No LOTR Marathon

I am forgetful. I got busy and totally forgot about the Lord of the Rings trilogy screening. I should have gotten tickets for it a long time ago. It’s actually showing in a number of theaters in the area, one in New Brunswick really close by. But I forgot and what a big mistake it was. Last night, I tried to find any theater within 300 miles which wasn’t sold out but found zero, zilch, none.

So now on to my backup plan. The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition is out of the theaters now. So we’ll try to rent it tonight and watch it at home. Then tomorrow we plan to watch the extended edition of The Two Towers in a theater. The last movie, The Return of the King comes out on Wednesday. We are still mulling over whether we should watch it in a neighborhood theater or drive more than an hour to a “Giant screen” showing at an IMAX.

Going Home

I am going home (New Jersey) for the holidays. I’ll be there for 3 weeks. Blogging will continue regularly on weekdays while weekends will be spent away from the computer with Amber.

Asia Weblog Awards

Asia Weblog Awards

Flying Chairs is hosting the first Asia Weblog Awards. Categories include best weblogs from a number of Asian countries and also by subject. You can nominate weblogs as well as vote for existing nominations. Phil has put in a lot of effort and is doing a great job organizing this. So, thanks, Phil.

One of the categories is the Best Pakistan Blog. Someone has nominated my weblog in that category. Thank you, stranger. I am not sure I qualify. Yes, I am a Pakistani and lived for more than 20 years in Pakistan. However, I am now living in the US for the last 6 years. I do write about Pakistan from time to time but that is not the main focus of my blog. So I am not sure whether I should ask people to go vote for me or should ask Phil to remove my blog from the list. According to Phil,

Those of you who have Weblogs either in or about Asia (it is the subject matter that counts, not your precise location so people should use their best judgement) please tell everyone to vote/nominate or at least vote for you.

I guess I’ll leave it up to you guys. If you think I don’t qualify, please leave a comment here. If I do, go to Phil’s site and vote for me.

Blog Milestones

Congratulations to Conrad Barwa for the 1500th comment.

Also, my weblog now has had visitors from 100 countries. (Probably not technically accurate since I determined that by the top-level domains in DNS lookups of the IP addresses.) The latest two countries: Guyana and Sri Lanka.

Some time in the last month or so, I also passed a total of 50,000 visits according to Sitemeter. As an aside, Sitemeter consistently undercounts my visitors. There have been times when I am chatting with Amber or my sister and even though they are visiting my blog at the time, Sitemeter does not show any visit. However, the Apache logs on my server confirm their visit.

What State Is Perfect For You?

california
California is where you should live. Unless of course you lied on the quiz which would be stupid. It’s crowded as balls there but the weather is perfect, except for the occasional earthquake.

What State Is Perfect For You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via Virginia Postrel.

Gay Marriage

Reading the post on Muslims Under Progress (about American Muslim tilt to the left and how that is wrong because of the left’s support of among other things gay rights) as well as several posts on Alas, a Blog, I was reminded of a discussion Amber and I had recently. No, I am not going to talk about gay rights from the Islamic perspective.

We were talking about gay civil unions and decided that both of us were against having civil unions for gays. Why? Because what exactly is a civil union? If it is something very similar to marriage, then what quacks like a duck is a duck regardless of our word games. On the other hand, if civil unions have fewer rights and privileges than marriage, that could result in problems. For example, will civil unions be restricted to only gays? Or will heterosexual couples be allowed to get into civil unions? I can’t see a way to restrict civil unions. Thus, we’ll create another category. Now, I am with conservatives on the sanctity of marriage. I think it’s an important institution. But it seems to me that civil unions actually degrade marriage by providing another path to couples, probably both gay and straight, to share their lives.

The solution is simple. It’s gay marriage. Open up the institution of marriage to gays, but provide all the privileges of couplehood only to married couples. Let’s not dilute marriage by giving the same privileges to civil unions and couples shacking up.

December

December is an important month in my life. I got married on December 1 and got engaged in the same month as well. But a long time ago, I was born in the same month on Pearl Harbor Day at 11:15am Pakistan Standard Time (1:15am Eastern Time or 6:15am UTC/GMT) in Wah Cantt, Pakistan, a town about 25 miles (40km) from the capital Islamabad. I turn 33 today.

Munira, Mom, Fowzi, Dad, me in Wah Me in Rawalpindi Munira, me, Fowzi
Munira, Fowzi, me Munira, me, Mom, Fowzi, Grandpa in England Fowzi, Munira, me in England
Munira, me, Fowzi in Germany Fowzi, Munira, me in Germany Munira, Mom, Fowzi, me in Libya
Me, Dad, Fowzi, Mom, Munira in Libya Munira, me, Fowzi in Libya Munira, a relative & his wife, Fowzi, Mom, me in Libya
Fowzi, me, Munira in Libya Fowzi, me, Munira, a neighbor kid in Libya Munira, me, Fowzi in Libya
Fowzi, Dad, Mom, Munira, me in Libya Fowzi, me, Munira in Libya Fowzi, me, Munira, Mom
Dad, Munira, Mom, me in Murree Munira, Fowzi, me in Rawalpindi Me with high school friends
Me in Khanpur Me with college friends Me in Kaghan
Me and Amber at our wedding reception Me at Satpara Lake My first car
MS commencement Skiing in Vermont Redwood National Park
Amber & me at Grand Canyon Me hiking the Appalachian trail Ocoee river, TN

Sorry, I am too lazy to caption these photos. Hope you can recognize me in all the pictures. [UPDATE: Captions added; hover your mouse pointer over the thumbnails to see.]

Special thanks to my sister Munira for scanning most of the photographs of the younger me.

I celebrated with a dinner with a few friends at Sal Grosso, a Brazilian steakhouse. A somewhat expensive restaurant, but excellent food and the concept is great as well. I think it’s called a “rodizio” where waiters wander around the room and serve you with different meats when you turn the token on your table to green. I want to go there again soon.

Last Time Grading

This is my last time grading, as a TA that is. I might have to grade stuff for the rest of my life if I join academia. Anyway, for now I am happy that this is the end of grading. Make that I’ll be happy by Monday. The class project I have to grade will take up most of my weekend.

I’ll, however, be blogging whenever I get tired of grading. I have finished reading Moth Smoke : A Novel by Mohsin Hamid and a review will be coming up soon. I also scanned some photographs for posting. Plus whatever fancies me while grading.

Hope in Conflicts?

There have been some positive developments in two major conflicts recently. I am not sure whether these will amount to much as a little progress is often followed by a lot of backtracking. But may be I’ll be proven wrong this time.

In the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan:

  • Moderate Kashmiri separatists of the All Party Huriyat Conference have welcomed Indian offers of talks.
  • Pakistan and India have declared a ceasefire along the Line of Control in Kashmir after many years of constant shelling.
  • Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee says he’ll meet Pakistani PM Jamali at a regional summit in January.

Meanwhile, in the Israel-Palestine conflict:

  • Israeli army Chief of Staff Ya’alon has criticized government’s hardline security policies.
  • Four former directors of Israel’s Shin Bet security service have also been critical of PM Sharon’s policy.
  • Israeli PM Sharon has announced plans to evacuate some settlements by summer 2004.
  • According to a poll, a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians support the Geneva Accords.
  • Colin Powell is meeting the authors of the Geneva Accord in Washington today.

(Links via The Head Heeb who just celebrated his first blogiversary.)

Frankly, I am not very optimistic. I have gotten very cynical and pessimistic about the prospects of peace in both these conflicts. But we’ll see.

An Impressive Endorsement

Brian Ulrich has a very good and idealistic post explaining his endorsement for the Presidential election next year.

One day a couple of summers ago, I was wandering with some friends through the streets of Madaba, Jordan, looking for a hotel. We met a man who told us we were on the wrong side of town, but who insisted on closing his shop to give us a ride, saying that he was planning to go to New York in November and hoped people there would do the same for him. On that same trip, I had a taxi driver from Irbid, who asked if it was true than in the United States Muslims, Jews and Christians all lived together peacefully. A friend said it was, and he replied that he wished he could live in a place like that. Later, I went into Syria where I met a politically minded man who had many quarrels with American policy toward Iraq, Israel and the world at large, but who also spoke about American freedom and democracy as among the highest ideals toward which the peoples of the world aspired.

I’ve always been a bit skeptical of whether that man in Madaba would have gotten rides from random New Yorkers, but he and the others I have just mentioned were to something about America, something highlighted even more a few weeks later on September 11, 2001. That day, 19 members of a terrorist organization whom many would see as the face of Islam killed 3000 Americans at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

One of my professors was at a conference in Istanbul that day. When he returned, he told us that one thing he had noticed there was that people who had always seen the U.S. through a lens of flashy Hollywood movies and newscasts saw this country in a way they never had before, as for the first time the politicians and action heroes were displaced by police and firemen and medical workers. And even a cursory glance through the media shows that on that day, the world mourned as flowers were left at embassies, moments of silence were observed, and Arab students sitting in a Gulf classroom angrily announced the attacks as haram, a word the use of which would normally be punished but on this day was not as people who knew very well that al-Qaeda’s threats extended to more than just the U.S. wondered who might be next, and as all could see that the victims of these attacks were of a multitude of creeds and nationalities, drawn to these shores by a dream and an idea with which this nation is forever associated.

That idea, the idea touched upon by the Irbid taxi driver, the Madaba shopkeeper, the Syrian idealist and many others I have met over the years is community. For at the core of our being, Americans are builders of communities, and all our many debates revolve around one single question: How do we make our communities better.

Wow! My bad, cynical side wanted to ridicule all political leaders, but his post is too uplifting and moving.

You’ll have to go to Brian’s blog to find out who he endorsed.