September 28, 2001

Nothing much to write of today since I’ve been pretty busy at work but there is something that kind of amused me and yet made me realize again how much people’s prejudices and preconceptions are at work. Scope got mentioned on a bulletin board a couple of days ago and one of the people there mentioned the fact that Scope was last updated in July and then they went on to make a remark about whether I was in hiding :p I assume that this is because I have an Arabic name (of course, it’s beside the point that I am not even from the Middle East but from Sri Lanka which is in South Asia …) and can only wonder at how easily people jump to conclusions and are prone to smear others with a universal tar brush. But then again, I guess what can you expect? People will be people :p

Posted by Fahim at 8:30 am  |  No Comments

September 27, 2001

I was all set to do a nice, low-stress, no-rant entry about the new Star Trek series “Enterprise” today when I heard something on the radio while driving to work which started me boiling up all over again :p Am I being very sensitive about how America (or rather certain Americans) react to certain events after the recent events? Yes I am but that’s only because I have a hope (or should that be dream?) to which America – an open, great, non-arrogant America – is integral. My dream is for a united world under one government – a world where we wouldn’t have the national conflicts that we face today because there would be only one nation, one government and a world where even the racial boundaries would slowly begin to fade. A world which would share all its resources so that all the citizens of the world will have the same quality (or almost the same quality) of life. My friend jugg tells me that this will never happen and when I wear my realist hat, I don’t think so either but then again, I don’t wear that hat much – I usually wear the optimist hat and I hope that one day, not in my life time but perhaps in a few hundred years or maybe even a thousand, that this would indeed come to pass.

To fulfill this dream, I believe that America is crucial. Because I believe that America is the one nation on Earth that can lead the other nations of the world towards achieving this goal. But not an America which is arrogant and introverted! Not an America where some of its citizens don’t even know there is a world outside its shores and doesn’t even care about that world in particular!! Not an America whose citizens are seen as arrogant and boorish by quite a bit of the rest of the world!!! That is why I have higher expectations from Americans. So let me rant on :p

Today on the radio the people in the morning show that I normally listen to were all upset because they had one of their guys distributing red, white and blue stickers at a school and the principal (who had earlier given permission BTW) had asked the guy to leave and tore up one of the stickers. The people on the show were mad about it but they kept it restrained whereas some of the people who called in equated the principal’s actions to burning the flag and even called him anti-American! I have to say that patriotism is all good and well but there is a point when patriotism (or any -ism for that matter …) becomes fanaticism and things seem to be reaching that point. Come on! Yes, the stickers were red, white and blue but does that mean that the guy was tearing up the flag! This sounds like just how the McCarthy era (or the Spanish Inquisition) began – you begin something like that and pretty soon you’ll be scrutinizing the actions of everybody around you and trying to decide whether they are un-American! People need to take a good look at themselves and reanalyze their perspectives!!

OK, I’m done with that :p To talk of what I really wanted to talk about today, “Enterprise” turned out to be pretty good! I don’t know other people will react to the show but I thought Scott Bakula’s Captain Jonathan Archer hearkened back to the early days of Captain James T. Kirk. Here was a man who exemplified all the qualities that make us humans who we are and always showcased those qualities. The first Star Trek series was like that whereas the later ones didn’t concentrate so much on humanity and what makes us human. I also liked the fact that Vulcan’s were shown in a slightly negative light since we had never seen them in that particular light in the original series. I enjoyed the tension between Captain Archer and his Vulcan science office which was directly in contrast to the camaraderie between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock 🙂 All in all, a good show and one which I’m looking forward to seeing more of!

Posted by Fahim at 8:28 am  |  1 Comment

September 26, 2001

I am supposed to attend a seminar held by StarDock to unveil WindowBlinds XP today so probably won’t have time to write too much. Thankfully, that will mean that I’ll keep things brief :p I did quite a bit of coding on Blog yesterday and the next release is turning out pretty well. I’ve already added some stuff that the users requested like the ability to detect database changes when Blog starts up and automatically do the changes (instead of the user having to download an extra utility and do it manually), new Blog tags to specify the system date and time when the journal was published (as opposed to when a specific entry was made …), syntax highlighting for the template editor and a few other minor tweaks. I still need to add a few other options in and then the next release should be ready to go 🙂

At the same time, I’ve been trying to get back to work with Scope and downloaded Mozilla 0.9.4 (those Mozilla folk seem to be really churning out the builds these days …) so that I could figure out why Scope won’t work with the latest builds of Mozilla. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even get Mozilla to compile. I don’t know whether the problem is with the Mozilla tarball I downloaded or my particular setup. Guess I’ll have to go back and take a look at that later … Oh well …

Posted by Fahim at 8:02 am  |  1 Comment

September 25, 2001

I normally am not a fan of American football since any sport where there’s a possibility of people being maimed or seriously injured for the entertainment of the masses smacks too much of the old days of gladiatorial combat for me but I really enjoyed “The Replacements” – an American football movie starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman – yesterday! What appealed to me was the fact that the movie was about teamwork, courage, heart and the will to succeed against all odds – traits that *I* think are some of the best in the human race. It was an enjoyable movie and I think I spent quite a bit of the movie eitehr sitting at the edge of my seat, cheering or dancing to “I Will Survive” along with the characters :p

It was an evening for good movies since I saw another movie that both appealed to me and made me feel good “The American President”. Now Michael Douglas’ Andrew Shepherd is a president that I’d be proud to follow and to vote for! Yes, I agree that movies are idealistic and don’t always show the real view of the world and that real people can’t always take the kind of decisions that tug at your heart strings that characters in movies always do but how I wish it could be so! This Andrew Shepherd is a president with character and integrity – a person who will put what he believes is right before everything else – even his hopes of another term as president! This is the kind of president from the golden days of America when the nation was a true giant and not just a country full of people who are content to lay back on the successes of their ancestors and bask on their reflected glory!! (Is that harsh? I guess so but again, I personally believe that that is the truth about at least 80% of Americans – unfortunately, perhaps 90% of that 80% isn’t online since the online community by far seems to represent the most enlightened and world-aware part of the the American population …)

One of the most moving moments in the movie for me (besides the penultimate moment when Andrew Shepherd makes his stand against his opponent) was the dialog between Lewis and Shepherd where Lewis says “People want leadership. And in the absence of genuine leadership, they will listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership, Mr. President. They’re so thirsty for it, they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.” and Shepherd responds “Lewis, we’ve had Presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty, Lewis. They drink it because they don’t know the difference.” Funnily enough, I can understand and relate to both points of view. Yes people do want leadership and sometimes no, they don’t know the difference – I hope that we will learn to discern the difference between good and bad and not just follow blindly anybody who claims to be a leader …

I had a rant about the recent changes in the US where a lot of “big brother”-like changes have been made (or are proposed) to the system under cover of the recent tragedies but I think I’ve gone on enough for one day and so I will save it for perhaps tomorrow :p Oh yes, did I mention that I’ve started work on Blog again and that future database changes will be automatically carried out by the application itself instead of you having to download an extra utility?

Posted by Fahim at 8:04 am  |  1 Comment

September 24, 2001

Yes, I’ve been silent for a long time … It’s partly been due to a desire to let things heal and settle down and partly because I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t doing more harm than good with my rants with the current emotional climate – at least in the US. But I’ve heard from several people (including Kurt Rosencrants who was personally affected by the tragedy at the WTC and yet hasn’t descended to hatred like so many of those around us) and I have realized that I do need to keep on saying what I feel in the hope that I might be able to make a difference in some small measure in these troubled times.

I had planned to write something about healing and rebuilding instead of my usual rants last Monday or Tuesday but then I heard on the radio that there was a list of songs that at least some of the radio stations had been asked to refrain from playing. This list includes songs like John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man”! This put me in the mood for a rant and I decided not to post at all that day but I feel I should speak about it now – what the heck are we trying to do? Bury our heads in the sand and say that it never happened? Or go into Vietnam-mode and try to change history to make it seem that things happened differently? It was a great catastrophe and many innocents lost their lives due to the stupidity of a few shortsighted individuals – we should remember it and learn what we can from it … not try to bury it all as if it never happened! I don’t know how the people affected by this personally would feel and so can’t say that I speak for them, but personally I think all this sudden scramble to remove WTC references from movies, games etc. is a completely meaningless act!

Speaking of stupidity, let me move onto something a bit less nationally or globally significant … I saw what must be one of the stupidest tech-tricks today :p I was driving to work and I suddenly noticed that there was this woman in the next lane who was turned almost ninety degrees towards the right-hand window while driving. I was curious and looked a bit more and saw that she was reading something and for a few moments I thought that she was reading from a notepad but then it occurred to me that the notepad must be really well lit because I could see the writing on it from my car! I then realized that she was actually looking at a notebook computer while driving … it was an Excel spreadsheet and she was working on it while driving in heavy Monday morning traffic!! Even more scarier, she got on my lane right behind me moments later and I can tell you that I was constantly checking my rear-view mirror till she got on the next lane :p

Posted by Fahim at 8:13 am  |  No Comments

September 16, 2001

I am tired … so very tired … Barring a miracle from God, the world seems to be on the brink of another war. Each time we have a war, I feel that we are pressing ever closer to the next big one where the whole human race will perhaps go up in a ball of flame. Grim? Certainly! But a reality and a probability that most of us seem to ignore. I am heartened to learn that there are a lot of people all over the world (and most importantly here in the US) who do not want war and are trying to act rationally and without anger or hatred in these troubled times. Unfortunately the question is whether our leaders are among those who are rational? I’ve heard from people who have said that we should let our representatives know how we feel about the prospect of war but then again the problem is that we as humans tend to keep on hoping that things will work out … till it is too late. So perhaps we should make an effort to let our leaders know how we feel before it is too late?

Of course, I’m am pretty cynical about how our leaders and governments will react to our exhortations because governments are like gargantuan beasts who are unstoppable once they gain momentum. Once they take a step or make a statement, they are afraid to go back for fear of losing face. Stupid when seen from individual perspectives but that’s governments for you … The battle lines are already drawn – the US has issued a statement that they will hunt down terrorism and the Afghan government has refused to take any action against Osama Bin Laden till they get positive proof. Unless one side relents (which is unlikely unless positive proof against Bin Laden is found), the world is likely to tumble over the edge in this game of chicken between two nations.

Incidentally, I found it ironic to discover yesterday via an article in the Boston Herald that Osama Bin Laden himself probably got started on his route of terror and carnage by courtesy of the US government. Is that likely to alter the outcome of the confrontation? Of course not! The US government of course will not admit to any culpability for their past actions and the Afghan government will not admit to any wrong doing on their part because they will say that Bin Laden has as yet not been proven to be conclusively guilty. Impasse …

I guess about the only thing that a normal person can do when confronted by this kind of situation is try to talk to their representatives … we are after all democratic nations, right? But the problem there lies in the fact that while the democratic system is perhaps the best governmental system we have, it is by no means perfect – especially during a time when emotions run rampant. It is likely that any people’s representative will consider his chances of re-election and his welfare when confronted with a decision where some of his constituents are against a war … For is it not possible that the silent majority is in fact for war? Should he risk it when it would be just several thousand (or a few hundred thousand …) innocents in a distant land who’ll get killed? Yes, I am very, very cynical but it is after all people we are talking about and none of us are perfect …

However, humanity has always had hope – it has been something that has sustained us through the darkest of times. So let us have hope once again. Hope that our governments will perhaps act justly, hope that our representatives will perhaps listen to our voices instead of their own hopes or the voices of lobbyists, hope that humankind can perhaps see the dawn of another millennium instead of perishing at the dawn of this one! Let us let our governments, our representatives, the people around us, anybody who would listen know that we do not want a war where any side might only find a pyrrhic victory and hope against hope that they will listen!!

Posted by Fahim at 12:24 pm  |  4 Comments

September 14, 2001

I was heartened to hear the voices of reason from both the US and other countries in response to my posting yesterday and was even beginning to think maybe the voices of hatred and those calling for war are just a few loudmouths and that most of the populace here in the US are among the reasonable majority who see the futility of violence and the fact that violence only begets violence. But sometimes I wonder … I’ve been going through the wording for what I’m going to say here most of the night – I lay awake around 2:00 am at night and thought about it since some of this is going to sound very harsh and is especially more so in the wake of such a huge tragedy but there are some things that need to be said because I see a lot of people crying for war and vengeance and I for one don’t want to see another war – the suffering that the families and friends of those affected by the events of Tuesday are not going to be alleviated by plunging even more families (both in the US and outside … for do you think that if it comes to war, that US soldiers are not going to perish too?) into melancholy and despair.

People here in the US seem to think (or at least imply) that this attack was something special – it is not! It is tragic and horrifying for those who were affected by it but this is something that quite a large portion of the populace of the world lives with as a day to day fact of life. I come from Sri Lanka where the nation is torn apart by a twenty year civil war and major landmarks and government installations get bombed every year – in fact, the Sri Lankan World Trade Center was bombed a few years ago by the terrorists! These self-same terrorists are aided by people living in Canada, UK (not the governments but individuals) and other countries. Does Sri Lanka try to go to war against Canada or the UK about this? No!! But then again, I guess Sri Lanka is a small island nation while the US is a super power – so how is the bombings in Sri Lanka different from those of the US? Does the size of the country decide how big an issue it is?

On the other hand, it is not as if the US itself has not had a hand in sowing terror in other nations – the rebels in Central America were aided by the US and Iraq was aided by the US in it’s battle against Iran at one time … So is the US against terrorism only when it is perpetrated on its own soil? Of course the pat answer would be that these weren’t terrorists but freedom fighters! What exactly is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? I guess that depends on which side you are on …

War is not a good thing – whatever the cause may be! Those responsible for the atrocities of Tuesday should be brought to justice but not at the cost of both US and other lives. This is not about the US! It is about the human race as a whole – let us be aware of the cost of each and every human life and not give into blind anger and hatred and a desire for vengeance! I see people ask for God’s retribution against the crimes of Tuesday but in the next breath I see the same people call for war – aren’t you sure of God’s might and justice that you want humanity’s imperfect version of justice to prevail first?

I believe in justice – not human justice but God’s justice – and I know that even if we don’t punish somebody for their acts, they will receive God’s punishment on the day of judgment but in the same token, we will be judged by our actions too! Let us bear in mind that to harm even one innocent in the process of bringing those who are guilty to judgment should be unacceptable to all of us as human beings – sadly this is not so! Let us by all means punish those responsible but take care that we punish only those responsible and not bandy about words like war and annihilation and say things like “Let us blow all of them off the map – they all of them harbor terrorists anyway!” because this just is not true. Each individual making up a nation is not the same – remember that Tim McVeigh who slaughtered countless innocents in the Oaklahoma City bombings was American … does that make all Americans terrorists?

Let us be calm, clear-headed, non-partisan and above all human and humane! Let us believe in justice and defense but not revenge and offense!! Let us be resolved above all that we will try to avoid the shedding of innocent blood – no matter which country, cast, creed or race they belong to!!!

Posted by Fahim at 8:09 am  |  3 Comments

September 13, 2001

I have been both horrified and saddened by the loss of life due to the horrific tragedies of Tuesday. I have had moments where tears sprang into my eyes hearing of people affected or those who’d perished or of just thinking of the agony and torment that those left behind must be feeling. I was thinking of writing about all that had happened yesterday while driving to work and was thinking to myself that though I always tried to see both sides of a situation that I couldn’t really see the other side in this matter and that I would probably tear into anybody who tried to defend those who’d committed this heinous act against their fellow human beings. But I’ve watched America’s reaction to these tragic events and have come to see the other side as well and I must say that I am deeply saddened and disappointed.

I have heard of Palestinian/Middle Eastern families over here in Michigan who had been harassed out of their homes, of Arabic people who had their homes burnt down, of Muslim women in traditional garb who are harassed by men on the streets – all because they belong to a portion of humanity that is currently suspected of being the perpetrators of these atrocities. I agree wholeheartedly that those responsible must pay for what they did? But do innocents have to suffer for the crimes of the guilty? Do people who committed no crime except to embrace a specific religion or were born in a specific part of the globe, have to suffer? I say an emphatic “No”!!

Let us not delve into anger and hatred, let us think these things through calmly and without partisanship. I believe that there is one thing higher than patriotism for one’s nationality – the duty we owe towards humanity as a whole. We are all citizens of the world first and foremost! So let us put aside nationalistic and idealistic claptrap and unite as a race – the human race – and try to get through these difficult times and not descend to name calling and finger pointing.

I have watched the media and have been disturbed and concerned. Are they just stupid or are they actually trying to incite hatred and rioting? Ever since the tragedies occurred, the media consistently uses phrases like “even the Arab nations have expressed their condolences” or “despite the fact that Palestinians were out in the streets celebrating, Yasar Arafat expressed his regrets over the tragedies”. I don’t see why these things had to be singled out, I don’t see why the Arab nations shouldn’t be shocked by these devastating incidents. And yes, there were probably some misguided individuals who thought that America’s tragedy was cause for celebration but does that fact need to be highlighted? Hard as it may seem to believe, I’d bet that Palestinian’s weren’t the only people who celebrated (and don’t tell me that some Americans didn’t celebrate when Iraq was bombed even though many innocent civilians died as well …) but they are the only ones who are spotlighted over and over again. Why is that? Do they want a bloodbath here in the US so that all Palestinians or all people of Middle Eastern descent would be purged? It certainly seems like it at times to me …

I know that some people are going to take this negatively but I do believe that those who don’t speak out in times of injustice are just as guilty as those who perpetrate the crimes. And I also believe that it’s a time when we should put aside racial and nationalistic boundaries and stand together as human beings. If we give in to anger and hatred, the culmination of these tragic events could be another world war and I don’t think that any of us wants that. Why would anybody want anymore lives to be lost after such a devastating loss? I can’t for the life of me fathom it … Let us all hang together in these times of trial and tribulations as human beings and support each other and not point fingers or persecute people or as Benjamin Franklin once remarked, assuredly we will hang separately!

Posted by Fahim at 8:23 am  |  8 Comments

September 11, 2001

This is such a sad day … we have proven once again that as human beings we are senseless, compunction-less and probably destined for extinction just because we have no feelings what so ever towards our fellow human beings! How could anybody slaughter countless innocents like that? What cause can there be that is so mighty as to shed the blood of one single human being let alone thousands upon thousands? Why oh why can’t we get it through our thick heads that there are no cast, creed, color, race,regional or political boundaries so sacrosanct that we should tear up this little mud-ball that we all live on by killing each other? I cannot but imagine what must be going through the minds of those who had loved ones in the affected areas, I wish with all of my heart that there was something I could do to help them or to ease their pain … why? why?

Posted by Fahim at 1:34 pm  |  2 Comments

I’m in a very introspective mood today … Have you had moments when something – a memory, song, an event … – evoked a feeling so strong in you that your heart seemed to be full to the point of bursting? I’ve had that happen to me twice in the span of twenty four hours. The first time was last night – I was thinking of Larry Niven’s “Destiny’s Road” and suddenly I was there on Destiny, standing on a ruler-straight road leading on to the horizon and beyond, with green alien vegetation growing profusely on either side of me. It was such an intense sensation that if I could have put everything that I felt at that moment into words, I probably would have come up with a brilliant novel. Now what I felt is just a fleeting memory but I can still almost touch that version of me there on Destiny and I guess that is exactly what makes a good writer (which I do not claim to be in case somebody thinks that’s what I’m saying :p) – the ability to get in touch with a character and show everybody else the world through their eyes. I wish I had that ability like Larry Niven does but I don’t … sad <g>

The second moment of … umm .. epiphany? .. no, not epiphany because it wasn’t a revelation but rather just a fullness of feeling – as if either your heart or your brain was suffused to the point of bursting with just feeling … Anyway, the second moment was today while driving to work. Alicia Keys came on the radio with “Fallin'” and I’ve heard the song many times before but that particular moment it evoked something in me that made me feel as if all was right with the world, that I finally understood what it was all about and that moment too passed …

Why am I talking about all of this? No reason really 🙂 But those two moments really meant something (though for the life of me, I can’t say what …) and I just felt like writing about them. That’s all … but now on to other stuff. I was fortunate enough to get the “Alien Legacy” boxed set over the weekend for $50 – second hand. I have seen (I think) the first three movies in the Alien series but can’t really recall more than moments from any of the movies. So I decided to watch them all and so I watched “Alien” yesterday and even had the time to watch a portion of the movie again with Ridley Scott’s commentary. I’m surprised by how well the movie stands the test of time though some of the sets and the alien do show their age in different ways. It is also kind of shocking to realize that the movie was made twenty two years ago and that I was alive at that time – makes me feel positively ancient :p

Not much happening with the coding end of things. I am really really busy at work and so won’t get to do much till perhaps the coming weekend. Incidentally, e-mails are steadily pouring in and if any of you don’t hear from me, please forgive me since it’s all this work – I’ve got a fairly huge bit of work that they want completed in five days and so I’m scrambling …

Posted by Fahim at 8:07 am  |  No Comments

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