Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sensitivity Training For Pearson Staff

The Toronto Star is reporting that Canada Border Services Agency is putting officials through sensitivity training so they can appropriately deal with Arab and Muslim travelers.

This is of course welcome news. As a manager we personally negotiate or deal with people of other cultures all the time - and thus we take cultural sensitivity training. For example, in North America when people negotiate, the terms are usually very clear and everyone is eager to get a deal and time is a constraint. We don't mix business with pleasure. However when you negotiate with the Mexicans or Indians, they like to take their own sweet time. This is NOT a delaying tactic - they have a culture of getting to "know" the person they are dealing with and cultivating relations. Time is fluid and "there is always tomorrow" and a deal may not be very specific in the details.

Once you KNOW this, then you know this is something you can always use to your advantage. Sensitivity training never hurt anyone. Thus I find the attitude of the union representative in the article very selfish, self serving and borderline racist (no pun intended).
I do think that once they become a Canadian and they live among us, that they should pick up our ways and not have us picking up their ways.
Let alone the fact that some Arabs and Muslims may be travellers and not Canadian, so they DON'T have to "act Canadian" (whatever that means). Sensitivity training actually helps border agents do a better job.

For one, they don't waste their time on nothing cases. To quote the example in the article, many Muslim women come from cultures where they don't look an authority figure in the eye as a sign of respect. So while she is respecting you, you think she has something to hide and pull her over for scrutiny. So of course she is going to feel discriminated again, while you merely did your duty by acting on a valid suspicion (which you SHOULD do). She will them complain and an inquiry will be filed against you and you will go through the whole rigamarole at the end of which you will be found not guilty and she will be unhappy and you will be unhappy at going through the ordeal. So in the end, having that piece of cultural insight would have been good and advantageous for all concerned.

Second, WHY in God's name would you object to being paid by work for NOT doing work? We used to love those courses our offices sent us on, as that meant taking a paid break while relaxing in a course and eating free food. Me thinks the border guards doth protest too much.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sharjah Does Away With "Arabic" Numbers

Um, we (the Emirate of Sharjah) are doing away with Arabic numerals because we are chasing after money and English numbers are popular with our expatriate community we want to be in line with international standards [source].

Um, but sorry, we are not really doing away with Arabic numbers you see?

Because, er, English numbers are also Arabic.

Yes! See, as long as English numbers are being used, you are also using Arabic numbers! There we go.

PS. What about it originally being "Hindu" numbers? Sshhh!

For an "explanation" read this.

Most profound comment:

Abdullah Binayaf, a Dubai resident, wrote in with a similar correction. He said: "Readers should understand why several emirates in the UAE are dropping Indian numerals from number plates. By doing so, they are actually preserving the original Arabic numerals."

Previous examples of Middle East intelligence here.

Mandatory Dark Knight Post

Since everyone seems to have seen The Dark Knight and almost every blogger has posted about it, I thought I too would follow the crowd. Following are my mental notes when I watched the movie - beware this post could contain spoilers.

the Ya-Get-Him factor

Rarely have I watched movies where I really cheer for the hero and when he finally lands a punch or two I go "Yaah!". One last movie that I can really remember was Lagaan - the Oscar nominated 19th century cricket movie. In Lagaan, by the time the climax arrives, you are so involved with the characters that when the hero who is batting whacks the other team's bowler for a six, you are cheering for him. Here it's the same - yes we know who will win (hint: Batman) but still when Batman trips the truck with his bike and slams into the truck with the Batmobile you go "Finally!". This movie had "the Ya-Get-Him factor".

intelligent villainRarely are comic book movie villains interesting. Rarely are they intelligent. They are almost always caricatures. The Joker - he was pure evil. The way the character was portrayed - especially the pencil magic scene - it left no doubt that the villain was pure evil. He was someone who was interested in being evil purely for evil's sake. Heath Ledger portrayed the Joker with the just the right amount of eccentricity. Any more and the Joker would be laughable. Any less and the Joker would be undercooked.

set-piece actionAny "action" movie needs a few scenes that will be remembered long after the movie. In the Matrix Reloaded we had that highway chase scene. In this movie, the Batmobile chase of the truck carrying Harvey Dent and followed by Joker's crew and the subsequent Batpod scene with the truck was that for me. You can't make that in Bollywood, no way.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bangladesh vs Canada

I have been reasonably lucky that Canada and Bangladesh have not faced each other much in any sports. I mean, Canada plays ice hockey and all winter related stuff, and Bangladesh is mostly into cricket and soccer.

With Canada's recent emergence in cricket, however, the meetups are becoming more frequent. In August, Bangladesh comes to Canada to participate in a T-20 tournament and will face the hosts, Canada.

So who will I support?Of course this is nothing new - in England they have something called the Tebbit test, which most British of foreign origins fail every time "their" team visits England.

I live in Canada, I work in Canada, I travel everywhere with a Canadian passport. When people ask me abroad "where are you from" I say Canada. When I say home I mean Canada.

Then why do I want the Bangladesh cricket team to win?

My more important question is - does it matter who I support? I am on record saying this to the BBC: "I supported Bangladesh as cricket means more to Bangladeshis than Canadians. If it was ice hockey, curling or skating, go Canada go!"

If you were an immigrant and it's your home country versus your country of origin, who would you support?

Monday, July 21, 2008

To All Facebook Users

Can you please NOT upload the entire contents of your picture memory card to Facebook? An album is supposed be a few select pictures ... i.e. the GOOD ones. There is no reason to upload three pictures which are exactly the same except one has a closer view of the groom's nose than other ones. Similarly, blurry, out of focus, subject being blocked, etc shouldn't be uploaded. There is no reason to have a "Niagara Trip Album 1" and then "Niagara Trip Album 2" and then till "Album X"... just one album on that should be more than enough.

Can people NOT use the wall as a place to broadcast personal messages. I recently got a mini-feed from a friend's wall-to-wall that included details of her recent breakup, her cat's problems and the other replied with how her mother-in-law hates her. Seriously people, there is something called Private Messaging.

There is a button called the "Ignore" button. You don't need to add EVERY application to your profile so that another person, who is checking out your page, has his browser crash. Grrrrrr!

Instant message on Facebook. I hate it. It's small. It's annoying. I am surfing a page, dammit. Just add me on MSN if you wanna talk.

Can you name your albums something else other than "Random"? Seriously, show a bit of creativity. And "Album That Is Too Cool To Have A Name" doesn't cut it either.

And oh, stop sending me ANY application requests.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Love Story 2050 vs. Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

I saw two Hindi movies recently. One was very good and one was very bad.

Love Story 2050


In spite of all the bad reviews this movie got, I still WANTED to see this movie. It's a sci-fi with time travel, you don't get those often in Hindi cinema. So I watched it.


It's raining outside. Hero is in the mall with hero's girlfriend. It's not that crowded and hero is holding her hand. Suddenly, looking deep into her eyes, and hero utters this romantic dialogue:

"You are like a hot dog without the sausage."

At this point you have to think, seriously, how much worse can the script get? By the end of the seriously bad movie which feels so long that you THINK it's 2050 by the time it ended - you'd know just HOW bad this movie can be.In terms of acting, only Priyanka had a great challege - she had to play two roles. Girl in love, and girl in love with red hair. The special effects are never seen before, in Bollywood that is, but standard Hollywood fare.

As for product placements, it's very amusing to know that Xbox will still be around in 2050, and their latest model would STILL be Xbox 360!

In short, please save 3 hours of your life and do NOT see this movie.

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na


Cute. Good. Adolescence love. Nice movie. Very much watchable.

The heroine looks so much like 'Liya it's uncanny.
I liked the movie - especially the funny climax.

Songs are great.

Please go see it.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Bangladeshis or Pakistanis

I read this very interesting article on BBC about Bangladesh's "Unwanted people".

Basically these are people whose parents were Urdu-speaking Pakistanis living in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during Bangladesh's 1971 War of Independence. They all supported (West) Pakistan. Some even joined the Pakistani army in committing atrocities and genocide and war crimes.

After the war and surrender of Pakistan, these people were put in special refugee camps (mostly to protect them from the rage of normal Bangladeshis who had suffered under the occupying Pakistani army). They were waiting for the Pakistan government to take them away to live in Pakistan.

They are still waiting.

Only, now, two generations have come and gone. As per the BBC article, "Several generations, and often several families, now share the small rooms each was originally given".

Surely, many of the kids are now Bangladeshi in all but name. Yet, in the camp, loyalties to Pakistan are still practiced, whether by singing the national anthem or supporting their cricket team. Ironically, Akram Khan, a former captain of the Bangladesh cricket team (that won the ICC trophy in 1997 that started Bangladesh's rise in world cricket), is of Bihari background. So why are many in the camp still clinging to their Pakistani roots, leading to normal Bangladeshis shunning them?I thought when I would talk to former liberation fighters (my dad) or someone who was actively tortured by the Pakistani army (my uncle) - they would rant against these people. Yet, even they feel that the crime was committed by the camp dweller's parents or grandparents - the present generation should be freely allowed to be Bangladeshis, or if they don't want that, then repatriated to Pakistan.

Yet, because of the insistence of some elders in the camp to cling to a Pakistani identity, and folly of the youth in not shunning those ties, and the betrayal by successive Pakistani governments in not accepting them, these people and their children live on in a refugee camp smack right in the middle of Dhaka - not wanted nor cared for by any one.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Morgentaler and Birth Control

Dr. Henry Morgentaler is going to receive an Order of Canada.

Now I think abortion is a necessary evil. From the Islamic point of view I know some people say it's permissible before 120 days as the soul hasn't yet transferred to the foetus. After that it's allowed only if the mother is in danger.

From the secular point of view I get it that it's the women's body and her choice.

And then I read an article like this.

Honour for Morgentaler is long overdue

If you read the article than it is clear why she thinks abortion is great. If all else fails and you are 'dumb' enough to get pregnant, then it's a great method of birth control.

I thought we in the 20th century has moved on to enlightedness. Apparently I am still a barbarian.

Here's the way I look at it. If you don't want a kid don't fuck anybody. If you are in a relationship with your husband and you get pregnant - it's part of the game. Deal with it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Quebec City - Day 3

We started the day with breakfast at Old Quebec. The magnificent Chateau Frontenac was an apt backdrop to a glorious breakfast of French toast, poached eggs and poutine.It's a pleasure to wonder around in the old town and get treated to a sight like this. The only time I had seen a harp was in an old Jack and the Beanstalk cartoon, so it was something else to see it live.

Then, we rode to this military base. There had been an explosion last April (cause still unknown and under investigation!) that reduced this working base to this.After that, it was time to leave Quebec City (which makes me rethink the title of this post). We had to drive to Tadoussac, a city 3 hours north of Quebec City. The roads were often hilly, and very foggy.

Driving a Nissan Versa with 4 people and all loaded up was a tough job on this 10% grade hilly roads!We drove on and on, until we could drive no more. The highway ended, and we had to drive up to a ferry to be carried across the channel.And then it was on to these Zodiac boats.It was all worth it, to see these magnificent animals they call whales.I realize the picture's not perfect, but I was too busy seeing to take pictures!

We saw 6 or 7 whales during our 2 hour cruise, plus dolphins and seals. The largest whale we saw was a hump back whale. It's a sight to see the whale sprouting water out of the blowhole, and then diving, with its tail sticking out of the water for that very fraction of a second, before plunging to the depths of the sea.

Tomorrow, we drive back to Toronto.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Quebec City - Day 2

Bonjour! Bonjour!

Everyone here is so polite! Random people walking up the street greet you with "Good Day" or "Good Evening" and smile at you. Must be something in the French food.Montmorency Falls is a treat. You start at the base, and take a cable car to the top, riding adjacent to the falls. At the top of the ledge is a suspension bridge that goes over the falls.For some reason, there was lot of old cars parked next to the bridge at the top (another road leads you to the top of the falls). There seemed to be some festival going on (it is Quebec's 400th year after all).

Now it was time to visit the famous old walled city of Old Quebec.This is the famous Chateau Frontenac (Fairmont Hotel). It is a distinct landmark of Old Quebec and is still fully functional as a hotel, running for hundreds of years. We saw a whole lot of limos leave the hotel at one time - someone told us it was the Prime Minister and his entourage who had stayed to mark Quebec's founding day.Then, it was time for a horse ride.Old Quebec is beautiful. You are transported back to the 17th century, those old narrow stone streets, the cobbled together houses, the brightly painted signs ... ah, bliss!They had some street performances (we couldn't make head or tail out of it - the French appear a very artsy type of people). The weather is really nice. Tomorrow, we do a bit more of Old Quebec before heading for a surprise.

(Photos courtesy: Max)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Quebec City - Day 1

rue and chemin refers to roads and streets.

parle vous anglais? is roughly 'do you speak English'.

Armed with that (very) rudimentary French (and perhaps a bit more) I ventured out to Quebec - la belle province - as it is known in Canada.

Maybe they should call it the Rainy Province.

Not to mention cold.And here I was, packed for summer, with Tees and shorts, having to hurry to Walmart to get a decent pair of jacket and raincoat ... and this is supposed to be summer.

We just arrived, and it's pouring like cats and dogs. It's just 6.30, and it's already dark.The above picture is of the Parliament (Quebec City is the capital of Quebec). Tomorrow's forecast is better, so let's hope I can take a few nice pictures.

(Photos courtesy: Max)