in Male

Male is just 5.8 km2 so we made sure we walked in each major direction. On each end we found an artificial beach.

As the name itself implies, it is a man-made beach and is a haven for the local people as well as foreigners. The reason for it being man made is that the Maldives government had made huge concrete pillars of sorts, and have dropped them about a mile from the beach. These rocks prevent huge waves coming into the island, while also acting as a barrier from big fish such as sharks. Thus, these beaches are safe to swim in, even in the dark ( which we did, and immediately regretted as the water was so cold).

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THE MALE FISH MARKET

One major thing we loved about Male was the freshness of their sea food. Like no joke, it was so delicious.

When you walk towards the jetty side ( sort of like a harbour), you will come across the most important area in Male, which would be the Fish Market. The variety of the fish and the prices would astound anyone. It was very cheap compared to the prices in other countries, and also the fish were very fresh, directly out of the sea. No wonder that they eat more sea food than meat.

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However, Male will be always remembered to us Sri Lankans for their indigenous food item, THE MALDIVIAN FISH! Most of us wanted to take this fish home, so we walked into a special hall inside the fish market called the Dried Fish Stall.

Now as we entered this hall, there were about 30 vendors with their fish in front of them, all speaking in Maldivian. The moment they heard us talk in Sri Lankan (Sinhala), all these vendors started to talk to us in Sinhalese as well. Keep in mind that when we asked each and everyone if they were from Sri Lanka, there was not a single person from Sri Lanka! Most of them were Bangladeshi, Indian or Nepali, and to pass boredom when they go out on their  long fishing trips (sometimes lasting for months) they learn each other’s native languages.

They love to bargain and always try to sell us more than we want, and the Maldivian dry fish was of top notch quality. The fish market should be on your list for sure.

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Hulhumalé

Male is quite strict in terms of rules, and doesn’t have much foreigners. For example, women aren’t allowed to wear skin revealing clothes when swimming in Male, and it is also pretty quiet at night. We heard from the locals, that there is an island close to Male known as HULHUMALE and according to them, that was the “happening” place in Maldives (exactly their words, not mine).

Hulhumale was said to have the best beaches in Maldives,  and was also packed with diving and jet skies and much more fun activities. To travel from Male to this island, we took a short ferry ride of 25 mins, Maldivians use ferry rides like how we use buses. Once we got to Hulhumale, we were not disappointed at all.

Hulhumale is very much different from Male. It has more foreigners, it is less strict and mostly it is very beautiful. Hulhumale has so much natural beauty, and the beaches are so mesmerizing. There is a special beach in this island for exclusively for tourists, where you can only enter showing your passport. This is the only place, where women can wear bikinis and take a dip in the light blue ocean.

You also can find really good sea food cafes right next to the beach and an open barbeque area which anyone can use, where we just have to bring the meat and charcoal for fire. Moreover, you can find all the water sports here, from jet skiing to surfing, and beach is extremely clean!

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So that ends my short stay in Maldives. I had to sum it up, but there are many many more beautiful places to visit, like the underwater restaurant and also traveling in a submarine.

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Keep a note to yourself that ALCHOHOL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED in MALE, but not in most of the other private islands. All in all, Male was pretty decent and the beaches were amazing. Would I ever return ? Without a doubt !! Nothing beat that nice nap I took on the shore of the Hulhumale tourist beach.

If you want to have a really good time, I’d recommend traveling to a private island. If not, and you’re on a budget just to relax, Male and Hulhumale would be the ideal destination for you.

Till next time !

Rtr. Nichula Liyanage

 

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GeneralYouth Time

The NFL – National Football League

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American Football is the most popular sport in the USA, and it has come a long way since it’s humble beginnings. The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league, consisting of 32 teams.and it is one of the four major professional sports leagues in the USA. The final game, known as the Super Bowl  is among the biggest club sporting events in the world,and individual Super Bowl games account for many of the most watched television programs in American history!

Here’s a brief video on the history of the NFL.

NFL SCHEDULING STRUCTURE

To understand the complexities of the NFL schedule, you first need to know how the league is structured. There are two conferences (the NFC and AFC), which are each broken into four divisions (North, East, South, and West), and each division is made up of four teams. Here is how we get 16 games in a regular season.

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Divisional

Each team plays every other team in their division twice—once at home and once on the road—in inter-division play. In other words, if your favorite team plays in the AFC West Division, you will play the other three teams in the division for a total of six games.

Inter-Divisional

Every team in your division then plays all four teams from a different division but still within your conference. These matchups change every year according to a three-year rotation. This means your AFC West team will play each team from the AFC North once during the regular season. These four intra-conference games, plus the six divisional games bring us to a total of ten.

Inter-Conference

When teams play against all four teams in a division from the other conference we call them inter-conference matchups. Just like the inter-divisional games, these inter-conference matchups rotate every year. For example, this year all four teams in the AFC West will play against each of the four teams in the NFC North. If we add these four games to our past ten we’re up to 14.

Final Two Games

The last two matchups are determined by how well your team finished the regular season the year before and who you’re scheduled to play. If your team won their division, you’ll play the other teams in your conference who finished their divisions in the same position, which you are not already scheduled to play. Since you’re scheduled to face every team in one of the divisions for your intra-conference matchups, you’ll square off against the leaders from the other two divisions in your conference. These last two matchups bring the total to 16 action-packed games for a complete NFL season.

 

The 2017 NFL season was the 98th season in the history of the National Football League (NFL). The season began on September 7, 2017, with the Kansas City Chiefs defeating the defending Super Bowl LI champion New England Patriots 42–27 in the NFL Kickoff Game. The season concluded on February 4, 2018, where National Football Conference (NFC) champion Philadelphia Eagles faced the American Football Conference (AFC) champion New England Patriots, with the Philadelphia Eagles beating the New England Patriots 41–33 at SuperBowl LII.

Click here for a recap of that final game!

To cap this off, here is an interesting rap video that recaps the recently concluded 2017 NFL season, provided to you by NFL themselves. Enjoy!

Trevor Wrinkle,
Club Service Chair,
Rotaract Club of the University Area, Houston, Texas.

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General

CONSERVATION – is it our concern?

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Is having an interest in wildlife a hobby or a past time, only? Or is it a must for all of us?

If I say our very survival over the next few decades would be dependent to a great extent on how well we conserve our environment, would you take notice?

Coming from a family that loves wildlife, we often visit our national parks. During those visits we encounter various kinds of animals from elephants and leopards, to birds and butterflies. At the same time we also observe the poor manner in which conservation is carried out in these national parks.

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 Sri Lankan Leopard in Kumana national park – December 2017

For instance, allowing some modes of transport such as buses into the national parks itself contributes to damaging of wildlife, since the noise created by them scares away the animals and the whole concept of conservation is lost.

Apart from the national parks, many of us have seen our rivers and reservoirs which generate electricity and provide water for agriculture, but have we seriously looked at the forest cover surrounding those reservoirs or the roots of the rivers? If we take a look at the Samanala Kanda/Adam’s peak wilderness from which four rivers flow, or the Horton plains from which the Mahaweli River flows, they are all protected legally. Yet these forests are dwindling day after day due to illegal activities like logging. The rivers and reservoirs are damaged by activities such as sand mining and various forms of pollution.

I was lucky enough to visit the vast Serengeti National Reserve in Tanzania in 2016. While enjoying the family vacation, I had an excellent opportunity to observe the way in which wildlife conservation was carried out. Tanzania is a great example of how conservation is done. We had firsthand experience of this, from the way in which  all visitors, tourists and the sanctuary staff respected the sanctuary rules and gave their best effort to keep high standards at all times, for the betterment and conservation of animals and the environment. This is so, especially in places like the Serengeti National Reserve, which is a stunning 14750 sq.kms and Kilimanjaro volcano, two world famous tourist destinations. In addition, we also couldn’t help but notice the cleanliness and the facilities available, in the public campsites which are rarely seen in Sri Lanka.

AT SERENGETI, NATIONAL PARK/RESERVE:

1  African elephant,    June 2016

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African lion, June 2016

Sri Lanka has a lot to learn. We can start by taking a good look at the processes in which these African nations have achieved their objectives in conservation and applying them with necessary amendments to suit our conditions. This will eventually remedy the current drawbacks in our procedures and lead to a far better environment for both wild animals and people living in Sri Lanka.

Environment is endangered due to dwindling forests and pollution of waterways, all of which consist of one large macro system. Their destruction will deprive us of water, hydro power and food. Therefore, clearly, conservation cannot be considered as a job for a few officers of the Department of Wildlife and some wildlife enthusiasts only, but a must  for every single human being who use these natural resources for existence. So, let’s all step up and initiate a move, to care for our environment that is truly ours.

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Rtr. Akila Ranawaka

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GeneralGrowth Hacks

Home Gardening – Try it

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In the soil beneath your feet, there is an invisible world, which is continuously transferring its life to the plants and trees that grow above it. Home gardening is an activity which nurtures this transfer, but unfortunately due to urbanization and the development of technology it is a dying habit, especially among the youth of today.  However if you’re a person interested in it, but lack the motivation or the know-how, read on to find out on why you should start your own home garden, and how you can get about doing it!

  1. Is home gardening possible now?

Yes, it is. Anywhere, anytime.

  1. I don’t know much about home gardening

There is absolutely very little you need to know about home gardening. Home gardening is not solely about ‘growing what you eat’, it is also an exercise. A healthy way of increasing happiness and contentment, relieving stress which ultimately helps your long-term mental health.

The most important thing about home gardening is ‘home gardening should be done your way’.

The garden will express your emotions and effort in terms of harvest.

  1. What can I grow? I have no space, and can’t decide on what to grow

I shall answer these three problems in one section as it falls under an important theory about home gardening.

It is the space-time-benefit theory. This theory helps to finally identify the optimum plant mix for any garden.

Space refers to the total area available for you to maintain a home garden. Time refers to the total time that is available for you to engage in the garden while benefit refers to the level of return you gain in terms of crop.

As you can understand, there is a clear connection between these three factors. Let me explain this to you in an example.

Imagine you, a working individual, have a balcony area to manage a home garden.

As you can understand the time and area available to you is very limited. Which means managing a garden with various kinds of fruits plants (mango, pomegranate etc) or some vegetable plants (cabbage, cauliflower etc.) is quite difficult as they require much space as well as caring.However, you could utilize the same resources and grow 5-6 varieties of green leaves in your garden. It requires less space as well as caring but would yield a good healthy crop for your daily use.

Here are a couple of pictures of my home garden for reference.

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  1. How do I start?

Firstly, understand the space available to grow.

Then match the space with the plants that you can grow. In a large area with a space to use the ground, planting trees would be a possibility. But with a small space you will have to focus on smaller plants that will have to be planted in pots/containers.

After understanding what can be grown, narrow the list down to a couple of plants that you are comfortable growing.

Finally, be positive and start your home garden.

Also remember not to limit yourself from TRYING various varieties of fruit plants, vegetable plants or herbs as they can always offer joy and excitement to your life.

  1. I would rather buy from the market

Imagine a meal you’re enjoying with your family. All or some of the varieties are picked from your garden. Its safe. Its lovely. You can feel the goodness all the way through.

Does that meal feel special?

Do you think you would feel the exact same way if everything was bought from the market?

If yes, this blog is not for you my friend.

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  1. Do I need to buy various kinds of fertilizers?

Nope, you don’t. The fun fact is that all the nutrients you need and more are at an arms-length to you. Here are some:

  • Banana peels – Banana peels are a rich a source potassium. These helps any vegetable plant and especially flower plants like roses. All you need to do is simply cut the peels into small pieces and throw them into the hole before planting.
  • Coffee grounds – These are rich in nitrogen which helps acid loving plants such as tomatoes to grow. All you need to do is dry it and sprinkle on top of the ground or pour a liquid version on top of it.
  • Egg shells – These are rich in calcium and feeds plants such as tomato and pepper well. All you need to do is first wash and then crush the egg shells and use it in the potting mix or simply throw a couple of crushed egg shells to the hole before planting.
  • Weeds – Believe it or not, weeds are a good-easy fertilizer you can find. It is rich in nitrogen which is an essential nutrient for any plant. First take out the weed and dry them, root and all. Now break it into smaller pieces and add to your potting mix.
  • Cow manure – For most people living in the town area cow manure is difficult to find. Although you can purchase this for a very cheap price at any agriculture outlet in town. This, as is known by many of us is one of the best fertilizers that has nitrogen and even phosphate. All you need to do is mix it with your potting mix.
  • Leaves and vegetable scrap – These include heads of vegetables such as brinjal, carrot and beetroot as well as remnants of apple, watermelon, papaw you had for your dessert. These are all-natural fertilizers you can find at an arms-length to you. All you need to do is dry them for about a day. Then cut them into very small pieces and mix them with your potting mix.
  • Animal matter (insects, worms etc), human urine are also high sources of nutrients that can be used although they are rarely used due to several reasons.

IMPORTANT = Make sure to not over use any of the above fertilizers as they are only supporters/replenishes. The base should always be the soil.

  1. What would be the cost?

Home gardening is not a cost, its rather an investment! The investment can be as follows.

  • The investment on buying plants/seeds – This is a minor investment of a couple of rupees. You can even germinate plants using the seeds you find in the vegetable and fruits you buy from the market.
  • Investment to provide nutrients to soil (fertilizer, dirt) – as mentioned in question no 06, it is clear that you can your fertilizer at your home itself.
  • Investment to water plants – This can of course be over weighed by the return achieved in terms of crop. Methods to save, recycle the water can also be considered to gain an additional benefit.
  • Investment of tools and accessories – We are not looking at growing at an industrial level, hence the investment can be simply on pots/containers (if it is only possible to grow in pots/containers), tools as you prefer and a pair of gloves (optional)
  • It is very important to understand that home gardening does not have to be started with 50-60 varieties. You can simply start with about 2-3 varieties and gradually build up as you make progress.
  1. How much effort is required?

The plant grows on its own of course. Therefore, it is only a matter of taking care of the plants by clearing weeds, managing diseases and watering the plants as needed. Basically, giving the love and care the plant requires.

  1. How to manage diseases, rodents and harmful insects?

Various diseases, attacks from rodents and harmful insects are common in any garden. Hence managing it is important to maintain a healthy garden. Here are some methods you could use.

  • Acquiring disease free plants and seeds – This is the first solution to have avoid diseases. Buying well sealed and treated seeds will ensure that this risk is minimized.
  • Crop rotation and proper nutrition – This is one of the oldest and economical methods used in order to control diseases and improve crops. In the case of planting in pots/containers it would be a wise option to remove the soil from the pot/container, replenish it with your fertilizers after the crop yield is over. This will prevent the plants from facing various diseases due to malnutrition.
  • Resistant varieties – Plants such as mint, salvia flowers etc. resist harmful insects and rodents.
  • Solarization – For further preparation of the soil, some modern growers use solarization. Here you cover the soil with a sheet of plastic and leave it for about 2-3 weeks under the hot sun. This increases the temperature of the soli killing many soil-home pests, insects and weeds.
  • Time of planting – Planting vegetables and fruits at the right time helps reduce losses from several pests. For example, planting varieties of cabbage, cauliflower during heavily rainy seasons and help the development of cabbage worms. Hence, they should be grown during a controlled rainy season. Plants such as potatoes and garden soil can be planted in cool soil although plants such as beans or cucumber do well in the warm soil.
  • Chemical control – it is important to have control over using chemicals as they not only resist the harmful insects but also the needy insects as well. It also is certainly clear that the use of chemicals reduces the quality of the fruit or vegetable you grow.

Hence, we should try our best to stay away from these as much as possible.

  1. I don’t have time for this

If you have taken your time reading this blog, you surely have enough time to take care of at least one lovely plant.

I hope this answered most of the questions you would have had. Below, I have attached pictures of my home garden, hoping that you could see that a home garden can be grown anytime, anywhere. Till next time!

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Rtr. Rahul Samarakone

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FeaturedGeneralOur Projects

Kebethigollawa – A Project Life Experience

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The suburbs of Colombo were whizzing past my window as Shalutha briefed us on what we needed to do when we got to our final destination: Kebethigollawa. It had been little less than an hour since we departed from Fort, and what was left of the morning darkness was slowly creeping away as we struggled to keep in sync with the train’s almost rhythmic jerks and quivers. Besides Shalu there were  four other people in the group: Anushan, Naweed, Mindula and myself.

Each of us had a vague idea of what we needed to do and why we were being sent on this seemingly exciting trip. Project Life is one of the main Community Service projects of Rotaract Achievers, and one that we greatly pride ourselves in. It aims to provide rainwater harvesting systems to areas affected by chronic kidney diseases in Kabiththigollewa. We were being sent to collect the requisite data that would help in determining the homes that needed the rainwater harvesting systems the most.

As the hours passed, the green outside our windows turned to a greyish dusty brown. The temperature within became ever harsher as the train traveled further north. After several hands of cards had been dealt we finally arrived at Vavuniya. Our two guides from the Agriculture Department were waiting for us at the station exit. They lead us to a bus that took us from Vavuniya to Kebethigollawa. The bus trip turned out to be a far less delightful experience due to the scorching sun and the dry warm wind that kept buffeting on our faces. A small sheltered truck was waiting for us at Kebethigollawa to take us to the zone.

It didn’t take us long to realize that we had reached the most difficult part of our journey. The roads were little more than narrow dusty pathways littered with potholes, upon which the truck lumbered along with little subtlety. Within the truck, the five of us struggled to hold on to something so as to not be thrown off. Clouds of dust kept flooding in as the truck moved ever into the dry locality.

Almost an hour later, we arrived at the house of our first candidate. At first glance, it was not unlike any other normal house I’ve seen. Faded walls, brown rooftiles, a polished floor and a familiar feel of homely mundanity veiled the struggle the inhabitants of this household were going through in acquiring clean water. Over a delicious lunch prepared for us by the middle-aged couple living there, we came to learn that the husband was suffering from a kidney disease. According to them, they had to walk kilometers everyday to collect water from the nearest lake and get it cleaned from the public filter system installed in the area. It was startling that they had to follow such a routine to simply get the drinking water they required, whereas we constantly take our privileges for granted.

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Shalu was asking questions and collecting data while the rest of us strolled around the house scanning the surrounding area. A humongous well at the back drew our attention. Upon closer inspection, we came to see that the entire well had dried down to a few cups worth of muddy water at the bottom.

A dried up well, of no use to the inhabitants.
A dried up well, of no use to the inhabitants.

After bidding the couple farewell, we got back on the truck and started towards the next house on Shalutha’s list. The house we arrived at was still being constructed. Three young children were sitting on the veranda, with the thin shade of a wooden beam fixed above them protecting them from the scorching sun. A man whom we inferred to be the owner of the house came out to meet us as we approached the house. We explained to him the purpose of our visit, after which Shalutha began his usual routine of questions. We learned that he was from the army, a fact that he was reluctant to share with us because according to him, people tend to think that they do not need any help if they have any affiliations with the army. A woman appeared from the house and brought each of us a glass of water, as if it was the most valued thing they could give.

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By 6 o’clock in the evening, we had finished all the houses on Shalu’s list and were heading back. On our way back, we came across a blackened field with clouds of black smoke and embers billowing upwards in an indolent fashion, and one majestic tree completely aglow in amber light. Our guide told us that often, one careless cigarette thrown away or a fire lit in the wrong place resulted in an entire area being lit up.

Bidding farewell to our guides from the Agriculture Department, we took a bus to Anuradhapura, because by then the last bus leaving to Vavuniya had already left. After getting a late dinner from Anuradhapura, we walked all the way to the railway station, where we waited for the Night Train leaving for Colombo. By 9.30pm the train had arrived, and we were already in our seats. Moments later, as the train sped along rail lines, I struggled to recall everything of importance that had happened to include in the report, but my mind kept wandering off. In the end, I gave up. I laid back, and let the calm hypnosis of the obscurity passing by my window put me to sleep.

Rtr. Randima Fernando

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