Saturday, September 23, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

There and Here

I made it back on Tuesday evening. I'm so emotionally and physically drained. I have to sleep on it for a while and give everything time to sink in.

Still jetlagged, I started school yesterday. I had to run around the whole day: buy my books, buy the Campus parking pass, pick up OSU football season tickets, go to an interview that lasted 2:30 hours, and finally attend class from 8 to 10 pm with a glaze over my eyes and brain. I dropped the finance class and kept Six Sigma and Business Solution Teams. I sure won't regret that.

Followed Trabilsia's lead and took the Talent, Life or Mandarin quiz. I'm a Mandarin!

You're an intellectual, and you've worked hard to get where you are now. You're a strong believer in education, and you think many of the world's problems could be solved if people were more informed and more rational. You have no tolerance for sloppy or lazy thinking. It frustrates you when people who are ignorant or dishonest rise to positions of power. You believe that people can make a difference in the world, and you're determined to try.

Talent: 44%
Lifer: 28%
Mandarin: 64%

Very true. It's pretty much the same result I got with the Myers Briggs Test. Any takers?

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Cool Shot!

This is just a cool shot from National Geographic. The dark figures you see are actually shadows, not the camels themselves. The picture is a top view, and the illumination is nearly parallel to the ground, so the little white streaks under the figures are the actual camels reflecting the sunlight. If you click on the image, you will see an enlarged version, which is clearer than 10,000 of my words!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another Holy Mess

I'm following up on Ghazi's comment that all religions of the day are competing for the distinction of being the most unreasonable in the lot. Perhaps that is made clearer by the unfolding crisis following the statements made by Pope Benedict about Islam.

Before we get to the Muslim response to the Pope's comments, it is quite appropriate to touch on some aspects of the other side. Here we have a Pope, which means the embodiment of doctrine, advocacy, subjectivity and partiality. And he is speaking about (of all things) reason, and where? at a University. Give me a break! This guy not only symbolizes the abdication of reason, but even his professional function was to be the enforcer of doctrine! Forgive me, but I think the whole thing is a major sham to begin with. A university is hardly the proper stage for partisan pontifications. Yes, I know, there is some tolerance in academia for the faith affair and for religious doctrine, but only as a subject of study, perhaps a pathological pursuit, but a university is hardly a place for the promotion of a specific doctrine or view of the world, and especially not at the expense of another. A Pope speaking about reason at a university sounds as ridiculously contrived as a political campaign manager lecturing judges about impartiality! Nothing of any value whatsoever should be expected out of such a mockery of reason.

So the Pope warms up his audience by throwing a couple blows at religious violence--or so they later told us. But, instead of singling out or including examples closer to home, the Pope chose to present someone else's finger of accusation alleging a connection between Islam and violence, but he never gave a hint of the rebuttal of the accused. Surely, the learned Pope could have chosen plenty of other examples and sources of religious violence, without venturing far from his spacetime environment. He had his own Germany of only 50 years ago, to draw from, or Ireland of only a decade or so ago, in both catastrophes catholics figured quite prominently. But he didn't, and frankly, that's not unexpected.

In the old days, say the days of the original debate that the Pope quoted selectively, a jab by a subscriber of one faith at another religion probably would have had no effect. Now the faith enterprise has a different reality to deal with, and it must be able to do so both on the giving and the receiving ends. The new reality is: science and technology have broken all the barriers. If you are a religious leader, a drunk Hollywood actor, or just a tabloid editor, your words can now travel instantly to every corner of the world. Of course that does not mean people should be expected to shut up just because they'll otherwise be widely heard; on the contrary, they will be speaking ever more. But they need to be mindful of the vastness of their audience, and therefore being able to do a better risk/opportunity assessment. Of course, on the individual level the constraints are much more relaxed.

I think, the burden of adjusting must fall more heavily on the receiving end, for purely practical reasons if nothing else. The differences between Catholics and Muslims are nothing new, nothing accidental or superficial. Who does not know that? Those eternal differences cannot be ignored and they will make it to the surface, through the channels of free speech, whether you like it or not. Frankly, the Muslim establishment's views on other religions, as expressed widely, are not necessarily better than the Pope's statements, not by any stretch! Not only that, but one can easily argue that over history, and present times not excluded, the most egregious acts committed against Muslims come from their own leaders, but there is little history about riots breaking out to protest those cases. The Pope speaks, and organizations like Muslim Brotherhood pipe right up! But when Gaddafi recently gassed on endlessly in a speech to Libya's religious authorities, his comments about Islam, and other religions for that matter, went completely unnoticed by the Libyan MB and everyone else who is now protesting frantically.

The Muslims need to get used to living in the global village. This is the big city, you hear a lot of things you don't like. They need to understand that "un-islamic" and "ignorant" are two very different things, that Islam can be and it is audibly rejected by a lot of ordinary people within reach, not just "ignorant" people and agents of this imperialist state or that. It is not by accident that the majority of the world population are non-Muslims. They are not ignorant, they have some beef of some sort or another with Islam, or they might just be bigoted hateful drunks looking for someone to piss off. Whatever the case may be, they are going to talk about it, and they have every right to assert their differences. It is unimaginable to think that no one can accuse Islam of anything, and the same is true for any other religion with over a thousand years on record. It was possible to silence criticism and accusations in the old days, but it is now a different reality. Muslims need to answer a few basic questions: Where and under what circumstances can people state their accusations of Islam? Nowhere? Under no circumstance? If an academic setting is not the appropriate venue for an intellectual, then what the hell is? A lot of Muslims have to grapple with that, especially those who are not accustomed to seeing religion on a level field with no special state protection. Yes, of course that means the overwhelming majority of Muslims, the same ones mentioned in one headline that said,"Pope implies Islam is violent... Muslims respond by burning churches!"

Friday, September 15, 2006

Reason not Miracles

People ask sincerely, why isn't there democracy in the Muslim world? I say, they got it all wrong, there is democracy now! Look at Hamas, afterall they won what were widely believed to be fair elections. The problem has nothing to do with democracy per se, at least as far as democracy means holding, winning and losing elections. There was democracy in apartheid South Africa, and in the US when the process excluded women and blacks, and there is democracy now in Israel. The more fundamental question is really about rights, what and how widely enjoyed they are. The appreciation of individual rights can only come with a social and cultural enlightenment, i.e., a popularization of reason, not miracles. There is the rub!

It is reasonable to assume, for a veteran political entity like the Muslim Brotherhood, that its very longevity is proof positive of its relevance. This is a "multi-national" group that boasts a presence all around the middle east, libya included for at least half a century now. Their birthplace and center of mass is in Egypt, right next door, and the Libyan branch was rooted there. The MB introduces itself as a "non-violent reformist organization seeking the establishment of civil society", and it includes as members many professionals and "social elite," not your basic disgruntled and misguided suicidal youth who populate the cliché islamist groups. In Libya, there is a world-famous case of over 100 MB members who were imprisoned for close to eight years, tried in sham courts and slapped with various prison terms and two death sentences. Ultimately, their criminality was re-affirmed on appeal, and they were released the day after by the kind heartedness of a puppet group called the Supreme Judicial Council. Among the released prisoners were US educated professors, scientists, engineers, and various other professionals. The atrocities committed against this group are nothing unusual for the Libyan regime, but they were in fact perfectly "legal," i.e., in accordance with the prevailing laws, one of which makes belonging to a political party punishable by death. The issue, once more, is one of rights! But what about the MB itself, where do they stand?

The MB know their fit in Libyan society, and they also know that political islamism cannot possibly survive anywhere without the protection of the state. So they spin a "comprehensive reform" headline, with no agenda or a working alternative program, but their spin affords them some latitude in the West, where they distrustfully live and operate, and it works toward their bigger objective of self protection, i.e., power sharing inside Libya. Anyway, the point here is not to get into the MB's strategies, but only to place them squarely in the intellectual reaches of the mainstream of Libyan society, perhaps representative of the politically powerful class that would take hold of a democratic Libya, if such a thing ever existed! But where would they be on the rights issue? That really begs the question, how reasonable is this group that boasts of a membership including professors, doctors and various educated folk? I will not answer that directly. Let the following news story do it, a story that I found on a Libyan MB news site, which they'd copied from an unknown source. The story speaks for itself, as well as for the foundations on which it was judged worthy of re-publication. It also shows the quality of discourse to be expected in practice from a group like the MB, and the depths from which Libyan society must climb befor it can begin to navigate by the light of reason.

The Arabic version is in the original form, the English is my own translation. Enjoy.

مركبة أمريكية تؤكد انشقاق القمر في بداية الدعوة الإسلامية

المنارة - 15/9/2006

أثبتت الأبحاث العلمية الحديثة صدق معجزة الرسول محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم بِشأن انشقاق القمر فى بداية بعثه نبيا للأمة. وتم إثبات ذلك من خلال الصورة التي التقطتها مركبة الفضاء الأمريكية ونشرت خلال الفترة الماضية في مختلف أنحاء العالم.

وجاء في تقرير جرى توزيعه على المؤسسات العلمية في مختلف أنحاء العالم أن الصورة التي تظهر حدوث انشقاق على سطح القمر تؤكد أن القمر انشق إلى نصفين خلال عمره الجيولوجي مع بداية ظهور الدعوة الإسلامية. وأكد التقرير أن العلماء لم يتمكنوا من إعطاء تفسير علمي لظاهرة انشقاق القمر حيث لم يحدث أي انشطار لأي جرم من الأجرام السماوية من قبل مثلما حدث للقمر.

يذكر أن معجزة انشقاق القمر حدثت في أول عهد النبي الكريم محمد بن عبد الله صلى الله عليه وسلم حين طلبت منه قريش انشقاق القمر ليؤكد ذلك صدقه ونبوته فحدث الانشقاق وشاهد سكان مكة المكرمة والبوادي في الجزيرة العربية بالعين المجردة حدوث انقسام القمر إلى نصفين حال حدوثه.

المصدر : الاقتصادية


American Vehicle Confirms Moon Splitting At The Advent of Islam

Recent scientific research has proven the truthfulness of the miracle of Prophet Mohammed, may Allah bestow prayers and peace upon him, concerning the splitting of the moon early in his inception as Prophet for the Umma. And that proof came through the picture that was taken by the American space vehicle and published in the past period in various parts of the world.

And in a report that was distributed to scientific organizations around the world, it was mentioned that the picture which presents cracks on the surface of the moon confirms that the moon had split in two halves in its geological life around the appearance of Islam. The report also confirmed that the scientists were unable to provide a scientific explanation for the moon splitting phenomenon, as there had been no precedent where an extraterrestrial body split up as in the case of the moon.

It is noted that the moon splitting miracle occurred early in the era of the Noble Prophet Mohammed bin Abdallah, may Allah bestow prayers and peace upon him, when the Quraysh tribe demanded the splitting of the moon to confirm his truthfulness and prophecy, so the splitting occurred, and it was witnessed live by the naked eyes of the residents of Makkah the Blessed and the hinterlands of the Arab peninsula.

Source: al-Iqtisadiya (Arabic word that can be translated as The Economic or as The Economist, the latter would be an un/fortunate coincidence with the name of the well-known British publication.)

The copied story is on web site. Almanara means "lighthouse."

p.s. Even though "the scientific report" was widely circulated, and even though this is an internet story in the 21st century, there is not a single name, date, location or any concrete identifying information about it, let alone an actual link to this report, anywhere in the various parts of the world that received it!

Happy Ramadan. Remember not to abuse your right to eat at night, think of the poor folks in Antarctica!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Moving Forward!

Tala had her four-year physical on Friday. Her growth report is full of the number 4. On the growth chart, she falls in the 94th percentile; not surprisingly, that makes her an average 5-year-old size.

During the exam, she handed Dr. Klinger a book and said, "Can you read me this book, please?" The way she asked and the way she looked at him, he couldn't say no. He read her the page she held out. Dr. Klinger is one of the best pediatricians anywhere. He's so thorough, so patient, and pays attention to every little detail. During the visits, he watches every move and sound the child makes to assess the development. And unlike other physicians, he's never stingy in the time he spends with each child.

When shot time came at the end of the visit, Tala threw a fit refusing to take it. I said to her, "The shot will help you be healthy and not fall sick." She said, "OK, Mom!" So sweetly and calmly--I was surprised. There came the shot and she wailed so hard but had her reason. "It does burn," the nurse told me.

While in the waiting area, Moody picked up the book Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. He read it to me all by himself, from beginning to end. I'm so proud of him.

Moody, Tala, and Sol have some sort of a flu. Of course, school starts and bugs start coming home with the kids. I hope I don't catch it; I'm clear so far, except for the symptoms I experienced on Friday night. I'm flying to Beirut tomorrow to spend a week with Ennis and Juju; I don't want to be sick. I'm blank about the trip--don't know what or how to feel except that I'm going to meet two dear people that I don't really know, and I don't know what's going on in their minds. I'm sure that once we meet, things will fall naturally in place and the apprehension and anxiety will subside.

Still, there are other reasons that make me very excited about my going to Lebanon and look forward to it. I will be seeing the dear Shallouf family. Uncle Lamin and Mom go way back to their old neighborhood in Derna where the two families were neighbors. The Shalloufs were a family to me during my stay in Lebanon. They have been there for me all the time through thick and thin. We gradually lost contact through the years. Last contact I had with them was a couple of years ago when Asma told me she was getting married. It seems like a year or so ago, but I've learnt from Mohamed, her brother, that she has a 2-and-a-half-year-old boy and is expecting a girl this month. Oh, I can't imagine it still. I would spend the first night with them since I'm arriving at 7:30 pm and don't want to take a "service" to Baalbeck at night. I would visit them with the kids too over the weekend, to reconnect them. They have not seen them in years and the kids don't remember them anymore. They used to visit them when in Beirut shortly after I left, but then stopped and all contacts to the Shalloufs were blocked. Oh, it will just be wonderful to see them all!

On Friday, Sol and I watched Fahrenheit 9/11. I highly recommend it. Sol said to me, "You are flying on the 9/11 anniversary." Oh, no! It didn't occur to me and I never paid attention to the date. I was looking for a flight starting September 8th and Monday was the first available I got. This is the third ticket I book in a week. First one was to Qatar after I made arrangements with my ex's sister there for my visit. But then, as soon as my ex knew I was going there he insisted the kids fly to Lebanon immediately. He's now in Sierra Leone where he's been working for years. I cancelled the ticket and lost some money in the process. I was then told by his sister that the kids will stay and I can come, so I rebooked again. And once again, I was told that they're leaving to Lebanon the next day, on their father's insistence. So, I cancelled again and started looking into flights to Lebanon. The kids got very excited and happy, then disappointed, then excited again, and disappointed again... I decided to go wherever they are. I know my visit will raise their morale and give their spirits an uplift.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back-to-School Day

School started today for Moody and Tala. They both were very exited, well behaved, and insisted on wearing new clothes and all. They even wanted to wear coats though it's not cold yet! After dropping them to school, I realized I have a whole 2-and-a-half-hours all by myself, for myself. It's the first time it happens. Last year, Tala went to school in the morning, and Moody in the afternoon. So I always had one of them with me. I planned to go shopping earlier, but after this realization I decided to indulge myself. I had a doctor's visit this morning and she advised me to take time off during the day and to pamper myself frequently. I might as well do it now. I could even watch a soap opera for some brain freeze, lol.

Tala had ballet this morning. We changed school this year to Straub Dance which is owned by the mother of the Generations' owners. We left Generations because of religious reasons, or irreligious reasons to be accurate. For the two years we were part of Generations, we didn't notice the religious stuff till recital this year. I was walking by backstage when I heard the older kids saying a prayer before performance, and then they had a dance around a cross in middle stage. We liked Generations; such a shame they have to incorporate religion into dance. As one parent put it, "We pay for dance lessons, not religion." Damn right!

Religion is becoming more visible in American public life. We have been facing this issue over and over in many different places, including the public school where--by law--religion has no place there. What is wrong with being a secular society that accepts all members, and nonmembers, of the different religions on equal footing. Why equate being American with being Christian. It's hard enough to fit with all the other differences. Why don't people leave religion for the gods and in the confinement of their own homes. My personal opinion: Religion is the source of all evil.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Who Rules?

Yesterday, during the day, Moody was going to play in his room.

Hanu: Don't make a mess in your room.

Moody: It is my room and I do whatever I want in my room.

Hanu: No, you don't.

Moody: But it's my room, I own it and I rule it.

Hanu: It's your room, but it's in our house and we make the rules.

Later when I was tucking him in bed:

Moody: I want to own my room. Kids should own their rooms!

Hanu: When you have your own house, then you will own all the rooms in the house. And then,
you could do whatever you want in them.

Moody: But why can't I rule my room?

Hanu: Because you are under our rule.

Moody: What does above the rule mean?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Welcome back, school. Welcome back, me!

Hmmm, I'm not the one who should be welcoming me back... Oh, well!

I'm back for good, done with the internship. Three long months in that old, wet, soggy city of Fort Wayne. The internship was good in many unexpected ways. The major take away from that, which happens to be a question I need to find an answer to, is: Do I want to work in Corporate America? I don't fit; don't like it. Too much politics, heavy politics. Damn the politics! I will have to do some more career counseling once school starts.

Moody's orientation was yesterday. Kindergarten, yay! He's thrilled. And yes, he has school on Fridays too. "Tala doesn't. Only I go to school on Friday," he keeps saying.

Tala's orientation was today. She "cutted" bits of her hair... again! And some of her "Chicago dolls" hair. I was not happy at all—I was mad! At least I couldn't even tell where she cut her hair; no bald spots visible. She didn't want to take the picture. She said, "I don't feel good because I cutted all our hair."

I'm glad I'm back. It feels good, though overwhelming! All those months, I kept thinking that once I'm back, I'll have some relaxing and quality time with the kids. Today, I even entertained the idea of taking a nap. Oh, the kids! They have to get used to me again. They've been in my hair all day! Demands, whining, arguing, complaining, never-ending attention seeking. Oh, the closets! I need to sort them out. The kids' closets, the coats closet, the mud room, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! Oh, the forms and paperwork! They loaded us with forms and forms from school. Things to fill out, lists to buy, lists to do... Oh, my—whom was I kidding!

Although I didn't do any of the things I imagined I'd be doing, I did something useful: I cooked dinner. I bet the house hasn't smelled like it does now in a long time. We have sharba, green beans stew, and rice. I make good rice; sol would eat it all by itself, white--that's how good my rice is. Moody asked when I was cooking, "What are we having for dinner?" I said, "Sharba." He whined, "Oooh, that makes me choke!" Thinking that he forgot, I asked him, "Do you know what sharba is?" He answered, "It's the soup with the potato beans in it. The beans make me choke!" That's hummus for you, aka chick peas, aka garbanzo beans!

It's nice to be back. Nice to be home!