postheadericon Tech Talk: Scary Statistics

I just read that American kids now spend more time consuming and creating media then they do in school each day, about 8 hours. SMS, Twitter, and hundreds of thousands of apps are consuming that entire generation. Latin, music and the arts are pastimes of the past for Generation Z. Well, at least in that part of the world...

Worldwide, there is an estimated 40 billion video uploads a month to a glom of online video services, with YouTube taking in 20 billion of those shorts. Statistically that implies that every single human being on the planet is uploading a stupid pet trick and a remix of a Justin Bieber hit every month. But for Nepal, I don't see that to be the case. After all, kids here still use pencils and carry books around in backpacks, instead of the latest tablet or MacBook Air.

But that is one of the things about living in country that still processes 35 mm film and sells floor brushes on every sidewalk. (My neighborhood seems to specialize in technology from the Metal Age.) The contrast is so much brighter. For example, instead of living slowly through a fundamental change in society, the expat here can look over the horizon and feel change splashed up like the tides.

But even in Nepal, our own Generation Z is contributing to a tech tsunami: each month 42 million users around the globe spend an average of 26 hours online – more time spent if working a part-time job! So what does it all mean? Instead of "productive work" like flipping burgers or helping Wal-Mart customers find the electronics aisle, are teens now are playing Cityville instead? Hard to say, as I know most of us here would not balk at that type of work.

But what if teens were pushed out of that job market and into an online dystopia by older folks who needed that job? Pretty scary if true, eh? But there is nothing worse than being a disgruntled technologist, pinning for the olden days (as I often do) so let me change the tone of this rant with a statistic that will warm your heart instead of chill your the soul...

The Mobile Learning Blog reports "42% of teens can text blindfolded."

I can now rest knowing that if half the planet were blinded by a sub-space anomaly or "other" explosion, that the younger folks would have still have manual dexterity as a civilization-saving skill. I know that after 30 years of ergonomically incorrect typing, I don't. So hooray - why worry?

The point being that mobile phones are a big part of the change taking place within some parts of our civilization. Consider this: it took 56 years for the telephone to reach 50% of American households, but just 10 years for the internet to get installed in half of all American homes. The mobile has taken just 4 years longer then the Internet to do the same. Even in KTM, I dare you to find a well-dressed kid without some sort of mobile device.

Now what this means to us, precisely, is hard to say, perhaps impossible to say. Imagine what our your great and grandparents thought when the automobile took the world by storm. Could they ever have imagined on "day one" the choking traffic jams on the Bagmati Bridge, or on any other major intersection in the world? No, of course not - just like we can't see now where the Internet and all this twittering, tubing connectivity will lead us... or can we?

Today, 30 to 40% of Internet use is of the "personal interest" variety during working hours. So theoretically, worker productivity of any sort should be down by that much as well. Unless you are media streaming company, however, charged with pumping entertainment all day long onto corporate and home computers. Newspapers, books, magazines and all the hit pop songs have been digitized, and are now consumed 40 hours a week by almost ½ the population of America. And that American body is expanding rapidly - even during a recession.

Since 1990, the average weight for all Americans has risen by 20 lbs. (9 kg). At this rate, in just a few decades the average American male will weigh in at over 300 lbs. (136 kg). Think of the changes needed for that! Already, public toilet fixtures across America are being reinforced to bear higher loads for safety reasons, and the new standard is 1000 lbs., up from 300 – the unreinforced toilets are collapsing daily!

Now if that doesn't scare you, I don't know what does.

First published in MyRepublica on 12/10/2011
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postheadericon Kuire Ko Kura: Chickmanflu

Kathmandu made international news again, and in case you have been sequestered in a sekuwa house, here is the flash: bird flu is back.

According to such fine reporting agencies as and, chicken prices have dropped by 60%, no one in the army is eating any, and they have killed all the chicks in Bhaktapur.

Personally, I have had a love-hate relationship with chickens ever since I can remember. As a child, I hated Chicken McNuggets and always cried for cheeseburgers instead. As an adult, I was a diehard vegetarian for almost 25 years...until moving to Nepal. Here, how can I resist my mother-inlaw's Dashain mutton curry and roast pork? I can't.

And that little roast chicken shop across from Standard Charter in Jawalakhel is to die for, with a price tag of only Nrs. 450 for a whole sliced and diced bird slathered in sauce. Only "to die for" may be appropriate, as who knows where these birds come from that are served up in the valley these days. But regardless of the dangers, chickens in Nepal are yummy and taste like chickens did in pre-McDonalds America.

My mother used to make the 2nd best Chicken Cacciatore in all of Brooklyn. She learned from our Italian immigrant neighbor, who would feed a family of eleven from large pans of boiling sauce and chicken poured over fresh pasta. Our neighbor Maria Rossi was numero uno when it came to food in NYC, and no one ever worried about getting sick from eating at her house.

But that's the rub with food these days it seems...who can you trust? Is it wiser to trust the chicken tika shop down the gulli, or Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried in Durbarmarg? I hear the Colonel's birds are flown here from Brazil, and I assume that means plucked, chopped and frozen in the cargo hold, but who would know if a few Bhaktapurian wings got mixed in? Likewise, down at Samir's Tika Barn, how would one know the entire rotisserie was not full of diseased birds just waiting to make you sick?

You can't know, and even if you did know that the meat was technically "safe," that is no guarantee it won't kill you later. In my opinion, the only way you can ensure food safety in today's world is to know and trust the chef. As my Jewish grandma used to say, "food is love." Unfortunately, that was said in the context of my Irish mother throwing up Grandma's Matzo Ball soup one Passover holiday. But regardless, if food is cooked from the heart, its gunna be all right. Or so it used to be...

I'm not sure how any of us can do anything more than trust in the gods that what we eat, or breath, or are injected with won't make us sick these days. I raise the issue of flu injections only because tis the season, and that my wife got her annual flu shot at work this week, and since then, we have both been deathly ill. But in her Nepali way, she just sucked it up and kept on working, while myself (being of Jewish descent), just whined in bed for days on end.

But what I love about getting the flu is how you feel after the fever breaks and your head once again drains into the empty bell that it should be – fantastic, and happy to be alive! The smells of new construction dust and Pulchowk exhaust fumes once again fill your nostrils properly, and you think all is right with the world. To bad that feeling leads to risky behavior (again), and I am right back at it: eating Pheri Pheri chicken late nights with loads of rum & coke on the side.

So I suppose the "lesson learnt", and this is for all you NGO wonks out there, is that one should live each day as it were your last, as it seems that no matter how good is your health care, how well cooked is your chicken, or how well you wrestle down your drinking habits, you can still get on a bus and die at any moment.

First published in MyRepublica on 12/10/2011
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I'm retired, and I walk my dog... a lot.

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