Monday, October 10, 2005

Did Osama Bin Laden survive the earthquake?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Making banners and placards is easy and fun

Some people like hand-written banners and placards. I believe I have graduated them. I like billboards with neat writings that appear to have come out of a professional print shop.

With trial and error I have developed a method of making professional looking banners and placards. Here it is.
  1. Based on the available space on the intended placard or banner calculate the approximate height and width of each letter of the publicity text. I say approximate because you will be doing some adjustments later.
  2. Use WordArt in MS Word software to generate large sized letters of the text. In the Word environment, WordArt is opened by clicking on the tilted 'A' icon, normally present in the toolbox at the bottom. [For a banner I recently made I printed each letter on 11X17 paper. Used text height of 16"; let the program take care of the width--for the same height, each letter has a different width (e.g., 'W' is wider than 'U'; read the previous sentence again and see the difference for yourself). In WordArt environment I kept the letters hollow and used dotted, faint lines to be the outlines of the letter--this saved me printer ink. I used just one Word file. Once I settled on the height of the letter, the page borders, the outline of the letter, etc., I printed the first letter and then kept changing the letter in the same Word file.]
  3. Once a letter is printed out cut the paper around the letter. In case of placard directly paste the letters on the placard; use a straightedge and a marker to thicken the outlines (if you have printed hollow letters). To make a banner, pin up the letters on the fabric; using a marker, trace the outline of each letter on the banner fabric; remove the pinned up letter; fill the outlined space with the color of your choice.

There you have it, publicity material that looks adorable.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Soz e Jigar
Soz e Jigar, a literary gathering to celebrate the work of great Urdu poet Jigar Muradabadi, was held at the Indian Community Center on June 25, 2005. The program was arranged by Bay Area Urdu teacher Hamida Chopra.
The Urdu report that I just posted on this blog was written by a participant who wants to remain anonymous.
Soz e Jigar Report--Page 3
Soz e Jigar Report--Page 2
Soz e Jigar Report--Page 1

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Review of Urdu Adab monthly, from Canada

Just received the June edition of Urdu Adab, an Urdu
literary magazine published in Mississauga, Canada.
Read the whole magazine in one go--well, the prose
part, as I understand prose better than poetry.

First and foremost, the Urdu speaking Diaspora settled
in North America really needed a quality Urdu
magazine. Kudos to Urdu Adab's editor Munir Saami for
taking the initiative!

The June edition--the first one--is dedicated to Jaun
Elia, the Howard Stern look alike Pakistani poet who
died not too long ago. I was hoping to find some
biographical information about Jaun; the only write-up
that came somewhat close to being personal was
Peerzada Salman's article, originally published in
Daily Dawn.

"Afsanay kee naee aawazain" by Asif Farrukhi is a good
read but it does not provide the kind of information
one hopes to find in an article of that title.
Farrukhi gives us, in the last third of his narrative,
names of only five new Urdu short story writers! Only

"Allama Iqbal, aik mehbooba, teen beeviyan, char
shadiyan" by Dr. Khalid Sohail is the kind of articles
I love to read more of. Excellent research!

Short stories presented in the June edition of Urdu

Karamat Ghouri's "Safr e Na-Tamam" seems more like a
true story--a story that the writer heard in one of
his travels and found it worthwhile to beautifully
transform into an Urdu afsana.

Rahim Unjan's "Do Monhi" provides a representative
sample of that genre of Pakistani nationalist
literature that feeds on its own venom. This is the
kind of literature that makes sure that the animosity
between the peoples of India and Pakistan is kept

Abid Jafri's "Koi aur hoga" is a creation of a very
sensitive mind. It is the story of our time when we
hear of the bombs dropped on people like you and I,
when we hear of blasts killing sons and daughters of
people like you and I--but we seldom come out of our
apathy to raise a voice of resistance. And one day
when the misfortune falls on us we complain of others'
An alternate title of Abid Jafri's story can be "Giree
hai jis peh kul bijlee."

The price of the Urdu Adab magazine is not indicated
anywhere but its austere look--the magazine is printed
on scrub paper--gives confidence that the production
team understands the economic realities and that it
won't let its efforts go financially bust after a few
publications. [Many like myself must be willing to
pay the subscription.]

Well done, Urdu Adab team!

Police shot Brazilian electrician in London

This is the level of discretion British hold in dealing with people in their own country. You can imagine what professionalism they must be keeping when dealing with "suspected" people in Iraq.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A test with Urdu post

Was able to find the text of May 24 post, on my computer. It now appears under that day.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Fireworks at the Central Park at 9:30 p.m.

Everybody was walking in one direction. We just followed the people who were ahead of us. I am sure the ones behind us were following us. Somebody up there, all the way up there, must have known where to go. Novice fireworks watchers were still in their cars, making rounds of the block to find a parking place. The most convenient parking places were already taken—long time ago.

We reached the park and stood at the periphery of a very large human circle. We waited with everybody else. People hate to be quiet; they just keep talking. There were a lot of people around us but no one spoke English. You could hear Pilipino, Spanish, Tamil, Punjabi, Bosnian, but no English. Well, I should not say 'no English'; you could occasionally hear a child say something in English, but then the parents would respond back in their native tongue.

I like watching fireworks. I try to lose the sight of people around me, or of the trees reaching out in the sky. People and trees remind me of my surroundings. I want to be totally absorbed in the magic of the fireworks and don't want to be reminded of the real world. Fireworks are so wonderful! A little ball shoots up in the sky; it bursts and there comes a shower of sparkling stars. It is like life itself, ephemeral and full of energy.

At the end of the show they just let out a volley of the crackers. There were so many of them, so much going on you could not concentrate on one part of the sky, you just had to look at the entirety of the show and absorb the general impression. The sky was truly lit by the fireworks. My eyes welled with tears. This is what independence truly means. This is what being free is all about. The recognition of independence should fill you up with joy. Forget about the toil of tomorrow; forget about the worries of your distant future; enjoy today, now, this very moment when the sky is being decorated with fireworks, for you.

I wondered how many people were behind the show--I mean the workers. Must not have been too many. So few people, giving happiness, providing entertainment to so many! I also thought about the many faces of a state--spectacular decorative fireworks for the amusement of some, menacing fireworks in foreign lands for the punishment of the others.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Why is this blog acting so funny?
My post of May 24 has disappeared.
Let me see if I saved the text somewhere on my computer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Dinner by the Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA) on May 22, 2005

It is 4 p.m. and I can't decide if I should drive to San Francisco, take BART, or take Caltrain. I know that BART is more frequent, but I would have to drive all the way to Fremont to catch it. I look for BART schedule on the net--the train leaves Fremont every 20 minutes, and to go to the Embarcadero station I would have to change trains at Bay Fair. While I am making decisions about my commute my clothes are going through laundry. I look at the clock, it is 4:20; the dryer will run till 4:45; let me quickly take a shower, get ready, take the clothes out of the dryer, and then head to the Fremont BART station. I won't be able to catch the 5:12 train, but the 5:32 one looks more doable. I go through the program. It is 5:02 when I get in the car, but then another setback: I am out of gas. I stop at the neighborhood gas station; first thinking of buying enough gas to just make it to the Fremont station, but then deciding on filling up the tank--heck I am already late for the 5:32 train. MapQuest says it will take 28 minutes to drive to the Fremont station. While driving I wonder if MapQuest calculates driving times for really slow drivers, if I will be able to make it there in 15 minutes, just in time to catch the 5:32 train. Traffic slows down near the Dixon Landing exit on 880. I am not looking at the clock anymore. MapQuest told me to turn right on Mowry, then right on the Civic Center Drive, and then left on BART way. I keep driving on Mowry, but I don't find the Civic Center Drive. I wonder if I have missed it. I make a right turn at a signal to see if going down that way I will come across BART way. I stop at the next light. The car on my left has its window down. I ask the driver about the BART station. He tells me to go back to Mowry and keep driving in the direction I was driving; Civic Center Drive will be after Paseo Padre. I do what he told me. This being Sunday, there is plenty of parking available at the station. I walk to the station building and for the next couple of minutes fight with the ticket machine. It is not accepting my credit card. I feed dollar bills in the machine, it spits my $4.70 ticket to Embarcadero. There is a train at the station; I get in and take a seat. It is now 5:42. There is an announcement that the doors are about to close. Hooray! It is the 5:32 train running 10 minutes late, I tell myself. The doors close, but seconds later open back. My joy is short lived. It is the 5:52 train; the driver was just playing with the doors, and me. I hate her. The train leaves on time. The car I am sitting in is mostly empty. The commuter trains have their own unique culture. All the passengers sit very quietly, either reading something or looking out of the window. They are all aware of each other's presence but they pretend otherwise. And then there is always this instance when the doors joining your car to the other car open, a man enters, walks across, and leaves at the other end. Everybody checks him out and forms their own opinion about him.

Two stations later three young girls board our car and liven up the atmosphere. That's another organic part of the commuter train culture: young, good looking women will board the train and everybody will become interested in them. These three girls are talking rather loudly and all of us while pretending we are not paying any attention are keenly interested in their conversation. The girl wearing a black T-shirt bends to get something out of her bag. Her top lifts up and bares the lower portion of her back. You can see she is wearing a red underwear, a thong. It is taking her a while to find what she is looking for--nobody minds the delay. Take your time, Honey! But then she sits up and the show is over.

I get off at Bay Fair. There is a little wait at that station. During that time two trains carrying passengers unknown to me, living lives of complexities unrecognized by me, pass by.

By the time I reach Embercadero it is 6:42. I walk to 101 Spear Street. The dinner is at Yank Sing Restaurant. There are a bunch of people outside the restaurant; all dressed up, putting on their best behavior, enjoying drinks, talking passionately. I look for a registration table, there is none. I walk into the restaurant. It is full. Tables are numbered. I look for a table with all the South Asian journalists sitting at it; I don't find one. I am now looking for Julie Patel of San Jose Mercury News; I am here on her invitation. I find Julie at the far end of the room. I am glad I recognize her even when she is in a sari today--our last meeting took place many months ago. Julie tells me she wasn't sure I was coming, someone else has taken the seat at the table I was going to sit at. She says I can sit at the table we are standing it; there are two seats available there. I take a seat and get introduced to the people at that table. They are Jane Morrison of San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, Gimmy Park Li of Susquehanna, Boyd Fung of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Brenda Huang of Tracy Press, and Audrey Wong and Judith Sagami of Daily Republic. We talk about little things newly introduced people talk about. Jane tells me she is originally from Oklahoma and came to California in 1949. I wonder if that year California had a centennial celebration of the gold rush. I ask if being so late I have missed anything. Jane tells me I missed the Filipino dance. Brenda tells me the name of that dance, a name that slips off my mind very quickly. I'll Google it.

Then the speeches start. I am sitting behind a massive pillar. To see the speaker I have to turn my chair around and pull out a bit. It is an awkward position. Just then Julie shows up; she tells me there are seats at Table #18, in case I want to move. I mumble my excuse to the people at the table and head to #18. After I leave I wonder if my table-mates thought it was rude of me to leave like that. I am sorry, but don't know how to convey my sorry to them.

Table #18 is more centrally located. I can see the podium and the speakers. I get introduced to some of the people at that table. They are Virginia Mak of HP, Edward Iwata of USA Today, and Kai Aiyetoro of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.

Speeches are made by important people while we carry on with our dinner. I feel very ignorant because I don't know any of the speakers--well, I know Lisa Chung of the Mercury News. The cliché of that night's speeches is civil rights: Asian Americans representation in media, diversity in Hollywood, same sex marriages, and all.

Yank Sing is famous for its many course dinner--this will be my first time to go beyond a 3-course affair (salad/soup, entree, and dessert). Multiple course dinner appropriately comes with smaller serving plates--you are supposed to take just a bit from every course. Salad and soup are followed by shrimp cocktail, then fish, then vegetables, then chicken, then I don't remember what. The business ends with rice. People are now getting up. Everyone has overeaten. A waiter comes and asks if any of us would like to pack anything to take home. We all ponder the merits and demerits of that proposition. Kai braves out; she tells the waiter she would like to have the remainder of the shrimp dish packed. I follow suit and ask for the leftover rice and fish.

The waiter comes back after a few minutes; he got two bags in his hand. I am given the big red plastic bag--the rice and fish are in there in a foam box; Kai gets the small paper bag. Kai comments on why she didn't get her paper bag in a bigger plastic bag like mine. I ask the waiter to get a plastic bag for Kai. He says they don't have anymore plastic bags. I don't know what to think of this. Kai says something to the young woman sitting next to her. I can't hear her but I wonder if Kai is commenting on this incidence to be some kind of discrimination. Was it sexism? That I being a man was treated better than a woman (Kai), or was it some kind of racism in which Asian Americans are provided better service than the Afro Americans?

I say goodbye to Kai and others and leave. I go back to the table I sat at earlier. Boyd, Brenda, and others are still there. I take leave from them and promise I will get in touch with them via email.

I now look for Julie; I want to talk to her before leaving. Julie is one of the organizers of today's program. Tonight she is a social butterfly gliding from one corner of the room to the other, giving smiles, saying hi to everyone she knows, which is basically everyone in the hall. I meet her and briefly speak to her. I tell her I need to send her my check for the dinner. She asks if I have my checkbook with me. I don't. I had this mental note that I would tear off one check from the checkbook and take it with me to the dinner. But then in the rush of things I completely forgot.

It is a little after 9 p.m. as I come out of the restaurant. The Spear Street is deserted. I walk towards the BART station; far behind me a homeless person yells something and I fight the urge to look back. The BART station is full of life. I am able to use my ATM card at the ticket machine. I now realize that at the Fremont station I was inserting my credit card backwards; that's why the machine failed to read it.

Sitting in the train I pull out a blank piece of paper. I have to become one with the commuter train culture. I must be absorbed in doing something. I start writing notes on today's program.

Monday, May 09, 2005

A visit to the plant
(after a gap of nearly a month)

It is unbelievably depressing. There is a stench of death around here. All these empty cubes! People are gone. But they are still here, roaming around, doing things they normally did when they were physically present. This little sign that someone has posted. It says: Nothing perishes, things change, but memories last forever. There is a printed message under the rectangular picture of the plant. The writer says he is leaving the plant with very fond memories--of having worked on projects that he felt so proud to work on, and working with people.
I read the message the second time and the pain with which it was written hits me. It is so overwhelming it gets to my soul. I persuade myself to not read it the third time; just move on. Move, 'cuz your sensitive chords are so easily struck, 'cuz like quicksand others' expressed sorrow can devour you. Move on because death isn't that far, and there is no point in being absorbed in melancholy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Time keeps on on slippin'

R called. He was stuck in the traffic on Georgia 400. [Isn't it nice to have friends who call you when they are stuck in traffic?] He told me all white folks of Atlanta want to live on Georgia 400.
"Doesn't everyone want to live in a good neighborhood?" I asked him, suppressing my urge to point out that he too had recently moved there.

At another occasion I had shocked a Desi friend by telling him my observation that most Desis want to live in a neighborhood where they are the only nonwhite people, they want their children to go to schools where their children are the only students with black hair.

Moving to this new place has situated R thirty-five miles from his work. It takes him 45-50 minutes to get to the work, and an hour or so on the way back, he told me. Was there any way he could utilize the time he spends in the commute? [That is, any other way besides using the time to call friends.] He had no clue. I told him about a recent conversation I had with another friend of mine while hiking in the Rancho San Antonio Park. I told him that most of the people we are in contact with in our social circles have similar education and they are all equally smart. So, the only way one person can have an edge over another is by having a better and more productive use of their time. Writing during your toilet time, reading while standing in a line, employing the concept of parallel processing, five minutes utilized here, ten minutes put to use there, that is what will make your 24 hours equal to 36 hours of others' time. R agreed with this philosophy. He said he would ask his wife to check out a few audio books from the local library.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Black smoke, white smoke

May I have my say in the papal elections?
I want to see black smoke coming out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. And this black smoke shouldn't mean no Pope was elected. It should instead mean that Cardinal Francis Arinze (of Nigeria) was elected as the next Pope.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

F-16s to Pakistan, F-18s to India
(from a yahoogroup)

I  was outraged by the news of the US's promised sale
of the F-16s to Pakistan, and the F-18s and the
civilian nuclear technology to India. It is shameful
that the world's wealthiest nation takes advantage of
regional animosities, and cheats the poor countries
through such exploitive deals. It is equally
heartbreaking to see both India and Pakistan fall in
this trap. These developments are especially
discouraging because both India and Pakistan are on
the verge of breaking into a new era of cooperation
and peace. This news is a slap on the face of the
group of people that has embarked on a long peace
march from Delhi to Multan, going village to village
and understanding the problems of the common
folks--problems that are the same on both sides of the

I wish Pakistan had the courage to refuse to buy the
F-16s because this sale would put this already poor
country in heavy debt. I wish Pakistan had the
leadership that understood that strength is not gained
by buying military aircrafts, strength comes from
binding the nation together; a leadership that
understood that we are our own worst enemy; that doing
justice, sharing power with people, including all
groups in the decision making process ensure that no
external enemy would ever subdue the country.

I wish India too had the courage to cancel the
military deals with the US, and refuse to buy the
rejected nuclear technology that would generate tons
of radioactive waste every year. I wish the Indian
leadership had the wisdom to understand that a nation
doesn't become a 'major regional power' riding on
someone else's shoulders, that nations earn this
status walking on their own feet.

I wish the leaders of our region had the acumen to see
that in the sale of the F-16s to Pakistan, and the
F-18s to India, the only winner is the
military-industrial complex of the US; people who
understood that resolving conflicts through peaceful
means makes more economic sense than buying expensive
machines; and that regional cooperation brings
prosperity to all; that building a gas line from Iran
to India via Pakistan is in the economic interest of
all three countries.

I also wish that the leaders of the wealthy nations
understood that even when there are stupid leaders and
nations ready to be fooled, acquiring wealth at the
expense of such people is not only morally wrong, it
creates the inequalities that come back to haunt you
in the shape of a 9/11.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Waging war: It is the American way of learning geography.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

How to make passport size pictures at home

If you have a digital camera at your disposal you can make your own passport pictures. Recently, using technical help from my Sabahat Ashraf I made excellent quality passport size photos at home. Later, I found out people have put information on the web on how to make your own passport pictures. But all these people used Photoshop--I didn’t have access to that software. This is how you can make passport size photos at home, using a digital camera and commonly used software:

1. Use a plain background and take a picture of the subject so that there is some room on top of the head, very little room on both sides of the shoulders, and the picture covers the subject all the way down to the waistline. These proportions are important because in your 2X2 picture you want the head measurement to be 1” to 1-3/16”--these are official guidelines. If you are using Photoshop you can measure the head in the picture and then accordingly decide how much area of the photo to cover to yield those head dimensions. But the free editing software I used didn’t have the capability to take measurements and hence I had to make sure I start with the right dimensions, when I take the picture.
2. Open the picture file (jpeg) in a photo editing software and make a square box around the subject’s head and shoulders. [I used Irfanview, a freeware you can easily download from the web--google it.] Now crop this selection and save it under a different name. The square picture ensures that in formatting the picture to 2 inch X 2 inch you won’t distort the image. Now open a blank MS Word document and use the Insert command to insert the new picture file. Depending on your camera’s resolution, the imported square picture in Word will come out to be bigger than 2 X 2. Select the picture by clicking on it, and then right click to see the options. Use the picture format option (use ‘size’ tab in it) to resize the picture to 2 in X 2in. There you have it! You can add a border to this picture (it is one of the options when you right click). Add a thin boxed border (say 1 pt) to create a white thin box around the picture. Now copy and paste this 2X2 many times. The thin border you made will come handy when you are ready to cut the pictures from the printed letter size page. With many 2X2 pictures present on your 8.5X11 sheet you are now ready for printing. Print on a heavy paper using a high quality printer. I didn’t have a high quality printer at home so I took my Word document to Kinko’s and had the page printed there. I had to physically take the Word file in a memory stick because the file was too big to be sent via email. At Kinko’s it costs $1.49 to print color on a heavy letter sized paper. You get 12 passport pictures for $1.49 + tax. What a bargain!