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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Some interesting trends!

While writing my last post, I realized I needed to share something which many of you may not have been aware of: Google Trends are fun and informative.

It is wonderful to know, for example, that for all the charges of Fundamentalism and Religiosity dumped at the doorsteps of Islamic societies, the world's Top 10 Cities from where people search for God are

whereas the world's Top 10 Regions looking for Sex are

I suspect it means that the guys in the first instance have had enough of Sex and are looking for God ... and it's the opposite in the second case.

But even more interesting is the Top 10 Languages used in searching for Sex

Wonder what the Social Scientists and Psychologists make of all this!


Blogger Blues III

First it was The Vintage Shop. Now it's Silsila-e-Mah-o-Saal. They've taken the plunge and gone over to the new blogger. Whatever their experiences of their new home, it takes me several minutes to open their pages. I have more or less given up trying. And they're probably happier at the thought of not having to deal with my comments too frequently.

Yesterday, through sheer persistence and doggedness, I waited and waited and waited for Madeeha's page. Seven minutes! That's an eternity in internet terms. Today, it took several abandoned attempts to get to Sabizak's page (I kept giving up, thinking it was some temporary glitch). Then it hit me: She's made the dreaded move. So, I typed in her url again and waited and waited and ... well, you know the rest. Nine minutes!!! Unacceptable.

Now, I am trying to make a comment on her lovely Googly post. Six minutes, so far, and the "Connecting to" is still showing the animated barber pole ...

Is it just me or my ISP? Or are others in Karachi facing the same problem? Or is it because Blogger is banned and pkblogs/inblogs have not made any alterations necessary to route things to beta.blogger? Betas are always trouble; I'm glad I have a beti! (Sorry. Bad joke!)

Uh-oh.: "Network Timeout The operation timed out when attempting to contact" Fuckin' charming!

OK, Sabizak, I'll just post my comment here, instead:

Bad move; Good post! Yes, this Google empire-building, as in the case of Microsoft and others before it (and even Apple isn't far behind, in slightly different ways), is a digusting but logical route in a capitalistic, competitive world. Oh, and YouTube has been bought by Google for the astonishing sum of $1.65 billion. No that's not a typo. BILLION!

And I bet you had no idea, when you said "What is up with these internet companies trying to become bigger than God?", that it wasn't just a funny comparison. They ARE bigger and showing it off!!!

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Friday, November 17, 2006

You were not born to shop!

Click image to learn about fighting consumerism in your area!

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Yeh voh sahar to naheeñ ...

It is sad, indeed, when political manipulations and disinformation manage to convince people that bad decisions are actually good. It is sadder still when the public - 'educated' people among them - accept these distortions because they choose to look at matters superficially, even when it could have a deep personal effect on them. A case in point is the recent Women's Protection Bill. Claimed as a victory (or, at least, a step forward) by a vast majority of liberals and the moderately enlightened, it is nothing short of pulling the wool over people's eyes.

The Hudood Ordinances need repealing! Period! They came into being as a one-man initiated order by military dictator and should be removed in the same manner. But that's not what President Musharraf would ever do. “I think those who had been calling for the repeal of all the Hudood laws are also extremists”, he has said. The reason? He said, according to the 'Dawn', it was not possible for him to do so as it would have unleashed all kinds of problems, including the lifting of prohibition from drinking. A sobering thought, indeed. Actually I'd rather have a couple of people drunk than people stoned to death through a debatable interpretation.

I think, after repealing the ordinances, it would be perfectly okay to table new motions and propose new laws, in keeping with the Qur'an and Sunnah. (I would prefer a separation of Church & State, but this is a constitutional requirement). The people's representatives (or, more accurately, those that go by that description) should debate - and, openly, please - each implication of the bill, making sure it is clearly understood, and establish the following: Is it Qur'anic? Is it derived from the Hadees? Are all the conditions (and pre-conditions) for its enforcement being met? It is also important to know, if only as an academic excercise, if Ijtehaad allows for Qur'anic punishments to be amended, in certain cases, as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and - later - Allama Iqbal, had suggested. (Read Iqbal's Sixth Lecture on Reconstruction.) The will of the people, or some semblance of it, could then decide and the new laws can be promulgated, as is expected of a civil society.

The official and opposition hoohaa, choreographed to accompany this manipulative (and negotiated) move, confuses the issue by making the people believe that it is now in keeping with the Qur'an & Sunnah (according to the Government) and not so (according to the MMA members, who chanted "the bill opposed to Quran and Sunnah is unacceptable" for some time before actually walking out of the proceedings). Surely it does not take rocket science to understand that it cannot be both. One of them must be able to prove this, simply, by quoting the relevant verses from the Qur'an. Or even some irrelevant ones (considered Zaeef) from the Hadees. But let's not beat around the bush (like Bush and his evidence of WMDs) and see some hard evidence.

Does it make sense that the rapist (in a crime in which the victim is totally innocent) will be punishable with 10 to 25 years of imprisonment but adultery (where there is mutual consent for the same act) is punishable with stoning to death?

And while we are at that point in the discussion, can anyone show an aayat that supports stoning to death? What? It isn't there??? Ohhh. So isn't the Qur'an a mukammal zaabtaé hayaat (the Complete Code of Life)? Of course, we need to go to the Hadees, you'll say, taking the debate to another and more difficult level: There is far less consensus on which Ahaadees to accept or reject than there is in the interpretations of the Qur'an. Surely, before doling out death we should make sure that such texts mean what we understand beyond reasonable doubt.

The President will also be asking elected members to bring in more laws "to end the anti-women customs of vani*, marriage with Quran and watta-satta.” Considering that many of the 'elected members' condone and even enforce such practices in their own families (one of them has 3 of his sisters married to the Qur'an), this is going to be a real challenge. Or just another hypocritical, political, meaningless law that considers the powerful to be above it.
* = The custom of giving away female relatives to resolve disputes is called vani, and at its most extreme, in 2004 a three year old girl became betrothed to a 60 year old man. This led to vani and honor killings being officially outlawed, though in practise, this rule is rarely observed in village communities.
What many view as a positive amendment in the bill - (the new amendment moved on Wednesday provides for an imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of 10,000 rupees for the offence of fornication, or consensual sex of the unmarried) - has drawn angry criticism from a maulana, who has expressed that this would turn "Pakistan into a free sex zone". Haah! As if he always pays for his!

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For the Record

My daughter, Ragni, wanted to go to college. I really thought it was an awful idea. But she's there and will - if all goes the way the wheels of Academia turn - graduate in 6 months or so

I hate schools, colleges, Education - an ideology, often diametrically opposite to Learning (which I worship). But, then, what does one expect from anything that has been institutionalized or turned into a System. Yes, I hate Systems, too. (Time for some of you to switch to reading another blog, maybe.)

So, it is only natural that I get asked, often by genuinely interested people, but more often at a panel discussion or debate, by someone trying to win his lost arguments through rhetoric and mockery, "So, why did you send your daughter to college? (Snicker!)"

I admit there was a conflict and I could not solve it easily. To have not let her go would have been dictatorial. And although I am sure I have behaved that way on occasion (although far less than by Ragni's reckoning), those occasions have dwindled with her growing up. After all, she was almost 18 when she was making that choice and would soon be legally an adult in many countries. Too, it was not essential for her to accept my view of things just as it was essential for me to acknowledge that she had a right to her views and a right to act upon them.

Since her choice of colleges lay outside Pakistan, I felt that the independence, the varieties of experience she would have, and the exposure to some amazing people on the visiting academics category would offset, partly, the evils of the system. And Pakistan, with its increasingly stifling society, seemed no place for any young person to grow up - much less a girl.

The compromise I reached with her was that she could go, provided she got aid or scholarship. I would not be a paying party to such a venture. That's how she ended up at Hampshire College, a radical liberal arts space that, at least, tries to do away with some of the more rigid aspects of institutions.

But I hope that when it comes to her life as a parent she will excercise better judgement ;-) for her own children.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006


It's out! The long (kinda really, really long) awaited gadget by that leader of copycats, has finally launched! And, as expected, it rides roughshod over all aesthetics and sensibilities.

Sitting next to the similarly priced iPod (with the same amount of memory but additional features) it looks like an ad for "Darth Vader meets White Knight" ... the ugliness further accentuated by Forbe's autumn-leafy background that may have been a subconcious slip by the photographer, into whose mind the word 'fall' may have propped up, understandably.

The most touted (and if the reports coming in are to be believed, soon to be the most taunted) feature is its WiFi capability. Apple's Founder and Head (obviously envious!) finds this unexciting. In an interview, on the iPod's 5th birthday, Stephen Levy asked him: Microsoft has announced its new iPod competitor, Zune. It says that this device is all about building communities. Are you worried? Shot back irrepressible Steve Jobs: In a word, 'No'. I've seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you've gone through all that, the girl's got up and left! You're much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you're connected with about two feet of headphone cable.

Microsoft has been adventurous, too, when it comes to colours: the Zune is also available in excitement-curbing Brown. Sadly, the colour and the klunkiness make even Serena Williams look dainty.

Of course, as a Mac lover, I am going to be accused of bias. And I admit that I do have a strong bias towards better products. But leave my views alone and take a look at a newsbyte from CNN's neutral business analysts.

Actually, I fail to see why MS (not the other killer disease that comes to mind) is so overjoyed about this wannabe-iPod-killer. I mean, even the Redmond Retards must know that 5 years (iPod turned 5 a few weeks ago) is a long long time for any piece of technology in this world to remain successful. Having a 'killer' go after something that old is hardly an act of bravado to be proud of, even if the 'thing' holds a 70%-80% market share and continues to sell like crazy. But I guess MS takes its toll.

In the final analysis, it's not just the iPod or the Zune that matters. Both are small enough to plug your earphones in and press the Play button, and put away out of sight. Ok ... so the Zune will require a slightly bigger and more strongly-lined pocket, but let's not quibble. The point is that it has to be linked to easy-to-use, smooth-operating, closely co-ordinated software. For me, iTunes does that really well. I have no idea, yet, of what the Windows counterpart will do ... but judging by the ugly bloatware that comes out of Redmond, I would not lay much hope on it. But, to be fair, let's wait and see.

Naturally, the software and the hardware will only be tested once you have them both up and running. Again, as a Mac user, the iPod just plugged in to my PowerBook the first time around and the 'installation' was trouble-free. I have no idea if Windows Users had any difficulty in connecting iPods to their PCs. However, the Zune installation, it seems, is not for non-techies like me, who just want to plug-and-play.

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Blogger Blues II

[posted after reading the first few comments on my previous post]

thanks, beanz, for the shove in the right direction. however 'tech support' is having problems moving me to the other side because the simple 'import' option in wp is working erratically these days. the problem could be 'blogger-based'. aaargh.

thanks, others, for making me feel part of a group. but shift we must.

the now essential move, however - once tech support cracks it - is now going to be even more painful (at least for for me) than i had imagined.

for those contemplating the move, there are some indications on wp's site about what will work and what will not after the shift. most stuff will move across seemlessly. some will need attention and tweaking: graphic links in the sidebar will pose problems, i am told, because of differences in template structure - and some pictures uploaded from inside blogger's editor may have to be reloaded.

all this i was willing to live with, but a new problem has cropped up: i've discovered that, suddenly, all paragraph breaks in all my posts have disappeared, destroying my emphases and rhythm (that i assume existed). have corrected the last 5-6 posts (not without much persistence: the 'br-tag monster' is still eating up para breaks after re-posting) ... and it's one hell of an effort to go back to the scores of others and do the same. guess i'll just see how the imported stuff looks in wp and rectify images and breaks as i go along, checking the past's follies and banging my head about why i said certain things.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blogger Blues

talk of confusion ...
the opening screen of blogger announces
Looking for news about Blogger? Check out Blogger Buzz!- Eric [2/01/2006 10:38:00 AM]

Maintenance on Monday, November 14

We are planning a two hour outage this evening from 9p to 11p PST). This is to complete the network maintenance we've been performing over the last several weeks.
hmmm. but november 14 is a tuesday!
oh oh ... something else on the page indicates that the announcement is a leftover from 2005.

hey guys-at-blogger: who needs to know about a 2005 outage?

ok so i am at the opening screen of blogger to reconsider, for the nth time, whether i should move to wordpress or, with the blogger-in-beta update, stay with an old friend (and learn to like her new personality).

here's the downside to moving within the family. (can anyone convince me ... please ... i like blogger. really! and i am as loyal as they come. have never given up any of my old loves. just added on new ones.)
1. with blogger in the gunsight of some nuts in pakistan, the ban comes and goes, necessitating the use of pkblogs and inblogs but those do have some tradeoffs, often.
2. neither of them work with the betablogger addresses (unless there's a way i don't know about).
3. i have had immense difficulties accessing some sites that have moved to betablogger. many just don't load. is it me? my computer? my isp? my love of sam harris? adnan sami khan playing with his new voodoo doll?
4. the internal shift can't be undone ... and if i find myself disliking it, there may be no easy way to import it into wordpress (which has an import-from-blogger option but may not be able to handle the betablogger changes).

One (kinda lazy but sensible) option is to continue until blogger enforces the shift. i suspect this will happen in a couple of months when they are out of beta. by then, wordpress will have not only the new import option in place but may have added facilities in response. aaaargh! (this scream may not make sense to some of you .. but it's my scream and it stays!)

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Monday, November 13, 2006

You gotta have a dream ...

People get fooled into giving up many things. Reason; Liberty; Life.

Even dreams.

No one can steal your dreams. What they can do is to threaten to steal them. And you, afraid of losing the only thing that is yours and yours alone, stay awake to guard them --- thereby losing all dreams.
Happy talk, keep talking happy talk,
Talk about the things you like to do;
You gotta have a dream,
If you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?

[from: South Pacific - The Broadway Musical]
What brought about this thought?

Listening to Martin Luther King's recording this morning, delivering one of the finest world-changing speeches of all time on my Worldspace Satellite Radio ... a really worthwhile investment (and, by the way, the best place to buy the radios in this region is probably India.) My life's centred around 24/7 Jazz and Western/Eastern Classical Music. You can take your own pick. What a program selection their subscription service offers!


Friday, November 03, 2006

Nothing, really ... just venting!

Jaun Elia (also spelt as Jon and John), the enfant terrible of recent Urdu poetry, wrote:
Kaun iss ghar kee daykh bhaal karay
Roz ek cheez toot jaatee hae !
(Who can take care of this house?
Every day something breaks ...)

Whether he was speaking of his personal marital predicament or referring to aging, I am often reminded of this shayr when I read national news. If it's not Bugti, it's Bajaur. If it's not Karachi, it's a Khan.

If the whole country is fucked-up is the leadership to blame? If the whole leadership is fucked-up is the country to blame?

When I feel most frustrated and angry, I return to a poem by Kahlil Gibran that I'd like to share with you.

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