Saturday, October 31, 2009

Our Amazing Neighbourhood

Is it not beautiful? :) This is what you will see on the sky if you lie down on the lawn of your home on a dark silent night, on grass, with sweet earthly scent around, slight dew and once in a while gentle breeze.

Full Resolution Image here

Article on
A new panoramic image of the full night sky — with the Milky Way as its centerpiece — has been made by piecing together 3,000 individual photographs. The panorama's creator, Axel Mellinger of Central Michigan University, spent 22 months and traveled over 26,000 miles to take digital photographs at dark sky locations in South Africa, Texas and Michigan. "This panorama image shows stars 1,000 times fainter than the human eye can see, as well as hundreds of galaxies, star clusters and nebulae," Mellinger said. To combine these images, a simple cutting and pasting job would not suffice. Each photograph is a two-dimensional projection of the celestial sphere. As such, each one contains distortions, in much the same way that flat maps of the round Earth are distorted. In order for the images to fit together seamlessly, those distortions had to be accounted for. To do that, Mellinger used a mathematical model — and hundreds of hours in front of a computer.

If this is not enough to amaze you, then check this out.

Mega-star explosion most distant object ever seen

This is the most distant star-burst captured. and it is 13.1 billion light years far. You cant even imagine how far that is.

(AFP/HO/A.J.Levan & N.R.Tanvir)

GRB 090423 is the small, very red source in the centre of this image. The red colour is indicative of its great distance - about 13.1 billion light years - since all the optical light has been absorbed by intergalactic hydrogen gas, leaving only infrared light. All the other galaxies and stars in the image are much closer to us and just happen lie in the same part of the sky.

Astronomy humbles you.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Moonshine - Revisited

I may be a bit late on moon sighting controversy on Eid.. but then I have to 'deliver my sermon' because I am from Peshawar, work in Karachi and I have to spend the fasting month in Karachi and celebrate Eid in Peshawar. That is a really tricky business. Soon there will be Eid ul Azha and we will 'keep the flame burning' of making mockery of ourselves.

There were three esteemed personalities who made assess out of themselves on this august occasion of Eid ul Fitr. First was Mr. Muneeb ur Rehman, Chairman Rut e Hilal Committee. Second is Mr. Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, MNA Awami National Party (ANP) and Mr. Popalzai, imam of (in)famous Masjid Qasim Ali Khan of Qissa Khwani Bazar Peshawar.

I don't know but from my childhood I have seen 3 Eids celebrated in Peshawar. First ones to offer Eid prayers were/are the Afghans who in colossal numbers had found refuge in Pakistan, especially Peshawar during the Afghan war of 80s. They celebrate Eid with Saudi Arabia. Then there is the local Peshawari population that follows the edicts of Masjid Qasim Ali Khan - they celebrate on second day and then there is the third category who celebrate Eid with Government's Moon Sighting Committee, the third day. This time was no different but the 'very vigilant' media of ours ensured that brouhaha was broadcasted 24x7.

First thing first... what is the regulation according to Quran on moon-sighting? All along in the Quran we get the information that new moon is the source for knowing timings for offering rituals.

2:189 - They ask thee, of new moons, say: They are fixed seasons for mankind and for the pilgrimage. ...

6:96 - He hath appointed the night for stillness, and the sun and the moon for reckoning.

No where in Quran you will find that you have to 'sight' the Moon to know about the advent of new month. Trust me on this one, ancient people were much more advanced than an ordinary mortal of today regarding the movements of stars, moon and sun. Today's ordinary Abdul Qudoos ('ordinary Joe' for the rest) does not even look at the sky. The Arabs of that time were traders and knew the sky well. Even before them, the ancient civilizations of Maya and Aztecs had complex calendars pointing to exact setting and rise of moon and sun. So Prophet Mohammad would not have held a session on 29th of every lunar month to sight the new moon. Want to bet? This renders the moon-sighting committee of Pakistan as just a media stunt.

Coming to the 3 revered personalities, first I shall be talking about Mr. Muneeb ur Rehman, the chairman of Ruet e Hilal Committee. The guy has an issue with the 'witnesses of moon-sighting' from NWFP. Normally the committee, in order to follow the laid down procedures of sighting the new moon, examines witnesses who claim to witness the sighting as regards to their authenticity. Mr. Muneeb says that he does not accept the residents of NWFP as witness as they are liars! He says the Meteorological Institute of Pakistan says that there was no moon in that region so how on earth can they sight it? Hence liars. He will accept the testimony of anyone, even the remotest location of Pakistan but will simply not accept the testimony of people of Frontier. He also says that how can you sit for moon-sighting on 28th of Ramazan when one sits on 29th for that purpose. Idiot does not know that Frontier fasts one day 'before' the rest of the country so its their 29th Fast - not 28th as his is.

Mind you, the Meteorological Institute of Pakistan does not say that there was no moon, it says that 'chances of sighting the moon are less because the records with us indicate that you require 31 hours of moon-life to sight it'. The Institute has this record of various observatories around Pakistan. So the moon-sighting records of the Institute is of 31 hours.. not of the rest. You do not have an idea how religiously (literally too) the people of NWFP (not all areas) are in to this thing of moon-sighting.

When we were celebrating Eid in Peshawar, the Ruet guys were sitting in Lahore to witness the moon-sighting, I heard myself the reporter of a news channel saying that 'its been 42 hours since the birth of moon...' Pray tell me, how on earth can a moon whose life is already of 42 hours, require a 'sighting certificate' for it to be officially born? A new moon born is a new moon born for the whole god-damn world. But nay.. we have to prove that a muslim who can follow science is like a unicorn sighted.

Then we have Mr. Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, MNA of ANP. The guy had the gall to call the rest of Pakistanis who do not celebrate Eid on the day as Peshawarities do.. as Ahmadis/ Qadiyanis! Really dumb-ass. If there is anyone we hate the most, its the Ahmadis/ Qadiyanis - even more than the Jews. We hate them so much that we have written that in our Constitution, just because they don't have the same opinions as the rest of muslims have. How lovely. (Read my Post: 'I Hate You') So 'Haji' Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, and through his endeavors ANP, has lost it big time. Morons unlimited.

The third personality is Mr. Popalzai, imam of Qasim Ali Khan Mosque. There is a of of history associated with this mosque which is placed in the heart of Peshawar City. For hundreds of years people have been coming from far flung areas of NWFP, claiming to be witness to moon-sighting, in whatever mode of transportation they can find. They are Not Liars! as Mr. Muneeb portrays them. They are examined with the same procedure as Mr. Muneeb applies to witnesses as regards to the authenticity. Hundreds of people come to Peshawar and this mosque for this purpose only. Mr. Popalzai, as always, should have been doing what he does normally that is take testimonies of witnesses and declare them as either valid or invalid. Not go on national TV and try to become a star.


I am very tired I swear.

Either follow the procedure of Ruet and accept the testimonies of people of NWFP, or celebrate Eid in unison with Saudi Arabia or use common sense and get the time of birth of new moon from any website and declare Eid. Stop this mess because I have to buy tickets for home :|

What a moonshine.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kiss? Mum's The Word - Part 2

Seems like the Waziristan Operation, 'Rah e Nijat' (Path to Liberation) and the LUMS ruckus, 'Sirat e Mustaqeem' (The Straight Path) are the only two important things happening in Pakistan. So I'll be focussing on the latter as news from the war zone in Waziristan is bleak.

The News editorial of October 19th, 'Morality Brigade' also talks about it but in a very different tone. If you read the article (please do, its just 2 paragraphs trust me) paints a very antagonized view of our society in which it seems that the primary reason for the low GDP of Pakistan is the conservative lot.

To quote.

"Why should there be so much interest in the behaviour of two individuals which affects no one else? We don’t need more vigilantes in society, who feel it their right to appropriate to themselves the guardianship of society’s morals and behaviour."

True. We don't need vigilantes in our society for the guardianship of society's morals and behaviours. What what exactly did the lady, who initially sent the email in LUMS, do? She expressed her opinion in an email using the public broadcast medium of the university addressing her concerns about an issue. What did the Editor of The News did? He expressed his opinion on an issue which he thinks requires addressing using a public broadcast media. What is the difference between them? Why the lady is a 'schmuck' (as the Editor would have liked to call her) and not he himself?

Look. She did not harass or kill anyone. She just expressed her opinions as she is totally entitled to. Most of us pakistanis may or may not agree with her opinions but she has this right! Just as the editor has to say whatever is on his mind in his newspaper. Being liberal does not mean holding a negative view of the other camp. In the end, its just two parties having a different opinion.


Related Post

- Kiss? Mum's The Word

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kiss? Mum's The Word

People are going berserk in LUMS, especially the students over a debate whether kissing is allowed in an educational campus or not.

The Christian Science article has the details. "Top Pakistan university to ban kissing"

To a reader of an 'open' society, this might sound ridiculous but to us conservative lot on the world map.. it does matter.

Pakistani society is conservative. Conservative does not mean that 'nothing happens here'. God damn it.. everything happens here from prostitution (worst case child prostitution), pedophilia, drugs, alcohol, dancing girls, homosexuality, rape and murder.. you name it and we have it. Nowadays we offer products that are considered niche in other societies like terrorism and religious extremism. So please do not think that we are cave dwellers. Far from it.

Majority of the Pakistanis are really simple people. Case in point my uncle, when my father told him that 'someone' does alcohol and thats the reason for 'something' that happened to him, he was surprised and asked 'Can we get liquor in Pakistan?!' OK may be my uncle is a bit far too much simple but this is a fact that ordinary Pakistanis frown upon societal deviations - no date, no alcohol, no drugs, no prostitution. The guy who who offers prayers regularly, does charity and is sincere to his family is a role model. Frankly, the guy may be a monster inside but what he portrays is important in our society.

This brings us to an important aspect - your portrayal. Looks matter. A girl in pardah (veil) is a 'nice girl', a girl who might be wearing jeans is considered 'deviant'. Similarly, a guy who has beard and says his prayers is a 'nice' guy. On a side note, a famous and notorious cinema in Peshawar which ran porn movies, had an audience that mostly consisted of bearded fellows that had prayer caps on their heads. I am not 'insulting' people with religious attire or hinting that they are perverts.. just that it does happen. Perhaps everyone is a pervert is his/ her own manner including myself.

Getting back to the topic, should an educational institute have laws and regulations regarding Public Display of Affection (PDAs) as the LUMS case or should it be 'free for all'? In my opinion, an educational institute is an 'educational institute'. You are there to learn. Ok some might say that 'kissing is learning' but I am talking about studies and curricula, the only tongue movement I am talking about might be speaking of a language. Note that I am totally against Laws and Regulations to this effect because I find them too restrictive and abusive. LUMS would be totally going the wrong direction if they 'regulated' this area. Instead, they should try to make it a 'norm' that PDAs are restricted in LUMS. They are free to do anything as long as they are not on campus.

When you do something by force or make regulations for them, it becomes counter productive. The blue shuttle burqa is a cultural item of Afghanistan but when the Taliban forced women to wear it, it became the symbol of oppression. Women in Afghanistan still wear that burqa because that is part of their culture! The dark era of pakistani society was the military dictatorship of Gen. Ziaul Haq in 1980s. He prolonged his rule by using Islam. His version of Islam was very restrictive in which there were punishments for everything; from adultery, alcohol consumption to 'not respecting the holy month of ramadan by not fasting'. Committees were to be formed that were supposed to promote congregational prayers. Of course all this regulation meant that ordinary people were exploited by those who were at the helm of affairs. A couple walking together could be questioned by Police as to their credentials. They had to show that they were married (to be walking together) and for that people kept their registered marriage deeds (nikah nama) with them!

But even if you state PDA disapproval in form of norms, the boundaries will always be tested. Does holding hands count as a disapproval? Would the lady who initially sent the 'protest email' in campus mail show her displeasure at that too? It would be better if LUMS or any academic institute would 'establish' an environment where more focus is on studies and opinion freedom rather than PDAs.

The secular conservative mind crap will keep on continuing. What matters is that they don't come to blows - thats where the it really gets messy. Remember Lal Mosque? when Gen. Musharraf's rule saw a term 'Enlightened Moderation', to some it was a separate lane from religious extremism in which others opinion was not accepted but the term is used in different sense in general public. A beauty parlour which secretly runs as brothel (they do really), it would be said that the parlour was following the path of enlightened moderation. But the thing is that one should not go crazy like a religious fanatic and start to attack people and similarly one should not be insensitive to the feeling of others when he/ she considers himself/ herself a person not bound by traditions and social codes. Preserve the beautiful traditions we have, innovate and advance in opinions and respect the opinions of others. If you can that is.

To quote the article
""I think [the debate over the kiss] signifies a conflict between different cultural identities and shows there is something unresolved there," he says."
Trust me. It will always be unresolved and it'll keep figuring up in discussions in one form or the other. If its not kissing, it will be something else. Societies grow like this. Its a natural evolutionary process. It is just that you will be on either side of the divide.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thank God for...

A scene. 4 visitors in an organization. One is a bit disabled in the sense that he cannot move quickly with the rest three due to the deformity in his legs. He is trying, perhaps (my understanding), to catch up with them and they are moving ahead almost as if a separate set.

What idiots! And thank God for the revulsion in my heart for them!


As soon as you read this line, you will blink your eyes.

* this is totally crap post, it has nothing to do with collection of data, I am not conducting any research work. It just came in my mind and I posted it. If you blinked.. good :p

Thursday, October 08, 2009