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LIFE IN THE ‘NEW NORMAL’ ELECTRONIC SCENARIO

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by Dr B. J. C. Perera

MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

This miserable and capricious coronavirus pandemic is going to be with us for a considerable time more, right into even the far and distant future. The world has had to change like never before, of course through sheer necessity. Buzz words like innovation, flexibility, collaborations, evolving situations, tackling security challenges, increasing productivity and growth of businesses, in addition to very many other newer terminologies, have suddenly sprung up as the operative nomenclature of many walks of life. Physical distancing, avoiding mass gatherings, masking and even double-masking, as well as hand-washing, are the public health mantras that have been promulgated to keep the blight at bay. All kinds of electronic portals are being used and not-in-person electronic pathways are tending to rule the roost. Schooling has been totally disrupted and online learning has been practically imposed on even very young school students. In fact, even university and higher education endeavours have shifted many a gear to go electronic. Scientific presentations, lectures, seminars and symposia are conducted, in many instances, from remote localities and even from many distant areas of the globe. The entire world has become a huge ‘village’ and to paraphrase something the great Bard William Shakespeare once wrote, ‘the world has become a performing stage with very many of us being actors in these dramatic scenarios’.

Now that the lines between schooling, universities, vocational training institutions, home and office are blurred like never before, it is perhaps getting harder to tell where your job ends and life begins. You spend the day toggling between tasks you are paid to do and other chores, especially family commitments, that you have to do. Your duties overlap from one minute to the next. You are often using the same phone, tablet, and the laptop, to do different kinds of work, whether that is a presentation for work, a new home-schooling programme you never could have ever even imagined just a year ago, or organizing your family’s most important documents.

In times of uncertainty, with many people juggling more responsibilities than ever, how do you keep the chaos at bay? More than anything, the electronic data have to be preserved, stored and made totally accessible from anywhere and at all times. Files have to be organised, filtered and stored in a kind of virtually fool-proof setting. You cannot totally trust your hard drives, in-built memory caches and even detachable storage devices. The safest is perhaps to store all data in an electronic cloud drive or drives through a digital home-base where you can organize, share, and access all your content in a safe, secure way. This is to ensure that you can feel on top of things, no matter which full-time job you are juggling.

Organise your files,
photos, and documents

Whether you are learning how to home-school your children, working from home, going international on some issues, managing the finances usefully through electronic portals or looking for a new job, now is a good time to take inventory of everything you will need to access in the coming months. You need to get intensely organised. When all your files, photos, videos, and documents are organized and usefully labelled in one place in the cloud, you never need to worry where they are. It is always most useful to organise different content types in . photos and traditional records, like Portable Document Format (PDF) files can live alongside cloud documents, like Google Docs, shortcuts to web pages, and much more. You could also break free from total dependence on your hard drives. With many cloud storage devices, you can download files locally when you want to use them, and return them to the cloud to save hard drive space when you are done with them. Undoubtedly, it is a superb way to save space on your hard drives, not clog them too much and even gain on the speed of access of data.

Many cloud storage devices allow the finding of files ever so quickly by keyword searches. Even in the case of images, one could save time getting to the images you need by JPG, JPEG, PNG, and GIF files. One could also save, organize, and share documents right from your phone. With some of the document scanner applications, one could quickly transform physical paper documents into digital files so that you could remove some clutter as well. It is also sometimes possible to access important data on the go, even when you do not have WiFi or a cell signal.

You need to stay
connected

When you are even isolated at home for weeks on end, it gets harder to feel connected and in control. But with many of the cloud drives, you get to decide who can access your shared content, and then also view who has seen what and when. Whether you want to send long videos, share folders, or collaborate on a project, these make it ever so easy.

Parents can record video of home-schooling sessions with a tool like Zoom and save them to folders they can share with other parents. As the content grows, having one well-organized place to access shared videos makes it less work for everyone. One could share files, folders and documents, with reasonably secure links and disseminate them from your phone, tablet, or computer. Every file you save to your cloud drives can be shared quickly with a simple link and accessed across devices, whether you use an iPhone, Android, Mac or PC. With shared links, you maintain control over the files you share. The recipients will be able to view or download a copy of the file. With appropriate precautions, you do not have to worry about them being edited, changed or even deleted, unless of course you wish to delegate those functions to the person that you are sharing with. In some systems, you could even impose an expiration date on shared files.

Feel secure

As you might have read in , now that more people are at home and online for more hours every day, there could be an increase in phishing scams and attempted hacking attacks. But with best-in-class security, multiple layers of protection, and advanced rollback features, of quite a few of the cloud repositories, safety of content could be ensured. Many applications are regularly tested for security vulnerabilities, and hardened to enhance security and protect against attacks. Many systems use two-step verification for an extra layer of security.

Cloud storage is gradually replacing on-premise options. The benefits of cloud storage include:-

Access from multiple
locations.

Once the data is in the cloud, it can be accessed from anywhere.

Expand or contract as needed.

Cloud storage capacity can be increased or decreased depending on the needs of the customer, avoiding paying for unused storage.

Downtime protection. If one cloud server goes down, another can handle user requests. This avoids downtime.

Better performance.

Cloud storage enables distribution of user requests across multiple servers, which reduces the load on each server for faster response.

Saves money.

Managing storage in-house can require specialized hardware, software, and other resources. Cloud storage can be cheaper.

Using cloud storage, merchants can store images, videos, and user-generated content, as examples. Many cloud storage providers offer limited free plans. Cloud storage vendors can accommodate files and data, though not all do both. Many providers also offer Europe-based storage to help comply with .

The cloud storage service providers offer free limited space and larger for-payment facilities depending on the requirements for storage of data. The capacity ranges from Gigabytes (GB) to Terabytes (TB). The following is a short list of both free and for-pay Cloud Storage Sites that one could use:-

Dropbox

is one of the oldest cloud storage services. It maintains all customer files in one location, thereby enabling any device to access them anytime and from anywhere. It offers 2GB of free storage and paid plans of 1TB and 2TB of storage. At the last count, for around US$20 a month, it offers unlimited storage for businesses on a per-user payment basis.

Google Drive

offers centralized storage for any type of file. It offers 15GB of free storage for three Google products: Photos, Gmail, and Drive.

Paid plans include those for 100GB and 1TB of storage.

Google is upgrading the data service to a new product called . It will offer storage as well as access to Google experts.

Box enables secure access, sharing, and management of content from anywhere. It offers 10GB of free storage that can be increased to 100GB for an extra payment. The unlimited storage business plan costs around US$15 a month for three to ten users. `

Mega is a global cloud storage platform based in New Zealand. It offers 50GB of free storage. Paid accounts include 200GB, 1TB, 2TB and 8TB.

Microsoft OneDrive offers standard cloud storage features such as accessing files from any device, offline access by syncing files to a device, and backup and disaster recovery. It offers 5GB of storage for free and several other higher storage capacity facilities for payment.

Apple iCloud comes with every Apple device and offers 5GB of free storage. Paid plans start from 50GB to 200GB of storage.

 Nextcloud is an open-source, self-hosted file sharing platform. This enables users to start their own file sharing service by setting up a private cloud environment. Nextcloud offers multiple support plans starting at around 1900 Euros per year for 50 users.

SpiderOak offers file sharing and collaboration as part of its cloud storage platform. Its cloud backup service maintains versions of all files, even deleted files. The service comes with a free 21-day trial. Businesses with a minimum of 500 users can sign up for the enterprise backup service.

IDrive is a cloud backup provider that works across multiple devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones etc., to store files in one location. It offers a 5GB free plan and multiple paid plans for personal and business use, from 2TB to 5TB.

pCloud offers centralized cloud storage. Its lifetime storage plans require a one-time payment: 500GB for around US$175 one-time payment and 2TB for a higher payment.

 MediaFire stores photos, documents, videos, and other files in a single place to enable access from anywhere. MediaFire offers 10GB of free storage and has paid plans for 1TB to 100TB of storage capacity for monthly payments.

Tresorit offers enhanced security for storing files in the cloud. Plans include 200GB and going up to 1000GB for monthly payments.

Egnyte enables enterprise file storage and sharing. Its paid plans for up to three employees offers 1TB of storage and Business Plans for 5 to 25 employees for 5TB of storage capacity.

SugarSync enables automatic access and sharing of any kind of file. It offers only paid plans for a range of 100GB to 1TB.

Storegate is a cloud storage service based in Europe. It offers paid plans of capacity ranging from 100GB. The Business plans range from 500GB to 1000GB for monthly payments.

OpenDrive offers unlimited cloud storage, backup, and content management. The free plan includes 5GB of space. Paid Business Plans start from 500GB. OpenDrive’s unlimited plan, for monthly payments, is the lowest price per gigabyte across all vendors on this list.

Jungle Disk offers secure backup and storage. Only paid plans are available and monthly payments depend on the security features. JungleDisk’s questionnaire helps determine your security needs to find the right plan, with the right features.

Carbonite is an online cloud backup service. It offers plans based on the number of computers that require backup. Prices range from monthly charges for one computer to higher amounts for multiple computers and servers.

FlipDrive offers centralized cloud storage for all types of files. Its free plan includes 10GB of storage. Paid plans include 25GB to 250 GB of storage for monthly payments.

FilesAnywhere is a cloud storage provider that offers monthly payment plans and Business Plans ranging from 100GB to 2TB of storage capacity.

ElephantDrive is a cloud backup service for users requiring the backup of large volumes of data. Personal monthly payment plans start from 1000GB and Business Plans going up to 2000GB. They also offer a 2GB “free forever” plan.

ADrive is a cloud storage provider whose plans start at monthly payments for 100GB for individuals. Business plans start from 200GB.



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Features

Strong on vocals

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The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.

 

 

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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year

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Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.

 

 

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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations

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Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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