Wow, it has been so so long since I last posted on this blog. I apologize and I will get back to posting very soon ... trust me I will. There is so much to talk about. Can't wait to let it all out.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Something useful I spotted in one of my campus shuttles the other day:
Recycling aluminum requires 95% less energy then extracting it from the ore.
If 1 ton of aluminum is recycled, it would power an American home for 15 months!
I guess it could potentially power a Pakistani home for double that duration, seeing how much power is wasted here.
If only we could somehow build up a healthy energy conservation infrastructure, so that so much energy which is normally wasted would be saved and more importantly, it'd go towards catering for the exponential growth in demand that we face nowadays. There is a way out of every crisis. All it needs is a proper and sincere effort!
Saturday, July 10, 2010
You gotta check out this awesome sci-fi series. Set in the future (obviously), it is based on the simple premise that we, as humans, may evolve and develop better technology over time but that doesn't necessarily mean than we will also evolve to become better human beings. So basically, in the future as well, we are plagued with the same problems that haunt us today - moral turpitude, poverty, greed, corruption et al. This is different from other sci-fi universes, most notably Star Trek, where humans have evolved to the point that Earth is akin to paradise; there is no poverty on Earth and humans no longer engage in currency-based economics. Both universes, although in stark contrast to each other, represent how the respective show's creators think about the future. And As a sci-fi fan, both are equally intriguing I must admit. If I were to pose this a hypothetical question to you, which future do you see most likely as the future for human race?
If you like sci-fi, and haven't seen this show yet, then drop whatever you're doing and go watch it! It was created by Joss Whedon (who also happens to be the creator of Dark Angel (Jessica Alba). But unfortunately, the show got cancelled after its first season and it was only when there strong uproar over it from the fans, and on the back strong DVD sales that Whedon n co. did a follow-up movie called Serenity, which btw was just as good. The main character in the series and the movie, Malcolm Reynolds, is played by Nathan Fillion. Nathan also has another great TV series on air these days called Castle, where he plays a mystery novel writer that helps solve murder mysteries with a cop played by the beautiful Stana Katic. Check out both shows. You are sure to like them!
Monday, July 05, 2010
This post has also been published on The Express Tribune's blog section here.
If you're a Pakistani student studying abroad (US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia wherever) pursuing whatever degree, people automatically assume you're staying there for good. And by people here I'm referring to our fellow countrymen. When you meet them at a gathering or a get-together, such topics are often the subject of discussion. Telling them that you have plans of returning home will earn you looks of utter bewilderment, as if you've said something embarrassing. You come go back to Pakistan to visit family and friends, and everyone invariably asks you how you are doing abroad, so you tell them you're getting by OK ... which is almost always followed by something along the lines of `Good! Get a job / green card, and do not come back`.
I know things are bad, but this utter hopelessness is not going to do us any good. If we abandon our own country, when it needs us the most, what right to we have to call ourselves proud Pakistanis when we couldn't even bother to spend the prime of our lives living in it and working for its betterment? My mind tells me it's a foolish obsession that makes no sense, given the instability prevalent over there, but then my heart says: `No matter what the outcome. At least I would have done the right thing`.
The battle between my heart and my mind rages on.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
There's hardly any other sport on the face of this planet that's likely to draw out people of a more varied nation, race or color other than Football (or Soccer as it's known over here stateside). It is simply amazing how you don't need to even speak the same language in order to understand one another on a football field. I have been going to play Football on weekends with a bunch of guys from every corner of the world. It is absolutely fantastic to see the amount of diversity there. We have people from USA, Nigeria, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Holland, Spain, Mexico, India, Pakistan (me :P) and god knows how many more countries. If there is an ultimate unifier, it has to be football!
And what better showcase for football than the ongoing World Cup in South Africa. The game is getting some good press here in the US, perhaps as big as it has ever gotten, which is great. Normally people here are far too obsessed with their own sports, but thanks to coverage from ESPN and ABC, people are excited about the World Cup to some extent. This surge in popularity is also helped by the fact that the US football team is putting up a decent showing at the World Cup. They won a nail-biting encounter against Algeria today to press to the Second Round along with England in Group C. Good luck to them, and for the neutrals, the real World Cup starts with the knock out rounds on Saturday. May the best team win!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The hypocrisy of this world really does my head in sometimes. So, by now you must have heard of the fresh wave of sanctions that have been imposed on Iran by the United Nations, and that too, unanimously (12-2). I am not a proponent of Ahmadinejad's politics, and certainly not of his provocative stances, what pisses me off, however, is how Israel manages to break every other International law or UN resolution in the book, and still walks away scott free! They pull off sh*t that nobody else in the world can ever think of pulling off (without seriously getting sanctioned or diplomatically isolated), and yet they get a sweet $3 billion per year paycheck from their great ally, the US.
The US (and other Western powers) are ever so vocal about imposing sanctions on a country trying to obtain nuclear weapons technology indigenously (they're not stealing or doing anything illegal you know), and yet a country with a substantial nuclear arsenal, that commits atrocities one after the other, is not even chided once in the strictest terms by the so-called civilized western powers?!
I know things haven't exactly been very rosy in Karachi of late, but I was out and about yesterday, and couldn't help but notice how drastically travel times across the city have been reduced. OK ok, it may have been a working day and I may not have been out at a rush hour (it was 4PMish), but kudos to the city government for doing a great job of planning and maintaining the infrastructure in the city. Also, it was nice to see almost NO rain water on the major roads, which is so unlike Karachi. And thanks to the signal-free corridors, I was able to get from North Karachi to Malir Cantt in a mere 25 minutes, imagine that! I'm sure travel times are much lesser for people who live in more central parts of the city. Anyhoo, just wanted to say it felt great. Kudos to the government, for once, and to Mustafa Kamal of course. Well done!
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I am not trying to rattle any cages with this blog post. Or perhaps it is a sign of my weakening faith, but I've found myself asking some real basic questions over the last couple of days, most notably: Is it all worth it? I mean religion. Did God create one of the most beautiful things in the verse so that so many people could one day abuse it and kill their fellow beings in their attempts to be closer to Him? They say terrorists have no religion, I say every religion has its terrorists - people who are so blinded by their faith and devotion to God that they forget the most basic principle there is: the sanctity of a human life. Is religion just a tool to kill other people in a society with such alarming levels of poverty and illiteracy? Or alternatively, if there were no religion, would people still kill like they do today?
We all believe in leading good lives and going to jannah (paradise), but I ask: at what cost? Is it not a collective responsibility of a religion and a society based on one to condemn injustices and speak up against them. Do you really want your paradise so bad that you're willing to stay stilent on every injustice and act of barbarism you see around you? What good is paradise then? I keep referring to paradise, because frankly we're obsessed with it. We're far too obsessed with being "good" Muslims individually that we've forgotten perhaps the most basic Islamic principle there is: Husn-e-Ikhlaq. Someone asked the Prophet (PBUH) to define Islam in two words, and thats what he said: "Husn-e-Ikhlaq". Islam is nothing but husn-e-ikhlaq, in every aspect of life, individual and collective. That is all, and alas! how badly we have failed at it.
The attacks on Ahemdis two days ago are nothing new in the context of our history, they are another persecuted minority in Pakistan. What has truly been sickening has been people's reaction. How can so many people be devoid of humanity? How can you condone the killing of an innocent human being? Is everything that we practice somehow more important than whether another person lives or dies (regardless of their beliefs)? Time to put things in perspective and root out the proponents of this venom who seem to think all this is OK, all in the name of God and paradise.
If we must ban something, it should be these poison-spewing madrassahs and maulvis spreading such hatred and blatant disregard for human lives. Facebook may have partaken in blasphemy but there's plenty of it going on in our cities and society. How about cleaning our own house first?
Sunday, May 16, 2010
It has been almost a year since Barack Obama delivered his address to the Muslim World in Cairo, which he ambitiously entitled "A New Beginning". While he was very forthcoming in his desire to bring peace and stability to the world - especially the Middle East - he did admit that "years of mistrust" will simply not go away overnight. Well, to be perfectly honest, they're not going anywhere judging by his actions in office so far. The events of the last couple of weeks have obviously been worrying for the Pakistani in me. While it saddens me to see all fingers are pointed at Pakistan right now, and some for just reasons too, what I would like to know is why nobody tends to bring up the fact that the alleged perpetrator of this attempted bombing belongs to the same area in Pakistan that is continuously being bombarded by American drones for the past 2 years! Now, I'm all for taking out the Taliban by any means necessary, but when your degree of collateral and is so god-damn high (something along the lines of 2.5% success rate against militants), then at least do not pretend to be surprised when someone decides to fight back (using whatever wrong methods they adopt). The fact that a supposed moderate guy like Faisal Shahzad could turn against America is itself extremely worrying. Instead of painting the guy in all sorts of evil, why not go through his life and try to determine what drove him to the brink. Thoughts?
And don't even get me started on Israel. Simply put, America's unconditional support for the Zionist regime is the number ONE reason why everyone dislikes America (to put it mildly). And somewhat surprising (at least to me) is the sheer number of Americans I've met who share that opinion, but at the same time admit that no politician in America can ever get elected to a public office of significance unless they pander to the pro-Israeli lobby. Such is the sad reality. The new right-wing Israeli government has refused to heed to any objections by the international community over their construction on occupied Palestinian land. After backing this belligerent regime, does Mr. Obama still expects the Palestinians to "give up violence", and sit down for peace negotiations?
I do not know what the future holds for us. The world is certainly not getting any safer. On one hand, we have these religious nutbags willing to go to great lengths to cause harm to anything belonging to the West, and on the other hand, we have these powerful countries committing mass injustices (backing Israel, Going into Iraq et al) thereby providing these nutbags just what they need to get more recruits. And so goes the cycle. God help us. Do you see anything changing?
I know its been a while since spring break was over (heck, the entire semester is over now!), but I got to watch so many movies that I thought I should share my thoughts on some of them with you. So here they are, in no particular order:
Iron Man 2 - Saw this the day it premiered. A pretty decent film, although I was expecting a little bit more from it, but Robert Downey Jr. saves the day for me. Worth watching definitely.
Avatar - finally saw it. Visually spectacular movie, no doubt about that. Good story too. Whether it has racist undertones or not is subjective but overall the movie was good. Didn't deserve best picture though.
Shutter Island - creepily good. Was half-expecting this one to suck (because of di Caprio), but turned out to be pleasantly surprised. You should definitely watch this one. I forgot who recommended this movie to me, but thanks to whoever that was, since I wasn't planning on seeing it.
The Blind Side - Amazing story, and a great feel-good movie. A must watch!
Gangs of New York - A not-so-recent film, but I'd heard good things about it. It was a pretty good movie (even though di Caprio is in it). Having visited New York, you appreciate its diversity even more when you know its history. The movie is rated, so watch out.
Date Night - Disappointed. Not half-as-funny as I thought it would be (given Tina Fey and Steve Carrel were in it). Not worth going to theater for IMO.
The Fourth Kind - Has Milla Jovovich in it, ahem. But seriously, it takes the Paranormal Activity mockumentary thing a little too far. Good movie though.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Bonjour! Greetings my blog readers (if there's still any left). I have been on a hiatus, and I do apologize for that. It doesn't take much to update a blog but I have no shame in admitting that I've been a bit lazy and putting this off far too long. So on the eve of my return from Paris is as good a time as any I suppose, to finally update this thing (I wrote this post at the airport). So my first step in the world of research in the form of a research publication at a conference in Paris finally happened, and I got to meet some great people in the Software Engineering community. Hopefully, the next time they run into me (in another part of the world), they would remember me. Needless to say, the conference was an extremely rewarding experience, but enough about that. What better way to set your first foot in Europe than to visit Paris hanh? First of all, what an amazing city! So so rich in history, and elegance. Also, it is super-old, according to one record as old as 500 BC! Just as you marvel at the amazing skylines of some of the American cities like Chicago and New York the first time you visit them, you marvel at the astonishing architecture and history of the buildings in Paris. From King Henry to King Louis to Napolean, the city has loads of history and an extremely rich cultural heritage.
The only downside is perhaps that the French people speak little or no English. But the similarity between English and French helps sometimes as both languages share common words. For example, you can figure out street names with ease, although you might get the pronunciation wrong. I managed to survive on Bonjour/Bonsoir (Good morning/evening), Parlez-vouz anglais? (Do you speak English?), Je ne parle par Francais (I don't understand French), not to mention Merci (Thank you). I was somewhat surprised to see so much in Paris. First of all, there were lots of Muslims and plenty of restaurants serving halal food (awesome!), but generally speaking, it seems there has been a lot of migration here from other French-speaking countries (from Africa mostly). I liked that I did not stand out in the crowd like I do in the US (just saying).
Paris also has an excellent transportation system. The underground metro network is quite extensive, and there are stations everywhere in Paris, and I mean everywhere! I think someone there told me that the maximum distance you can walk in Paris without a metro station is half a mile, which is ridiculous considering the size of Paris. Buses are also very frequent and go everywhere. The metro system was a piece of cake to figure out, and I was really impressed with the number of people that use the metro (thousands!) and the frequency with which those trains run.
Paris attracts the most tourists of any city in the world (estimated at 1 million per year!). Going to some of the famous sightseeing spots like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe; I saw a sea of people. Amazing! No wonder Parisians are known to be a little rude, they have to contend with hundreds and thousands of tourists throughout the year and most of them do not speak French! Speaking of touristy places, I was surprised to find so many desis in Paris, mostly around these touristy places where they're selling miniature versions of famous Parisian landmarks. I certainly wasn't expecting that. Who knew I'd be haggling with an Indian vendor in Urdu in Paris, and asking him for cool spots to go to, and the closest desi restaraunts - a pleasant surprise indeed.
Lastly, and frankly expectedly, Paris is an expensive city. Despite the euro being stronger than the dollar (1EUR~1.35USD), the prices of the same food items is the same or, in most cases, even more. A large pizza at Pizza Hut costs 16 euros (although they did have a nice deal going on). Gas (petrol) is pretty expensive too (1.4euros per litre). In the US (at least in NC), it is 2.7 per gallon (where 1 gallon = 3.78 litre). So if you ever end up going to Paris, and plan on doing some shopping, be prepared to spend exorbitant sums of money :). Overall, it was quite an experience for me. Europe is pretty different from the US. In some ways, it has a "desi" touch to that and life is somewhat slower than in the states. I really liked that. If you ever e an opportunity to go to Paris, by all means do go ... it'll be a memorable experience for sure!
The Pictures (from top to bottom): Me at Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe (built by Napolean to commemorate his military victories), and finally the Louvre (home of the Mona Lisa among other famous artworks)
Monday, February 01, 2010
Life's been busy as heck of late. Work, homework, and more work. To those of you who were waiting to hear from me after my last ranting of sorts, sorry to disappoint you friends (for not updating and posting updates sooner). What the heck may I be talking about? The trip of course. It went fine! There was nothing different. No strip-searches, no rubber hand glove thingies greeting me as I landed in the US. You are, however, subject to extra-screening at your city of departure towards the US. That is the only change from before. I guess it was too soon for them to have put the new measures in place.
Not much going on otherwise. School, work and xbox form the bulk of my activities these days. Its been so cold of late that I haven't been able to go out and play football on weekends. I kinda miss that. Running around and working out works wonders for you. And with snow falling this weekend (which I don't mind btw), the cold spell is set to continue for a while. It is winter, after all.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
CHUP - Say Hello to my Rubber Glove