Friday, December 1, 2006

World Aids Day 2006 - Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise

the World Health Organization report the world AIDS epidemic continues to grow, with an estimated 39.5 million people living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS

this means every eight seconds somebody in the world is infected with HIV, resulting in 11,000 people becoming newly infected every day

approximately 4.3 million became newly infected with HIV and 2.9 million died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2006

according to the World AIDS Campaign, sub-Saharan Africa remains the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, but no country is unaffected, and incidence rates are rising in a number of developed countries

India (5 million people affected - the largest number in any one country - the AIDS epidemic is fastest growing in Asia)

Eastern Europe (many are IV drug users)

USA (about 1 million people affected, 25 % don't know)

AIDS is a 100% preventable

new strategies for overcoming the pandemic of AIDS

2006 slogan: Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursdays That Thrill The Thoughts!

"The great secret ... is not having bad manners or good manners ... but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another." - George Bernard ShawThis quote warmed my heart - to me it the epitome of humanity and compassion. And then I challenged myself - lest I become complacent or self-righteous in my own humanity. When it comes to my friends and the person with whom I choose to spend the rest of my life - I am very particular. In other words, in my relelntless pursuit of being alive, I allow only people I consider to be beautiful within & warm & loving into my life and I categorically keep out any that I consider to be a negative. So does that mean that I do not consider all souls as being good as another? Or that in considering all to be equal, can I not be discriminate in the company I keep? I am thinking about it - meanwhile ...

... there are 2 more weeks left in the semester and I tell you it has been the busiest but the best semester! Lately, I find myself more relaxed than ever. Ultimately I feel that I know 100 more people who chisel me into what I am meant to be. Yes - I consider every single one of the students to be equal souls (who would I be not to), despite their varying academic performance.

Dr. Ahmadinejad sent a letter to the American people : should the Americans a) read it or b) return to sender c) mark it as spam and delete it?

A $2 million dollar apology for a man wrongly accused of terrorism. Is this the only
"wrongful" case? Will we ever know or is not knowing the price of freedom. I certainly don't know.

Manchester United - the bestest team in the world - maintaining it's lead in the English Premiership.

Here is an article from TIME Magazine that lists, "The Five Fatal Mistakes of Bush's Mideast Policy".

"It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserves a repulic" - Thomas Jefferson (I must say that contrary to popular opinion, Americans are some of the warmest and spirited people I have ever met - genuine warmth beats cool proper manners)

"Rudeness is a weak man's imitation of strength" - Eric Hoffer (agreed - personally I think good manners are a mark of high self-respect)

I have been rude recently - by being
passively aggressive - that's terrible and unbecoming. Never again! Also I have found that I remember strangers who have been rude to me (not too many) because they leave a raw and jarring imprint on me. I am resolved to never be rude to anyone at all - ever - from now till the end of time - especially to those I love.

Hope this is the best Thursday of the week for you! Peace and Warmth and Good Manners to your soul that is certainly second to none!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tuesday Thoughts ... on being Thin, Overhelpers, and Patronizing Parents

Have you heard people complaining that there is such pressure by society to be thin. Young girls depressingly thin, models dying of anorexia, bulimia - because of "society's pressures". But if you bow down to the pressures of society - it's on you. It's your life, it's your responsibility to think for yourself, to know what is healthy for you. Exercise, have fun, be nice to a stranger, read up on world news, help an orphan and you will find that society's so called pressures may soon be meaningless.

The greatest lessons in life have been thrust upon me in the last few years. If I may share one with you; "nothing is all about me". When I think it's all about me, I will be hyper-sensitive, on the defense, too fragile to enjoy life. When I do not take anything personally, there is greater confidence in my gait, I feel free, I am at ease with the world and thus I can put the world at ease with me. The world existed and night became day before me, and certainly it will do so long after me. Society's pressures? Gimme a break - you have your own life to lead!

I was reading an article about "overhelpers". People who think it is their responsibility to save the world and to save you. And should you not accept & appreciate them as your saviour, they will take it personally and feel scorned. They may mean well but the final imapct is that they irritate people and are considered to be meddlesome and intrusive and judgmental. It is their way of feeling important and needed. Relax, the world does not ride on your shoulders, live your own life, enjoy it :-) and let others live theirs.

Parents can be like that sometimes. Parents who feel it is their birthright to overhelp/rule their grown children just because they are genetically linked. Why not enjoy your own life and allow your grown children to do the same :-)

Borrowing from dear Oprah, who graces her own magazine with her own dazzling picture every single month, "live your best life". These days living my best life involves knowing I am leading my own life on my own terms. That is the basic happiness that shoots through my heart. So how about all those in the world who do not have a choice to live their own lives but must live by "society's pressures" and are ruled by prehistoric laws, and controling fathers and husbands, and gossiping neighbors, and economic burden? Well at least they should remind us that "society's pressures" to be thin and beautiful is pretty petty.

Here's to you and your own life - you are so beautiful - on your own terms! Much happiness to you!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Burkahs, Happiness, The Pope & I

The Dutch Interior Minister Rita Verdonk, has proposed banning the burkha. Verdonk is a hardliner who has introduced a series of anti-immigration measures. She has been quoted as saying the 'time for cosy tea-drinking' with Muslim groups was over. Verdonk's proposal followed a request from right-wing MP Geert Wilders, who claimed the burkha was a threat to security.

Ok - let's get to the point - the time for sugar-coating anti-Islam is over. In my opinion, this
measure by the right-wing Dutch party is indeed anti-Islamic. HOWEVER a burkha is not inherently Islamic - it is inherently a cultural imposition - a cruel one. I even understand the fear of some European countries against this type of culture dominating their liberal way of life. But they must not be patronizing and mask their anti-Islamic leanings in the name of "security".

As a woman - no as a human - my face is a part of my physical identity. It is not a matter of beauty at all - because that is subjective. But the expression of my eyes when I smile, when I laugh, when I see the world around me through a 3 dimensional periphery - these are all a part of my identity and my connection to the world.

It is a violation of human rights to force a
woman to cover herself from head to toe in a shapeless dark cloth! This inhumanity is propogated by fathers, brothers, husbands, imams, politicians, and by other women, who paint the burkha as a necessity for pious Islamic behaviour. One might argue that some women choose to wear the burkha. Ok - but most of these women who "choose" to cover themselves completely have not been brought up with the freedom to think otherwise. A woman must be allowed her the birthright to celebrate her physical womanhood by dressing in elegant, beautiful outfits and lighting the world with her smiles. And yes, I know there is poverty and war in the world - but wearing a burkha will not stop that.

The Pope is taking a stance on Islam - even though he already has a lot on his plate - what with those child molesting priests.

There was a recent study that connects the genuine smiles in year book pictures to enduring happiness. Those who had genuine (Duchenne) smiles were seen to have led happier lives, while those with fake (Pan American) smiles were found to have led less fulfilled lives. So I would say keep smiling, keep smiling, keep smiling!! Show off your dazzling smile - at a stranger, at the one you love - if just to say "I am so glad that you are alive!"

As for the burkha - denying a handful of women the right to wear the burkha will NOT make the world safer. In fact being anti-Islamic is as much a secuirty threat as it is anti-human. Same applies to anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity. And forcing women to wear the burkha is no ticket to heaven.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I Recommend Caco :-)

Recommended Movie: from Caco - Pedro Almodóvar's Volver ( Almodóvar tones down the usual impact of his sexually 'diverted' characters. This time, women of different ages - equally talented actresses - have been gathered in a brilliant achievement. Touching and optimistic, the film is a must-see.

Recommended Music: from Caco - Bedouin Soundclash - When the night feels my song - Rock and reggae surprisingly well blended. Listen to it just before leaving for that fantastic party where you will meet your good old friends and get ready to have a good time

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wednesday Wanderings on the scale of things ...

Earth is approximately 5 billion years old - give or take some millions of years. The creation of the Earth was in tandem with many other massive formations. As we all generally know our solar system is an invisible spot in our galaxy, and our galaxy is but a small part of the universe. We fight over a piece of land. I am convinced God doesn't care about that particular piece of land much, given his current real estate.

That's not the central theme today, however. I came across a professor who makes his class take a calculator roll - about 5 meters - and draw up a time scale of the Earth's existence with respect to human existence - and with respect to the birth of the great prophets of the world. Guess what, in the scale of things, they are barely a pencil mark. That gave me such perspective.

Nuns are on the rise - and they have playlists and blogs too - who knew?

South Africa is the first country in Africa to legalize gay marriage - the thing about South Africa is that when they were racists, they were racists openly. When they decided to come out of the dark ages of inhumanity, they came out in full force. How many other countries can share this accolade?

Manchester United (the best team in the world) is number 1 in the Premiership!

My computer crashed last night at 12:30 AM as I was finishing up an exam for my class at 9:00 AM today - I couldn't disappoint the cherubs by postponing the exam, so I walked into the office at the crack of dawn to rewrite the exam again - 3 versions.

Recommended Movies:

Recommended Music:

More later - must dash for now! :-)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thursday, November 9, 2006

At least it's not "terrorism" ...

On Wednesday November 8, 2006, at least 18 Palestinians civilians were killed and 40 wounded by Israeli tank fire in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. Anywhere else, this massive violation against humanity would have been decried as TERRORISM - but of-course these are not acts of terrorism because it is just sleeping Palestinians who are killed by uniformed armed soldiers in armored tanks who were hunting for the "real terrorists".

People all over the place are offering words in their worldly wisdom ...

UK Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett offers a very well-mannered rebuke (one has to be courteous), "it is hard to see what this action was meant to achieve and how it can be justified... Israel must respect its obligation to avoid harming civilians."

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert said the strike, which hit a civilian area, was the result of a "technical failure". He also added, "I'm very uncomfortable with this event. I'm very distressed. I checked it and I verified it. This is not the policy."

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told Israeli radio that the deaths were the result of an "operational mishap". But he insisted that Israel's military activities in Gaza were justified against a backdrop of continuing rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against Israeli towns.

In the US, the White House and the state department called for restraint from Palestinians, and President George Bush expressed his sadness at the deaths .

UN Special Co-ordinator for Mid-East Peace Process, Alvaro De Soto: "I'm appalled and shocked. It's really condemnable. This has just gone too far. So [Israelis] need to take a long hard and very professional look at it. And also they need I think to step back, suspend this operation and look at the policy. This is not the way to stop Palestinian rocket fire. And to the Palestinians I have to say firing rockets is not the way to get the Israelis to stop this onslaught against them."

In Palestine one man claims that if the blood shed in Beit Hanoun were wine spilled in the salons of the political Arab elite, then the anger would have been great and protest marches would have been organised. The shedding of Palestinian blood has become something only noted in passing, something which does not trouble the Arab and international conscience.

UN Special Rapporteur, John Dugard: "This brutal collective punishment of a people, not a government, has passed largely unnoticed by the international community. The Quartet... has done little to halt Israel's attacks.

An Israeli lady contends, "a regrettable mistake, past and present politicians and army officers said yesterday. This is not a mistake. This is a disaster. A regrettable mistake is when you step on someone's foot, not when you kill 11 members of one family. Someone has to stop this madness."

Another Israeli reaction, "someone has to tell the people of Beit Hanoun, the citizens of the Gaza Strip, the Arabs of the occupied territories, the whole world, the one simple, poignant truth: He who fires thousands of Qassam rockets at the civilian [Israeli] population for years; he who hoards thousands of tons of explosive materials for months, should understand that it is impossible to hide behind women and children. Such behaviour has a price tag."

source of the above:

Click here for an editorial from Haaretz

247 fatalities in Gaza from June 28 to October 27
155 civilian deaths
57 deaths of children
996 wounded, including 337 children (34%)
Source: Physicians for Human Rights

... but hey, at least it's not "terrorism" ...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wednesdays Wanderings ... light & lovely things

Shout out to Beautiful Maliha, and the Fearless Mr. Angry, dear Caco :-), Totally Tom, Before Sunrise, Lovely Louise, Beth, Oh Joe!, Jeff, Fer, Candancim, the folks at Culture for All, Zee Ya! and of-course the Incomparable Dr. Sasquatch.

Red is my favourite colour! And y'all know that I am a girly girl who believes that being fashionable is as important as being bold & intellectual in the art of fearlessness :-) Every Sunday, I scan through my closet and mentally plan my wardrobe for the week ahead. Often I forget my list and find myself putting together the outfit 30 minutes before I have to leave. Dressing up delights me! Then there is matching jewelry (limited) and make-up (light) - oh I love being a girl! :-)

So imagine my happipness in being able to wear a red t-shirt, knowing that half of the profits go to Aids in Africa - and it is inscribed with "INSPI(RED)". Tomorrow I teach lab sections of my class and it's the day I dress casually to work. So I am going to wear my "inspi(red)" t-shirt ! With blue pants with turquoise necklace and earrings ... ? Or with brown dress pants and red & brown necklace ...? Such important decisions. Heels of-course. Gosh, I am so inspi(red) to wake up tomorrow :-)

Hope you are laughing with me at my frivolties :-)

Can't wait to wear my gorgeous new CBGB limited edition this weekend - thank you, Baby!

Movie Recommendations: "The Lake House" - romantic movie that made me cry and sigh in relief at the endlessness and timelessness of true love

Music Recomendations: "Oh L'Amour" : Erasure - keeping with the love theme - why not ;-)
The album "A Posteriori": Enigma - I downloaded this last night and it is simply enigmatic

from Fernando - (Jamaica)
"The Skatalites": Occupation, "Joya Landis": Midnight Lover, "The Clarendonians & Augustus": Ruddie Bam bam, (Angola) "Bonga" Mulemba Xangola

Book Recommendations: "The O'Reilly Factor": Bill O'Reilly (all in the spirit of fairness & balance ;-))
"The Truth": Al Franken (the truth shall set you free, I hear)
"War on the Middle Class": Lou Dobbs (apparantly if your e-mail to Lou Dobbs is read out during his show, you will receive a free copy. I am composing a note right now)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tuesday Thoughts ... on the human syndrome

I feel most alive when I remember that tomorrow is not promised to me. I feel most human when I remember that no politician, no law, no culture, no job, no religion can save me from mortality. I feel most free when I am myself.

But I am not alone, I have not made it alone. There have been people standing by my side, loving me, lending me their hand when I certainly would have fallen. I feel most grateful, most human, most vulnerable, most free, most me, when I remember that.

You know there is no redemption to war. None whatsoever. We can try to justify it. Yes wars have gained "freedom" - but why was that freedom ever taken away in the first place? I adhere to New Hamshire's spirit - "live free or die". Many of us are not free at all. We are worried about our own future, Lou Dobbs of CNN is worried about "the Middle Class of America", dear old Bill O'Reily of FoxNews is worried about the leftist media and retaining America's moral imperilaism, people are worried about jobs going overseas to those Indians. Hey - they are human, those Indians. Smart, savvy, and ready to take the challenge to survive. How inhuman some of us can be, how self-righteous and boring! It breaks me to see that people are treated as lessers because of the longitude/latitude under which they are born.

Thank goodness that Al Gore is worried about the environment, thank goodness that Zainab Salbi is worried about women who are victims of war, thank goodness Mohammed Younus is worried about enabling people living in poverty - thank goodness for doctors without borders, thank goodness for mothers who love without limit, thank goodness for people who care for people.

People quabble about how many Iraqis died - hey even one human death is one too many. What if it was you? Palestinians use desperation as an excuse to be suicide bombers. There is no excuse for murder! Heaven does not wait for you. Israelis think they are the chosen ones - what exactly did God choose you for? Why do any of us think we are one iota more special than the next person, than the person across the ocean? We are all as mortal, as human, as vulnerable, as anyone else. Some extreme groups in the Indian subcontinent keep their women under lock and key and some fathers believe in honor killings of their daughters. I don't know what god they worhsip.

Don't you see it does not matter, Indians, Israelis, Americans, Zimbabweans. In defining ourselves by nations, we allow ourselves to be defined by man-made boundaries. Man created these maps of boundaries - but they should not define us. My family used to despair when I refused to acknowledge my country of origin and declared myself a citizen of the world. I am not denying my race or heritage - I am defying man-made boundaries. The world belongs to me - as it does to you. If an Iraqi dies, if an American dies, if an Israeli dies, if a Palestinian dies - it is no different from me dying. Another human, another citizen of the world leaving, hopefully for a better place.

Do you see - you are no different from me - and I am no different from you? Do you see? Our points of view or places of birth or locations don't make us different, or better. We share the same human syndrome of mortality.

The French lower house of parliament passed a bill making it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks after WWI. In retaliation, the Turkish parliament is drafting a bill to make it illegal to deny that the French committed genocide in Algeria. People are up in arms spending time and money passing bills about PAST genocides, when nothing has been done about the CURRENT cases of rape and murder and cold-blooded genocide in Darfur? There is massive genocide and violation of human rights - right now! Infuruating!

If I were to die tomorrow, I would not give a damn about being right or wrong, or about which land belongs to whom, or about the left or the right or center - I would just want to express to the people in my world that they mean the world to me. I would want them to know that they shaped my life, that they made me feel so much, that they made my day, any day - that I am so grateful to them. I don't plan to die tomorrow, I plan to really live and love tomorrow - and today!

This is an original water color I purchased recently from a living artist, feisty delightful 85 year old Margaret Hart.

"Laugh to forget, but don't forget to laugh" - Arnold Glasgow

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday Sunderings ... all cried out

Once a year, in involuntary introspection and self-evaluation, my mind rejuvenates itself. It heeds no other command from me but takes me through a reflective process that I cannot deny. Thus was my last several days. 180 degrees (well maybe 145 degrees) change in perspective. On Wednesday I was writing about the frivolous topic of “you must be kidding me” when by chance, I came across a documentary on Aids in Africa. Everyday there are deaths equivalent to 2 World Trade Centers - everyday. Just children who don’t have a chance to live because they do not have access to the few dollars that I use so carelessly to buy a soda. Then a documentary on the rape and killing in Darfur. I spent hours crying over Aids and Darfur – but crying is useless, it is action that matters.

Fearless! Ambitious! Bold! I like to think I am fearless, but it was essential for me to acknowledge that which frightens me the most. I did so these last days. I acknowledge what I fear most – and there is nothing that can erase that fear – except to be fearless. How helpful. Thank you for that introspective edge.

There is a debate and denial over whether or not 655,000 Iraqis died. That is the debate? Bloody Hell! (yes I am swearing - in anguish and disgust!) You have got to be kidding me! Ok – let’s halve the number, no let’s diminish that number by a factor of 100, in fact let’s cut the number down to 1 and let’s not even consider the nationality - and that would be a bloody loss of 1 human life too many!

My models for fearlessness are the following - my goodness - they define FEARLESSNESS!:

Bono: (Red) products - no politics just humanity

Zainab Salbi: beautiful woman helping one woman at a time and changing the world - no politics just humanity

Mohammed Younus from Bangladesh: Noble Nobel Peace Laureate 2006 - no politics just humanity

Anna Politkovskaya: fearless Russian journalist murdered on October 7, 2006

Red Cross: for reaching out to the “inhabitants” of Guantanamo – no politics just humanity

Watched a movie this weekend called “Water”. It is set in 1937 India, about the lives of widows, who according to Hindu customs had to live a rejected life in seclusion. This life-denying custom, along with the deplorable caste system still exists. Yes, I cried heartily while watching it.

Also this weekend we had a bachelorette party for my friend Jenny – and to be perfectly honest, I forgot all about world affairs and crying and such, and just had much fun with a bunch of crazy girls.

Fearless Movie Recommendation: "Water" by Deepa Mehta – this movie was made by the fearless Director, despite massive protests by extremists groups who were afraid that their deplorable customs of widowhood would be highlighted. Go Deepa!

Fearless Product Recommendation: "(Red)" - so I rushed to Gap and bought a t-shirt, half of whose profits could go to help a mother buy medicine for her children. My t-shirt reads “inspi(red)”. Oh, I am so inspired! There are also other t-shirts like "empow(red)", "desi(red)", "admi(red)" and get this "bo(red)", "hamme(red)" :-)

Fearless Music Recommendation: “Nothing In My Way” by Keane – the words say it all
“All Cried Out” by Allure - the words say it all
"Já sei namorar" by Tribalistas - recommended by my fearless friend, Caco

this is where we went canoeing in Upstate New York

this is where we went rafting in West Virginia

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Wednesday Wanderings ... on Religion, Politics, and Prismatic Colour

So tonight I was invited to an Interfaith banquet. There were people from all faiths who started with the celebration of the breaking of the fast. I sat at a random table with Christians, Jews and Muslims, before which I had flitted about introducing myself to perfectly lovely strangers.

After dinner, which was a splendid affair, there were 4 speakers: the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim perspective. This was then followed by representives of the 2 Senatorial candidates, Bob Casey and Rick Santorum. Oi vey, Religion and Politics ...

The Jewish perspective mentioned that Islam borrowed the tradition of fasting from the Jewish people and made reference to the Day of Atonement - this to show the similarities of the 2 religions. He then chided the general populace for not causing an uproar against the pronoucements of Dr. Ahemedinejad.

The Muslim perspective agreed that indeed Islam was an extension, in many ways, of Judiasm and Christianity.

The Christian perspective spoke of brotherhood and love - and referenced the support after the recent tragic shootings in the Amish town.

The speaker I applauded the most - because it encompassed the concept of interfaith & humanity - was the Hindu perspective. He spoke about what was close to my heart. We should not "tolerate" diversity - we should "value" diversity. He uses the example; what if you returned to your room mate who said to you, "I tolerate you", how would you feel? He also referenced Mahatma Ghandi who when asked by Christians what he would have them do replied to the effect, "help the Muslims be better Muslims, help the Hindus be better Hindus, help the Jews be better Jews, and we will help you be better Christians".

Lovely night, lovely food, lovely talks, lovely people - but do you know what I came back with? The affirmation with which my parents had brought me up, "God-created man is greater than man-created religion". It's humanity that matters. I feel more than ever that life is short, so short, and I just want to live while I am alive - a happy, simple, lovely life with people who matter to me. So much to do, so much to see ... what a wonderful world! I really am so happy to be alive.

Oh and I also tried to colour my hair - spontaneous decision in the middle of the afternoon. Perhaps I was inspired but the Autumn colours. Let's put it this way, the results of "Brazilian Brown Prismatic Color" is such that my dark hair is as dark as ever! No one will notice any change and therefore I will have to tell people, "excuse me, I know you cannot tell, but I did colour my hair, prismatically in fact, thanks."

Music Recommendations: anything Brazlian (Caco, Cristiana ?) ... :-)
Movie Recommendations: "City of God": set in Brazil on Brazilian gang life - so vivid that you can feel actually feel the heat and the desperation and the life ...

Monday, October 2, 2006

Picturesque Mondays ... say anything

During the premiership soccer season, I live for
Manchester United games without logic or reason. I soar in delight for every wining goal, and for a loss, no words can console. The team makes me happy

...talking of happy, when my brother was 8 he wrote a poem and the last two lines were, "the dragon was happy, still in his nappy". It still makes me laugh out aloud

...talking about laughing out aloud, I have this awful habit of remembering funny things at inappropriate times. For example, someone might be talking about their car problems at tedium and suddenly I will think about the happy dragon in the nappy and then have to fight the urge to not burst out laughing for fighting urges, the month of Ramadhan is a testament to discipline and will power and committment. Imagine not ingesting anything at all, including water, from dawn to dusk. It's formidable and the degree of introspection is incomparable. It is especially a time for kindness and warmth and friendship

... another shout out for my frriends at the Campaign for Kindness ! Just be kind. Why Not? To anyone, anytime, anywhere - be kind. Why not? But be especially kind to those who care about you. They deserve your kindness more than everyone ... show them you care even more!

... in a lovely show of caring, during each of the last 3 years, 3 separate friends had fasted with me for a day each. One friend "fasted" all day after having a business breakfast ... another "fasted" but had water during meeting presentations ... and the third one apparantly "fasted" twice in one day, since he had lunch in the middle of day ... :-) The thoughtfulness touched my heart...

... talking about thoughtfulness and heart, last week, I received some flowers in a fleaker - they meant a lot to me and it was the sweetest start to my Autumn season...

... talking of season, hey here is to Manchester United's winning season, for I support them with no logic or reason!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wednesday Wanderings ...on "the Big Bang or the Big God"

Yesterday we went to a presentation at the University by Dr. Jobe Martin on "The Big Bang or the Big God". While I am eager to learn different viewpoints, I was rather taken back at the way he handled the Q&A session. He made some good points for creationism, using science where it suited the argument, yet dismissing science when it countered his argument. A small example; he deems that dinosaurs existed along with man - because according to Genesis (as accepted by Jews, Christians, Muslims), God created the world within 6 days. One of the students asked why there have been no human skeletal remains found within carnivorous dinosaurs. Good question, but no good answer.

Another asked why he was relying on a changing book to explain the natural world. Because it is the word of God and it has not changed, was his general answer.

Chris, who has a doctorate in Biology (evolutionary), kindly excused several inconsistencies in the presentation and only noted politely that Darwin wrote at the end of his "The Origin of Species ..." that he believed in God. Dr. Martin retorted that Darwin did not really believe in God and "salvation". Obviously he knew Darwin personally. I inquired about the geocentric claims of the Bible, as opposed to the heliocentricity of our solar system. He basically implied that perhaps from the outer galaxies, the sun could be revolving around the Earth.

Dr. Martin did say that according to the Bible, there is only one race - the human race. I respect that very much. I am open to Science and Academia, and Faith, and Feeling, and Intuition, and the Holy Books etc. I am open to the fact that I do not know much, but I am not open to blind close-mindedness.

There is nothing that can define the Creator of the Universe by any formula. Faith is distinct from self-righteous definitions. I think defining God by any book or by the word of man, limits God. What does man know, anyway? We cannot even stop fighting wars during a temporary time on Earth, let alone define the Creator of the unending universe. There is indeed something between Heaven and Earth - in fact there is a whole universe of galaxies and stars and unimaginable unknowns. The possibilities are endless and so exciting! The Creator of the Universe, is magnificent beyond the limiting description of man. So Big Bang or Big God - why does one preclude the other? Both require faith, and actually, as humans, we don't really know, therefore, in a sense we all are reyling on the application of some faith in something.

Here is to the relentless pursuit of knowledge... !

Quote Recommendation on the pursuit of Knowledge:
"The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr." "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave." "The best form of worship is the pursuit of knowledge." "Scholars should endeavor to spread knowledge and provide education to people who have been deprived of it. For, where knowledge is hidden it disappears.": Prophet Mohammed

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind": Albert Einstein

Further quotes on the pursuit of knowlege

Music Recommendation: "Suspicious Minds" - Elvis Presley, "Woman" - John Lennon, "I've Been Thinking About You" - Damae & Londonbeat

Movie Recommendation:

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday Sunderings ... on the Kindness of my Parents ...

The Campaign for Kindness touches my heart.

2006 has been a defining year for me; in particular because I now define myself ... but it will never erase what has defined my past. In my relentless pursuit of being alive on my own terms, I will not forget the credit that belongs to my parents.

My parents taught me about kindness - through consistent and constant example.

My father was very strict about certain things with respect to me - only A's in class and no boys ;-). He spent hours studying my school books so that I could ask him any question on any subject. At university I would fax him engineering problems and we would solve them together. Formidable Father-Daughter Team. My father was so so kind & loving to me. So kind that I could not see beyond him. The most handsome, smartest man I had ever met - and I certainly the apple of his eye. For my overflowing confidence, the credit belongs to my father.

One Friday evening, an employee of his made a very costly mistake. My father was understandably angry. But after a few minutes he said to my mother, "I am feeling bad; everyone makes mistakes. I am so happy and lucky to have my family to come home to." He then took the bunch of flowers he had bought for my mother and gave it to the stunned employee, wishing him a wonderful weekend and telling him not to worry about anything. My hero.

My mother's priority were my manners. I regret to say that in my younger years, I confused my burgeoning confidence with self-importance. My father indulged me, because I was his little girl - but not my mother. She made me include unpopular girls in my group, to my absolute chagrin. She once made me apologize publicly to some irritating girl who had started crying because I would not talk to her. My mother told me that wht matters in life is heart and compassion. I did not believe her then. My mother cried with anyone who was hurt, and laughed with anyone who was happy. I have never ever met a kinder, lovelier person than my mother. I am that lucky girl to have been brought up by her.

In my relentless pursuit of being alive, I pray for boundless blessings to my parents. I am forever grateful for their kindness. As for that which broke my heart - they have brought up with enough kindness to remember that heros are human too ...

...besides, my heart cannot really break ... it overflows with happiness and confidence ... what can be against me, when the Creator of The Universe is with me ...?

… ooh and I found a dress in the specified green colour … :-)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wednesday Wanderings ... what teaching has taught me

... during my first year of doctoral studies, I had started teaching at a university - I was so excited about the opportunity - but oh I had so much to learn! My father had given me the good advice of emulating all the good things I loved about my favourite professors. In primary school, we could not use the word, “nice” because it was over-used and not descriptive enough. But I have found that being nice is what really matters. I am not always nice – sometimes I am irrational, inconsiderate and unsympathetic – my ego takes over and I think of only myself. But luckily academe grounds me and over the last several years, teaching has taught me that:
  • Say something with sincere sunny smiles – and you are winning the room!
  • Say anything with a raised voice in anger and irritation – you are so losing the room
  • The most aggravating irritating unpleasant person can be turned around – with empathy. The power in the words, “I can see your perspective, but here is another one …” is tremendous :-) You never know what the person is going through, but just giving them the respect of empathy, could melt them.
  • The ability to say, “I don’t know the answer to your question, but let’s look into it” is honourable and people respond to it with respect - I learnt this from Cristobal
  • Being judgmental and self-righteous are ineffective and unattractive - in fact it’s idiotic. I remember what a colleague on Wall Street often told me, “Nazli, get over yourself!” ;-)
  • Sincere charm disarms adversaries and makes friends happy to have you as their friend! And actually it is lovely to be in your own company when you are charming.
  • Being irritated and short-tempered does absolutely no good to anyone – it increases your blood pressure, ruins your mood and your day, you make other people feel awful, the bad day follows you around - you don’t solve anything …! On the other hand, being sincerely pleasant puts others at ease, your mood remains sunny, somehow life seems fantastic – and people work with you
  • Being hard does not equate to strength - sometimes the nicest, kindest people you will ever meet are the most resilient and self-assured
  • Appearance sometimes counts for nothing
  • People can sense sincerity - or the lack of
  • Underestimating people is folly
  • Remembering a name makes a big difference
  • When people count on you - it inspires you to never let them down
  • You cannot always make everyone happy - and that's just fine!
To sum it up, a winning smile and a dazzling laugh can win a day!

This leads me to "Campaign for Kindness" initiated by the Beautiful Maliha. I LOVE it! So ecxited! Let's got for it. Be nice, be kind, be happy, be dazzling - it only makes you beautiful to be around!

Peace and sunny smiles and dazzling dreams to you!

Music Recommendation: Clay Aiken's new CD - listen to it for free

Callas on La Wally Aria, Ebben, Ne andrò lontana' recommended by Caco

Movie Recommendation: "Little Miss Sunshine" - sunny, crazy, ecclectic - but not ecclesiastic

"O Brother Where Art Thou" recommended by Caco

"Roma" (Spain/Argentina production) - super nice film, "Malena" - a very good one, "Cinema Paradiso" - well we know.. recommended by Fernando

"High Fidelity" recommended by Beth

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday Sunderings ... on Bluegrass and Greenhouses

Having grown up on the concept that “God-created man is greater than man-created religion”, I firmly believe in humanity – irrespective of colour or culture or creed or religion. We all live, we all die – we are all bonded by the human gene.

From the ascension to his papacy, I had thought that Pope Benedict XVI skirted some anti-Islamic tendencies. His opinions are wholly irrelevant to me. What do I care of the opinions of any mortal man, when the Creator of the Universe created me and gives me the opportunity to be alive and to experience this beautiful world? What do I care when the world belongs to me – as it does to you, equally? But to hurt 1 billion people is no good.

However, I find an advantage in the Pope’s recent unfortunate comments. It gives the opportunity for Muslim scholars to present dialogue and discourse that clarifies understanding of the religion by stating the beauty of Islam, e.g. the Koran states to the effect - there is to be no compulsion in religion, true direction is in fact distinct from error …, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alteration of the night and day are the signs for those at heart.., when even one person is killed, God judges that it is all of humanity that has been killed..., etc.

I was at a planetarium recently, looking at moving images of stars, the galaxies and the possible worlds beyond. My soul soared and I felt invincible because I too am a part of that magnificent creation.

At the beginning of this year, I had written that Venezuela and Iran were countries to watch carefully and that underestimating Dr. Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez as “just crazy, idiotic guys”, was dangerous. Better to overestimate and over-reach, than to underestimate and lose.

This weekend was absolutely fantastic! We met Kelly at the bluegrass event, after which we went to a happening spot in town. The man in the Union Jack skirt and plastic spikes on his head with a sticker on his head proclaiming, “I will destroy you” was equally spectacular as the impromptu dance from the girl at the next table. So much laughter and fun; Kelly and Cris bonded till the early morning, which delighted me. Saturday was an all-girls day – dinner, movies and girly-girl stuff and of-course the gorgeous greenhouse.

This summer Cris taught me the magic of panoramic photography; pictures are taken and then pixilated together to create one photo.

A panoramic view of Kelly and me and some unknown man who was determined to stay in the middle of our shot

A panoramic view with my beautiful friend, Kelly

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Pope

"God," the emperor, as the pope quoted, said, "is not pleased by blood -- and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature."

How is it re

Friday, September 15, 2006

Still the Fearless, Still the Fabulous ... Friday

Perhaps I could consider this to be the worst year of my life because the losses are irrecoverable, and the sources of disappointment continually unbelievable. But in fact it is simply the best year of my life, because I discovered what is worth everything in the world to me. That's pretty sexy!

The lessons are too many. But a most critical one being that my instincts are unbendingly supreme. I second guessed myself, conceded to the illusions, ignored the obvious signs, believed the self-righteousness defensiveness disguised in goodness. But alas I see now ... Isolated it would matter not, but in context, smashed my rose tinted glasses and the heart.

Perhaps I could consider that I am a fool - and I am sometimes - but so what ... ? I am a fool for myself, and that's sexy!

On a more essential note, have I mentioned the 3-day Human Rights Symposium we are organizing at the University? In particular I work with the team responsible for the politics and ethics of intervention in human rights – can you imagine how thrilled I am?

Classes are fantastic! Some of the newer students, not familiar with academic protocol, refer to me as “Miss”. Normally I would expect “Dr” at the very least, but given that this is obviously the year of reckoning for me, I realize how unimportant protocol and perception is in the face of basic humanness. I walk out of class on such a delighted high. What does a title matter to the elation of earned respect?

So today is my Fearless Friday again and I am going to win it – rain or shine, mortal or divine.
I could give up on anything in the world, but never on my relentless pursuit of being alive. What a year. What? You say it’s only September?

… and of-course my best friend from college, Kelly, is coming to visit for the weekend. Friday is bluegrass (do you know what bluegrass is ? :-)), Sunday is golfing, Saturday is anything revolving! Please do have a wonderful weekend!

Music Recommendation
"Cosi" by Vittorio Grigolo: it reaches me
"Sun Zara Soniye" by Sonu Nigam

Movie Recommendation:
Can't think of any, off-hand - feel free to suggest :-)

Picturesque AnyDay:

My 'artistic' panoramic rendition of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Monday, September 4, 2006

Maybe Monday I'll ...

... update my calendar with my weekly, bi-weekly, monthly meetings
... write the thank you notes and overdue greetings
... send the card to Susan, overdue by 3 years
... prepare the abstract, heads and spears
... map - with alternates
... schedule work dates
... compose the letter
... be a trendy setter
... make that call
... forgive but never forget the fall

this weekend I came across a quote engraved on a stone

I had read it long before, but this time it shone:
"Let me do all the good I can, to all the people I can, as often as I can, for I shall not pass this way again"
this weekend of sunny rain

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday Sunderings ... waspy fashionistas

There is a wasp in my apartment. It has flown about since last Wednesday. It even sat on my shoulder today for a few seconds before flying onto my laptop screen where it crawled leisurely, stopping only to critique the spelling mistakes underlined in red. I have a wasp for a pet. I am not sure what to feed it, and it seems too polite to help itself. The next step will be to name it.

Manchester United won 2-1 against Watford, keeping my beloved team at the top of the charts!

I was skimming through my monthly dose of fashion magazines littered with glittering girls and one of the adverts for a perfume claimed, "lovely on the inside”. Wow, these magazines have a sense of style and humour too!

The Fall colours, according to InStyle are as follows:
fair skin - "monochromatic palette of steely blues & city grays illuminated with dusty lavenders"
olive skin - "smoky, haunting, poetic forest of grays, plums and mosses"
dark skin - "punctuate fall's deep romantic hues with pieces in black"

This semester, starting Monday, one of the classes I teach has 75 students. Usually it is 25-35 students - so I am naively excited ;-) ;-)

The most unlikely person - one for whom I have no respect - reminded me of something I needed to remember - on magnetism and market value and perception.

Received an e-mail today about this dashing, lively young man of 37 who was pursuing his personal passion of marine biology; he perished in the waters off the coast of Melbourne Beach while diving to capture the greatly elusive sea turtle. Reading about him is simultaneously heart-breaking and uplifting.

Who said the following:
"Whenever there is the possibility of an invasion, people unite and forget about their political criticism. I am sure you cannot impose human rights through falling bombs."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wednesday Wanderings ... on Tell Me Why?

when i was 10, i was gifted a book for my birthday called, "The Big Book of Tell Me Why". i read it day and night; it posed and answered quesitons like: "what does a sponge eat?" "how are seashells formed?", "what is pellagra?", "how is fshion decided?", "why is a four-leaf clover considered lucky?"

i would then pose these questions to my 4 year old brother, and since he did not know the answers, i took great care to explain them to him in my best professor voice.

though my small library is now replaced with computer science books and other seemingly grown up cultured material, I wish there was a big book to tell me why:

  • diet coke with lime tastes better than diet pepsi with lime? (drink water, you unhealthy girl)
  • all my favourite foods are fattening? (try living in Bangladesh or Rwanda)
  • i can't have exactly what i want all the time when i want it? (yeah whatever, cry us a river, Nazli)
  • a new planet was not named, Nazli, after me - what kind of name is 2003 UB313 anyway ? (ok, you actually do have a point there)
  • will my hair not grow faster? (now you are just being over-indulgent)
  • does my neighbour Ron, with an 8th grade education, understand what Harvard/Yale educated politicians cannot? (since when do you equate education with intelligence and empathy, Nazli?)
  • the phrase, "i couldn't care less" does not mean, "I care so much that I could not care any less"? (we really couldn't care less, Nazli)
  • it is acceptable to have "black/ asian" magazines and "black/ asian" fraternities and "black/asian" clubs when "white" equivalents would be mired as racism? (now you treading on dangerous ground, you brown girl you)
  • when the "royals" of Saudi Arabia die they are buried as "ordinary" people in an unmarked grave - why humility in death but extravagance in life? (oh Nazli, you are too ordinary to understand royal affairs)
  • do people value the words of dead people who lived thousands of years ago, over the basic needs of poor people who are alive today? (you ask too many questions, Nazli, go braid your hair or weave a basket)

Eye in the Sky - Tell Me Why

Movie Recommendations:
The Green Butchers: Danish movie
with subtitles about 2 butchers who have a "secret" formula for success - healthy sense of humour required ;-)

Music Recommendations:
From Fernando: "Lost Cause" by Beck and "There She Goes" by Bob Marley (great and simple songs)
From Beth: "Whole Other Bottle of Whiskey" by John Corbett

"Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap (good for any mood)

“What Hurts the Most” and "Life is a Highway" by Rascal Flatts (country music at its best)

“Kabhi Khabie” by Lata Mangeshkar & Mukesh (timeless Indian love song)

“Eye in the Sky” by The Alan Parsons Project (I’ve finally discovered this 80’s sensation)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Picturesque Monday - under the same blue sky ...

On my way to my office, I looked up at the sky - and it took my breath away - what a beautiful world
Panoramic view of the blue blue sky from two angles
Ronaldo y Rooney
My team, Manchester United, won our first match of the season: 5-1 against Fulham. United Forever!

Oh and bit of "brown" news .

"Suspicious" pair were taken off a plane - no details of their "suspicious" behaviour were revealed (oh come on, don't mind our feelings, admit it - their browness made them suspicious)

Family turned away from London Eye for speaking Arabic (self-preservation or paranoia or pure profiling)

... but on the contrapositive note, the 11 people charged in the alleged transatlantic terror plot are indeed brown

... here is a BBC article with reader comments that is relevant

... and by the way, i went back to the same post office today and was faced with a postal worker sporting a mullet; she was distinctly rude to me and only me out of the 6 people in the line. i stopped smiling and became cold & curt, but then i thought, "how could i allow her to erase my smile and warm manners?" (the word is getting around - there is a brown girl in our all-white town)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wednesday Wanderings ... what not to do if you are brown...

(or have an middle eastern name) ... don't ...

1. question the clerk - on Tuesday I went to post a flash drive to the UK but I was not allowed to, in case it had "sensitive" material. People in front of me were sending sealed boxes but I was stopped on my tracks. The postal clerk said, "how do we know you are not sending dangerous documents in this thing?" I told him him to check for the content of the disk (which was all in English) and also asked to see the documentation of items that can be shipped. He said to me, "don't you people know we are on terror alert? We have to protect our citizens."
Imagine the headline if I had lost my temper: "foiled: woman with degree in chemical engineering caught in major computer terrorism US-UK ring"

2. carry or buy more than one cell phone - oops I guess I have to cut down on efficieny between my Palm Treo for business and the Sony Ericsson camera phone for pleasure

3. photograph bridges, buildings, beaches, buses, basics ... best not to take photographs of anything because anything could be a terror target ...

4. travel ...or go on vacation ... in fact don't leave home if you are brown

5. have any documents in Arabic - they look "dangerous"

6. mention peaceful words like 'insh'allah' or 'salaam walaaikum' - they sound "dangerous"

7. air your opinions about the Arab-Israeli war, as humanitarian and unbiased as they may be

8. ask for a glass of water or any liquid on a plane - what? you are flying? no - remember - stay at home

9. lighten your hair in an attempt to blend in - you still look brown, dear - but do try a British accent, it distracts people from the browness

10. sun tan in the hopes of becoming darker - that opens up another barrage of problems

11. think your rich personal cultures of thousands of years matter - what culture? you are brown and thus a possible terrorist and that's that

12. stand around in groups talking in non-English - you may make others uncomfortable (because hindi/ bengali/ arabic/ urdu are all the same and "dangerous")

13. get degrees in chemical engineering or computer science (oh, why did I not pursue my childhood dream of becoming a superstar?)

14. wear an hermes scarf of a particular print and be mistaken for you know who

15. wear long coats - even in winter - freeze rather than be mistaken for a you know what

16. change your currently 'brown" surname of Ahamed/Ali/ Azim etc. to Brown (come on now, that's just silly ;-))

17. recite the Koran on the NYC subways - look, just because that guy in white recites the Bible and damns you to hell while you are trying to catch your morning nap on the train, does not mean you too will receive the same indifferent sleepy reaction from the passengers on reciting Sura Al-Fatiha

(18-20 contributed by Maliha)
18. Dare to have an opinion contrary to the official version of Truth from the FOX NEWS table

19. Express your opinion in a public place; like a rally: (the last time we went people yelled "if you don't like it here: GO HOME!"; we ARE at home idiots; and protesting/dissent is as American as you can get.)

20. Walk around in a Hijab/Scarf for a woman/ bearded for a man (worse still is being a couple) and daring to display your Muslim-ness in public.

these apply heavily to male browns - while female browns can sometimes counteract the impact of being brown by being pretty, smiling and appearing docile and simple

Movie Recommendation: "An Inconvenient Truth" - Al Gore presents scientific research articulately using effective graphics. I am inspired to do my part (even as inconveniently brown as I am)

Music Recommendation:
"My Universe": Minerve - the music takes me on - in my car, office, ipod, laptop, my universe
"Ae Mere Humsafar": Alka Yagnik & Udit Narayan - popular Indian anthem of some of the brown people from the movie "Qayamat se Qayamat Tak", takes my breath away (English Translation)

Best Regards,
Nazli (Brownyn for the day)