Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reviving The Islamic Spirit - 8th Convention - A Recap

I asked a friend who went to the RIS this year for a recap. Following is her reply.

A guest blog post by Anika Imam.

I didn't take notes this year and haven't seen any detailed recaps yet but I can give you a few lines from memory:

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Fort Hood shootings: He condemned it of course. He also mentioned that Obama said, 'It is despicable that Americans have to be afraid for their lives in their own land', but its also despicable that Afghanis have to be afraid for their lives IN THEIR OWN LAND, and Iraqis are afraid in their own land....that's ALSO DESPICABLE!!

Dr Tariq Ramadan (who my mom now loves): He talked about how often times Muslims act unethical even though we should be more ethical, and often non-Muslims in Western society are much more ethical and honest and we should learn from the good Western society, they often emulate what we should be doing as Muslims in the first place....

Habib Ali Jafri: We should not call people "non-Muslims", we should call them "not-yet-Muslims".....creates a less of an us-against-them mentality, and more opportunity for dawah.

Dr. Hakim Abdul Jackson: Very fired up and passionate, did not hold back any punches and was not worried about offending anyone. He said how we should play ball in this existing sociopolitical world order, if we want to get anywhere in the next 50 years as Future Muslims. (-wasn't there for this one, heard about it, sad I missed it.)

Dr Tariq Ramadan (right after Dr. Jackson) on Sunday morning: We should stop playing the victim mentality and self pity routine, as Muslims. (also missed it, heard about it.)

Imam Zaid Shakir on Domestic Violence: Forgiveness and Mercy are the key elements....and it is a mental sickness due to several reasons, usually poor self image, need for control, unbalanced power. Men can be tyrannical in the home, but women can also be very tyrannical and sharp-tongued (of which many men cheered). That a sharp tongue can also lead you into the Hellfire. Also, if you want abusive grandchildren, then just abuse your children, because that's what will happen.

Dr. Tariq Ramadan in the French Session (from my own translation, so insha'Allah it is accurate): Spirituality is like l'art, and art also has a technique, spirituality also has a technique, which brings us closer (rapprochement) to Allah. Both require discipline. He talked about sense and action, why do we do what we do? Heart looking for proof. Someone asked about best form of jihad. He replied that resisting reformation is a type of jihad, understanding and responding in a discussion is a jihad.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, SWOT Anaylsis lecture:

Strengths: Things we already know, how Muslims enjoy more education and wealth than average, Alhamdulillah.

Weaknesses: How divorce is on the rise amongst young Muslims in North America and they are taking notes from Western mentality, of quick way out. Marriage is not meant to make us happy, it is meant to make us HOLY, its supposed to bring us closer to Allah.

Threats/Opportunity: Also we should be grateful to live in Canada, where we can even have such a conference...and that most of us shouldnt complain that we are oppressed just because we get hassled in the airport...thats not oppression...oppression is getting your tongues cut out because you are teaching people the Quran....which happened to the Sahaba!

Broadminded themes, not for West-haters.... :-P

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Resource Management: He read that 85% of the world's fishes are now gone. He wanted to confirm this, so he asked an oceanographer from Princeton who confirmed it. Shaykh Yusuf was saying how we waste our tuna fish on feeding our cats, which cats will eat anything. They can feed themselves and don't need tuna only.

A convert's mother was on stage, saying how she is Catholic, but she is so glad her son converted to Islam, because it changed him completely. he used to be into drugs, and would not respect her, but now he is very kind and respectful towards his mother. Three people also converted on stage.

Also on fish: In Mauritania, fisherman can barely get any fish into their nets. There is no more fish. They thought maybe they have not been grateful to Allah or they may have done some wrongdoing to have this happen. They prayed to Allah swt and suddenly their nets were full of fish. One could attribute this to coincidence or to a Higher Being.

A couple of other points that came to mind if anyone wants to learn:

Dr. Zainab Alwadi: She referenced several ayahs from the Quran pertaining to abuse, if anyone wants to read. Surah Hujarat, Ayah 49, Surah Noor, Surah Nisa and Surah Baqarah (can't rememeber the ayah but I know it is somewhere between 169-269).

Imam Zaid Shakir: Terrorists usually do not come from nurturing families. People from nurturing families in general do not do these types of things.

3 Idiots - Just Good, Not At All A Great Movie (and why Amir Khan is also not the Chosen One)

How was the movie?

Well, before I begin, three things.

First, if you are not into Bollywood skip this post.

Second, if you are going to watch 3 Idiots, watch it and then come back to this post. This is not a review, but a discussion, so I cannot guarantee no spoilers.

Third, if you are are a die hard Amir Khan fan, one who believes He can do no wrong and is the Chosen One and 3 Idiots is the Movie of the Year Decade then perhaps you should skip this post also, as this post makes sense and says some stuff that could be construed as blasphemy in your world.

Er, OK, so how was the movie?

Here's my quick take of the movie. It's a good movie. It entertains 80% of the time. Second half drags on. The twist in the story is unbelievable illogical incomprehensible. Still, overall, it's worth the $10 admission in a theatre and as I said, it's a good movie.

So, what's the problem?

Where I draw the line is when I listen to all this Amir Khan fans who have elevated this (and any thing he does) to unbelievable levels. Yesterday I went to a party and one guy was again saying the same thing and I couldn't take it any more - thus this post was born.

OK, so what exactly does this Amir Khan fan club say?

Well, first, they always say how meticulous and professional Amir Khan is and how realistic are his movies. Well, the first scene of this movie defies any logic.

A guy fakes a heart attack on a plane, makes the plane turn around, runs out THROUGH the airport, THROUGH security, rushes out of the airport and then goes on his business. Even given that this is India, in today's world, is that realistic?

I am not even going into another guy driving from wherever they are to Shimla half naked (yes, no pants). And exactly HOW LONG is a day in India? They flight is aborted in the morning, they drive around the town picking up another guy, they go to their old school, they go to another town 255 km away, then make a u turn and go somewhere else, and then again another city, and still it's just noon or so at the end of the movie!

Well it's just a Bollywood movie!

Exactly! I could accept all this from any movie. But Amir Khan's fanclub makes it as if their movies are the ONLY ones in Bollywood that are completely logical. And so I am nitpicking. I want to show that at the end, Amir Khan is only making a Bollywood movie. I mean, a still born baby comes alive when "Aal Iz Well" is said to his ear!

What other thing does Amir Khan's fan club say?

Well, they go on and on about his acting and how Shah Rukh Khan cannot touch him and why NO ONE ELSE can do this role except the Chosen and Blessed By God Amir Khan...

First, the role Amir Khan played is not a hard role. He will hardly get an Oscar nomination for this. He is playing someone eternally optimistic, always thinking beyond the immediate, fighting convention, the "modern Indian", wise, funny ... same roles.

It's a role he played in Taare Zameen Par, in Lagaan, in Dil Chahta Hain, in Rang De Basanti, in .... you get the point.

Second, R Madhavan has the toughest scene in the movie (when he tells his dad he doesn't like Engineering). Not Amir Khan. What's so hard about getting a hair cut, smiling with your teeth over your lips and saying "Aal Iz Well"?

Third, why do Amir Khan fans always have to put down Shah Rukh Khan to try and prove their Hero Deity is the greatest? They must suffer from some strange form of Inferiority Complex.

Well, at least Amir Khan is original, right?

LOL (that's me really laughing out loud).

The director must be a green person because he has recycled some horrible internet jokes that have gone out as forwards ever since email first started. He truly takes me back to my college days as one of the first forwards I got was "big butt seat" which when reluctantly (or eagerly, can't remember now) clicked upon (before the days of viruses and trojans) would lead to this.

The following still, from 3 Idiots, is however considered "original".

Second, as soon as Boman Irani (that's a whole post by itself) took out the astronaut pen, I groaned. Surely, Amir Khan is not going to tell this joke? But he did.

Oh, and remember the joke about exam papers and "Do you know who am I"? Groan. He put that in as well.

And now, let's come to some other shades of copying. Hero traveling out of the house, getting dressed in a hurry, forgetting his pants. Man! Shah Rukh Khan has done it to death in Dil To Pagal Hain and Kuch Kuch Hota Hain. Even he doesn't do it any more!

And finally, young college student trying to reform old grouchy headmaster whose own child has committed suicide due to the headmaster's fussiness about rules and practicality? Shades of Mohabbatein anyone?

Well, didn't the movie have a social message?

Which is what exactly? I am still trying to understand that. Does Amir Khan say don't study, grades are not important? Why is his grade in the movie first then? What exactly is the whole point of the movie?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ho Ho Ho

I was at Walmart (yes, seeing if they have deals on Lego specials), and then I overheard this conversation.

One middle aged Caucasian man, with a deep baritone voice and handle bar mustache, talking on his cellphone.

"Hi Johnny, this is Daddy. Listen, I just ran into Santa Clause ..."

"Yes, Santa Clause. Remember the chair you wanted? He has two chairs, blue and white, and he is asking me which one to bring for you."

"Yes, it's Santa Clause. I met him at the mall. Yes, he is standing in front of me now."

"No, you can NOT talk with him. He is very busy."

"Yes, I know it's not Christmas. He wants to get you the chair FOR Christmas."

"LOOK! Do you want the blue or white chair? OK, good.. I will tell him you want the blue chair."

The question I had after overhearing the man was this: in today's multicultural society, how do you keep the truth about Santa hidden from your kids? I mean, as soon as I have a kid and he or she goes to school, I am going to tell my kid to find all the Christian kids in kindergarten and tell them Santa is a myth (yes, I might have a mean streak! :-P )

A car, decorated for the season, at a parking garage

So, if you are reading this and Christian, first, Merry Christmas, and second, how old were your kids when they found out about Santa?

And to everyone else who's in Canada, get ready for Boxing Day!

From a party at work!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top 10 Things A Muslim Loves About Christmas

1. It, really, IS a wonderful time of the year.

Even though it's not my celebration, it's nice to see everyone around engaged in spreading the holiday cheer, in a festive mood, smiling and focused on charitable acts.

2. The decking of the halls with boughs of holly.

Let's face it. For 11 months of the year we work in bland offices which bland colors on the walls, with our streets wearing a faded look. Suddenly, it all comes to live with the colors of green and red.

3. Cavalcade of Lights.

Not only does it look great, and City Hall does put out fantastic light shows and fireworks every weekend, but it's not a bad time of the year to put on some skates and go around the rink to the sound of some lovely music. It's not too cold, it's not too windy, and it's nothing a cup of hot chocolate can't put right!

4. The malls. Shopping. For self.

While the idea of shopping frenzy in December ("only x shopping days left till Christmas" ads notwithstanding), non-Christians have it really good. There's all this discounts galore, and you are really buying the perfect gift for the perfect person. I mean, I know EXACTLY what I want.

Photo Credit: Top Left Pixel

5. The decorations.

I grew up in a place where a 'good' decoration meant LOTS OF LIGHTS. Lights in the shape of the glorious leader's portrait. Lights in the shape of the leaders flags. Lights for no reasons at all.

So it's nice to see some of the creative lighting they put up at this time of the year.

6. The carols and the music.

What's Christmas without the music? If there was any doubt about the power of music to set the tone and soothe the soul, this is the time. Honestly, Jingle Bells doesn't get tiring. It's nice to see people smile. It just reminds you of number 7.

7. The 'Holiday' Parties.

There's the company party. Then the department party. Then the subdivision party. Then there's the office party. Finally there's the IT group's party. Of course, I am leaving out the alumnus party, the neighborhood association party, the union party ...

8. The "Leave the project till New Years" thing.

Um, no comment on this one.

9. The Holidays!

Let's not forget - not only do people NOT work during work time, but they also get time off work! That's always a plus in my book. I mean, I am always up for any holiday by any religious group - as long as it gets everyone a day off work. On that count, Christmas rules.

10. Boxing Day and New Years Eve.

Technically, this is after Christmas, but hey, it's something else to look forward to. And I love that song Auld Lang Syne.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all my readers.

PS. Honorable mentions for this list.

1. The annual Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas rematch.
2. The "are you visiting Bangladesh this year" questions every December.
3. Reindeer noses.
4. The spate of children's movies on TV.
5. Hot chocolate.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fun with Lego

I found an old bag in an old box the other day in storage, and was mighty surprised to see it contained various Lego pieces from my childhood!!!

That was the whole weekend spent trying to build things from memory and with missing pieces and no instructions. I even went out and got a couple of new sets. Here's one from more recent times.

So Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood are taking a walk in the markets of Cairo, Egypt.

Everything is great. The weather is sunny, there is even a wagon full of hay, and a barrel full of apples, some of which are in display at the stall. What could go wrong?

Oh no! Marion is suddenly attacked by a masked avenger!

While another fellow pops up to charge at Indiana Jones.

Marion manages to stun her attacker with a blow to the head with her frying pan ...

... while Indiana Jones uses his trusty whip to foil his attacker...

But there's more of them!

Sometimes, it's better to beat a hasty retreat.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

An MBA Analysis of the Swiss Minaret Ban

A good solution is rarely a single course of action. A good solution always looks at the big picture, considers various relationships between all factors, and then coordinates multiple activities to realize the big dream.

A good solution is both complex and simple at the same time. Let me analyze the Swiss minaret ban using an MBA perspective.

Here I will talk about the problem, my executive summary, then an analysis of the factors (Porter's 5 force and SWOT), before breaking down my solution.

The Problem

The Swiss have banned the construction of minarets in mosques.

Many seem to think this is the problem. To me, this is a symptom.

Here is how I frame the problem.

There is a growing intolerance in Switzerland towards practicing Islam the way Muslims want in Switzerland.

This to me is the bigger picture, as well as more specific. We can already see that there's two issues (underlined) that can be tackled.

The Executive Summary

We need to implement "Forward, Switzerland" which is the name I give to an Integration Plan for Switzerland and her Muslims.

Its target is to ensure Swiss Muslims fit seamlessly into the Swiss culture while Switzerland becomes more accommodating of special needs of its own citizens. All this will be achieved with a focus on traditional Swiss values of secularism, tolerance and goodwill. In the end, Switzerland will emerge a stronger nation, an example to others, a bastion of liberty - hence the name "Forward, Switzerland".

The Analysis

Undertaking a Porter's 5 force analysis on Swiss Islam, we can make the following conclusions.
Suppliers: People who will become Muslim - they have high power because they love the values of freedom, secularism, liberty and traditional Swiss values.
Buyers: People who are already Muslim - have definite demands, fitting in with the Swiss tradition and environment.
Substitutes: Other existing religions - have low power because traditionally the conversion rate of Muslims into other religions have been low.
New Entrants: Other new religions - also have low power as Islam is an established religion.
Rivalry within: many Islamic sects who tend to nullify each other (same day Eid anyone?).

Therefore we can draw the conclusion from this that the Islamic community in Switzerland must address traditional Swiss values of liberty and tolerance, while trying to unify the Islamic community itself. This will also lead it to build a better brand image.

Let's come to the more interesting SWOT analysis.
Strengths: Islam is an established religion, and in Europe it has a history. Support can be garnered for objectives (including money) from the wider Muslim community.
Weakness: Swiss population of Muslim is small, plus Islam has a terrible PR problem. Brand image in Switzerland is one of violence that has to be changed.
Opportunity: The sudden prominence of the Islamic community as the victimized, particularly in secular Europe, and a position of sympathy from European leaders.
Threats: The hot headed extremists within the community can hamper any dreams.

Therefore we can draw the conclusion that the Islamic community in Switzerland must act quickly to realize the sympathy, must control its extremists and try and garner support from the wider Muslim community for its plan as soon as possible. Remaking the brand image will take a long time, but it has to be started.

A third part of the analysis, that I will not go into here for sake of brevity, involves breaking down the salient factors (immigration, rituals, cultural baggage, xenophobia, history) and understanding the relations between them, and how they play into the solution.

The Solution - Forward, Switzerland

1. Build Mosques

There is nothing in the law that says a mosque cannot be built in Switzerland. A key objection to obtaining local permits for building mosques in Switzerland has been the construction of minarets. Often, racist elements of the local community would object to a mosque being built because it had a minaret in it. The objection was to the minaret (You can read this lengthy article).

Well, in Islam, a mosque can be a room, or even a clean ground. Minarets were historically never part of the mosque and only started appearing 80 years after the death of the Prophet. Many Muslims don't know it, but even domes and arches that we now associate with mosques were only popularized during the Ottomans.

Switzerland and her Muslims needs more mosques, and now with no objection to minarets (no minarets permitted by law) the construction process of mosques should be faster.

2. Raise Money

Money will be needed for construction of mosques, for charitable initiatives, for public relations and for upkeep of Islamic institutions in Switzerland. Money exists in Switzerland (the country is super rich - and therefore her citizens - Muslims included). The wider Islamic community has funds also.

3. Mosques support charity

Every new mosque in Switzerland should come with a soup kitchen attached. When a neighborhood gets a mosque, they are also getting food and support for the needy and homeless in the area. This is the tradition of the Prophet, the tradition of the early Islamic community in Medina and the way mosques have traditionally worked.

4. Read our history

Do you know how the Prophet got around to establishing an Islamic empire from zero in Medina? He arrived as a refugee, a leader of fellow refugees, and what did he do?

Ya aiuhan nas
O people.

Ibsus Salam
Exchange the greetings of peace with one another.

Wa atimut tawaam
Feed those who are hungry.

Wa sallu bil laili wannaasu niyam
Pray in the night when the rest of the people are asleep.

Idkhulul jannata bissalaam
Surely you will enter Paradise in peace.

I deal with that in detail here.

Note: Feed those who are hungry.

Of similar interest should be the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, and how the Prophet turned a position of disadvantage to his advantage. The Treaty was hampering to Muslims in a legal, strategical, and military fashion.

Or so they thought.

5. Have Convert Outreach and Progress Programs

Following Islamic commandments, Muslims in Switzerland must reach out to non-Muslim citizens. Outreach programs that boost conversion rates (hence more mosques and $$$s are needed) should be started.

Not only must they try and convert people into their faith, they must also try and ensure converts are looked after, AFTER conversion. Often, new converts fall prey to extremists, or become disillusioned and leave, or fall into hard times.

A good proper new convert strategy will ensure not only that Muslims in Switzerland address their problem of small numbers, but will also change the Islamic community in Switzerland itself to become more in tune with Swiss values. This also reduces the xenophobia and increases cultural acceptance of Islam in Switzerland by her own people.

6. Deal with extremists

Any extremist risks harming the brand image of Islam in Switzerland and must be dealt with immediately. Muslims in Switzerland needs to focus on their own issues (Palestine, Afghanistan can come later). Extremism is not tolerated in Islam nor in Switzerland. Islam stands for justice, freedom and equality, and so does Switzerland. If people don't think so, it is the job of the brand manager (i.e. Muslims in Switzerland) to ensure people think so.

Muslims also have a bad habit of hiding their extremists or making excuses for them. This has to stop.


This multi-pronged approach will ensure that not only do Muslims change themselves in Switzerland for the better, to become more in tune with Islamic beliefs AND Swiss beliefs, but that Swiss resistance to Islamic principles is also reduced.

In the end, the following of this plan "Forward, Switzerland" will ensure proper integration of Islam in Switzerland to the benefit of both communities, which are really one community after all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bangla song copied by Romanian!

Usually it's the Bangladeshi musicians who stand accused of lifting (copying) songs from Bollywood or the English artists. Here, however, is a clear exception!

Here's the link to the remix of a Bangla classic written by Radha Romon Dutta in the year 1870!

It's a real nice piece of music that I have listened to many a time.

Now here's the link to a Romanian song that was released in 2008.

You judge and tell me!

Thanks to my friend Nabil for the info.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Family Dessert in Canada

A key activity in Canada is going for dessert.

Initially this was a somewhat strange activity for me. Mind you, in the Middle East, where I was brought up, it was as hot as hell, yet dessert places were hardly present in the 80s and 90s. If you wanted ice cream, you went to the local convenience store run by a guy from Kerala and got a Kwality bar.

So, in Canada, in the land of ice and snow, you actually got dressed, went to, and PAID to eat ice cream?

First, if you or a sibling is treating, you have to convince the parents to come. Typical desi father reaction would be: "What, PAY to eat ice cream? NO WAY! I will go to No Frills now, get that box, and we can mash some bananas in the blender..."

Of course then your dad would tell your mom that he is only going "for the family" and he will not eat "anything". But you notice he still eats less for dinner ...

So the family goes to the dessert place.

And then spend 20 minutes trying to explain the menu to those who haven't been there before.

"No, Moo La La is really good... and no, Forbidden Fruits doesn't have anything haram ..."

Then usually the sibling who is NOT treating decides he (or she) wants an extra order on the side because the other sibling is paying, so they will order a shake.

The food, when it comes all at once, silences everyone.

After all, no one does dessert and crepes and waffles like Canadians!

Even the parents decide it was indeed good and passes the "Parent Restaurant Test" - which is that the food is something they could not have made at home, is indeed good, and worth paying for.

If you have a wife, you will know that chocolates and ice cream for some reason is the cure to every problem.

And then the drive back home your dad thinks they should really open a place like this much closer to home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Toberymory and Flowerpot Island

Since most of our travel budget was spent this year on Europe, we took a few short trips here and there near home. Ontario (the province whose capital is Toronto) is a very scenic and beautiful province. Canadians love natural surroundings and Ontario offers a lot for the hikers, climbers, campers etc. On one day, on a whim, another couple and we decided to take a trip to Tobermory, which is about three and half hours drive away from Toronto.

Any day at Tobermory starts with the traditional Fish 'n Chips. Man, I feel sorry for the English and their food!

After roaming around the scenic town of Tobermory, we then decided to take a cruise to Flowerpot Island. The normal cruise is 2 hours long - they take you over the ruins of boats sunk long ago and past some beautiful islands. Another express cruise to Flowerpot Island only takes about 15 minutes.

It was a beautiful day, blue sunny skies with white puffs of picturesque clouds floating over the horizon. The area is called Bruce Peninsula and it's somewhere we would love to go back again.

There's a couple of trails on the Flowerpot Island that leads you to the "flowerpots". There's an easy walkway cut through the forest, and there's the harder, more adventurous one over rocks and the coast line. We chose the more adventurous route (but only because we didn't know about the easy one's existence!).

In the end, however, it was worth it. We walked beside the waves, climbed over many rock formations, had a blast dunking under waterfalls, and saw lots of wonderful (and sometimes creepy) creatures.

The "flowerpots":

There's tons more to do on Flowerpot Island. We explored a cave, went for walk about. Families who came early in the day had a full BBQ picnic set up, while a few more adventurous folk had set up tents to camp for the night.

We took the last boat out. We would have loved to have stayed the night, and next day explore Manitoulin Island and other nearby places, but unfortunately, there were no vacancies at Tobermory, so we drove back home. As they say here, "till next time". iA!

Pictures, courtesy of: S Islam

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Go back home

I am filling up at a gas station in a city just outside Toronto, but to the north. It's around 11 at night, and I am eager to get home. An older white lady is also standing nearby, filling up her pickup truck. She's the only other customer outside.

"Why don't you go back home?"

Huh? All of a sudden, I hear this. I can't believe my ears, so I turn to her.

"Excuse me?"

"Why don't you go back home?" She repeats in a louder voice.

I look around, and then reply, "Er, Toronto?"

"No, go back where you CAME FROM!"

"Um, Toronto?" I reply again. I am sort of enjoying this.

"No." She was now furious. "Go back where to your lot is!"

"Uh-huh, that would be Toronto."

She is now quite livid, and near shouting. "Why do you come to my home, and take MY job, and ... do you know after you guys came, where ALL the jobs went?"

I would have replied "Toronto" but then she had entered the truck, slammed her door and off she went.

It was my proper first brush with racism in Canada. I mean, I have heard it exists, and there are times when I have attributed behaviour to racism, but this was in your face. I was kind of glad I dealt with it in good humour and sarcasm. Perhaps the fact she was an old lady tempered it a bit. But then, why are older, rural folks more racist? I don't know.

For now, I was heading back to where I came from. Good ol' Toronto.

Friday, November 06, 2009

a_bong is born

Yes, I do have a lot to say (waiting for the weekend to pen some posts), but for the moment, I have news.

I have given in.


Yes, you can now follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/a_bong.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall 2009 Photography

Leaf peeping is an autumn activity in areas where foliage changes colors. Leaf peepers are those who participate in photographing and viewing the fall foliage.

Like everyone who immigrates to Canada from the warmer climates waits for their first glimpse of snow, I too awaited the arrival of winter ever since I landed in Canada. However, I was caught unaware by the magnificence that is Fall. The colours change beautifully, the whole forest turns a brilliant hue of orange, yellow and red, and if you happen to fly above the forest you would think it had caught on fire!

I didn't happen to go out much this year for Fall photography due to various commitments, but did happen to have my camera with me for a couple of snaps while I waited for the wife near my workplace. I plan to do some more tomorrow, so perhaps this post will be updated.

A fallen leaf on the pavement really starts to symbolize in Canada that winter is not far away!

Here's some pictures from 2005.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Day is a North American tradition. In olden days, it was a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. Today, it is a holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Families gather together, a large bird (turkey) is cooked, and it's a holiday for family reunions and joy.

Our Thanksgiving in Canada occurs much earlier than the US one. This year it was on the 12th of October. When we first moved here, it was very difficult to find a halal turkey. Either you had to go to a farm and slaughter one yourself, or you had to go to the Jewish corner to get a kosher turkey. Soon, it started to appear at select No Frills and Food Basic stores. Now it's very commonly available, and many halal meat stores have it. So our job of procuring a halal turkey has gotten much easier.

Last year, we got freshly slaughtered turkey delivered from the farm, and it was cooked immediately, and was really yummy. This year, the farm wasn't delivering to our area, so we got one from the store.

You have to let the turkey thaw on its own. Ours was a 13 lb turkey, so it took a day to thaw!

The next job is to thoroughly clean the turkey.

After it's washed, the turkey will be marinated with various stuff, and then placed in the oven.

While it's being cooked (takes 2-3 hours), one prepares other types of feast (after all, you need to show you have a LOT to be thankful for!).

So I tried my hand at making pizza.

It turned out somewhat round!

I also had some dough and toppings left over, so that made the 'left over' pizza!

This was how that turned out.

Of course, the evening is not complete without some dessert! We made muffins.

Meanwhile, as all this is being done and family members gather around the dinner table, our turkey is now done.

Too bad it was devoured before we thought of taking its picture!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Ban the Queen!

I think this lady should be banned in Canada. She has nothing to do with the Islamic faith, and she represents a mode of control over female (as well as male) Canadians. She is a political symbol, a relic of the medieval times and a culture that is from a foreign land.

Of course if you read my satire closely you will see I am almost using the exact words Tarek Fatah uses in his National Post article, as well as the Muslim Canadian Congress in their press statement.

Recently there's a big hullabaloo in Toronto because not only did some Shiekh in Azhar University call for banning the niqab, the Muslim Canadian Congress, Tarek Fatah's former organization, called on the Canadian government to ban the niqab in Canada, saying it's not part of Islam.

Now the media is playing it up but they should do their homework. Hardly any Muslim in Canada listens to Tarek Fatah or his MCC. No one cares about them. On every position their views are so out of whack with the general Muslim populace that they can hardly claim to speak for the average Muslim Canadian.

Second, the idea that potential bank robbers can use the niqab to do a bank robbery and not be identified is present in Fatah's article. To date, there's ONE such robbery (and it was a man!). On the other hand, countless bank robberies have been performed in shirts and pants. They cover a part of a person's identity too! Let's ban shirts and pants.

While we are at it, no one should enter a bank wearing a sun glass. It hides your eyes. Also, in the winter, you cannot wear a scarf around your neck or a monkey cap, even if it is -40 outside. You MAY rob a bank, I don't know. I also find the idea of cycle helmets, especially motorcycle helmets, offensive. I can't see your eyes if you are riding a motorbike on the road! How can I make an eye contact, as referred to in my G1 manual? A motorcycle helmet is preventing me from following the law, as well as concealing your identity, so let's ban that as well.

Finally, when I go skiing, I don't want anyone to wear a ski mask, ski helmet and ski goggles. I can't see who you are when you are skiing. What if you bump into me, how do I recognize you? There's a bank at the ski resort, what if you rob it?

I think we should ban stupid people.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Nuit Blanche

Toronto held its third all night art festival called Nuit Blanche this Saturday, well into the morning of Sunday. I decided to explore the art scene in the city. After walking for four hours, I decided it was very ... interesting.

First up was city hall, where they set up a Light Machine.

There were giant speakers making all sort of weird spooky sounds (aliens music) and letters between the City Hall buildings kept changing. We saw "FATE", "LONE", etc.

I don't know what it meant, but it seemed very popular. Lots of people were around to see the letters change.

Some exhibits later we came across one that promised ghostly spectres would arise from the ground to recite deadly premonitions (or something to that effect). Well, at least they didn't disappoint.

One cool exhibit (and what I thought was real art) was one exhibit that let people paint whatever they want using a light pen, and it was projected on the side of the huge building near Ryerson University.

Well this guy decided to have a little fun making the Public Green P Parking symbol that led people to think there was a parking garage there,

and that it was Free Parking!

Thankfully the street was closed to traffic else we would have had a traffic jam!

There was this slide outside the Toronto Stock Exchange.

It's supposed to represent the wild slide the market had undergone in the last year.

The weirdest, and freakiest exhibit was the Witch's Cradle. Participants were blindfolded, kept waiting for sometime, then led to a 'bag' that folded around them and then lifted up and was swinging gently from side to side.

I read the explanation and I still don't know what it meant!

We went down all the way to Front St., and Pinball Clement (Argonaut coach) and a couple of his people were there, meeting and greeting people! We went all the way up to University of Toronto and then on Bloor St. before heading home.

One thing I got to think, even though some of the stuff was just plain weird, it was great to be out in the city at night and it was great to see what creative people could come up with. Creativity, and freedom of expression, great way to stimulate thinking and keep a society progressive.

See also: Nuit Blanche from 2006