Archive | August 2012

Today Is The 142 Years Anniversary Of Maria Montessori’s Birth. I Went To A ‘Montessori’, in Ceylon, In 1958.

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

….
……
by Anura Guruge


Google’s icon to mark Maria Montessori’s 142nd birthday.

So how many of you noticed this intriguing icon in Google today? It caught my eye. So I put my cursor on it to see what it signified. Google said: Maria Montessori’s 142nd birthday. Wow. Thank you, Google. I would not have known.

She is a tad older than me, so I didn’t know her personally. But, my father (and to a lesser extent my mother, if she was alive) will maintain that her philosophy of early childhood education molded my life. I personally think that that is a slight over exaggeration.

Yes, when I was about 5 I was sent to a Montessori school in central Colombo. I can still see it clearly in my minds eye. It was airy and very pleasant.

I distinctly remember two things from my year or so at that Montessori school. I had the hardest time mastering how to tie laces using a ‘learn-to-tie-your-laces‘ contraption they had; though you see them readily now, I think that it was ahead of its time in 1958. The teachers told my parents, based on just that inability, that I was a bit slow — and you have to give them full marks for getting that so right, so early in my life.

We also had a large slide on the wrap around front portico. I, observant as ever (especially when it comes to the ladies) and always naive, told my parents, on the way home, one day, that I noticed that the girls wore underwear underneath their skirts and that boys, as was the norm in (the never below) 80°F Ceylon, wore nothing under their shorts — having noticed all of this watching kids come down the slide.

My father, who does have a good sense of humor, laughed. My mother, an out-and-out prude, all her life, was very quiet; shocked. My father is an anecdote machine. So, this Montessori observation by me, at the age of 5, was added to his repertoire and for the next 20 years I would hear him tell various folks about it — around the world: Ceylon, U.K., Buffalo, Paris, Bangkok etc. So, I was never allowed to forget my year (or so) at Montessori. At long last, I did learn to tie laces.

Not really sure whether the Montessori school taught me anything that useful other than that young ladies wore underwear.

Ours was an education crazy household and I was an only child.

My mother was a teacher. Her younger sister, who lived with us (with their mother), was also a teacher. My father, at that time, was Acting Secretary of Education for Ceylon and was busy trying to set up a Buddhist university. I used to spend all my weekends and holidays with an aunt and uncle — who didn’t have any children. On Friday afternoons they would come and pick me up and I would get home Sunday night or Monday morning. Yes, it was just like having divorced parents, but I did this by choice — and had done so since I was about 3.

They, my aunty and uncle, used to come and see me, nearly every day, since I was a baby. He was white, a Baptist and a lawyer — the lawyer for the Food Dept. He dabbled with electric stuff and as such was called by all my cousins ‘Light Mama‘ – essentially electric uncle. None of that for me!

I called him ‘Ta‘, yes, just two words: ‘Ta‘. Had done so ever since I could speak. It was my 2nd or 3rd word. ‘Tatta‘ in Ceylon is ‘father‘. ‘Ta’ is the first two letters. I was a made man! He childless, thought I was the cat’s whiskers. He took me, nearly every day, to see steam rollers and trains. I was told that at lunch time he would drive around looking to see where there were new road works so he could take me to see them later. He was a huge influence on my life. My poor father, he had so much competition for my attention – another uncle, a doctor, also influencing how I grew up. The lawyer’s wife, my mother’s sister, was also a teacher. Actually the Assistant Principal of Ceylon’s largest and most prestigious boys school.

I didn’t have a chance. I was trapped. Between my father, my mother, my two aunts and ‘Ta’ (who taught me all sorts of stuff about mechanical stuff and cricket), there was no escaping. By the time I was three I could read in both Sinhalese and English. So by the time I went to Montessori I was fairly well set — though I couldn’t tie laces or had not unraveled the mysteries of female underwear.

Next to Italy, Ceylon is somehow a cradle for Montessori schools and teaching. I am not sure how or why. I know that my father knows. We were never colonized by the Italians. So I am not sure how Montessori made it to Ceylon. I know so many Montessori teachers from Ceylon — if they are not doctors, the odds are that any Sri Lankan ladies you meet in the U.S. are Montessori teachers.

But, anyway, I am glad that Google gave a chance to document my little past with Montessori.

A.M. and P.M. In Terms of Time: Do You Still Remember What They Stand For?

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

….
……
by Anura Guruge


On Sunday, and I think it might have been on the Bloomberg TV channel, I heard a young reporter talking about the start of the Tampa convention mention something along the lines: ‘… tomorrow at 10 ante meridiem they will gavel open the convention …‘!

Wow. My ears pricked up and my interest was piqued. I, of course, knew what he meant but I hadn’t heard that lovely phrase that just rolls of your tongue in decades!

‘Ante Meridiem’, A.M., AM; Before Midday.

Post meridiem, P.M., PM. After Midday.

I just asked Devanee. I guess they never taught her that in 6 years of schooling. She is very good at guessing. So, ‘PM’ was ‘past morning‘ — which to be fair works. ‘AM’ for after morning, however, didn’t work.

I asked a few others. ‘PM’ was ‘past midday’ — which works.

But, the Latin is so beautiful, as Latin invariably is. Another time related Latin term that we do not give thought to: ‘AD‘ – Anno Domini (AD), after Christ. In my books, influenced by my father (who adopted it in his writings a long time ago he also being very adept at using the Buddhist calendar), I now use CE and BCE more and more, though in my pope books nobody really would have an issue with AD and BC.

[2012 is 2556 in the Buddhist calendar used in Sri Lanka. 56 years ago, in 1956, when I was 3, it was year 2500. Big celebrations right through the year. My father, then 28, was in charge of these celebrations. It was a big deal. People still talk about it. I remember bits of it.]

My only issue with BC and AD is that the dating is wrong — and being the pedantic devil I am, it bothers me to use a designation that is incorrect. For those that are not familiar with this issue (despite it being widely known and discussed), the current scholarly consensus as to when Jesus was born, based on historical studies, is between 6 BC and 4 BC. So, the BC/AD designation per se, per the wording used, is 4 to 6 years out (and that without factoring in all of the confusion caused over the years by us not having started at year zero.). So, an added advantage of the increasingly used BCE and CE, where CE refers to ‘Common Era’, is that it glosses over, kind of fudges, the 4-6 year discrepancy.

Anyway, just wanted to document AM and PM. Another lovely Latin/Italian word that I got to savor this morning, when doing a pope post, was ‘biglietto’ — for ticket.

Unless It Is A Dire Emergency Get Your Networking Cables Online; Update On My Internet Bandwidth Woes – Getting 2nd TDS Line!

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

….
……
by Anura Guruge


Linksys EA3500 Dual Band N Router

TDS, on 4:58 pm (Eastern) on Tuesday, redeemed themselves, albeit after my 3rd call to them that day wanting to know why I was still waiting for a technician when I was promised one, the night before, by noon. Tim Barker, their local Internet guru, who I had met a year ago when he came to change my static IP-address, made an after hours call (at zero cost to me) at 6:30 pm. Tim is good. Time trouble shot the whole problem all the way from the external, on the garage wall, Fiber router all the way to my PC. Looks like it is my 5-year old, D-Link DIR-655 router. Usually I am beyond skeptical when people tell me that it is a router problem. This time it looked pretty conclusive though I am still not 100% convinced, especially after a little bird told me that TDS had had some major issues with their Fiber Internet service (but that I should have experienced those prior to last week).

Tim likes Linksys, though I have used D-Link wireless routers since 2002. I acquiesced to him, but made sure I got one of their higher end products (especially as I had a $20 off coupon) because I do know folks have had issues with the lower end Linksys products. Time was waxing lyrical about Cisco until I showed him my old Cisco employee badge from 1996! I know Cisco. Cisco’s irrepressible Executive VP of Marketing, in the mid-1990s, the man that put Cisco on the map (so to speak), Don Listwin wrote the Foreword for my third book. [I met Don, in a bar in D.C. during one of those gala, mid-1990s networking shows. I dropped a full glass of beer on his lap even before I shook his hand. He liked me ever since and jumped at the chance of writing the Forword when everybody said “Don’s too busy and important to waste time writing a blurb for you“!)

I have a habit of being able to think while I am asleep. I had trained myself to do that over 30 years. When I woke up the next day, my brain told me: ‘hey, look at getting a 2nd line so that YOU don’t have to EVER contend with router problems again’. Wow. I am a confirmed bandwidth junkie — really my only addiction. You know that old adage: ‘you can never be too rich or too thin‘. Well never having been even marginally rich I can’t attest to the first part, but I do know that you can be too thin — because I was, in 1983, when I, through dieting and exercise, reduced my weight from 210 to 135 pounds. I was skin and bones and looked like a skeleton with a translucent skin. But, I definitely stand by this adage: ‘I can never have enough bandwidth‘. This is not the first time I have opted to get two lines to the house. Many of you are probably too young to even have heard of ISDN, the broadband solution of the 1990s. It was incredibly, for the time, fast at 64Kbps. Yes, that was a ‘K’, for Kilo (meaning thousand), as opposed to today’s ‘M’, for Mega (meaning million). To get that in rural NH, Meredith to be precise, was brilliant. I knew I wanted more. I was, of course, in the networking field. Looked around and found what was called an ‘aggregating router’ — you could plug in 2 ISDN lines to it and get 128Kbps to the house. That is what I did.

I had thought about getting another aggregating router. But, opted for a different route. My main PC is getting plugged in directly into the wall, sans a router. So now I should get ALL of the download and upload bandwidth that TDS says I am getting. Yes, I will monitor it.

Putting the Linksys router on the other TDS broadband line. That will be mainly for Wi-Fi. I don’t use Wi-Fi. So that line and its bandwidth will be Deanna and the kids — and very occasionally for one of my backup machines and for Teischan’s Linux machine (which she now rarely uses after getting a Google Nexus 7 pad).

I will keep you posted on my TDS Internet bandwidth saga. Installation of the 2nd line and the switch-over is next week.  Since I use a static-IP address they will have to configure that on my PC. I have a feeling we will end up getting a static IP on the second line too.


All these changes got me thinking about cables. Ethernet LAN cables can get damaged. I have run into that. Though I don’t totally buy into the need of gold, jumbo cables for each and every application, after 30 years in networking I do know that there is a breakeven point in terms of a cable’s quality and its capacity (errors being the biggest culprit, slowing you down rather than crippling you). So I looked around for some new cables. I am not a cable junkie. Cables don’t excite me — other than the OLD, giant, 64 pin, bus-and-tag cables. That was my specialty; bus-and-tag cables. One of my longest standing clients was BusTech — where the ‘Bus’ referred to those bus-and-tag cables (from the 1960s)!

Wow, we now have Category 6 (Cat 6) cables for 100Gbps applications. Cat 5 is the standard for 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet. They have a Cat 5e for 1G. Cat 6, which is backward compatible with 5, is not expensive ONLINE. Plus they come in cool, bright colors like orange, red, green, violet etc. 7′ cable is $4.25 plus shipping.

Since I knew I was going to going past a BestBuy over the next few days, I thought that I would just swing by and get some cables. Just for the heck of it, I checked the BB prices. Wow. I knew BB tries to make some margins on cables. I did a few months at BB a few years ago as an Epson merchandiser. Great job. One of the best I had. Got to know BB, their procedures and quite a few of the staff (in Concord) quite well. I do not blame BB. They are working on thin margins. So they have to compensate somewhere and for that cables are perfect. If you just bought a printer you are going to want a cable, if you don’t already have one.

But, in this instance, with these Cat 6 cables I was amazed. I bought 3 cables, with shipping, for what I would have paid for 1 at BB! I went to Cables.com. I had used them a few years ago. They seem to be good. Plus, they accept PayPal. These days, unless I already have an account with the company, as I do with Amazon, eBay and TigerDirect, I will NOT buy online unless they accept PayPal. Two reasons: it is easier and safer. So that is my story. If you need cables try cables.com or Tiger(direct).com. Yes, TigerDirect is the old CircuitCity! They are good.

Unusual Seating Arrangement For 1st Grade Kids At Alton Central School (ACS), NH

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

….
……
by Anura Guruge


They changed the seating arrangement to a more traditional one on Friday, September 7, 2012.



Monday night, from 6pm to 7pm, was Open House at Alton Central. I liked Teischan’s 1st Grade Class Room. The teacher, who I had met last year, was very nice and you could tell that she was trying hard and had spent a lot of time over the Summer getting things ready for the classroom. You could tell. I was impressed. [My mother was a teacher; my father, at 83, still teaches and when I had called him that Monday I was told that he had gone to the University to set up his room.]

I was taken aback by how the tables for the 17 kids were arranged. I first thought that it was an ad hoc set up just for the Open House — but was told that it was how the kids will sit in the weeks and months to come. I was surprised but didn’t want to say anything in front of the other parents.

The set up is as depicted in my diagram above. I went and checked the dimensions of the desks online. From what I can see they are 18″ deep, 24″ wide and the height can be adjusted.

There is ZERO separation between the desks. They are pushed together, 9 tables to a pod.

The kids are sitting, at most 44 inches, NOSE-to-NOSE.

Yes, I know that the staff at ACS will produce 40 research studies, from around the world, to prove that this nose-to-nose, shoulder-to-shoulder seating configuration is the one most conducive for contemporary teaching (if not learning). I will only have one question: ‘were any of them done in a school in New Hampshire with at best, sub-bar mechanical ventilation?’

My foremost concern is health related.

Six weeks from now the sniffles will start. Then the sneezing and the coughing. Soon the flu season will be in full swing. With this kind of seating arrangement we are not giving these poor kids even a fighting chance. Of course, exchanging germs is a treasured rite of passage in New England. But, do we really want the kids exposed to this? Lets face it. These are 6 year olds. They are going to sneeze, wheeze and cough. Their noses and mouths are 44″ apart. Most married couples don’t sleep that close!

This teacher, most likely on her own dime, had provided two huge hand sanitizer pump bottles, one for the boys and the other for the girls, next to their bathroom passes. I was impressed. That was good. And then this …

Yes, space might be an issue, also given the modern notion that a classroom has to be multimodal, or whatever. If space is the issue I am sure an architect or somebody familiar with CAD/CAM can help the school out. Worst case I can do a perfectly to scale PowerPoint, with all the furniture and equipment, and they can drag and drop the objects to see how they can fit 17 desks without the kids having to be 44″ nose-to-nose.

Newly Restored, 1974, Jensen-Healey In Alton, NH

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

….
……
by Anura Guruge






Alas, it is NOT mine! It is also NOT for sale — though, obviously, as the saying correctly foretells, everything and everybody does have a price. This is his 2nd Jensen-Healey. He had his 1st in College but had to sell it when he had his first child. So now, quite a bit older, he is determined to hold onto this — and I understand. He worked on this car for a long time. It looks fabulous. Sounds good too. Great job. He is very happy and proud; as he should be. [As is always the case the wife refers to it as his ‘mid-life crisis’. I told her yesterday that I hope he has quite few more crises.]

I won’t divulge where the car is or who owns it — though he is quite famous in Alton circles. It is NOT on our road — so don’t bother coming cruising around. It is also garaged and they have a long driveway going up a steep incline. So you won’t even see the garage from the road.

If you really, really, really want to see this Healey e-mail me and I will SEE if I can arrange for you to see it. Otherwise just keep an eye for it on Rte 28 in Alton or at Prospect Mountain High School. No guarantee. It is not registered right now.



I would, as a Brit, like to have another British sports car. I have owned 4: 2 Spitfire 1500s (one bright red and the other Pageant Blue (a color I hated, but the only color I could get in 1978), a TR7 convertible (the 3rd but last built) and an MG Midget (that I bought from a neighbor, in Gilford, in 2000). I always wanted a Triumph Stag — which I consider the most beautiful car of that era, prior to the TR7. The unreliability of the Stag, even by British standards of the time, were legendary. I was always told that if I got one I would have to replace the engine with a U.S. V8. So, I ended up getting the TR7. I had a look the other day on eBay just out of curiosity. Only 1 listing for a Stag! Wow.

I had a rich friend back in the UK, in the 70s, who had a Jensen Interceptor. That was the only car that I knew that was more prone to failure than the stag. It was his pride and joy — but it was always breaking down. It would always be a call, from a phone booth (this being way, way, way before cell phones), I am stuck I will be late. Driving off in the Interceptor was going to be the highlight of his extremely lavish wedding, to a dentist, at a stately manor house. Yes, you guessed it. The Jensen didn’t work! He took it quite well.

Internet Bandwidth Issues With My TDS Broadband Access

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

….
……
by Anura Guruge




Normally my (supposedly) dedicated, 10Mbps to the house broadband internet access works flawlessly — just as a utility should. It is there, it is constant and it is stable. Since Friday I have been having a heck of a time. Around noon Saturday I had zero, yes ‘0’, upload bandwidth. So I couldn’t upload anything. Download bandwidth was down to about 3Mbps. It was slow.

It has been awfully erratic since then. Sometimes, as you can see from the above screen shot, I get the bandwidth I am paying for. Around those readings I am fine. Yes, I would LOVE more bandwidth. I will gladly pay more for more bandwidth. But, this another one of the travails of living in rural NH. We don’t get much choice and we don’t get much bandwidth. Oh, to have Verizon FiOS! Alas.

TDS claims to offer higher bandwidth, e.g., 25Mbps, in NH but every time I call they say ‘Ah! Not where YOU live’.

Right now I would be happy if I could just have constant bandwidth. Without bandwidth I am a fish without water. I can’t do anything on my computer. As I write I am waiting for a TDS technician to appear. I might have to call again.

I did not start off with TDS. 26 months ago, in June 2010, I signed up with our local Union Tel. for the new, dedicated, 10Mbps fiber to the house service. Sounded good and the price was very reasonable. Yes, it took them 6 days to get me a stable, reliable service — in the end they classed me a business account and gave me a dedicated IP address. Since then, until this Friday, things were good — during that time we only had one long, 12 hour, outage.

TDS bough Union Tel. shortly after I became a customer. For about a year that didn’t make a difference. Now it does. TDS telephone support really tries hard to please. But, they have NO CLUE and NO INFORMATION about my Internet service other than how much I have to pay. Yes, basically ALL they have on me and know about me is my billing information. They can’t even PING ‘their’ TDS router. Until this weekend that was OK. They didn’t have to do anything.

Now it is a problem. I am hoping they can fix this. Otherwise I am sunk, I am screwed.

I was a Metrocast cable and Internet customer for a long time, for over 11 years. I was one of their first Internet customers in the Lakes Region. Over that time I got very au fait with how their Internet access worked. 80% of the time I could troubleshoot the problem ahead of their tech. But, as with ALL utilities in Alton, Metrocast in Alton was not what it was in Gilford or Meredith. I do not know what it is with Alton but we are definitely the poor cousins. On this road with Metrocast, on a Saturday night, when most of those on the road were using their Metrocast cable, bandwidth would drop precipitously. Similar to what I am having with TDS today; difference being that I knew Metrocast cable was a shared access media while with TDS I am paying for a dedicated line to the C.O. in Barnestead.

Since June 2010 Metrocast has upgraded their service to Alton. They pulled some new Fibre and upgraded their network equipment. They now offer 25Mps download and 2Mbps upload. I just got off the phone after long, very productive, very pleasant chat with a Metrocast rep in Pennsylvania. He understands my issues. He himself has never used the 25 Mbps. He used the 12Mbps, albeit in PA. Yes, his bandwidth drops to 10Mbps on Friday and Saturday nights. That is about a 17% drop. If I get a 25% drop I will be down to 18Mbps. That will still be twice what I get, best case, with TDS. Yes, I will be paying more, but bandwidth, to me, is a necessity.

So, I might be going back to Metrocast. They are all set to send a tuck over here the next day. I also have a ‘magic’ name of a person to call to have it all expedited. Stay tuned. If you don’t see any new posts you will know that my Internet is down.

My Cardiologist, Dr. Stephen Hanlon, Of Catholic Medical (Manchester, NH) And Ground Flax Seed.

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

….
……
by Anura Guruge




Given my family history, my build and my diet (and I used to be strictly carnivorous until I stopped being a teen), I have, since my late 20s, been considered ‘a heart attack waiting to happen‘. Saw my first cardiologist in 1990 when I was 37. I have a cousin, two years older than me, who had his first (of many) heart attacks at 35. My cholesterol, given that I was relatively ‘young’, was just borderline, around 220 I think. I told the doctor I would get it down in a year. Those days, in my youthful exuberance, no mountain was high enough. Eight years earlier, when my weight when past 200 lbs, I had made some major changes to my life. I had stopped eating meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – just eating one green apple and a small (and I really do mean small) piece of cheese. On those days that I didn’t eat, I also used to run 7 miles — at around 6.5 – 7 minutes a mile. I dropped my weight from 200 to 135 lbs in 6 months. You could count all my ribs. I then allowed my weight to build up to 165. So reducing cholesterol was a challenge in that same league. I eliminated milk and lived on hummus for a year. It kind of became a joke. I would even order hummus when I went out for dinner on business. I dropped my cholesterol to 140.

But, I had to continue seeing a cardiologist. In 1998 I lucked out. I was living in the Lakes Region and was sent to a new Tamil cardiologist from India, Dr. Venkat Nethala, who practiced in Laconia. Those days, and even now, there aren’t too many ‘Indians’ per se in Laconia. Dr. Nethala who was new to the area was delighted to see another brown guy. We became friends and started socializing. I was 45. All my vitals were borderline. Dr. Nethala made a momentus decision. He said he was putting me on Lipitor and two blood pressure medications as a preventive measure. His words were: ‘Anu, you will thank me for this when you are in your late 50s‘. Thank YOU, Dr. Nethala. It was a pain to have to take a handful of pills, plus the aspirin, each night. But, Dr. Nethala was right. I do thank him. So I have been on Lipitor for 14 years — with one short break when I tried another, cheaper statin and didn’t like (psychosomatically or otherwise). Dr. Hanlon, pictured above, told the insurance company that I had to have Lipitor.

Dr. Nethala is now in Maine, close to the Canadian border. I miss him. I have always maintained that Indian or Sri Lanka TRAINED doctors are superior to most — given the fierce competition they have to edure to get into medical school in the first place and then stay there till they qualify. Only the best of the best make it through the system. Indian or Sri Lankan doctors who went to school here don’t have the same ‘touch’ as those that got their M.D. from a school in the sub-continent (and in a few instances Britain). Yes, I had an uncle (mother’s brother) who was a doctor and 4 cousins (all from my mother’s side) who are doctors — all of whom became doctors in Sri Lanka, though one practices in the U.S. and the other in Australia.

When Dr. Nethala abandoned us (he was also our general practitioner) I had to find another cardiologist to get all of my heart medications. Decided to go to Catholic Medical given their reputation. I was allocated Dr. Hanlon.

He is a very NICE doctor. I like him. Two years ago, as part of my intake, I had to do a stress, echo cardiogram and EKG. It came out OK. Given that I still do run, most days, mainly up a steep hill, doctors have told me that I am kind of giving myself my own personal stress test each time I slog up that hill.

I try very hard to avoid seeing doctors and getting tests done. I prefer not to know what is wrong with me. Last August Dr. Hanlon’s staff, who are excellent, started calling me up saying I had to schedule my annual checkup. I pushed back and pushed back until December. In December I went to see him after also getting my blood work done. I was OK — for a change. So there was nothing much we had to discuss. But, given that I was ‘owed’ 20 minutes I enganged him in a conversation as to what else I could do. He told me that he and many of his colleagues at Catholic Medical had started taking GROUND flax seed for heart health.

I had heard of Flax Seed. Deanna had flax seed in the fridge. Deanna took flax seed. But, she didn’t GRIND IT first. So, as soon as I got home I ground some flax seed in a coffee grinder. Since then I have been taking a tablespoon (or two or three) of ground flax seed every day — some in my mandatory, nightly yogurt, the rest dissolved in water with my nightly teaspoon of Metamucil. I like the grittiness of the flax seed. I don’t know if it is doing me any good. It doesn’t seem to be doing me much harm and it is not expensive. So we will wait and see. I just thought I would share with you those words of wisdom from Dr. Hanlon because he strikes me as been very competent.

%d bloggers like this: