25 April 2007

pat on the back

this monday, i gave a talk at HKU SPACE on media and ngos. i was fairly articulate, the students were engaged enough to ask useful questions at the end, and i was able to answer! miraculous, no?! even more miraculous--i enjoyed the questions the most. i like the idea of teaching. i could be a good teacher i think...

another flattering incident occurred last night: my IR professor asked if i would be interested in working on a collaboration with her. aaahhhhhh, if life were always this nice.

17 April 2007

statistics made interesting

a classmate introduced me to this great 20-min video on world development statistics. the data is actually fascinating, the graphs are interactive and colorful and hans rosling, the guy making the presentation, is passionate about his statistics and what they tell you about the world!

the video is produced by
gapminder, a non profit venture to develop free software that is able to make use of human development statistics in a fun and user friendly way. check it out!

15 April 2007

this story or that?

sometime ago, a friend got me thinking about stories from the quran. i recollected my favourite riwayats from madressa, as well as the ones i've picked up since then. the idea of having 'favourites' in a religious sense is interesting. of all the stories i have ever heard, certain ones resonated more than others. and they are the ones that i look to for comfort or guidance.

if we all pick and choose our religious markers in this way, be they stories, tasbeehs or principles, religion (and/or faith) becomes more subjective than i am comfortable with..

14 April 2007

the book thief

is a wonderful book by markus zusak. it's narrated by death (very cool concept) and is largely a story from the perspective of a child. the plot is good, but the writing is better.

some quotes:

Twice, I speak it.
I say His name in a futile attempt to understand. “But it’s not your job to understand.” That’s me who answers. God never says anything. You think you’re the only one he never answers?"

"If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter and bread with only the scent of jam spread out on top of it."

"Himmel Street was a procession of tangled people, all wrestling with their most precious belongings. In some cases, it was a baby. In others, a stack of photo albums or a wooden box."

"She sang a song, but it was so quiet that Liesel could not make it out. The notes were born on her breath, and they died at her lips."

"As is often the case with humans, when I read about them in the book thief’s words, I pitied them, though not as much as I felt for the ones I scooped up from various camps in that time. The Germans in basements were pitiable, surely, but at least they had a chance. The basement was not a washroom. They were not sent there for a shower. For those people, life was still achievable."

"..before the Jews were marched through Molching.
They were going to Dachau, to concentrate."

"The window.
Hands on the frame, scissor of the legs.
Landing feet.
Books and pages and a happy place."

none of the other books i have are matching up to this one... any ideas?!

07 April 2007

mystic india

i went to see this omnimax film at the hk space museum today. i have to say that i was quite disappointed. it was supposed to be an inspiring story of 'unity in diversity'. the film mentioned that india is home to a multitude of cultures and a surprising 18 languages; if indians can live in harmony, so can the world. and yet, there were few christians, muslims or dalits depicted. similarly, there was no mention of the periodic communal violence that india is home to.

the film was scene after scene of breathtaking scenery and stunning architecture; meditation chants and colourful festivals. no scenes of poverty or pollution. no expressions of misery or sickness.

i hope no one left thinking they were seeing the 'real' india.

UPDATE: Check out this article on how Indian love affairs highlight the durability of class and religious divides..

05 April 2007

the book of general ignorance

ksa and i had many laughs with this book. not only was it entertaining, but i liked that it presented the historical basis of things, and covered various view points. here's what intrigued me the most:

contrary to what trivial pursuit says (i never liked that game anyways), the great wall of china CANNOT be seen from the moon;

champagne was invented by the british, not the french;

chicken tikka masala originated in glasgow;

the swiss are the only europeans to eat dog meat;

the phrase 'survival of the fittest' was not coined by darwin, but by herbert spencer;

camels evolved in north america;

there is a difference between the tallest and the highest mountain.

03 April 2007

words on a page

i updated my cv yesterday. it was a little intimidating. according to that document, i have written a book. and done many other things that i do not think about on an everyday basis.

it was quite a surreal experience; like i was looking at someone else's life, someone who had indeed accomplished a lot. it was hard to relate the person on paper to ME. i suppose i feel that everything i've done has just been work, whether in cairo or at ahrc. i did what i was supposed to do, worked on the projects that i was assigned.

sometime ago i had an informal interview, where i was asked to verbalize my cv. not only was the interviewer impressed, but he also assumed that i had further ambitions. his questions regarding what i would do when i finished my masters, what my goals were, made me quite uncomfortable. they took me back to cairo, where i was repeatedly told that talent and intellect should not be wasted. my present colleagues would say the same, but perhaps with more focus on moral responsibility.

argh, the pressure. what if i just want to sell flowers??