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Sunday, December 20, 2009

T2F 2.0 is back!

Science Ka Adda — Salman Hameed, from Hampshire College, is here to start the days off with a new lecture on "Humans in the Cosmos: How 400 Years Of Telescopes Have Changed The Way We Look at Ourselves!" … Don't forget to see this startling talk (on December 22nd at 6.30 pm) by a brilliant young man.

Not into Science? Hmmm ... take a trip and see what you'd been missing! There's an exhibit of some of Pedro Meyer's beautiful work. And brilliant Coffee and other stuff. Books to buy … and many even to read at the studio upstairs. Music, too: It's soft and does not hurt your years. Urdu (and English) poetry, literature and more stuff to go. Coming to you soon.

Ohhh … if you are an Entrepreneur, there are seats for you, too, on a short/long term basis (just 5, though). A sponsor? A quick event? There's more … you know!

Drop in …

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Ad Nauseum …

Today, like almost every day, I received an email that was highlighting the plight of the Swat residents who have lost their homes and more. The mail, like others of its ilk, also suggested one of the numerous agencies that were engaged in relief work as a possible organization to which I should donate funds.

Noble, no doubt. And who could ever fault the sentiment? But, nonetheless, I let off a silent scream …

Why? because the To: field contained the names and addresses of 32 people, including mine. And, as if that was not stupid (and dangerous) enough, the main body contained all the headers of the 17 other people who had Forwarded this. Totalling the list of people whose email addresses were now available in this one document, I reached the diabolical number of 666 (Hmmm!).

I am sure you, too, receive such stuff almost everyday:

Whether the body contains the occasional serious matter, such as today's email re Swat, or the usual, generally yechhh joke, there is - at the very least - the inconvenience and annoyance of having to scroll down a long, long document to get to the meat. And, in the largest number of cases, the end is a let-down, anyway. 

Worse, the same mail has, in all probability, been received by you minutes earlier (or soon will be), forwarded by one of the people among those listed. Six Degrees of Separation can be a pain!

Such inconveniences, I guess, one should not have to live with - and those who inflict this upon you are rarely worthy of being called 'friends'. However, the dangers that such idiocy by the 'forwarding friends' poses is not that easy to deal with.

What are the risks? For one, you can lay the blame for an increase in the SPAM that you now receive, directly or indirectly, on this brainlessness:

• Directly, because any one of the recipients can (and frequently do) add all the people in the email to his SPAM list and use it to sell you products, send you unfunny jokes, preach, or provoke. And if he, too, leaves the list exposed, there will be a multiplier effect.

• Indirectly, because many unscrupulous people scan such mails (manually and through software) to gather all the email addresses and add to a database - which is then 'sold' to allow other unscrupulous buyers to use it for the puroses listed earlier.

For another, such lists are also used to 'track' large numbers of emails and mine data like Phone and Credit Card, Account Numbers, Passwords - that, despite warnings, some people do transmit.


Ok, so you receive a really important message, such as the Swat Relief thing that you feel MUST be circulated. What do you need to do?

1. Click the Forward button
2. From the body of the email remove ALL traces of previous 'forwards' and email addresses
3. Add your list of friends you wish to send this to in the Bcc: field
4. Send!

On the off-chance that the mailing program you use does not send out email unless there is at least one address in the To: field, add your own in that space. You will receive the email, too, of course, but consider the bright side: you'll know for a fact that your mail did go through!

My mail program and the filter (SpamSieve) are set to send all such emails to the Junk folder … one that I check every few days to see if something has been wrongly sent there. After 'training' the filter I have discovered only 3 mistakes in months. Good going, Apple Mail and SpamSieve!!!


While on the subject of Compulsive Forwarding, here are two old posts that you should take a peek at, when you find the time:

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Educators/Parents: It's Your Call

Web Wise Kids, Verizon, WILL Interactive, and the ESA Foundation have created the game “It’s Your Call” for schools, law enforcement and community organizations to teach teens about “sexting,” cyber-bullying, academic cheating and related issues.

Launched in the Los Angeles Unified School District at Sepulveda Middle Schools in North Hills, CA, the game aims to help over one million students in the U.S. learn about safe cell phone use and Internet responsibility. Users of the game become live action characters that “play out difficult situations in the safety of cyberspace before they live them out in real life;” the game also offers guidance about responsible cell phone behaviors and how to stay safe.

FROM: Tech & Learning eNews - May 5, 2009

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Jihad to end all Jihads?

On most days, Jigar's shayr 
جہلِ خرد نے دن یہ دكھاےٴ 
گھٹ گےٴ انساں بڑھ گےٴ ساےٴ 
comes to haunt me each time I switch on the TV or read the news. Today, however, this ad caught my eye:

Even to someone not 'into' the Sufi 'system' this seemed innocuous enough, especially given that the alternative being offered to the world is the mad and cruel Talibinized version of Islam and it's equally insane counterparts in other religions. (Well, in most of them, coz I'd really be bowled over if I met a fundamentalist Parsi!)

I mean, imagine, IF all the religions could merge into one big happy family, towards a peaceful unity! No Jihads. No Crusades. No Gujarats. No Pogroms. Wouldn't we - or at least the humans among us - be all for it?

But following the link led me to this fantasy…

one that is crying out to be placed on a pedestal, alongside L Ron Hubbard's con and that of Ramtha, one of the nuts in the group that gave us that well-packaged DVD set of half-truths ('What The Bleep…')

There really IS one born every minute.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

The coming dark age

I received a disgusting and painful video, forwarded by a young acquaintance. It shows the brutal killing - in public - of a young girl. The clip - showing the girl actually mercilessly beaten to death with fists, kicks, and stones - was impossible to watch in its entirety and I certainly could not bear to keep the sound on. More horrifying was the obvious: Someone had the time, the nerve, and a clear viewing spot from which he could film the entire process. Worse, one could spot some among the murderous mob holding cellphones in their hands and filming the scene while kicking and hitting the girl.

Comments on my Facebook, where I posted my immediate reaction to it, indicate that others were as horrified. But FB is no criterion: After all, those who can and do comment on it are more than likely to be birds-of-a-feather (although, admittedly, some of our closest acquaintances are springing surprises on us in this area nowadays).

The girl's crime was not clear - at least from the part of the video that I could bear to see. Conjectures among viewers ranged from charges of adultery to issues like being 'improperly' dressed or even to having ventured out without a mahram, all of which have been used as grounds for perpetrating violence against women.

That the video was made and distributed by the perpetrators of this heinous act, is obvious ... for no one in their right minds (and, thus, opposing such a deed) could have survived that crowd. Any outcry or hint of sympathy and the chap would have met similar treatment. So why would they make such a video? Certainly not for record keeping (although the Nazis did keep detailed records of their atrocities, so one can't completely ignore the possibility). The release of it on the Internet was obviously done to instill fear among the whole society.

I was unable, without sound - and I was NOT going to turn that on after the first scream that pierced my ears - to ascertain where this video was shot. The sender, too, despite having heard all of the soundtrack, could not identify the language or dialect. But it was widely believed by many that this was most likely an act of Islamic Fundamentalists.


Fundamentalism is the new face of all religions. In this case the girl was reportedly on the 'wrong side' for her alleged conversion to Islam for love. Her name, Du'a Khalil - (meaning 'The Prayer of Abraham') - and surname, Aswad, which brings another stone to mind - further underscored life's ironies.

Oh .. so now that we know that it wasn't a Muslim mob, shall we heave a sigh of relief, happy at the fact that 'our kind' is not involved … for once? Does this exonerate the Muslim fanatics in any way? Can we not look at this, and at what is happening at our shrinking border, to extrapolate the danger present in Pakistan so that something can be done before it's too late?

I knew that even discussing such matters can earn the wrath of some elements, but I'd always thought that that would be personal or party anger.

However, soon after seeing the horrible video (it seems to have become hot recently, though the incident is a couple of years old), came RSF's report on Swat which made such discussions almost a sin: Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the founder of TNSM, told Reporters Without Borders that he believed in press freedom. He nonetheless also claimed that the Sharia forbids discussing past events, including the actions of Taliban activists.


I urge you to read the 6-page Swat Report here. (It's a PDF file so you can download it and read at leisure.)

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

THIS is what Education CAN be ...

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

It may be just a rumour ...

... but the electronic market was abuzz that, following Mobilimp's decision to donate cellphones to the deaf, electronic giant Sohni will donate TV sets to the blind.

Before mocking the telco's initiative, please understand that there's method in their madness: These are non-working sets!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

We Interrupt This Blog For Some Breaking News ...

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Word Clouds

This is just a "yooñhee" post, so skip it if you wish.

I was woken up - at just past 4AM!!! - by the sounds of some guys emptying their guns (hopefully [not] into each other ... I am feeling ambivalent!) and decided to while away the time doing something that didn't require much thinking.

Choosing the last couple of posts of the three bloggers I follow regularly (though, sadly, only one of them is prolific), plus an older one of my own, I decided to generate "word clouds", using Wordle. In all four cases, I used the very first option presented by the application after hitting the 'Randomize' button. Here are the results:

Waste of time? I think I've found a couple of interesting ideas about using these in classrooms. Maybe I'll share them here some day, once they've taken better shape. Feel free to suggest some that come to your mind.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inviting your views ...

Does this kind of 'game' promote the 'wrong' values?

More important: Is there really such a thing as 'right' and 'wrong' values? Or was Lenny Bruce right when he said, "There's no Right or Wrong. Only Need!" ... ?

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Na hota T2F to ...

Read Bina Shah's piece in the Dawn
(Karachi Metropolitan)

Or read it on the net ...

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Fellow Pakistanis, rejoice ...

the ICT revolution has really come to Pakistan now:

Story #1:

Our driver, Ehsan, is literate. He reads an Urdu newspaper (sadly, the wrong one, but that's because the relatively better ones are overpriced and unaffordable for most). He loves Dr Sher Shah's short stories. He can also read English signage and headlines and has been asking me for a cheap computer for his 7-year-old child (I am looking around). He wants the child to be tech savvy, because "ab iss kay sivaa chaara naheeñ ..."

Recently his brother, who runs a cab, fell very ill and had to undergo biopsies and numerous tests. When one of the reports arrived, it contained the usual indecipherable jargon that labs use so that you have to go back to the doc (with whom it's in league and has paid commission to for recommending it in the first place). You need to do this to be able to understand even that the tests are all clear.

I looked at it and said I'd ask my friend, Dr Shamim, and Ehsan said that he'd certainly like to follow this up as the report had indicated a heart or lung problem "üss mayñ 'pulmonary' ka lafz likha haé aur maeñ nay mohallay kay ayk la∂kay say Internet par check karvaaya to yeh matlab maaloom hua."

Story #2:

Our maid, Fatima, is illeterate but not innumerate. The latter hurdle she crossed when she got a phone at home during Karachi's killer days so that she and her sons who worked in factories could communicate. (She now has a cellphone, to keep in touch with her expanding family for whom she has slogged away over years of widowhood, during which, despite increasing illnesses and weakness, she has even saved and managed to help her sons build a small house.)

The other day I bought a Sandwich Grill and decided to teach how to use it. I had hardly begun to talk while opening the box when she said, "haañ, haañ, sahab ... do. Müjh ko aata hae." Surprised, I asked her if she owned one. "Naheeñ. Apan loag iss ka kyaa karayñgay. Maeñ nay to 'BBC Food' par daykh kar samjha hae!"

Delightful, na?

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Monday, December 08, 2008

India 5: An Uncanny Tale - The Epilogue

Well, not quite. Just sharing a few things.

The response to my Gupta Cha posts (Part 1 and Part 2) was overwhelming and completely bowled me over. And having them featured on ATP was fantastic, given the number of visitors who visit that remarkable site.

Then, just as Indian and Pakistani comments and emails about it began to understandably dwindle with time, the dreadful Mumbai Massacre struck. I blogged on the morning of December 2nd about it. The post got a few visits and drew one comment by the end of the day. After all, it wasn't a unique post. Millions were - once they got their eyeballs off their TV screens - reading the news, live accounts, conflicting reports, seasoned analysts, and far better blogs than mine.

The sole comment had come from a Sarah Islam, who, I think was a first-time visitor to my blog. This led to an exchange in the comments section that ended on a warm note. The next morning, I received an email from her ... and the few exchanges that followed are being reproduced here - with her permission (she probably succumbed to my 'threat') - as I think her story is worth sharing and contains much food for thought.

Dear Mr. Kidvai

I have just read your blog entry entitled 'An Uncanny Tale...' about Gupta cha. This is absolutely beautiful! Are you seriously working on your novel "Ships and Shoes and SealingWax"? Are you then looking for a publisher or have you already spoken to someone? I could help you look for one here in India.
You keep saying that you are a non writer, but I assure you that your writing has really touched me. I am dying to read the rest of your story and I am sure that a couple of thousand other people would be too :)

I was born in Libya in 1971 to a Punjabi mother from Lahore and a Bangladeshi father whose family had fled to Dhaka (Dacca as it was called then) from Calcutta (now Kolkata :) ). My family and I lived in Lahore in the 90's and moved back to Dacca in 1998 after the death of my father. I met my husband there and now I am happily married and live in Calcutta! So you can say that life has now come full circle for me! My husband Sukhendu and I struggled with all the prejudices that people in all the three countries live with and also certain opinions that we had been brought up with. Now I am proud to say that we have reached a peaceful stage where the blinkers have literally been taken off of our eyes :)

Sukhendu and I read your story about Gupta Cha together and cried when we reached the end. Please let us know if we can help in any way for you to finish your book and publish it so other people can also read your story.



Dear Sarah
(and Sukhendu)

I am very touched by your comments and also thank you for sharing your own past, briefly, with me.

Ships and Shoes and SealingWax is not intended to be a novel - I would not even dare undertake such a venture. It is being written, mainly, in response to pressure from my daughter, Ragni, and my almost-adopted daughter, Sabeen (both of whom you will encounter if you go through my blog archives). The book will, in all probability, be almost blog-like: anecdotal and all over the place! Though I hope to bring some continuity into it.

Do write back and tell me more about yourselves and your family. Where do you live? What do you do? Why not share stories on a blog about your own unique experiences and difficulties that you defeated to reach today's peaceful life?



Dear Mr. Kidvai

I am so happy to hear back from you!

We live in Lake Gardens which is beind Jodhpur Park in South Kolkata. I wonder if you know the place? My husband and I both worked in advertising, he is now creative director (art) at Ogilvy & Mather and I used to be a copywriter but am only writing freelance pieces for magazines now.

We met in 1998 in Dhaka where we both worked for McCann Erickson. I had a huge chip on my shoulder as I had just returned from Pakistan and him being Indian was enough reason for me to contradict everything he said ... hahaha :-) My family had returned from Libya in 1989 and decided to settle down in Dhaka. But after a few years, my mother packed off my brother Amber to Aitchison College in Lahore and my sister Reema and I to Lahore. So that is how we landed up in Pakistan. My parents joined us for a while but for most of the time, my sister and I lived with my nani amma on Nisbet Road.

After we got married in 2004, my mother was very unhappy with my decision as she had seen the carnage in Amritsar and, later on, on the train to Lahore. She was only 6 at the time but she can recall certain events very clearly. I can understand that, as the events must have been pretty horrible and must have been burnt on her brain. She met my father Dr. Nurul Islam in Benghazi (Libya) and their marriage in 1970, too, was quite controversial as there was talk of East Pakistan asking for independence from West Pakistan.

Anyway, I was brought up in a house where both cultures, Punjabi and Bengali, were very much in evidence and I was very happy as a child and most of my time was spent chasing after butterflies, making mud pies and reading from the ancient books that my grandfather had left us and the newer books that we bought every now and then. My mother was adamant that we should learn Urdu as she is of the opinion that having Urdu as our first language would help us speak beautifully and articulately. She was and still is a stickler for the right pronunciation:-) So we went to the Pak Libya School that was run by the Pakistani Embassy in Benghazi. For nurturing our Bengali heritage we were dutifully packed off for singing, dancing and Bangla lessons at Hafiz uncle's house. So at school we spoke in Pidgin Italian, a bit of Arabic and Punjabi/Urdu, at home we spoke in Urdu and English and Bengali for some of our guests and in front of my father (especially when he was cross) :-)

I was brought up in a liberal household but after my father's death in 1998, my mother suddenly discovered her Pakhtun roots (my grandfather had settled in Lahore but was originally from Swat) and started attending Quran classes and sympathizing with the radical Islamization of Bangladesh. This was a shock for me and I rebelled. Over the years my distance from my mother and her views became considerable. Now we are talking again and things are getting better :-)

In the beginning, I would get very defensive with Sukhendu whenever something like the BJP used to come up in conversations but then I was reminded of a story that I think has largely shaped my thinking. At school I learnt from textbooks that one Rashid Minhas was the recipient of the Nishaan-e-Haider and a brave and valiant soldier who had grappled with the Bengali flight Instructor, Flight Lietenant Matiur Rahman who was a traitor. I grew up hero worshipping Minhas. When I came back to Bangladesh, I was shocked to learn that for the Bengalis it was Matiur Rahman who was the hero and not Rashid Minhas, who they considered the enemy. I realized then that the history of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is so intertwined and so full of passion and extraordinary circumstances that it is impossible to take sides. Both men as I see it today were heroes and valiant soldiers who just happened to be on opposite sides of the cause. It was an accident of birth.

This realization has, on one side, liberated me and, on the other side, saddened me beyond imagination. This means that we will always be at each other's throats and no one will see the person but only the flag that he is wrapped in. Of course I am exagerating, but I am telling my story fully for the first time. I think you will understand the confusing identities that I live with and also that there will always be people who will rise above pettiness :-)

Thanks for listening to me. God bless!


Dear Sarah

Wow! And you want me to write [down] my stories?

Blog this just the way you've written it to me. At the moment it's a request but can be used as threat by saying I'll publish it on my blog ;-) It's real tales such as yours that will ensure that the only things we all really need to burn is not each other's flags but our own if peace is what we want.

All the best.

PS: I hope you won't be offended at my saying this, but as an anti-nationalist, I would not accept that both RM & MR were heroes. They were just simpletons, brain-washed into committing such acts. But that, of course, pre-supposes that the story, itself, is true. There are some in the Air Force[s] who have, since, cast doubts on the veracity of the entire tale and think it was a crash that the PR-minded in Pakistan decided to use to advantage and the BD people, naturally, made the best of it. Who knows.

So it goes ...


I just LOVE the technology that has made all this possible, so here's to Doug Englebart, Alan Kay, the two Steves, Bill (huh? who he?), Tim-Berners-Lee, and hosts of others. May the FSM bless you all.

Oh, and Sarah now has a blog :-)

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The 'Other' Heresies

Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer is as renowned for his powerful and provocative photographs as he is for his pioneering work with digital imaging. Meyer’s photographs consistently test the limits of truth, fiction and reality. With the advent of digital photography in the early 1990s, Meyer evolved from a documentary photographer who created so-called “straight photographs” into a digital-documentarian who often combines photographic elements from disparate times and places to arrive at a different or higher truth. Pedro's oft-expressed contention that all photographs — digitally manipulated or not — are equally “true” and “untrue” has been labeled “heretical” in the orthodox documentary photography community.

While fellow Apple-user Pedro Meyer (one of the first to adopt this platform and launch the very first intearactive CD-ROM!) may have his exhibition - Heresies - opening in 60 museums in almost as many countries (we are thrilled that T2F, where the exhibition opens on 21st October, has been selected as the Pakistani venue) there are others, like me, whose photographs have also made it to some of the greatest (virtual!) halls in the world. Here are just 4 examples.

"Happy viewing", as the Senator said!



Jehan Ara


See you at the real Heresies, where a selection of large original museum quality prints of Pedro's works will be displayed and changed almost weekly!

Please do keep checking out the schedule at T2F's website for the exciting related events, like workshops, talks, discussions, and presentations during the weeks that this unique exhibition is on, unless you're on FB and already visit T2F Pages for updates.

Oh ... did you know that you can also subscribe to T2F's Events RSS Feed so you get the news automatically? And, as the icing on the cake, sign up for SMS alerts and get timely reminders too. This saves you the task of 'remembering to remember' to go to the website and saves me answering calls - usually when an event is actually happening - Maddy, please note ;-) - about when and what time it's happening.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Sheer Magic

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

The Saturday T2F session by Jahanzeb Sherwani was a bit like its Science Ka Adda evenings. Despite the apparent geekishness of the topic, the non-techs who were there - because they owned an iPhone or iPod Touch - enjoyed it thoroughly, thanks to the lucid, layperson-friendly, informal style of the presenter who understood something most do not: he - not the Powerpoint or Keynote thing on the screen behind him - was the presentation.

The story of the development of Jaadu, the first iPhone/iPod application by a Pakistani, was almost as magical as the software itself. The timeline from the first 'proof of concept' to what it now is - an application that was selected by Apple for its What's Hot section at the App Store - was amazingly short. Equally fascinating was the way the business itself developed for his company - Jugaari

I really wish that more young people would realize what Jahanzeb did: You could be sitting in any remote corner of the world today and, like him, and many others - singly or in very small groups - have access to the markets of the world. All the opportunities are there and, generally, barring the cost of a computer, they are all FREE (rhymes with "Wheeeeee!"): Free wifi and a working table with an electrical outlet nearby { if you are in Karachi, come to T2F :-) }, free access to information, free-of-postage email, free voice calls and video conferences via iChat or Skype, free access to other developers and techie support groups ... what more can you ask for? And remember, developing a product with a coffeehouse space as your 'office' has some advantages: Caffeine Boosts Creativity ;-) as Delicious Library shows.

On the geekier side, of interest to many was the comparison between the development platforms under different OSs. Jahanzeb had been using Windows for a long while and even developed the first versions of his iPhone application using that environment but has now switched to a Mac ... so his comments on the development and usage sides for both platforms was informative.

The discussion on comparative use of Apple's App Store to market an application versus direct sales to the consumer was interesting, too, since most had felt that Apple retaining 30% of the sale price and giving the developer only 70% was a bit unfair. The argument for it, as enunciated by Jahanzeb - who made the switch to Apple's way after being on the other side (distributing the precursors to Jaadu through other sources) - rested on the number of people Apple gave him exposure to. Everyone with the iPhone or an iPod Touch was certain to visit the App Store, making for an outreach to several million potential customers. The fact that Apple also took care of several other factors that indie developers would rather not have to bothered by was a bonus. We also learnt from a member of the audience who had the experience of developing for two other mobile phone brands, that the others paid developers a much lesser %age because they had a larger market share.

Thank you, Jahanzeb, for a lovely evening. Hope to see more apps from you soon.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Keep out of my mailbox, please ...

I am angered by spamming, in general, and usually write almost instantly back, in as rude terms as I can, demanding to be taken off the offending list and often suggesting where they can stick their products, if the size is right. Sometimes it works (I am referring to being taken off the list, not to the suggested action), though more often it doesn't ... there are too many persistently annoying bastards in this world. But it does help me get rid of my anger.

Some spammers send me unsolicited religious messages, occasionally asking me to repent. To them I am politer, limiting myself to expressing the view that spamming is the cyber equivalent of entering a house without knocking - a practice, I believe, that is un-Islamic.

More often I get religion-oriented spam to understand why the sender's rival is a fraud (the recent spate of anti-Ghamdi emails is an example). To them, when possible, I send back their emailed .doc attachment after carefully replacing all occurrences of their names with their rival's and vice versa. Not too surprisingly every charge one brings upon the other holds equally valid after this switch.

Today, some ass whom I do not know - and certainly do not wish to know - has sent me 'warm regards' (I wonder what he sends real friends, if he has any) and says he is looking forward to welcoming me "at 5th International Defence Exhibition & Seminar – IDEAS 2008!" As a pacifist I am even further offended at this particular spam, not just because it represents all that I detest but for promoting an event that has the loony tagline: Arms for Peace!

What are we going to see next? Dicks for Virginity?

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Ten years on!

When my company, Enabling Technologies,
(later owned and run by Jehan Ara)
developed and launched the internationally acclaimed
Interactive CD-ROM: Faiz - Aaj Kay Naam
the main members of the team were
Sabeen, Jehan, Nuzhat & myself.

Sabeen has also posted an earlier picture
of this foursome!

This was the same team that
had produced Pakistan's first-ever
Interactive CD-ROM for IBM Pakistan
(ironically developed on Macs)
on Pakistan's 50th Birthday.

For the same occasion
we had also developed another CD-ROM
50 Years of Art in Pakistan
(featuring 112 Artists, Sculptors, and Ceramists)
for ABN-AMRO Bank.

None of us are formally qualified
IT or Business specialists and have learnt everything
about both these fields on our own ...
so it's rather interesting to see how our lives
have revolved around Technology and Business.

Nuzhat is an Education Technology Consultant
and has facilitated the development of many
school IT programs and in-service training.

Jehan Ara is the President of P@SHA
(Pakistan Software Houses Association).

Sabeen is the President of the Karachi Chapter
of TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs).

And I am a blogger!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And now hear this ...

A couple of years ago a visiting friend (who has asked to remain anonymous) played me a 'boot-leg' copy of a speech. As far as I could make out - the recording was an excerpt that was missing the beginning an the ending - the theme was was Liberal Education . It was a delightful lecture and I always wished we could have heard the whole thing. Unfortunately, we knew not where the speech was given nor, even more of a plight, who the speaker was ... such is the tragedy of poorly pirated material ;-) I even took a sentence or two from the speech, at random, and tried to Google it ... but nothing was found at that time.

Last week I was gifted "The Philosophy of Religion", a course recorded by Professor John Hall for The Teaching Company (TTC). Impressed by the simple lucidity and tone of the very first of the 36 lectures), I searched for him on the internet and was delighted to be led to his homepage, which, in turn, led me to the Convocation Address delivered by him at The University of Richmond in 2005. And that's the one we'd heard!

While I suggest that you download and read the entire lecture (it's only 3 pages long), along with the Collegian piece, I would like to quote one of its sections here with permission from Professor Hall.
Liberal Education and Impracticality

One of the hallmarks of liberal education is that it is does not have immediate applications, results, or investment returns. This is what people mean when they say that it is impractical. But is liberal education really impractical?

If the desired outcome of schooling is job-skill, then Strayer would be the model school. My wrestling with the ambiguities of Ionesco, studying the complexities of natural selection, trying to figure out what the American Civil War was really about, and exploring the mathematics of musical key transposition, are not likely to increase the GNP or lower the CPI overnight, if at all. On the other hand, my learning to keyboard data into a computer, take accurate telephone messages, keep a double-entry ledger, and figure profit margins, might. Indeed, I could measurably increase my disposable income simply by addressing envelopes at home in my spare time. (Many matchbook covers tell me so, and I believe them.) But who will write the programs for me to keyboard? Who will leave a message worth my taking down? Who will create the business that needs me to keep its books? Who will invent a product that will generate profits for me to calculate? Indeed, who will create something worthwhile to put in the envelopes I address?

For individuals and their communities to thrive, people need to know more than the answers to familiar questions. They need to know what questions to ask, and that means that they need to be inventive enough to come up with new ones. They need to be able to make judgments without bright-line criteria, and that means that they must be able to wrestle with ambiguity without having a panic attack. They need to be able to make informed political decisions, and that means that they need to understand historical connections and the difference between appearance and reality. And they need to be able to function in a complex society that divides its labor, which means that they need to have some understanding of what everyone else is doing, even if they don’t have to do everything everyone else does themselves.

And this is where a liberal education is most liberating. By freeing us from the expectation of an immediate payoff for each thing we learn or do, it opens us up to learn and do things that, while they may lack an immediate payoff, may have long-term potentials that we cannot even imagine in advance. This is why a highly placed corporate officer once told me “when we want worker bees, send us trained technicians; but when we want leadership send us people who have studied history and literature and science. We can train new hires to run the machinery if we need to; but we are not equipped to teach them how to use their minds.” So the “impracticality” of liberal education is not necessarily impractical at all. By allowing students to go beyond job training, it encourages them to stretch themselves to the absolute limit of their potentials and, unhampered by external or artificial constraints, to be flexible and to grow.

[I am not sure if the good professor will be willing to talk to a T2F audience in far away Pakistan via Skype - but I'd love for him to spend a few minutes with us during a Science Ka Adda evening on another topic he enjoys: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal.]

I had, very recently, finished listening on my iPod - overflowing with several audiobooks and brilliant podcasts - to Professor Esposito delivering his balanced and very informative TTC lectures on Islam (as a part of The World's Great Religions series). The Philosophy of Religion course promises to be an even more enjoyable learning experience.

The range of subjects that TTC courses cover is extremely vast. I wish Dr Atta ur Rahman (HEC) or Dr Naveed Malik (VU) would strike a deal with those guys and make several of these courses available locally at subsidized rates. I'd be willing to enroll, even at my age (and with the way I feel about educational institutions), in a college to take advantage of such a deal, if it was required.

Postscript: Lest some of you worry, no, I am not about to be 'born again'. Religion has always been a subject of great interest to me and the current revival (in its worst forms, I might add) and its political impact, globally, has just re-kindled that. But next on my course list - if I can raise the money (HEC/VU are unlikely to even consider this one) - is Professor Greenberg's How to Listen to and Understand Great Music. 48 lectures of 45 minutes each. I can't stop drooling.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dayr aayad, dürüst aayad?

The mailing date (July 30, 2008) seems kinda late. The Seminar (The Benefits of a Connected Campus) that it is inviting people to was already over:
Date: May 8, 2008
Two sessions: 3:00 PM - Eastern Daylight Time or 12:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sponsored by: Sprint and Rave Wireless

Sprint Campus Connect enables students, faculty and staff at higher education institutions to better connect and communicate resulting in enhanced learning, safety and time management
but, to make matters even more amusing, the email arrived just a moment ago! 

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stumbling upon Solutions Unlimited

Got this from Sab recently

Yep, Sab ... and that was way back in 1985
(as the 8-bit image jaggies show!)

I guess great graphics designers think alike

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Biting Apple Back

The Apple-Microsoft wars are, now, nothing but infotainment ... or, at least until very recently, were just that. They helped sell magazines (Steve Jobs had only to sneeze to be on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Fortune, even The Maori Tribal News!), newspapers, books, TV spots. Even a movie or two. (Watch out for the September Screenings at T2F!) Let's face it: how could there be a real fight among a 2% market-share holder and someone that, once, all but held the remaining? (Yes, there were other OSs around, too, guys, like the OS2 ... just like there are Linux and others today).

Some, of course, found in this unequal battle the symbolism of David slaying Goliath ... an image that Apple's 1984 SuperBowl Ad (Thank you, Lee Clow!) planted by equating IBM with Big Brother. Others continue to see it as the battle of two young hippie kids in a garage taking on a big corporation despite the fact that Apple, itself, has become one. No surprise there, for - in any battle, large or small - you eventually become what your enemy is.

The "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads were satirical, hilarious, even lovable. OK ... that's how most Mac lovers felt. To many, and not PC users alone, they were 'rude'. But that's a matter of taste, I guess. I love irreverence and black comedy, grew up on sick jokes, chuckled at the macabre cartoons of the totally brilliant Gahan Wilson and still rotfl (admittedly with an occasional wince) at the grotesqueness of JoeCartoon.

Did I say 'were'? Once I used to download every one of them as soon as they aired. I admired the fact that they didn't resort to outright lies ... but then why would they? One could never run out of material while poking fun at the real flaws in Windoze. Lately, though, I don't even click to view most of them with anything remotely resembling my past urgency. In fact, I am sure I've missed watching many. No, they haven't lost on quality, or humour, judging by those I have peeked at ... but, in terms of quantity, there have been just far too many of them! Why didn't anyone at Apple say "Enuff already!" ... ? (Of course, those who know Steve Jobs know why.)

"All is fair in Love and War" goes the cliche ... and Business, now, is War! So the Apple ads got noisier and noisier and more and more aggressive and while Bill Gates poohpoohed and chastised them for their attitude and Microsoft turned up its collective nose at them, the strategy made waves. The brilliantly simple iPods and the simply brilliant much-in-demand iPhones (13000 orders per second in the UK alone today!), working in tandem with these ads in a 3-pronged attack, have helped Apple's market share grow beyond the industry norm.

[Click image to enlarge]

Finally, the company I love to hate for its awful OS and bloatware (but thank, genuinely, for having made computing accessible to millions) has taken notice.

As a lover of humour, a keen follower of the art and science of Advertising, someone who spends a lot of time with technology ... and a dedicated Mac user (until something better for my way of life comes along), I am excitedly looking forward to this counter-campaign. Let's hope it's as funny as the early Mac/PC ads were.

Let the games begin ...

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Friday, June 13, 2008

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" ...

... or so goes the old saying. Many believe that it's corollary is "If it's broke, fix it!" ... But that isn't always the best path to take. And most certainly not when it comes to the unfixably broke Education system. You don't fix a race-horse's broken leg, right?

My friend, Roger Schank says he gave up being part of the Education system so he could begin to change it. His latest venture, Grandparent Games, is highly recommended to all computer-owning grandparents whose grandchildren live in another city. For many it may even be worthwhile to get a computer just for this. Before going on that site, the associated blog may provide an interesting introduction.

While this venture caters to the pre-schooler, Roger is spearheading an online international high school curriculum, too, The project is revolutionary and caters to the needs of the real 'end user' - the child - and not some megalithic system that, like a boulder rolling downhill flattens all that is attempting to grow in its path.

VISTA (Virtual International Science & Technology Academy) can be adapted to suit many countries, even by being run in collaboration with schools and tuition centers. In fact, in environments such as ours, large tuition centers could benefit greatly by becoming involved.

If you are seriously interested in Education, as an educator or a parent, pop across to the website and familiarize yourself with the concept ... and get involved! The child you save may be your own.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Checking out who's 'blocked' you? Don't!

Click on the above image to enlarge it.
Visit this site for more details.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Absolut Joy!

You deserve a really big round of



Also, a big
who helped

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Apnay hee paer par külhaa∂ee maarna ham say seekho

Here's what one site has to say about the Pak-YouTube Fiasco:

Pakistan removed from the Internet
Posted by Richard Stiennon
Categories: State Sponsored Hacking
Tags: YouTube Inc., Pakistan, Internet, Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

The telecom company that carries most of Pakistan’s traffic, PCCW, has found it necessary to shut Pakistan off from the Internet while they filter out the malicious routes that a Pakistani ISP, PieNet, announced earlier today. Evidently PieNet took this step to enforce a decree from the Pakistani government that ISP’s must block access to YouTube because it was a source of blasphemous content.

I cannot let the irony pass with out commenting. A religious state, Pakistan, identifies a content provider, YouTube, as the source of blasphemous, seditious content and orders, King Canute style, that the Internet tides be stopped. A zealous ISP ignorantly decides the best way to comply with the decree is to re-route all of YouTube’s IP addresses to whatever site they thought was more appropriate. The first repercussion was that YouTube disappeared from the Internet for almost an hour. I suspect the second repercussion was that Pakistan’s Internet access crawled to a halt as all of a sudden they were handling IP requests for one of the busiest sites in the world. As of this writing YouTube has announced more granular routes so that at least in the US they supercede the routes announced by PieNet. The rest of the world is still struggling. So, while working on a fix that will filter out the spurious route announcements, PCCW has found it necessary to shut down Pakistan’s Internet access. The leadership of Pakistan just created a massive Denial of Service on their own country.

I could say: “be careful what you wish for” to those elements that object to free and open access to information and expression of ideas. But to put it in terms they might understand better: Do not anger the Internet gods or you will suffer their wrath!


Many many years ago Aslam Azhar - a friend I admire and respect - as head of PTV, 'allowed' the broadcast of a music show that showed a pop concert and taubah, taubah an audience in which boys and girls actually performed obscene gestures, such as sitting on their seats and waving their arms in the air, in full view of the public. The pure in the land were horrified. After all, this was no simple prank, like the abduction of political opponents, or jirga-ordered rape, or the naked parading of women on the streets by feudal enemies, or enhancing political power and personal wealth by supporting the USA's outsourced torture program whose victims were from countries including Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan, and included children as young as seven!!!

'What next?', everyone wondered, with their twin virtues of nationalism and religiosity simultaneously under threat by bared wrists.

A few days later I happened to be visiting Lahore and heard that Aslam was going to be 'put in the docks' by people during a discussion forum at Jang's office. Off I went to hear him defend his promotion of such lewd actions. I shall always remember what he said at one point, rather coolly, during the other side's display of hotness: "In years to come, if we go down the path some people are suggesting," he predicted, "we will not just be a nation that chose a different track, we will be considered - and become - a different species!"

That time, dear Aslam, is fast approaching!!!


30 minutes later

Update and Clarification: PCCW has been identified by Richard Stiennon, above, as "The telecom company that carries most of Pakistan’s traffic". This indicates that other telecom routes may still have remained operative and Pakistan not entirely cut off. While one friend reports successfully accessing the 'Net from his Blackberry from Lahore, a techie from Pakistan has responded to Stiennon's article stating that he is being able to access not just the Internet but, surprisingly, also YouTube from his computer.

That's really confusing.

Can someone put the entire episode into a non-techie jargon and provide a link here?

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Friday, February 22, 2008

The last laugh?

Just got this from a friend in Isloo:

Dear Internet Users

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority ( directed all ISPs of the country to block access
to web site for containing blasphemous web content/movies.

The site would remain blocked till further orders from PTA. Meanwhile, Internet users can write to to remove the objectionable web content/movies because this removal would enable
the authorities to order un-blocking of this web site.

Best Regards

Technical Assistance Center
Micronet Broadband Pvt. Ltd.


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Thursday, December 27, 2007

A plug for zEd News

Some of you may be aware that I send out an informal (and free) education e-newsletter, kind of irregularly, to a small list of subscribers - or those recommended by subscribers (with an 'opt out' option, of course). It is heartening to note (when I receive an occasional email, from the unlikeliest of spots, referring to it) that it is also forwarded by some to their own friends .

Aimed primarily at the K-12 sector, the content, over years, has featured links to websites, book reviews, introductions to major influential educationists and their ideas - especially the more radical ones - as well as articles culled from other Ed Mags. I have sought permission to include the latter - and received it often, but not always. When the request has neither been acknowledged nor granted, but not explicitly refused, I have gone right ahead and included the pieces (with a reference to the source) and will continue to do so until a cease and desist order finds its way into my Spam Box ;-) ... an unlikely happening, given that the readership is not large enough for bigwigs to bother with.

Starting in the new year, this free mailing will now merge my standard education newsletter (usually 1-4 pages long) and its similar sister venture, that focused on education technology, into a single weekly edition under the tongue-in-cheek zEd News masthead which hopes it'll leave its mark.

The first few issues will touch upon the following topics:
• Corporate Sponsorships & Ed Institutions
• Teaching Ethics & Values
• The ID Controversy
• The New Libraries

If you are not among the recipients and wish to subscribe to it, or recommend someone interested in education who may enjoy getting it, please email me and send me the names and email addresses or pass mine to your friends.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Having an effair? (PG-13: Kids, stay out!)

Got this ad in my email today, forwarded by someone who actually installed X-SPY in his office in the USA and was advised by his lawyers that he needs to inform his 9 employees about this installation, otherwise he could be sued for all sorts of invasion of privacy cases. (Wonder if this applies to home use, too.)

X-SPY to the rescue!

Do you know who your kids chat with whenever they get on to the Internet? Or your spouse's cybersex activities? Or what sites your employees visit on the Net on your time?

Even more scary: Are your employees emailing your business secrets to your competitors? Or sending confidential data to their private email addresses for later use?

If you do worry about these issues, worry no more. X-SPY (only $69 to download) runs in stealth mode where it is not detected by the user of the computer. It captures everything from chats and instant messages to email, web sites and much more.

Some STATS for you:
· 85% of WOMEN who feel they have a cheating spouse ARE correct.
· 50% of MEN who feel they have a cheating spouse ARE correct.
· 70% of MARRIED WOMEN do not know about their spouses' affair.
· 54% of MARRIED MEN do not know about their spouses' affair.

· 86% of CHILDREN can chat online without their parents' knowledge.
· 64% of TEENS do things online they don't want their parents to know about.
· 50% of TEENS communicate online with someone they have never met.
· 30% of TEENAGED GIRLS are sexually solicited inside a chat room.
· 58% of PARENTS monitor what their child does in online chat rooms.

So, if you are the perpetrator of a corporate crime, or are having effairs (as I prefer to call them, since they may not always lead to cybersex), be on the lookout for SpyKiller - a piece of software that's sure to follow, possibly from a sister company of the X-SPY guys - making money both ways off eSuckers.

Postscript 1: The person who forwarded the ad had this to say on stats #4 & #5: "... only 30% women know, but 46% of men do. This indicates that men are more tech-savvy and use this software ;-)" ... His wife added a footnote in the email: "Being less tech-savvy also means fewer of us have 'virtual affairs' and go for the real thing, unlike stupid males! Hahaha!"

Postscript 2: Had I written the copy for the ad, I'd have used the tongue-in-cheek pricing tab to greater advantage by using this ad headline: 69 keeps you from getting screwed!

Piece! Peace!

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Sunday, November 25, 2007


While in Lahore, I wanted to write a longish post for this blog. The internet was 'down' and the only PCs (aaargh!) I had acccess to did not have MarsEdit on them. So I thought I'd start using MS Word - an application that I used to be fairly familiar with until I banished the entire MS Office from my own Macs. I must clarify that I did so because my work no longer required any of its components and not - as some of you may think - in a fit of emotional rage (although I know that, deep down, having to use it for prolonged periods could have been a long-seething factor).

Obviously, when I'd had the Office Suite on my Mac, I'd configured my preferences the way it suited me best. The first thing to be thrown away after any installation of that bloatware over the years has been those annoying lil creatures that the designers (for want of a more suitable and printable word) at Microsoft think are 'cute' ... but on the computer I'd been allocated here, the damned Clippy, something I'd successfully erased from memory, popped up again and spoilt my mood. So the long post - one about a dear old friend and part-mentor, the late Asghar Gorakhpuri - will have to wait.

Oh ... for those of you who do need the Office Suite on your Macs (or are into Masochism), the new version promises to be really cool.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Face the Book!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

TechSupport 101 - Cleaning Computer Peripherals

Things are getting really dangerous these days, so I thought I'd blog about something that would not put me at risk under today's rapidly increasing laws and ordinances. Also, trying to pre-empt what gets 'banned' or becomes labeled a 'criminal' act, next, isn't easy because - so far - I have found no method in this madness. I have discovered madness in the methods, but that's another matter!

Wracking my brains for topics, I though I'd try something that would be of use to computer-users, since we have been kinda left alone, so far, by the mushtandaas. Not wanting to go too far out out on a limb - for who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men - I thought a little product review would be useful and safe. So here's one of a product I could not resist buying as soon as I saw it. (The Meanderer who was with me was skeptical - as usual - and insisted that I was buying it for the packaging, alone. That's so-o-o not true!)

What is true, however, is that the first thing that does catch your eye is the packaging: The description of the product was too intriguing for me to pass up. Good marketing, guys!

(You may need to click on the image to read the details,
if your eyesight's like mine.)

The box contains a small brush for cleaning between the keyboard keys and a bottle of fluid for spraying on to the special cloth provided.

The cloth is high-tech according to the manufacturers and comes with its own instructions.

Also supplied is a little rubber thingy, with a suction cup (the kind you use to stick things on mirrors/walls) on its behind. I am still trying to figure out a use for it. It's not a squeaky toy ... coz all it does is hiss through the tiny aperture in its nose ...

... and it looks like one of Gary Larson's cows has mutated.

The bottomline is that the cloth and liquid work. Though I am puzzled about why the liquid is included when (presumably talking about The Cloth they seem to treat as if it came from Turin) the box says that it has "Same effect after using with water."


Does anyone think I've broken any laws even with this?

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

In the bgng wz the Wrd?

A matter being debated yesterday (Yes. People are talking about other things, too!) at a T2F table, among a group of teachers, was the spiralling "horror" of the ways in which Internet Messaging and other Social Networking tools were corrupting the English Language, especially in countries where ESL teachers and schools were already struggling hard to impart the rules of good grammar and correct spelling. "The worst is SMS'ing ...", said one one, moaning that "... many students are now writing those crazy expressions like '2 u' for 'to you' in essays." --- "Gawwwd!", groaned another, "I am running out of red ink, circling 'dat' and 'woz' and 'bcz' and '4ever'. Laughter and snorts all around.

I joined in the conversation (not uninvited, I assure you) and pointed out that this unnecessary worry about "texting" - a new word, itself, that had one teacher politely trying to cover her wince by altering it into a patronizing smile - has been going on for years. I shared with them a printed copy of an ESN article from 2003, as one example.

Many others, too, have debunked this view over the years.

I take the stance that this is an evolution in spelling and, while it seems as horrifying to us - just as current spellings would to Chaucer, or the US variants do to people educated under British systems - it poses no threat to the actual purpose of language: Communication. In fact, it furthers it.

A piece in The Guardian that opens, with the line, "It's gr8 news for skools", goes on to say:
A study comparing the punctuation and spelling of 11- and 12-year-olds who use mobile phone text messaging with another group of non-texters conducting the same written tests found no significant differences between the two. Both groups made some grammatical and spelling errors, and "text-speak" abbreviations and symbols did not find their way into the written English of youngsters used to texting.
And even the conservative TimesOnline informs us that texting teenagers are proving 'more literate than ever before'.

Here's an English teacher who uses the text messaging phenomena to advantage in class, while maintaining her view of it as being a bad thing.
While critics of the cellphone revolution say the phenomenon is destroying English, in Mrs Dawson's class, texting is used as a tool for learning Shakespeare, reports the New Zealand Herald.

"In her junior classes, the lines taken from Macbeth are transcribed into text language by students, while in other classes, students compose poetry and messages on cellphones.

Her innovative use of texting in the classroom may soon spread, as Mrs Dawson has been asked to speak about her novel study unit, which includes composition of a text, at the New Zealand Write Conference in Palmerston North in September.

Using texting as a medium in class captured the students' interest and inspired them to do better work, she said. "
The counter argument, that literature would lose out if this trend were left to grow is only relevant if what is defined as literature is a narrow band. Even the unconventional punctuation, or the lack of capitalisation, in e. e.cummings's poems still upsets many. A teacher of my acquaintance in the USA was puzzled by the "warped logic" of including of a poem by e.e. cummings in a textbook, saying that it undermined his efforts at setting down writing rules in his class. I wonder what he would think of this, if it made its way into the syllabus.

Dunno about your reaction, but I would, of course(!), suggest that students be offered the book - provided it is suitable in terms of school policy on content - as 'suggested reading' . I'd then ask to submit 2- line reviews via text messages! Sure would beat that stupid precis writing that we went through ...

E-Learn recently featured an article on the 'Story-Centered Curriculum' by Roger Schank. It was particularly amusing to see the following comment (quoted verbatim from the website). I am sure it would result in a 'conniption' for some members of the ELT group I referred to in the beginning.

(Note: The identity of the commenting teacher has been removed in my blog).
From: xxx xxx
Teacher . xxx . pakistan(Multan)
The Story-Centered Curriculum
Date: 07/07/2007 03:51:45
i just wanna say tht i have gone through one of the story of your story centered curriculum bcz of ur visit to lahore recently(18th april). i have just read this article n i cd say for sure tht this really works cz as being a teacher i still cd recall all tit bit tht i hve learnt through tht simple story was fun learning!!!! i hope one day actual learning will occur which will last for long ....
I wonder if someone can tell me whether, now that real Urdu texting (not just the Romanized version) is here, what are some of the abbreviations being used.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Errr ... (Revised!)

To process a particular request
Facebook requires me to leave my present network
although I am not subscribed to any

Urdu kee ayk masal hae:
Maeñ to kambal ko chho∂ rahaa hooñ,
kambal müjhay naheeñ chho∂ta hae!

My apologies to Facebook.

I would not have attepted to join a new network
had I known of this rule:

So, dear fellow Pakistanis, see you in a fortnight!
(That is, if my Internet is warking!)

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