Life of Brian

Monty Python are great in this comedy about Brian, whose life follows that of Jesus in some ways.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian is a great comedy about Brian who’s born at the same time as Jesus and is mistaken as the Messiah. There are lots of fun moments in the movie and I loved the religious satire.

Amber had some problem with the accent/speaking style especially since we were watching it late at night with the volume really low to avoid waking up Michelle.

I loved the movie and would rate it 8/10 only because the DVD production wasn’t so good.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani

Yusuf Raza Gillani has been elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. Here is some news and analysis on his election.

Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani of Pakistan Peoples Party has been elected Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Mr Gillani won the parliamentary vote by 264 votes to the 42 of Musharraf ally Chaudhry Pervez Elahi.

Who is Yusuf Raza Gillani? He belongs to a prominent feudal-spiritual family in the south Punjab city of Multan. His family has been active in politics in the area since the early 20th century. Mr Gilani was first elected chairman of the Union Council, Multan in the 1983 local bodies elections during Zia rule. Then he joined Junejo’s government as a minister of housing and railways. He parted ways with the Junejo Muslim League and joined Benazir Bhutto’s PPP around the time Junejo’s government was dismissed in 1988 by Zia.

In 1993, during the second Benazir Bhutto government, he was elected Speaker of the National Assembly. In 1995, Mr Gillani, as Speaker, issued instructions for the release of parliamentarians detained by his own PPP government. When the interior ministry refused to oblige, he had the matter brought on record.

He, like most PPP candidates in Punjab, lost the 1997 election when Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N(Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz Group) swept the province. Then, during Musharraf’s martial law in 2001, Gillani was convicted over illegal government appointments when he was Speaker. He spent the next five years in jail, being released in late 2006 on a court order.

After being elected Prime Minister, Gillani made a speech in Parliament (video here).

In a maiden speech on the floor of National Assembly after he was elected as Prime Minister, he said, “I request the national assembly as my first job to pass a resolution for UN probe into the assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.”

Elaborating the top priorities of the new government, the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani vowed to take all out efforts for the supremacy of parliament.

He also said the National Assembly should pass another resolution to apologize to the nation for hanging of Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto.

Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani also said that he would issue the immediate directives for release of the held judges.

Gillani also vowed to take efforts for the resolution of multiple problems of people, saying, “ We realize that the people of the country confront several problems including shortage of electrify.”

“Today, democracy has been restored thanks to the great sacrifice of Benazir Bhutto,” the 55-year-old Gilani, wearing a dark suit and tie, said in his first speech to parliament.

“I invite all political forces to join us because the country is facing such a crisis that a single man cannot save it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice deposed by Musharraf’s “emergency” last year and under house arrest since then came out of his house and was greeted by supporters.

Deposed chief justice, Chaudhry Iftikhar Muhammad Chuadhry along with his family members came out of his house Monday evening, marking an end to his and his family’s more than five month long detention.

People who gathered outside Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s residence warmly welcomed him when he came out with his family members.

He acknowledged the welcoming slogans of the people by waving his hands.

President Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitezaz Ahsan and Justice (Retd.) Tariq Mehmood and others accompanied Chaudhry Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The lawyers movement’s demands, including the restoration of the large number of superior court judges, would probably be the first important task for this government. President Musharraf has claimed that it is not constitutionally possible to bring the judges back, but then Musharraf’s action itself wasn’t constitutional.

There has been lots of speculation about why Yusuf Raza Gilani was chosen for the Prime Ministerial slot. In my opinion, there are a number of factors. First, Zardari wanted someone who did not have power on his own and was dependent on Zardari. The election of Fehmida Mirza as Speaker was also part of the same process, as she and her husband MPA Zulfiqar Mirza are close to Asif Zardari.

Second, both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif probably wanted someone who had remained completely loyal and had not had any kind of relationship with Musharraf.

Third, Zardari would like to be able to have the option to remove the current Prime Minister for another or even for himself later as well as keep his kingmaker role now with a lot of behind the scenes power. A somewhat weak Prime Minister would fit right in for that strategy. Yusuf Raza Gillani’s statement after being nominated about staying as PM only as long as the party wants him to is suggestive in this regard.

Fourth, once the idea of a Prime Minister from Punjab was floated, it was in Nawaz Sharif’s interest for the PPP to select someone from the southern feudal families since such a choice wouldn’t encroach on the PML-N’s stronghold in the more urban central and northern Punjab.

I, on the other hand, would have preferred Zardari himself as Prime Minister because that would be a much more transparent system with fewer power centers.

Nikon D80

I bought a digital SLR, Nikon D80 and love it.

As I mentioned earlier, I had been looking for a digital SLR camera. And look here it is:

Nikon D80 Box
Nikon D80
Nikon D80
Nikon D80 and accessories
Nikon D80 and Sony DSC-F707
 

My old camera, Sony Cybershot DSC-F707, has given good results for more than 5 years. But I was outgrowing it and there was also the delay in taking a shot after pressing the button which resulted in missed photos of the always-on-the-move 3 year old.

I bought Nikon D80 with the 18-135mm lens from B&H.

I liked the extra features in the D80 as compared to the entry level DSLRs (Nikon D40x and Canon Rebel XTi). And when one is buying an SLR, the lenses are more important than the camera body. Looking at the Nikon and Canon lenses, it seemed to me that Nikon has better consumer lenses. Canon has good pro lenses but I don’t think I can afford those.

I thought about the different lenses to buy and then chose the 18-135mm. With the 1.5x factor due to the smaller sensor, this lens is equivalent to a 27-205mm lens on a 35mm camera. This lens has decent performance and has enough zoom capability that most of the time I can make do with just one lens and don’t have to switch lenses.

In the near future, I plan to buy the following in order of priority:

  1. Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash
  2. Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens which would be a perfect, fast portrait lens
  3. Nikon 70-300mm VR Zoom Nikkor Lens for nature photography

I have been very pleased with the results of the D80.

Enchanted

This was our 3 year old’s first movie at the theater. So we had to choose something she would like and Enchanted was a good movie.

On December 28, we went to watch Michelle’s first movie in a movie theater. The movie we chose was Enchanted since Michelle is into fairy tales nowadays.

We have a decent collection of kids’ movies on DVD at home. Also, Michelle has been to a few puppet shows. Then there was the Deepo’s Undersea 3D Wondershow at the 4D theater at the aquarium. The special effects (throwing of water on us, etc) scared Michelle.

Anyway, Michelle was excited about watching a movie at the theater. We decided to go to an early afternoon show. When we went in, Michelle got on her seat and started watching the big screen attentively. I told her the movie hadn’t started yet, but she asked me to be quiet.

Amber brought some popcorns, chocolate and soda for us and we watched the movie while snacking. Michelle was so engrossed in the movie that she wouldn’t even look away.

Then near the end, Michelle decided to go explore. She went and sat in the empty seats in the front.

Michelle did get a little scared when the dragon showed up, but otherwise she enjoyed the movie a lot. We were surprised at her perseverance as she usually doesn’t watch complete movies at home. All of us had a good time.

Enchanted is a good movie for kids who like fairy tales and princesses. I rate it 7/10.

Black Flag Week

Aitzaz Ahsan has declared this week to be Black Flag Week to protest for the restoration of the Pakistani judiciary. Let’s all take part in this week.

Black Flag Week

Aitzaz Ahsan, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, has called for a black flag week for this week, March 9-16, to protest the suspension of the Chief Justice last year on March 9 and then the dismissal of the superior judiciary in Musharraf’s November 2007 martial law.

The rule of law is a very important thing in any country and an independent judiciary is an essential part of that. This is what Musharraf has tried to destroy and the lawyers have been protesting. We should support the lawyers movement and this Black Flag Week is part of that support. So I urge you to attend Black Flag Week events or at least wear black armband or put a black flag or ribbon etc on your website/blog.

BTW, Teeth Maestro has good coverage of this week.

Here’s Aitzaz Ahsan’s call for Black Flag Week.

Aliens

Aliens is a sequel to Alien. Watching these old movies again is fun. Both Alien and Aliens are great but the later sequels not so much.

Watching old movies that I last watched a long time ago continues.

Aliens is a sequel to Alien. While Alien was a horror movie, the sequel is basically an action flick which continues the story of Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver.

Amber’s maternal instincts kicked in during the movie and she was very worried about the little girl Newt.

Overall, it was a good action movie and I rate it 8/10.

I never watched Aliens3 or Alien: Resurrection and have no plans of doing so.

How Zack Buys a New PC

I decided to build my own desktop again after my Dell laptop troubles. Finding everything at Fry’s was easy and assembling it was fun.

The title has been shamelessly stolen from Photodude.

Last July, I was having a lot of trouble with my Dell laptop. So I wanted to backup the data in my hard drive. I went to Fry’s to get an enclosure for the laptop hard disk so I could connect it via USB to my old desktop. There I started looking at computer components. But in the end returned with only the USB enclosure.

By the weekend, I had decided I wanted a new desktop since my old one was almost 8 years old (Pentium III 550MHz) and the laptop was still not working. The good thing is that Fry’s has people who can help you with selecting the appropriate parts for your computer. I do still recommend doing your own research in advance, but they are helpful.

The question that Captain Arrrgh asked was why build one’s own computer. I agree that it is not really cheaper to do that and requires some research and technical know-how. But it is fun. And it gives me an opportunity to wander in Fry’s for hours. Plus I get the exact machine I want.

So here’s what I got:

The hard disk and RAM are in my opinion critical in a computer’s operation, more so than the processor speed. I did not get 4GB since a 32-bit operating system (Windows XP Professional in my case) is limited to about 3.5GB of RAM. Two hard disks, with operating system and programs on one and data on the other, work much better and the Raptor is really fast. My Windows XP boots up so fast I can’t believe it. And Photoshop is also much faster than before.

There was one important factor in selecting the components and that was for the power supply. Not only did I need a power supply with more wattage than required for the components, I also had to check what the current requirements for the individual 5V and 12V rails were.

Assembly was a breeze. The components, especially the processor, need to be handled properly, but that’s it. If you are interested, here are the installation instructions for Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

I ran into a problem while installing Windows and chipset drivers that came with the motherboard. I was getting the dreaded blue screen of death. At first, I suspected the hard disk, but some testing showed it to be a memory problem. Or more accurately a reading problem on my side. The timing settings of the RAM were being read automatically from SPD EEPROM but the voltage setting was not. The motherboard BIOS was defaulting to 1.8V while the memory specifications called for 2.0V. So all I had to do was change that setting manually in the BIOS and it worked perfectly.

It took me a few days to reinstall all the software and get all my data from my old desktop and my laptop.

Later, Michelle demanded a computer of her own, so I gave her my old desktop. Since I didn’t want to buy another copy of Windows, I installed Ubuntu Linux on it. Now I am searching for all kind of programs for young kids for Linux. I installed Debian for Juniors package, GCompris and whatever else I could find on the Ubuntu repositories. My plan is to keep her computer disconnected from the net unless we need to connect for some reason. This will keep all kinds of issues away, I hope.