Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Cat That Sees Death

Sometimes I am just amazed by how much it is that we don't know.
Cat said to predict nursing home deaths

Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours.

His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live. [The Star]


My grandparents used to tell me stories of how dogs all across Dhaka (and the villages) had started to bark untiringly on the night of the 24th of March, 1971, two nights before the Pakistani army had started their operations against civilians. In Bangladesh, they also believe owls and dogs are harbingers of death.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Goodbye - for now

This post has been some time coming (not to mention it's the 400th post too).

It's been a wild ride. I can't believe that my first post was actually about a free movie offer. It picked up from then on. I wrote about many things. Some of it even got linked to by others.

I met a lot of lovely people through this blog (and some of them were even girls!). I read a lot of mind-broadening perspectives as I followed links and discovered the wonderful world of bloggers. A lot of readers and commentators I have grown to cherish hearing from.

Recently I went back and read a few posts I had written previously, on various topics. Then I read my recent posts. Somewhere, I felt, the tone and zeal wasn't the same. The passion wasn't there.

I am taking an indefinite break. A sabbatical, if you will. I don't know when I will be back. Perhaps in time for Eid. Perhaps not. In any case, I couldn't leave without saying good bye.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix - Disappointing!

No spoilers - beyond the trailers.

So this is what I had been doing for the last four days - each day I watched one Harry Potter movie, from the first to the last one, in preparation for Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix.

I have a bad record for the Harry Potter movies. I never watched the first one before I had seen the second one - and when I did - it was a late night show. I fell asleep in between the movie. The third movie I enjoyed the most. The fourth movie was again a late night show. And once more, I fell asleep.

So this time I promised myself I would go to an early show - but first, here's a small recap of the four previous ones.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - good intro to the series, good movie and lots of entertaining parts.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - the best thinking movie of the series. I really, really enjoyed it as it has a lot of secrets and clues and mysteries that fall into place by the end.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - the best action movie of the series. This was my favourite movie of the series up until two nights ago, but still remains a very, very good film. Has a fast pace, lots of action, bits of mystery, and my favourite - time travel.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - garbage movie. The worst movie, a total bore, complete lack of coherence where the only significant part is the return of You-Know-Who.

So, what do I make of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix?

I am ... somewhat ... disappointed in the movie. It wasn't as bad as the Goblet of Fire, but that isn't saying much. First, the pros.

It wasn't boring. I never felt the need to yawn or check my watch - the pace was kept throughout the movie as the story unfolded and never got bogged down. The acting was superb (especially of the character Dolores Umbridge). You felt for the characters when the "good" side fought amongst themselves. There were some great visuals (like the Thames fly-by). The confrontation scenes (be it with You-Know-Who or with Dolores Umbridge) were great, both for their visuals and for their impact.

Now for the cons. First, there was NO MYSTERY in the movie! Like, in the Chamber of Secrets, you had the puzzle as to who the Heir was, or what or where the Chamber was. In the third movie you had the identity of the Prisoner, the mystery of the Dementors and so on. At least in the fourth movie you had the puzzle of the challenges. This movie? It can be summarized by "a bunch of stuff happens".

Next, Harry's story doesn't "grow" by much. You don't find out more about his parents, or anything. I was very, very disappointed with that aspect. I thought they would reveal more stuff about Harry Potter's history.

Next, the over hyped "kiss" scene. There is absolutely ZERO chemistry between Harry Potter and Cho Chang. And if I was the Chosen One who has fought off You-Know-Who, my choice would have been a bit better than Cho Chang! That Patel girl was much better.

All in all, this is probably tied with the Philosopher's Stone due to the presence of some great scenes, and a whole class apart than the magnificent second and third installments of the series, but overall far better than the garbage fourth movie.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sicko and the Health Care Issue

I remember once I was in southern Georgia, US, on my way to Orlando, Florida. We stopped at this little town where a buddy of mine worked, to rest for the night. He took us for dinner at this small family restaurant, along with a few co-workers of his. During dinner, the conversation shifted to voting.

"So you guys are all voting this year?" I casually asked his colleagues.

"Oh yes," one tall woman replied, "but we haven't gotten our vote card yet."

"Vote card?" I asked.

"Oh yes," she replied, "our company gives us cards with the candidates positions and who they recommended to vote for, and we do accordingly."

My jaw was like an :-0 in shock. And it is because of people like her (and she was not an aberration I found - many in the south of USA are truly politically ignorant hicks who never step out of their own towns and have no knowledge - nor interest - in what is going on at home and abroad), people who never think, yet they vote, that I despair of films like Sicko ever having any impact in the US.

Sicko was not a bad movie (though I maintain Moore's Bowling for Columbine was his best). It did paint a rosier picture of Canadian health care than what is the truth, but despite all the purported problems of our health care, I would not change it at all for an American-style user-pay-as-you-go health care. It is baffling that the richest, most powerful nation in the world cannot afford to provide adequate health care for more than half of its citizens.

It's also surprising how environment is suddenly the top issue amongst all the supposedly educated elite and the secular thinkers of the American political establishment. Yes, Gore my man, kudos to you for raising the profile of an issue you did nothing major about for eight years as the vice-president, but this Live Earth thing wasted more energy than the Canadian army in a single day in Afghanistan! Yes, I know the intent was to raise awareness, but everyone already knows about the environment! It is easy to latch on to the environment as something to do, because other than petitioning the government to sign the faulty Kyoto agreement you don't really have to do much.

While watching Sicko, there are many times I was glad that man, I am Canadian. However, one nagging thought did keep interrupting me - wait times. There are times when I had been down with something, or had a broken bone wherever, and had to wait a week or two before seeing a specialist. In those one or two weeks, pain killers would have to do. At those times, I sometimes wish I could have the option of paying and seeing the specialist early.

However, problems with our system are limited (and caused by) how we run our system, not with the system itself. For no other reason do many Buffalo citizens still try and somehow manage to obtain an Ontario Health card.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Observations of a Desi BBQ

  • It would be nice if the BBQ set was, you know, ASSEMBLED, before the aforementioned picnic day. If it's your responsibility to bring the grill, you should NOT be stopping off at Walmart on the day of the BBQ!!!

    We are now experts in assembly of a BBQ in under 10 minutes!

  • Women are all about equality of the genders and same rights and all that stuff. Except when it comes to food. Suddenly, it's "Ladies First".

    Or to be more precise, Ladies (and their children and other lady friends who they let cut in the line) first.

  • Then there is the uncle who has appointed himself the unofficial Official Taster. He will come around every 10 minutes and bug the 'chef'.

    "So beta, is that chicken done? It looks like it's done. You should take it out. You know what? Let me taste it, I can tell you INSTANTLY if it's done or not...."

  • The other uncle is the Ph.D. of BBQ.

    "Son! Don't arrange the charcoal bricks like that, you need air to flow between the bricks. Here, leave a hole... right here. We need to make the pile around 30 cm high, that should do it. Now, we need to factor in the wind, which is blowing from the north east. So our grill should face east, as the vents are on the south side, so we can have cross ventilation. NOW... for the lighter fluid, I need you to stand back.. this much.... and on my mark, squirt it out! One, two, three... SQUIRT!!!"

    At least this is better than the uncle who looks at the lighter fluid, and then his eyes light up as he relives a long lost childhood fantasy, grabbing the bottle and squeezing for all he's worth, treating it like a water canon, as if he's firing ten rounds against an invading army. Apparently making a fire visible from space is a good way to get the BBQ going.

  • If you, while busy with the chicken, suddenly turn around and see ten people with tongs and gloves ready to help you, relax, they are not there to help you. They are just there because a picture is going to be taken by the official Facebook photographer. Frauds, all of them!

  • If someone repeatedly comes and asks you "Is the chicken done yet?", after the 5th time it becomes halal to feed them half-done chicken.

  • Wednesday, July 04, 2007

    Transformers - 4.5/5

    GM had this Chevy Transformers Night last night. Free movie premier (at a drive-in), plus food, drinks and entertainment at the Docks for Chevy owners only. Enter the Mousehunter, who got a couple of free tickets to the event and generously invited me and another friend to accompany him.

    Performers at the event.

    The Movie Review

    Transformers was meant to be a summer blockbuster and it was. It was like sitting in a Formula 1 car. Who cares where the car is going, how's the weather outside and what color the car is - as long as the ride is fast, good and exhilarating, that's all that matters. That's the movie for you - it's great fun, complete entertainment, fully worth seeing on the big screen. Overall - 4.5 out of 5.

    There was a plot of some sort. There was a hot girl (very hot). The pace was good and fast - at no time did the film lag or I fidget in my seat (well, except craning my neck in the seat to get a better view out of a side window at times :-p).

    The drive-in area.

    The Action

    With lots of money to burn, you expect the action to be good - and it was - for the most part. The attack on an army base, the desert scenes, the fights in LA and the chases - all choreographed well. When the robots were fighting each other though, it was all a blur. All you see is confusing motion. You don't even know what's happening and then it's all over.

    The Transformers

    I was a bit disappointed with the transformation sequence. Where's the cool slo-mo of the car/truck/plane-to-robot? It was all a blur. Suddenly they start whizzing and pop! - you have a 20-feet robot. It looked too-CGI and not realistic enough. The robots, I am sad to say, looked more bits-and-pieces than a solid piece.

    The old (better, IMO) Optimus vs the new (supposedly slicker) version.

    The Fun Factor

    Some of the script was really funny. The movie never failed to entertain even for a moment, and even though there were shades of patriotic themes (it's released on the 4th of July weekend after all), it wasn't 'over the head' and in-your-face, you could suspend your senses and enjoy it all.

    The Nostalgia Factor


    Enough said. Go see the movie already.

    My prize for winning the Tribond Tuesdays Competition. Thanx again, Mousehunter.

    See also: The Mousehunter meets Mezba

    Monday, July 02, 2007

    Canada Day

    What's the first thing you think of when you think Canada?

    Cold climate and snow, right?

    Last month, we were having a nice spring. 20+ degrees centigrade, clear skies and so on. The my cousins from Texas decided to pay a visit. The night they landed, it fell to 3 degrees and we got a FROST warning (in June!!!) for our gardens.

    "M-m-m-ezba!" My cousin told me, immediately on landing, with his teeth chattering, "I h-h-have heard your country is c-c-cold, but this-!"

    Talk about an exception proving the rule!

    So this week, with another set of cousins coming here from Australia, I decided to check the weather again. We had been having a heat wave recently, with some temperatures going as high as 42 degrees (with humidex), so I was happy.

    "It's going to get colder..." went the forecase.

    "Oh, no!" I thought, "Not again!" Already, my niece from Sydney had complained their winters were getting colder, with the temperature falling as low as 16 degrees. Our predicted SUMMER temperature for this weekend - 20 degrees!

    Thankfully, the weather people were all WRONG. It was a glorious day, as we celebrated Canada Day like thousands of other tourists to Canada, going to Niagara Falls, and then later catching a glorious fireworks at the park.

    The American Falls portion of the Falls, taken from the Maid of the Mist.

    The Horseshoe Falls portion of the Falls, taken from a distance.

    Fireworks at Milliken Park.

    Happy Canada Day!