SARS

The major signal processing annual conference has been cancelled due to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

The 2003 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP) scheduled for 6-10 April in Hong Kong has been cancelled due to the recent outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The annual conference is sponsored by the IEEE Signal Processing Society.

IEEE Signal Processing Society President Dr. Richard V. Cox said the decision was an extremely difficult one, “ICASSP has been held annually since 1976, but the health and safety of the conference participants became our paramount consideration.”

Cox said, “We have been following the progress of SARS in Hong Kong for the past few weeks. Because the number of people infected with the illness has continued to grow, the IEEE Signal Processing Society concluded that it would not be prudent to host more than 1,400 international conference participants in the city.”

Savannah

A friend and I visited Savannah, GA on saturday. It is an interesting town with a lot more history than Atlanta. We wandered around in the historic district and the riverfront. We visited Savannah history museum which was kind of small. It had some good information about the history of the city. It seemed to me though that Savannah hasn’t done well since cotton ceased to a major crop. We also visited Fort Pulaski national monument which was captured by Union forces in 1862. Visiting the Civil war sites is always interesting; one strange aspect of it is that the history told at these sites, whether they are in the former confederacy or not, is always neutral and from the point of view of the soldiers rather than the whole picture. Yes, the soldiers fought bravely but was it worth it? Were they defending a worthy cause? Were they on the wrong side? It is interesting that conservatives in general make judgments about Iraqis and Arabs etc. so easily but still hesitate about the Civil War more than 130 years later. Is it conservative post-modernism and moral relativism?

We also saw a number of other historic buildings like this mansion from early 19th century. Whenever I go near the ocean, I have to visit the beach as I love beaches (a result of living for 6 years on the Mediterranean coast). So off we went to Tybee Island, but I was disappointed. The beach was sort of like the ones in New Jersey. As was befitting, we had traditional southern food for lunch at Nita’s place and seafood for dinner on River Street.

Light Blogging

I haven’t been blogging much recently. Real life has interfered. I am working on my research, preparing a presentation and will be doing some grading this week as well. I’ll try to post as often as my schedule allows. I still have to finish the marriage series (starts here) with the last post on arranged marriage. I also promised quite some time ago to write about slavery. I have done some research for that and will start posting soon. I finished reading Gilles Kepel’s Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam and will have some thoughts on it soon. Then, I also want to show you some non-political aspects of Pakistan. So there will be lots of interesting stuff, though at a lighter schedule.

Political Quiz

Liberal
Where do you fall on the liberal – conservative political spectrum? (United States)

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(Via CalPundit)

World Tour

This blog has received visits from 44 countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, France, Japan, South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Singapore, Mexico, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Norway, Thailand, Portugal, Taiwan, Pakistan, Finland, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Latvia, Estonia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Romania, Turkey, Philippines, Poland, Costa Rica, Croatia, Colombia, Jordan, Denmark, Greece.

The Head Heeb has been writing about the countries he has received visits from. I have learned quite a few things from his posts. Here are the links for his series:

When I have a little more time, I would like to cover some interesting non-political aspects of Pakistan. And if I am crazy, I might cover all the countries I have visited or lived in (13 at last count).

Shariah in NWFP

The religious parties government in the province of NWFP in Pakistan has introduced legislation to enforce shariah in the province.

The NWFP government has decided to enforce Islamic Shariat in the province by introducing Enforcement of Shariat Act and Provincial Accountability Act in the provincial assembly.

Speaking at a news conference here on Friday, the NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani unveiled the salient features of the Islamic Shariat programme. He said that Islamic Shariat would be the supreme law in the province, and Quran and Sunnah would be the sources of guidance for future legislation in the NWFP. All the provincial laws would be brought in conformity with the Islamic Shariat, he said. “All laws falling within the ambit of the provincial assembly will be made compatible with the Shariat. And all courts will be free to interpret the Shariat laws,” he added. After the approval of the Shariat Act, he said, the government would formulate various sets of laws to run the affairs of the economy, judiciary, education and media in the light of Islamic laws.

Pakistan has a federal system (here is the constitution), but the federal government usually interferes in provincial affairs. I am not sure how much change the provincial government can bring about. Also, what would be the effects of the legislation on the ordinary daily life of people? A lot of times the religious parties have been involved in useless activities like banning cable TV, music, enforcing covering of head by women on TV, etc. The following however would have good results if implemented:

Education, up to middle, has been made compulsory, he declared. Health budget would be enhanced and more teaching hospitals would be built. Life-saving drugs would be provided to patients free of cost. The wedding under duress, tradition of Swaray, honour-killing and selling of women would invite punishment. The honour-killing would be treated as wilful murder, he added. Punitive action would be taken if women were deprived of hereditary property.

The minorities would be free to preach, promote and perform their religious rituals like Muslims. All minorities would enjoy the same civic, political, economic and other rights guaranteed to the Muslim majority, he said, adding that their places of worship will be protected at all costs.

And finally, something straight out of Saudi Arabia and Taliban:

He hoped that high-ranking officials would make themselves punctual in offering prayers during the working hours at their offices. He asked the traders associations to close their businesses during the prayer time.

Best Movie

CalPundit has a ranking of the best movie nominees for Oscar. Since I have seen all of them as well, here’s my ranking:

  1. The Pianist
  2. The Hours
  3. Chicago
  4. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  5. Gangs of New York

CalPundit did not like The Pianist. I agree that the film does become a bit detached near the end, but overall I liked it very much. The Hours was pretty good as well excepting the scenes of Ed Harris which were atrocious. Since I am partial to musicals (culture, may be?) Chicago worked well for me, though I don’t think it should get any of the actor/actress awards. I am a Tolkein fanatic, so I obviously loved The Two Towers (though I liked the books better than the movies) but it is definitely a movie without a beginning or an end.