Trip to HDh. Makunudhoo

I left for Makunudhoo earlier today to do some work and try have some fun at the same time (or vice versa!).

The jump upto Haa Dhaalu atoll (Hanimaadhoo), for the sake of cutting down travel time and cutting down on sea-sickness of my trip mates, was taken on a plane and another jump from there to Kanditheemu (via Kulhudhuffushi) done on a speed boat and the last leg upto Makunudhoo completed on a traditional "Masdhoani" admist rough sea.

There's no bloody publicly available Internet here except via GPRS on my Dhiraagu mobile, which turns out to be extremely slowwww. I've just given up after trying to post some pictures of the day.

Adios for now...

Maldives says it's OK to rape 12 yr old girls post-puberty?!!

I skim through Maldivian news now and then and try sink in the madness going about these days but none, absolutely none, has left me as unsettled and enraged as the news regarding the recent ruling on the case of a 12 year old girl being sexually assaulted by a group of 4 axe-wielding men.

I just cannot imagine how a sane, responsible individual tasked with enforcing law, protecting the weak and upholding moral values in the capacity of a judge arrives at the conclusion: (that) a TWELVE YEAR OLD girl had CONSENSUAL sex with FOUR MEN who BROKE into her room by BREAKING a window with an AXE and proceeding to help themselves to the orifices on a helpless girl most probably scared shitless towards being deaf, mute and dumb and thus conclude that the men were INNOCENT of rape. What is perhaps even more frustrating is that the reasons cited for the ruling are pure nonsense that’d drive any rational, sensible person to the edges of sanity. One of the more disturbing reasons stated by the judge is that the girl had reached puberty - a statement that carries implicit consequences that she is to be considered adult and thus responsible for what happens. This argument, which supposedly is drawn from Islamic Sharia, declares a girl as adult when she reaches puberty irrespective of her age. The other reasons stated by the judge are no less fallacious – all of them more or less state that the girl did not object at any time during or after the event. Fortunately though, rape and abuse have been pretty well studied (elsewhere in the more educated, civilised world) and there are well documented typical reactions as shock, denial and shame that explain and may well be the real reason behind the girl’s actions.

What more, I found the english version of the (original) dhivehi news at Haveeru what seems to be an intentional deception in that it carefully avoided mentioning the details of the event - is this a purely a conspiracy conjecture or is this a just accusation? This is particularly worrying after all Haveeru claims honest reporting these days. The report at Minivan News fared better I guess...

Anyway, this ruling marks another sad day in our history... and life goes on.

Dhiraagu begins internet porn censorship?

It seems that Dhiraagu, the "largest" ISP in the Maldives, has begun to enforce censorship on pornographic websites. Random checks so far indicate that this is in effect for all forms of internet access via Dhiraagu. This block, which began a few days ago, is quite monumental given that so far no ISP in the Maldives has been known to enforce any form of content filtering or censorship other than site-specific access bans on a handful of political websites critical of the current government and its leaders.

Maldives, which officially lauds itself as a 100% Muslim country, has maintained strict bans on import of any sort of pornographic material into the country and enforces it through screening at the Male' International Airport, checks aboard marine vessels and via inspections at the Post Office. The ban does extend to the digital world and there has been atleast one person who has been prosecuted for the access and possession of digital porn. However, the enforcement component of this law does not seem to have been mandated to the ISPs operating in the country as such material has typically been freely accessible. Also, interestingly, partial proxy logs has previously suggested that as high as 70% of internet data flowing in the country may constitute of such material at times.

To me, this is a sudden interesting twist in the story of the Internet in the Maldives and one that needs to be monitored and debated. Internet has been the last remaining oasis of freedom of speech and expression in the Maldives with users expressing themselves unbound, taking part in unhindered debates and engaging in other activities that would typically land serious jail time if done in the “real” world. Internet has also been the only avenue for people to get access to a wide variety of intellectual material - stuff that typically are beyond easy access because of the poor state of our libraries and bookshops and stuff that are beyond access due to strict import laws. If this porn censorship signals the beginning of a wider campaign to block particular content then the freedom that most internet lovers has enjoyed so far may about to be hurled into oblivion.

However, these might be purely paranoid postulations on my part (and I so hope they are!), especially given that Dhiraagu has made no statement about such actions added to the fact that the service from other ISP, Focus Infocom, seems to not have followed suit. A friend at Dhiraagu has suggested that this ban be not official but rather have to do with a mere (temporary) technical re-routing of data through proxies typically intended for use on special connections provided to educational institutions which do carry content filtering for "inappropriate" material.

I might not be arsed enough to object to porn filtering but any more filtering and censorship than that and I object to it entirely – an objection that includes the current access bans on select political sites. Censorship on intellectual material bothers me enough to voice concern even if there is just the mere possibility of it...

PS: Here is a non-exhaustive, extremely tiny list of some of the explicit sites being blocked by Dhiraagu. It was created by an automatic crawler that I wrote to check sites for proxy-based censorship. The list is not meant for anything other than your amusement :-)

"Study in UK" @ Dharubaaruge on 14th July

Thought I'd do a little promotion of the "Study in UK" event organised by Maldivian Students' Association - UK, which as the MSA-UK website says:

"The event is a non-commercial, social gathering in a non-formal setting with students in Male' where they can talk to past and present scholars who had done atleast some of their studies in the UK."

So if you are interested in getting a little more than the commercial self-promotion by educational institutions as typically done at the various education and careers fairs, then it might be worth the time and effort to make use of this event.

UPDATE(12/07/2007): Event has been POSTPONED and WILL NOT TAKE PLACE on the 14th as initially scheduled.

MSA-UK Study in UK seminar

Jamming for fun

Two new large ice sheets have formed in Antarctica and a magic rug has covered over the growing hole in the southern hemisphere yesterday after a global attempt to save the earth.

Not having gone on the official Live Earth concert roster, the show held in Maldives became one of the over 7000 shows worldwide held under the title "Friends of Live Earth". Most phenomenal and surprising was that the show managed to really ante up the public's awareness on global climatic and environmental problems. Even Asseyk Al-Vistas President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom was jealous of this serious incursion into his turf, after all, as all we Maldivians know he had patented the global warming concept back when he delivered his atom-splitting speech at the UN.

Err, that is me trying to be sarcastic and possibly humorous at the same time... at which I failed happily.

Anyway, Live Earth sounds fantastic but I'm very skeptical of this whole affair and more so when it comes to it being done in the Maldives. While I do admire and support some of the efforts around the world towards investigating man-made disturbances to the climate, finding solutions and taking proactive action towards damage reduction, I just can't help but observe that most of the so-called environment related programmes conducted in Maldives seem a bit superficial. Such programmes seem to be a bit too much of doing something for the fame and name. I'm probably being an arse and maybe laying a bit of insult to the hard work done by the people who organised the Live Earth show in Male' but I really doubt there was any honest intention to participate in the event to root for its cause and goals. I wonder whether there was any intention of increasing public awareness and/or to contribute in any substantial manner with regard to "saving the earth". If you did attend this show or watched it on TVM, do YOU know WHY the show was held and what its goals were? As seems customary in the Maldives, the Live Earth show may have been yet-another-excuse for a having bit of fun and a blessing to excise some easy money to fund it all.

Anyway, the 07/07/07 Live Earth concerts were supposed to mark the beginning of the Live Earth campaign with more to come in the future. I hope there is interest in doing something more than just shows...

Walk down my blogging lane

I realized today that there were quite a few of my blog posts with links and images that were broken, mostly as a result of the blog address changes I've gone through (starting from -> -> finally I had to go through my post archives in order to fix the dead URLs but it was nice to go back into my blogging history and reconnect with the various posts that I've made since I started blogging back in 2005. I've truly fallen in love with blogging as a means to express myself and I'd do it even at the risk of talking to a dead wall, only to get my own echoes...

Here's to the past, with a few of my posts that seems to have gotten the most attention by the visitors to the blog!

Messing about:
- Hacking a SE T610 camera for IR
- Dhiraagu WebSMS secrets
- I, Dhiraagu proxy server
- Dhiraagu E-Bill flaw!
- Maldives Police Service Wanted Person Notice Generator

- AJAX flavoured Radheef released!
- Dhiraagu Directory for PocketPC and Smartphone

- Quranic Faalu Belun
- For science and knowledge
- The Game of Life
- Wages of sin
- On the reality of Jinns


Beautiful butterfly at home: growth in photos!

Last week, my mum found a caterpillar ravaging her young lemon tree. It had, like most caterpillars, camouflaged itself and blended in so smoothly that it managed to live unspotted right under her nose for days before the damage to the plant was too apparent to be missed. The caterpillar had eaten much of the leaves and shoots in a span of just 2-3 days and so my mum considered the fellow to be more active than any of the other caterpillars that we occasionally find on the plants at home. But that wasn't what caught my curiosity when she called me over to show it - the caterpillar was different from any that I had seen anywhere in Male'! This caterpillar was larger (~1cm across and ~3cm in length) and really sinister looking.

I decided to put the caterpillar under observation, afterall a caterpillar is just the larva stage of a butterfly and should go through the various stages over a few days to become a full grown adult butterfly. Over the course of almost 2 weeks, I watched as it first continued to consume leaves all day and then go into stasis for the pupa stage and remain apparently lifeless for several days, before (quite suddenly and unseen to me) the pupa metamorphosized into a beautiful large adult butterfly. The fellow had red spots/blotches on the hindwings, few white streaks on the forewings and was black everywhere else and sported wings with a wingspan of ~10-14cm.

The butterfly was of a specie I had not seen here in Male' previously, though its existence does necessitate that a butterfly laid eggs on the plant recently - quite unlike the way of the sudden-uncaused-creation ("gudhurathee ufedhun") of caterpillar larvae that some of our visitors and neighbours claim(ed)! I still am not sure what these butterflies are called but from all the web searches and butterfly indexes that I've gone through since, I am pretty sure this butterfly belongs to the Swallowtail Papilionidae family in the Papilionoidea class of butterflies. The most similar looking butterfly that I could find was the Common Rose butterflies which bear striking similarities. It might also be related to the Citrus Swallowtail specie too since the larva was found on a citrus tree plant and the caterpillars look very similar but the adult butterfly looks different while the Crimson Rose family has adult butterflies that look very similar but different caterpillars. This is, ofcourse, all just speculation simply based on my (very) crude and limited phenotypic observations and I could be wayyyy off mark...

Here are some pictures I snapped in keeping up with the development of this beautiful insect. The latter three stages (of the total four) of a butterfly have been captured to my best ability: the larva, the pupa and finally, the adult. Enjoy!





Soon after metamorphosis: the "tails" of the wings breaking off

Adult black butterfly with red spots, white streaks...

Adult/Imago close up - see the neat proboscis!?

The pupa shell that was left behind