Chattanooga

A fun day in Chattanooga to celebrate Michelle’s fourth birthday. Here are some photographs from the Tennessee aquarium and Tennessee river gorge.

For Michelle’s fourth birthday, we decided to take the day off and take her to Chattanooga, about 2 hours drive away.

Here are some photographs from the Tennessee Aquarium. We have been to the Georgia Aquarium lots of times and that is huge. Tennessee aquarium is smaller, nothing on the scale of the one in Atlanta, but I think children like it better. Michelle was running from one display to another and showing us all the marine life.

 

We also cruised the Tennessee River Gorge aboard a boat.

 

When we got off the boat, it had started raining. So we went to Hennen’s for dinner. Michelle was tired, but we had a nice dinner, followed by a chocolate cake and ice cream complete with candle on top to celebrate Michelle turning four.

Ratatouille

It’s an animated movie about a rat who wants to be a chef. Absolutely amazing!

Ratatouille is an animated movie about a rat who’s a foodie and teams up with a garbage boy at a French restaurant to cook lovely food.

The rats in the kitchen did not bother me at all and neither should they bother you. After all, this is only a movie!

I didn’t get to watch it in one sitting because I had to watch it multiple times with Michelle. But all three of us loved the movie. I rate it 9/10 and plan to watch it with Michelle several (hundred) more times.

Iron Man

Iron Man is a decent superhero movie, worth watching, though it’s no Spider Man or Batman Begins.

Iron Man is another comic book superhero turned into a movie.

In recent years, there have been quite a few good supehero movies and this is no exception. The plot has some holes and is a bit weak at times, but the movie delights.

If you stayed till after the credits, there was an extra scene setting up The Avengers movie.

Michelle got hold of an Iron man toy at McDonald’s and wouldn’t stop talking about Iron man. We thought about taking her to watch the movie but after reading reviews thought that it wasn’t appropriate for a 3 year old.

Overall, I rate Iron Man 8/10.

Hilton Head

We went to the beach on memorial day weekend where we had a lot of fun and ate lots of great seafood.

As is our tradition, we went to the beach for the Memorial Day long weekend. This trip was to Hilton Head Island, SC.

We spent most of our time there on the beach. Michelle was very excited about getting into the water. The first day she spent most of the time in the ocean, but on the second day, it was very windy and the waves were much higher. She would go into the water and then run back when a wave crashed on the shore.

Here are some photographs.

A Bird
Birds flying
Wave crashing
Ocean
Waves
More waves
Beach 1
Beach 2
Waves
Riding the waves
Sunset
Pier
 

We had some great dinners there. At Truffles Grill, I had salmon with mango barbeque glaze which was heavenly. CQ’s the next night was pretty good too. We sat outside at Old Fort Pub where I had a very tasty Bouillabaisse.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Kid was frightened at some of the fight scenes but was otherwise engrossed in this movie.

Michelle has been excited about watching movies at the theater since she enjoyed Enchanted. So we decided to take her to see The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

That wasn’t such a great idea since I didn’t realize how much violence there would be in the movie. Michelle was scared of the fight scenes. On the other hand, she was so engrossed in the movie that she didn’t even look away when she was scared.

Since Michelle enjoyed the movie despite some scary stuff, I would rate it 7/10.

Inheritance and Islam

As parents, we decided that we needed to write a will to decide who we wanted to be guardians for our child and how we wanted our estate distributed. The Islamic laws were not what we wanted.

As parents, we decided that we needed a will. Therefore, some net surfing and searching was warranted in the name of research.

Looking at Georgia law spouse and children share equally if there is no will. In case of no spouse or children, parents are considered 2nd degree relatives, siblings 3rd degree and grandparents 4th degree.

Upon the death of an individual who is survived by a spouse but not by any child or other descendant, the spouse is the sole heir. If the decedent is also survived by any child or other descendant, the spouse shall share equally with the children, with the descendants of any deceased child taking that child’s share, per stirpes; provided, however, that the spouse’s portion shall not be less than a one-third share;

The problem for us here was that with a minor child, too much of the estate might be tied up until she’s older.

Of course, I had to search for what Islamic wills were out there and I found one from a major Atlanta mosque. When I first looked at the document, it just said that the distribution of the estate should be according to Shariah, which didn’t make any sense since who was supposed to figure that out. Now the document goes in some detail. However, I was surprised by this section:

I direct and ordain that any heir, declared as non-Muslim at the time of my death, be disregarded and disqualified in the application of Section B of Article V.

So anyone “declared as non-Muslim” can’t inherit from a Muslim. I decided to check some online Islamic sites. According to Sunnipath, a Muslim can’t inherit from a non-Muslim and a non-Muslim can’t inherit from a Muslim. However, a bequest can be made either way. The Salafi site Islam Q&A also has some information where they restrict even the bequest somewhat.

According to the Twelver Shia website, a Muslim can inherit from a non-Muslim but a non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim.

This whole approach to inheritance is communitarian instead of individualistic. It looks like the community has major rights on the estate since these rulings make it difficult for the estate to leave a particular religious community regardless of how closely related some members of different communities might be.

There is another problem with this approach. Who decides who’s a Muslim or not? Islam Q&A provides a hint:

If you believe that the person who does not pray is a kaafir and apostate – which is the correct view, and Allaah knows best – it is not permissible for a kaafir to inherit anything from a Muslim’s wealth, or for a Muslim to inherit anything from a kaafir’s wealth.

This same principle might be applied by the same group to any sects/groups they consider heretic or non-Muslim. In that direction lies madness in my view.

SunniPath has guidelines on preparing one’s will according to Islamic principles, which contains this odd tidbit:

It is worth remembering here that along with one’s written Will, one should have a separate document stipulating the number of unperformed prayers, missed fasts, unpaid Zakat, unperformed Hajj, any other religious obligations and debts payable to the servants of Allah.

One must strive in accomplishing these obligations in one’s life, and make the necessary amendments to the document whenever an obligation is fulfilled. For example: One had 500 unperformed prayers. In such a case one should stipulate this in the document. Thereafter, whenever, a prayer is made up, it should be deducted from the total of 500. This “important” document should be attached with the Will in order to let the relatives know of one’s obligations and liabilities after one’s death.

While searching on inheritance information, I found this software that can calculate inheritance shares according to Islamic laws. That’s cool.

I would recommend that you read Quran’s verses about inheritance law too.

From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large,-a determinate share. But if at the time of division other relatives, or orphans or poor, are present, feed them out of the (property), and speak to them words of kindness and justice. Let those (disposing of an estate) have the same fear in their minds as they would have for their own if they had left a helpless family behind: Let them fear Allah, and speak words of appropriate (comfort). Those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, eat up a Fire into their own bodies: They will soon be enduring a Blazing Fire! Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children’s (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half. For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance to each, if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased Left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth. (The distribution in all cases (’s) after the payment of legacies and debts. Ye know not whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. These are settled portions ordained by Allah; and Allah is All-knowing, Al-wise. In what your wives leave, your share is a half, if they leave no child; but if they leave a child, ye get a fourth; after payment of legacies and debts. In what ye leave, their share is a fourth, if ye leave no child; but if ye leave a child, they get an eighth; after payment of legacies and debts. If the man or woman whose inheritance is in question, has left neither ascendants nor descendants, but has left a brother or a sister, each one of the two gets a sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third; after payment of legacies and debts; so that no loss is caused (to any one). Thus is it ordained by Allah; and Allah is All-knowing, Most Forbearing.

My thoughts about this system of dividing up the estate is that it requires very specific social conditions, with a communitarian ethos where women are generally taken care of by men they are related to. In an individualistic society, this distribution leaves women in a bad situation. As parents of a girl, we are particularly sensitive to these issues.

Finally, the most important thing in our will (and the real reason we wrote one) is the issue of guardianship of our daughter in case both of us die. As immigrants living far away from parents and siblings, this was a difficult problem. We won’t want to remove her from familiar surroundings of the US but at the same time we couldn’t leave her with someone who’s not closely related. In the end, we decided that only her grandparents, uncles and aunts could be trusted.

Atlanta Zoo

We visited the Atlanta Zoo recently. Here are some photographs from that visit.

Some time ago, we went to Atlanta Zoo. Michelle was so excited to be there. She was running from one animal enclosure to the next, trying to see all the animals. It was a great trip. I myself spent a lot of time on the gorillas and took lots of photos.

Flamingos
Warthog
Elephant
Rhinoceros and Zebras
Zebra
Giraffe
Lion
Unknown
Unknown
Elephant
Gorilla
Gorilla
Gorilla
Gorilla
Gorilla
Orangutan
Snake
Gila Monster
Panda
 

I am hoping next time I’ll have the 70-300mm lens for closeups.

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.

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.

Global Gender Attitudes

I count the reasons why I won’t raise my daughter in Pakistan. The attitudes of Pakistanis towards women leave a lot to be desired and women don’t have much opportunity there.

This could also be titled Why I won’t raise my daughter in Pakistan.

There was a discussion among the Urdu bloggers last month about women in Pakistan and especially the staring they have to encounter. Rashid started the discussion. Farhat gave some examples of the difficulties women have to endure and then explained her point of view. Qadeer gave some examples of how women are harassed. Badtameez talked about the reasons of this harassment and staring in his usual inimitable, meandering style. Mera Pakistan discussed the issue and then suggested some solutions. Qadeer also lamented how women are not given their due role in society in Pakistan. Mawra also pontificated on the topic of men staring women in Pakistan. My Dad gave some examples from his youth, discussed whether this problem is limited to Pakistanis and gave some final comments.

I am not very interested in the staring issue myself since I don’t live in Pakistan. However, the larger issue of the role and place of women in society interests me very much. As mentioned above, I do worry about my daughter and how she can have the best opportunities despite the fact that women haven’t achieved equality in any society. With that personal note, I’ll focus on actual survey data rather than anecdotes.

Let’s look at the Pew Global Attitudes Survey, specifically Chapter 5: Views on Gender Issues.

People were asked if it is more important to educate boys or girls or both equally. Here are the responses from a few select countries:

Country Boys Girls Both equally
United States 1% 1% 98%
Turkey 4% 9% 86%
Egypt 22% 4% 73%
India 6% 8% 86%
Pakistan 17% 7% 74%
Bangladesh 8% 3% 89%

Egypt is the worst on this question, but Pakistan is pretty bad too. Compare Pakistan to the rest of the subcontinent and Pakistan looks so much worse than even Bangladesh.

Another question is who makes better political leaders:

Country Men Women Both equally
United States 16% 6% 75%
Sweden 3% 6% 90%
Pakistan 54% 8% 32%
Bangladesh 52% 8% 41%
India 19% 17% 62%

It looks like Indians like Indira Gandhi much better than Pakistanis like Benazir Bhutto and Bangladeshis like Khaleda Zia or Haseena Wajid. It is strange though that PPP (which was led by Benazir Bhutto until her assassination on December 27) has a solid vote of a third of the Pakistani voters, but even some of them think men are better politicians.

The worst is yet to come though: There was one question on the survey asking who should choose a woman’s husband. The options given were woman or family. A lot of people in traditional societies, however, were intelligent enough to volunteer an answer of “both”, except of course Pakistanis.

Country Woman should choose Family should choose Both should have a say
Brazil 97% 1% 2%
Turkey 58% 9% 32%
Egypt 21% 26% 53%
Indonesia 64% 9% 27%
India 26% 24% 49%
Bangladesh 12% 36% 52%
Pakistan 6% 55% 38%

Pakistan was the only country where no one cares about the woman’s choice at all. In fact, they want the family to have exclusive rights to decide a woman’s marriage. Let’s look at it in more detail:

Only in Pakistan does a majority (55%) say that it is better for a woman’s family to choose her husband. Women in that country are slightly more likely than men to express that opinion – 57% of women and 53% of men say a woman’s family should choose whom she marries. This view is especially prevalent among married women. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) married Pakistani women say it is better for a woman’s family to choose, while about a third (32%) say both a woman and her family should have a say. Women who have never been married are more divided; 42% say a woman’s family should choose her husband and 42% say both should have a say. Pakistani women who have never been married are nearly twice as likely as married women in that country to say a woman should choose her own husband (13% of unmarried vs. 7% of married women).

Wow! Married Pakistani women don’t want their daughters and sisters to have any say.

Also, 61% of Pakistanis think that there should be restrictions on men and women being employed in the same workplace.

Let us now look at the Global Gender Gap Report 2007. Here are some choice rankings:

1. Sweden
2. Norway
3. Finland
15. Sri Lanka
18. Canada
20. South Africa
31. United States
32. Kazakhstan
34. Tanzania
41. Uzbekistan
51. France
59. Azerbaijan
81. Indonesia
91. Japan
100. Bangladesh
114. India
118. Iran
121. Turkey
124. Saudi Arabia
126. Pakistan
127. Chad
128. Yemen

Yes, Pakistan is 3rd from the bottom. Let’s look at the detailed results for Pakistan. Pakistan seems to be really bad for women in terms of economic participation and opportunity (a measure which includes labor force participation, wage equality for similar work, income, legislators, senior officials and managers, and professional and technical workers), educational attainment (literacy rate, and enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education), and health and survival (sex ratio at birth and healthy life expectancy). On the other hand, Pakistan ranks 43rd for political empowerment of women (women in parliament, women in ministerial positions, and number of years with a female head of state).