I was talking to a friend last night and the realization of graduating in less than three months hit hard. I am graduating in three months!

Actually 75 days but that is not the point. The point is returning home after graduating. It is interesting how home is still elsewhere despite living here for almost two years. This is home only when I am out of town or returning to the apartment on a cold evening. That is also not the point. I have a feeling there will be quite a few points in this post. So yes, I am returning home in 75 days. I will need a job in 75 days. I will be dealing with adjusting back in to an environment I was once but am no longer used to.

Am I anxious? Surprisingly, not all that much. After a certain age change becomes a norm or may be not. I have moved around quite a bit all my life. Every 2-3 years I moved from one city to another. Two years ago I moved from one country to another. Did I mention the two countries happen to be on different continents and the ten hour time difference of course.

Plus, change happens all the time. Whether you like it or not things change, people change and we too change. I wonder how much I have changed. Quite a bit I suppose. Whether you look at time as a continuum or a fragmented string of events, change is omnipresent. You are born and you grow oh so quickly, learn to crawl, walk, talk and all. You grow a few years and you start school. You grow a few more and you are in primary school. Add a couple of years to that and there you have it, adolescence. Ah! that time of self imagined glory and righteousness.

Then there is o-levels or whatever 10th/11th grade system of education you get put through. Two more years and you are in college. Four years of college in which you learn and unlearn more than most people ever will in their entire lives. No, I am not talking about classroom learning. And then you graduate. You get a job (or get married if you are a female who was born and raised to get married). In my case you work for two years after college. Then you go back to school and after a few months get married. And then you graduate.

What do you after that? Do you work for two years again and go back to school. It will be so cool if one could do that over and over again. Of course, not with the same work and degree though. So yes, what do I do after graduating. Work!. That I will but do I work with a PhD in mind few years down the road or do I just go back and dump myself in a corporate slum. Or do I just sit back and let Mr. husband man to do all the work and be the coffee-tea (aloo gosht/chayay) housewife. I know i am judgmental, sometimes, or may be often. But yes the housewife thing is just not it I guess. Even with all the cooking I am obsessed with, it is just not it.

So the bottom line is I graduate, I work and I find a way to go back to school.


Microsoft fined heavily by EU

EU is fining Microsoft $1.3 billion for violating anti-trust order. Microsoft is accused of charging too much for selling software information to developers interested in developing applications compatible with Windows. The $1.3 billion fine is the highest fine ever charged by any one from any company.

Research at Hull University discredits effectiveness of Antidepressants

A recent study carried out at University of Hull questions the effectiveness of anti-depressants in offering relief from severe depression. The researchers at the university believe that the actual effect of anti-depressants is exaggerated and the reasons for patients feeling better stem from placebo effect (i.e. people feel better after taking medication because they are expecting the medication to make them feel better). The anti-depressants under question are the ones that function by increasing the production of the natural mood altering chemical, serotonin, in the brain. It is worth clarifying here that researchers accept the effectiveness of such treatment for mild cases of depression. It is the cases of severe depression that showed little or no change in the light of anti-depressant treatment.


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Pakistan lifts the ban on YouTube

Pakistan the lifts ban on YouTube after removal of the blasphemous video clip of an upcoming Dutch film on Islam. Pakistan Telecommunications Authority told Internet Service Providers to unblock YouTube today. In the light of this I take back my conspiracy theory. This is a positive step forward and sends out a clear signal. The quick response from YouTube, Google, is worth appreciating. It is worth mentioning here that YouTube is currently banned in Turkey and Thailand.


Nationalism returns

Just read an article about how children learn national identity. Will be writing about it in detail soon.

Paintball Fun

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Youtube blocked in Pakistan

This is with reference to an earlier post about Pakistani authorities blocking access to youtube. The reasons given are the Danish cartoons and the trailer for an upcoming Dutch film about Islam. To the conspiracy theorist inside me these reasons just do not suffice.

The internet has opened new avenues of expression and protest for disgruntled citizens. Blogging websites and youtube are examples of this upcoming drive towards online citizen participation. In a country like Pakistan, where freedom of speech is a dream tainted far too long and yet never close to being materialized, these platforms offer a means of saying out loud all that you cannot say otherwise and actually being heard by at least some one some where.

Thus, I believe it is quite possible that the ban on youtube could be in the light of growing online citizen protest and not the above stated reasons given by the State. More so, it is worth noting that the ban remains despite the fact that the content deemed offensive by Pakistani authorties has been taken offline.

Suicide Bomber Kills Surgeon General Pakistan

A suicide bomb in Rawalpindi killed General Mushtaq Ahmed Baig, alongside seven others. The suicide bomber rammed in to the General's car near MH (Military Hospital) and Post Office on Mall Road Rawalpindi on Monday. Twenty others were wounded in the attack. The death of a top rank General has been a first and labeled by many as the greatest loss since 9/11. The attack is taken to be another in the series from Al-Qaeda.

Loss of life is equally agonizing regardless of whose life it is. Yet the idealism of this statement is fleeting. The death of a nine month, nine year and ninety year old are not the same. The death of a President and a poor citizen are not the same. The death of a soldier and a General are not the same. The death of a Surgeon General and seven others (whose name no newspaper cared to mention) are not the same. And the death of a suicide bomber and victims of his attack are not the same.

Some year ago I wrote
'Death is always a tragedy.
Birth, always a miracle.
Then why mourn anew every time,
when the story never changes'

I feel Mushtaq Ahmed Baig's death was a huge loss to the country with or without the title General. He was a senior doctor, a specialist, a person with skill and knowledge. How many doctors of comparable expertise and ability do we have in Pakistan? And how many more of them shall we see slaughtered in the name of religion?

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Pakistan blocks YouTube

Internet Service Providers in Pakistan have been asked by authorities to block access to YouTube. This is apparently in the light of the return of the danish cartoons. A little over two years ago access to blogspot was denied for the same reason. Whether the ban is permanent or temporary has not been announced.


Also check


Langauge and identity

I was listening to Ghalib on my laptop when a friend walked in and asked about what was playing. Ghalib, I told her and she gave me a questioning look. I tried explaining Ghalib to her and she asked me to translate for her.

Problem is Ghalib is not to be explained and translated. Ghalib is not even really to be understood. I think poetry loses meaning if you try explaining it or even try too hard to understand it. I remember Shoaib Hashmi once said about Faiz that his poetry was spiritual. You need not understand the words to appreciate them. It is about feeling.

I felt Ghalib today. I have felt Faiz through many difficult times in my life. I was mocked by a friend when packing a book each by Ghalib, Faiz, Manto and Parveen Shakir in my luggage for my first trip from good old land of the pure to the land of opportunity. She had said 'what are you afraid of? losing your high school urdu?'

I am not afraid of losing my urdu. I do occasionally worry about forgetting how to write it though. But that is not the point. The point is that language is identity. Urdu is my identity despite all the theorizing and academic babbling I do in English. I regret not being able to write in Urdu. I feel guilty for writing poetry and prose in English.

Mobashir Ahmed's: Danish Cartoons Re-appear

Mobashir Ahmed's: Danish Cartoons Re-appear

Time in a Bottle: Point to Ponder

Time in a Bottle: Point to Ponder

Mobashir Ahmed's: Elections in Pakistan-Well Done Musharraf!

Mobashir Ahmed's: Elections in Pakistan-Well Done Musharraf!

Pythons for pets, any one?

One study reveals that pythons could grow over from Florida to San Francisco in the next decade. Why? Because we love oil and big cars...urm...global warming!

Care to adopt one?



Grey's Anatomy

I have totally become obsessed with Grey's Anatomy over the last 36 hours. It is insane and unhealthy but have watched about a dozen episodes already - not in one go of course but still in 36 hours. That is bad right...quite bad.

And I cannot get the song out of my head. You must check it out. Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. As long as this lasts I'm loving it!

PayPerPost begins!

So I signed up for PayPerPost, brought my blog back to life and started taking blogging seriously again. I missed being away. And I am sure glad to be back. Also, I have been hearing about friends monetizing blogs and making a little or lot of money. I thought shall look in to this.

I have looked through quite a few scams so for starters PayPerPost is different. It has worked well for an acquaintance and many thanks to him I am following in his footsteps now. PayPerPost is simple. You get paid for posting on your blog.

How? First you sign up at www.payperost.com. Add a blog and await approval. The criteria for approval are clearly listed on the web site. In case you do not meet all requirements you will be notified. Thus, you know exactly how to fix the issue. Once on board, look at opportunities you qualify for. These are also clearly listed and easy to find at the site's user friendly interface. Choose opportunities you like and reserve them. Write a post based on guidelines listed in the opportunity, publish post on your blog, update blog post url at payperpost.com and you are on your way to make some money. Voila! You can get paid through paypal and yes you DO get paid. I will put my credibility on line for this one. This ain't a scam.

I am a beginner and all excited. For now I am saving for vacation. Where my vacation will be depends on how well this venture turns out. But I tell you I am optimistic. So do not wait and get going.


How do I promote my blog?

Promoting a blog takes time and work. However, it is never too late to start. Here are just a few pointers I can think of.

1) Activate RSS feed.
2) Activate ping service.
3) Let your blog be listed in blog listings.
4) Write regularly and consistently.
5) Find your niche and stay focused.
6) Include your blog in your email signature.
7) Comment on blogs of like minded people and build on online social capital.
8) Be patient!

Computer from 65 BC

Scientists finally discern the hidden mechanics of a 65 BC computer device recovered from a wrecked Roman ship. It was accidentally discovered by Elias Stadiatos in 1900 and has since been a source of mystery. Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to reconstruct the device, which is now known to be an astronomical calendar capable of tracking with remarkable precision the position of the sun, several heavenly bodies and the phases of the moon. Experts believe it to be the earliest-known device to use gear wheels and by far the most sophisticated object to be found from the ancient and medieval periods.


Why do people blog?

I have been thinking over blogging for a while now and cannot help but ask why people blog? Is it the desire to be heard or the need to express or in the light of the growing online marketplace plain simple monetization of customized content.

Why do you blog?

ebuzzing: The new advertiser-blogger platform


The internet is the new marketplace of today's economy. It liberates the problem of coordination from time and space. You can be any where in the world at any hour of the day and still be a producer, consumer or the middleman in the global economy. All you need is a computer, internet and a platform: a platform that connects those with needs to those who can fulfill these needs.

I chose my platform to be ebuzzing. Why? Because it is simple enough for me and offers choices.

The way it works is simple. Say you are a blogger and want to monetize your blog or aspire to write about services that you and your audience find of interest. You sign up at www.ebuzzing.co.uk. You get an email to confirm your registration and you are registered. Voila! Next you add your blog or blogs. You can enter as many blogs as you want in to categories that help you define your content and focus. Next you wait for your blog(s) to be validated. Why? Because your blog needs to meet certain criteria for you and ebuzzing to have a mutually fruitful relationship.

While you await validation you do not have to sit back or tap your fingers. Your registration entitles you to explore the opportunities at the platform. You can browse through campaigns launched by advertisers and write for advertisers whose criteria you meet. Each campaign has a 'brief'. This brief lets you know about how the campaign you are interested in is to work. Upon finding interest in a campaign and meeting the advertiser's criteria, you can write an article about the campaign. Every article written by you requires validation from ebuzzing to become eligible for payment. Also, the article must be validated before it can be posted on your blog.

The standard reward per article is £10. However, the rate is not fixed. You can set your own rate through ebuzzing direct or qualify for a higher rate through meeting criteria for campaigns that pay higher. You earn revenue per article 30 days after the article appears on your blog. Once you earn £50 or more you can start receiving the fruits of your labor. Again ebuzzing offers you options. You are not restricted by any one mode of payment but can pick from three (i.e. payment by check, bank transfer or paypal).

This said, step in to explore the new dimension of blogging through the valuable new platform of ebuzzing. The web site is simple and user friendly. The interface helps you find the information you need and also offers you contact information for assistance. This is a new opportunity that demands nothing more than trying.

Try it!


Things I do not understand

So a girl marries against her parents' wishes and is pregnant. Why can we just not get over ourselves sometimes and accept the way people choose to live their lives. Why do we have to make it a point to make other's lives miserable...most of all whatever made people think they can play God.

Sobia Wali


Danish newspapers reprint Mohammad cartoons

There are people who learn and then there are those who do not. Freedom of expression does not entail slandering and provocation. I grew up with a simple saying. 'Your freedom ends where my nose begins'. Must the Danish poke their fingers in other people's noses.


Mr. Westergaard, the 'artist' who drew the cartoon currently being reprinted in over a dozen newspapers in Denmark said “Naturally I never imagined these kinds of reactions.” I fail to see how much imagination he needs to understand the reaction his creation. Is it not plain common sense that religion is a sensitive issue world over. And how much imagination does one need to figure out that people think emotionally and not rationally about religion. Then why must their emotions be violated and why must the things they hold most sacred be desecrated.

It makes me think about the hypocrisy of nations who put a ban on holocaust imagery yet fail to see how offensive caricatures of a religious figure held sacred by millions of people will lead to no good.

Northern Illinois University Shooting

Just a year after Virginia Tech it happens all over again. What is it? A legacy of violence. Can we have gun control...PLEASE? Five dead and sixteen wounded. May we find peace and not go around killing each other.




National Flags

I just finished reading an interesting article about national anthems and flags by Karen A. Cerulo. The article looks at flags from 33 countries alongside anthems from 133. The study is based on analyzing the syntax and complexity of national symbols in the light of political modernization and world systems theory.

The article is interesting both by virtue of its content and methodology. Most of all the findings are substantial. As a cheat sheet for all those who failed to read the hand out and those who might be interested otherwise I am attaching pictures of the most basic and most complex flags, on the basis of embellishment.

Most basic syntax: Austria, followed by France.

Most embellished flags: Philippines, followed by Uganda.


Things I do not understand

How would you feel if a complete stranger walked in to your living room and started browsing through you family photos? I presume not all that comfy...then why upload all those baby, wedding and vacation pictures on blogs open to all.


Are we hitting a recession?

When it comes to a recession you always have the optimists talking about waves and cycles. This is just low growth or this is just the trough of the economic wave/cycle. Whether a dip or a trough or slow growth...a recession is a recession. And when it hits, it hits hard.

I am no economic expert at all. My networked economy class often leaves me puzzled. Not to mention that so do so many other things. Any way, in my arbitrary and unqualified opinion makes me believe we are in a recession. Yes, my friend, buckle up. We are diving low!

Yahoo! recently unveiled plans to lay off a 1000 people (i.e. almost 7% of the its workforce). Say 'Yahoo!' now would you. Macy's also recently announced to lay off about 950 employees (with 'benefits' of course). RealNetworks laid off just 10. Fidelity (the largest mutual funds firm) lays off 250. Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. let go of 123 employees. Electric sheep company lays off 22. Pfizer Exubera lays off 123. KWQC-TV6 lays off 12. I could keep going but I think you get what I am saying.

I know people from my department who graduated this last summer and are still looking for jobs. I know people from my hubby's school who are unable to find jobs. I know people from a close friend's school who are busy job hunting months after graduation. And let me tell you these people all went to great schools.

To quote my head of the department.

'I graduated from Columbia amidst a recession. I could not believe we were in a recession till my 4.0 failed to get me a job'.

So yeah t'is a bad time to graduate.


Just found this online. US economy grew at a rate of 0.6% in the last quarter of 2007. Bravo!




The void

Now and then I get moments of staring in to the void. The void of discontent that lies within us all. The void that feeds on our ability to be at peace within our souls. The void that is dark, cold and silent: the void that refuses to be filled.


The Sojourner

Eighteen months in an alien land and I still find myself neither here not there. I have been home twice in this eighteen month period. About three weeks each time. The first time was after four months in the 'land of opportunity', the second time was after a year long stretch here. My first trip was a cherished reinforcement of nostalgia and respite. I was glad to be home and in the company of people I care most for in my life. It was not just about returning to family and friends that gave meaning to my return. It was the city and its familiarity. The key word here is familiarity.

Familiarity that was lost upon my second trip home. My family was split. My husband in US and my parents back home, I feel suspended between continents. My soul found solace neither here nor there. To add to this, most of my friends were no longer in the familiar city I call home. And then of course, the city has changed. The air, the wind and the rain of my city have changed. The monsoon and the winter fog have changed. The very rules of association within my home have change. The motherland is no longer the same.

After finding my way from the proud national of a country I resided in for the first 25 years of my life to a alien resident of a land that offers immense order and opportunity, I am now troubled by where my home really is. Blood and belonging are problematic. My blood is from a land far far away. I belong here with a man I have chosen to live my life with.

Again, this is too hasty a simplification. In the past two years so much has changed. I have changed. My home, my nation, my country have changed. My life and my life plan have changed. I came here for an academic degree and the intention to return to my homeland. Finding abode amidst the wilderness of this alien continent was not part of the plan. Falling in love with and marrying a compatriot settled here was not part of the plan. Ever rethinking my intention and desire to return home was not part of the plan. Most of all not having a plan at all was not part of the plan.


Social Networks

Networks abound our routine vocabulary today. We use them often without realizing what all they encompass. I believe people use 'networks' to refer to social networks. A social network implies connections between individuals. One's social network includes family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and people one communicates or exchanges information with.

Two key ideas associated with social networks are network density and network diversity. Network density depends on how closely knit a network is i.e. how well connected people are within a network. For example do all the people in your social network know each other. The larger the number of linkages within a network the higher its density. Diversity deals with heterogeneity of actors in a network. A family network is homogeneous on lines of kinship but heterogeneous in terms of age, gender and may be income/education levels. On the other hand a church group is homogeneous on lines of religion but heterogeneous in terms of age, gender, race, income, education etc.

Network density and diversity are key characteristics of a social network. They can help one predict the flow of information within a network. A dense homogeneous network is not well suited to acquiring information. Studies have shown that people get job information through weak ties as opposed to strong ties. A weak tie is a link such as an acquaintance or someone you know through someone else and not directly. The reason for this lies in the observation that information becomes redundant in a dense homogeneous network. One hears about the same things from different people over and over again. On the contrary a less dense and heterogeneous network links one to other networks. These weak links bring in information external to one's immediate network.

Social networks are of interest for many reasons. They can be used for targeted marketing, political campaigns, control of disease ad in general spread of information. Lately, terrorist networks have been studied to identify key actors and gauge how best to disable or breakdown the network.