June 30, 2005

SF Quiz

Give this a try: it's a little science fiction quiz from MSN. And for the record, I got 11 correct out of 11! :)

June 28, 2005

Awaken or die!

As my wife has discovered, I love reading about ancient history (Troy and Rome, in particular). (Although I've been reading more "modern" history as of late, notably John Man's Attila and Thomas Asbridge's The First Crusade. But I digress...)

In today's NY Times, there is a review of ABC's miniseries, "Empire." (Not that I'll get the chance to watch it, unless one of our cable channel stations, like Hallmark, picks it up or it gets sold via VCD.) But I did like the reviewer's writing, who was amusing at times. Some of the better quotations:

"At times, the story seems more influenced by George Lucas's empire than Caesar's. Octavius is a Latin-speaking Luke Skywalker who is taught by a Han Solo-like gladiator, Tyrannus (Jonathan Cake), to fight with swords to gain his throne." [Actually, this sounds more like Orlando Bloom's "Balian" learning how to fight from Liam Neeson's Godfrey in Kingdom of Heaven.]

"Cicero (Michael Byrne) serves as his Obi-Wan Kenobi, weighing in wisely behind the scenes. (Let the forum be with you. ...)"

"The assassination scene is beautifully choreographed, and there are lots of bath scenes and amusingly cheesy dialogue. (Reveille at gladiator boot camp is 'Awaken or die!')"

"Yet there are still plenty of gory scenes, including gruesome torture in a dank gladiator prison, where inmates' screams and groans sound almost as blood-curdling as the match set of a women's tennis final at Wimbledon."

June 27, 2005

The Imam of Bedford Stuyvesant

Here's an interesting article on Imam Siraj Wahhaj, of Masjid at-Taqwa in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY. It's not only interesting because of him, but of his ability to use Islam as a positive force for urban renewal, changing a neighborhood from one infested with drug dealers and crack houses into one where people feel safe, with a "Muslim economy." From Saudi Aramco World magazine.

June 26, 2005


This was amusing in a perverse sort of way...when the Islam-hating, liberal-hating, xenophobic, ethnocentric redneck conservative spews forth her vitriol like a mad dog needing to be put down. :) From Nicholas Kristof's blog (post 839):

"Carol complains about my comment to Pakistanis, 'I understand your defensiveness, for we Americans feel the same about Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.' She adds:

'You are just another NYT insane liberal who equates panties-on-the-head and detainment of enemy combatants as brutality. You should be ashamed, but you and your newspaper are beyond shame.

'Don't you dare talk about "We Americans" - because if your ideology ever rules, Americans will all disappear from the face of the earth. Those animals detained at Guantanamo are as crazed with their islamic ideology as you are with your liberal ideology. But don't you dare use the word "We" Americans. Tell the truth. Say "We Communists" or "We politically correct Socialists". They will still behead you, along with me, as you and I are "We Infidels" to the Muslim world.'

"It’s striking how parallel Carol’s views are to the emails I get from Pakistanis who defend the gang-rape and abuse of Mukhtaran. In each case, it’s not really brutality but needs to be put into context, and any acknowledgment that one’s country can do wrong amounts to treachery. But if Pakistanis can be bold enough to acknowledge brutality and shortcomings, we should to [sic]."

June 22, 2005

USQ Aphorisms

The school I teach at is affiliated with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in Australia. One thing I like about USQ's books is that they have a number of aphorisms on the front and back covers. I thought I'd share them with you:

Front Cover:

  • "He is happiest who hath power to gather wisdom from a flower." - Mary Howitt
  • "Engineering is the art or science of making practical." - S.C. Florman
  • "The arts are the servant; wisdom its master." - Seneca
  • "Wisdom is knowledge which has become a part of one's being." - Orison Swett Marden
  • "To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe." - Marilyn vos Savant
  • "Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous." - Confucius
  • "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." - Ellen Parr
  • "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
  • "Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality." - Jules de Gaultier
  • "Wear the old coat and buy the new book." - Austin Phelps
  • "Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened." - Sir Winston Churchill
  • "Learning is not compulsory...neither is survival." - W. Edwards Deming
  • "There art two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and Laziness." - Franz Kafka
  • "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx
  • "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastophe." - H.G. Wells
  • "It is only the ignorant who despise education." - Publilius Syrus
  • "Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life." - Dr. David M. Burns
  • "The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves." - Carl Jung

Back Cover:

  • "Boredom, after all, is a form of criticism." - William Phillips
  • "A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  • "Intelligence without ambition is like a bird without wings." - C. Archie Danielson
  • "The smallest bookstore still contains more ideas of worth than have been presented in the entire history of television." - Andrew Ross
  • "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead
  • "A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." - Oscar Wilde
  • "I think we're here to learn and evolve, and the pursuit of knowledge alleviates the pain of being human." - Sting
  • "The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." - Allan K. Chamlers
  • "Every time an artist dies, part of the vision of mankind passes with him." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." - Antonie de Saint-Exupery, "The Little Prince"
  • "One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star." - G.K. Chesterton
  • "Read not to contradict and refute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." - Francis Bacon
  • "All of us have two educations: one which we receive from others; another, and the most valuable, which we give ourselves" - John Randolph
  • "Knowledge comes by taking things apart. But wisdom comes by putting things together." - John A. Morrison

While we're talking about video games...

Last night, I had come across the article (posted below) from the NY Times about the teenager who plays video games 6 hours a day. This morning, I came across the following:

"After downing bottles of water and eating all the granola bars carried by a group of volunteer searchers, the boy asked to play a video game on one rescuer's cell phone, the sheriff said." (Source: Missing Scout Found Alive in Utah)

Now, let me first say that I'm really glad they found this boy alive and well. It just strikes me as odd that after satisfying his physiological needs (food and water), the kid needs to numb his mind with a video game afterwards. One wonders what drove this kid to survive for four days out in the wild. His video game addiction?

Are video games the new cigarettes?

Geert Hofstede Quotation

I'm currently working on some lecture notes, and thought to make reference to Geert Hofstede, the Dutch cultural analyst whose work is so important for understanding the differences between national cultures. Anyway, on one of his personal pages, I came across a great quotation by him that I thought I'd share:

"...[S]tudying culture without experiencing culture shock is like practising swimming without water."

For more information about Dr. Hofstede, I recommend both his business website, ITIM, and his personal homepage.

June 21, 2005

In the NY Times today...

A couple of comments regarding two articles in the NY Times today. First, from the article, "They Got (Video) Game; N.B.A. Finals Can Wait":

"To Joshua Alvarado, 16, who said he usually spent at least six hours a day playing video games..."

F***! Somebody pull the plug on this kid! What are this kid's grades like? Do his parents care? Obviously, he doesn't! Yo, Josh, you can't make a living playing video games, and the girls won't love ya when you've become as fat as a toad from no exercise. LOSER!

"Mr. [Brian] Billick [coach of the NFL Baltimore Ravens] said that when he was looking for a new assistant coach recently, an applicant said he was qualified because he had mastered all of the N.F.L. defenses through intense study of the Madden games. "He was totally serious," Mr. Billick said. He did not, for the record, get the job."

Another LOSER! (Not the coach, the applicant.) Get out the game film, guy, and learn defences the real way! The NFL is played with people, not electrons!

The other article is on Condoleeza Rice's visit to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, "Rice Urges Egyptians and Saudis to Democratize":

"'For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither,' Ms. Rice declared at the American University in Cairo. 'Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.'"

Yeah, right. What Ms. Rice has to say sounds nice on the surface, but will the US (and other Western) government really accept election results in Middle Eastern countries that don't go their way? Algeria comes to mind...

"Some of the 600 listeners at the university complained that her call for freedom was undercut by American indifference to Israeli "war crimes," mistreatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib and the continuing violence in Iraq."

These are important issues and I agree with these people that these issues need to be resolved... But, you're mixing apples and oranges when you bring these up, and you're undermining your own credibility as a result.

"The reaction illustrated the quandary that the Bush administration faced in navigating the demands for sweeping changes and a desire not to offend close allies or to apply separate benchmarks to different countries, depending on their status as friends."

Exactly. This is classic "yes, but..." thinking. The US government needs to parse their thinking down only to the "yes" stage, where they will accept the consequences, both good and bad, of their desires.

"Her criticism of Egypt, by contrast, came in a conciliatory tone, accompanied by reminders that the United States has its own history of slavery and racism. 'The United States has no cause for false pride, and we have every reason for humility,' she added."

This was a good comment by her; it's a shame that more Americans don't show this face more often.

"In another awkward exchange, Mr. Gheit reminded Ms. Rice that he had told her earlier that without 'a settlement for the Palestinian problem,' little could be done. 'That is crucial!' he added. Ms. Rice, who traveled to Egypt from Jordan and Israel, where she had sought to coax the Israelis and Palestinians toward a solution, retorted with a smile, 'That's what we're working on.'"


June 19, 2005

Islam Hadhari

Islam Hadhari [or Civilizational Islam] is an approach that emphasizes development, consistent with the tenets of Islam and focused on enhancing the quality of life. It aims to achieve this via the mastery of knowledge and the development of the individual and the nation; the implementation of a dynamic economic, trading and financial system; an integrated and balanced development that creates a knowledgeable and pious people who hold to noble values and are honest, trustworthy, and prepared to take on global challengers.

Islam Hadhari is not a new religion. It is not a new teaching nor is it a new mazhab (denomination). Islam Hadhari is an effort to bring the Ummah back to the basics, back to the fundamentals, as prescribed in the Qur'an and the Hadith that form the foundation of Islamic civilization. If Islam Hadhari is interpreted sincerely and understood clearly, it will not cause Muslims to deviate from the true path.

As a government that is responsible for ensuring Muslims are able to meet current challenges without deviating from their faith, the doors of ijtihad must remain open, so that interpreatations are suited to the developmental needs of the prevailing time and conditions. Policies must be balanced and broad-based development that encompasses the infrastructure and the economy; human resource development via a comprehensive education program; the inculcation of noble values through spiritual development, and assimilation of Islamic values.

Islam Hadhari aims to achieve ten main principles:
* Faith and piety in Allah
* A just and trustworthy government
* A free and independent People
* Mastery of knowledge
* Balanced and comprehensive economic development
* A good quality of life
* Protection of the rights of minority groups and women
* Cultural and moral integrity
* Safeguarding the environment
* Strong defenses

These principles have been formulated to ensure that the implementation and approach does not cause anxiety among any group in our multiracial and multireligious country. These principles have been devised to empower Muslims to face the global challenges of today.

Islam Hadhari is complete and comprehensive, with an emphasis on the development of the economy and civilization, capable of building the Ummah’s competitiveness. The glorious heritage of Islamic civilization in all aspects must be used as a reference and become the source of inspiration for society to prosper.

A change in mindset among the Ummah requires action that is encompassing, drastic and systematic, regardless of sector or partisan loyalty. It requires society to change their tasawwur (worldview). Consistent with this, the concept of life as a service to God and the concept of work as worship, humans as caliphs and the obligation to seek strength in every aspect of life must be accentuated; in particular, the objective of maqasid al Syariah which seeks to safeguard, dignify and empower religion, intellect, life, property and progeny.

A consistent effort to ensure lasting success must be prepared. Any thinking that confuses and is inconsistent with Islamic beliefs must be rejected in order to allow the Ummah resilience and thought to be built. A change in attitude and culture requires ijtihad and jihad (struggle). The concept of jihad must be given a broader interpretation, covering all aspects of life, including the pursuit of knowledge, the mastery of science and technology, and economic activity. This improvement in quality (itqan) must become part of our culture. Ijtihad that can build the Ummah in the modern day must be acknowledged.

Society must be given Islamic understanding that enables the appreciation and provides the ability to inherit a vision of a global civilization in order to be more successful global players. As a strategy to improve competitiveness, the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood (ukhuwah Islamiah) must be inculcated and expanded to create a strong social network. Society must appreciate self-sufficiency and reduce dependence on others. Negative traits and values must be changed to accommodate the values of the tasawwur.

The Ummah must be a society that embraces knowledge, skills and expertise in order to build capacity. Islam makes it compulsory for Muslims to embrace knowledge in all fields. The misconception that there exists a difference between so-called secular knowledge and religious knowledge must be corrected. Islam demands the mastery of science and technology and the enhancement of skills and expertise. Many verses in the Qur'an that touch on the need to master science and technology should be studied. All Muslim students should be aware of Islam’s contribution to science and technology that brought about the birth of the Renaissance in Europe. Initiatives to produce more Muslim scientists who are capable of making new discoveries must be intensified.

Life on this Earth ia a journey that requires us to discharge our responsibilities to society in an honest, transparent and trustworthy manner. Mankind will not fully benefit from this life if their attitude and worldview is not as it should be, because Allah created Man to be leaders on Earth. It is therefore imperative for mankind to arm itself with knowledge and with skills, to enable them to succeed.

It is important for the Ummah to be guided in understanding and practicing Islam as a comprehensive way of life as a means to building a civilization. A wholesome way of life will create the balance between our responsibilities in this world and the Hereafter. Islam is not merely a ritual, because ritualism is meant solely for the Hereafter. The Government has never practiced secularism that rejects the Hereafter and focuses solely on worldly matters. Islam must be lived as a system that integrates the worldly life and preparations for the Day of judgment.

June 18, 2005

Starbucks Poll

I was reading Tom Peters' (of "In Search of Excellence" fame) blog, and came across a post of his where he wonders why people are so willing to stand in line at a Starbucks. The comments were rather interesting, so I decided to set up a poll (on the sidebar to the right) that uses some of the reasons Tom's readers give. Please do me the favor of giving me your vote on the poll, and if you have any additional comments, please write them as well. I've taught Consumer Behavior in the past, and I'm curious as to how you think.

June 17, 2005

Good news, good news, and bad news

Three news stories I came across today (courtesy of CAIR) that I thought was worth passing on. First, the bad news...

* Muslims at the Islamic Center of Blacksburg, Virginia found "[o]utside the building, a plastic shopping bag filled with burned copies of the Quran...in front of the door. Blacksburg police say they do not have any leads on who left the burned religious books, but they are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime."

Choice quotation from the story: "Laila Al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday questioned how police could consider the act anything other than a hate crime. 'Let's face it, books don't burn themselves and end up outside of a mosque. It's a willful act,' she said."

Certain thoughts regarding people who have a certain part of their anatomy sunburned come to mind, but I refrain. Now, the good news:

* "A federal judge yesterday ordered the D.C. fire department to allow three bearded Muslim firefighters to serve on full duty until Aug. 1, when he expects to decide whether the safety issues outweigh the men's claims that shaving would violate their religious rights. ... 'This is definitely a victory, even though it is temporary,' said plaintiff Hassan A. Umrani, a city firefighter who has worn a full beard since his first day on the job 16 years ago."

Choice quotation: "Judge Robertson said he understood the concerns but asked whether the grooming policy was 'overkill.' He asked how often firefighters are given stress tests and physicals to determine their health and physical fitness. 'If you are going to go this far with the face masks, how far are you going with all the other intuitive causes for people possibly going out?' Judge Robertson said."


* It took a little longer than it should have, but the Quebec Human Rights Commission has finally done right by Irene Waseem and, indeed, by all devout young Muslim girls who go to private schools. The commission concluded this week that College Charlemagne was wrong to forbid Waseem to wear her hijab to class when she was a student at the Pierrefonds high school two years ago. The college's private status is irrelevant, commission president Pierre Marois wrote in an opinion made public this week. Private, not-for-profit schools have the same obligation as public schools to make reasonable accommodation for their students' religious beliefs."

Choice quotation: "The key phrase the commission uses is 'reasonable accommodation.' Religious groups will not be able to use the position paper to force sweeping changes in the ways schools operate, or to place undue burdens on the staff and other students. They won't be able to demand prayer rooms in secular schools, for example, or separate boys' and girls' pools in co-educational ones. Nor will they be able to require Catholic schools to jettison their religion programs or to scrap their crucifixes.

"For their part, private schools will be able to continue to discriminate. A school with a specific vocation to serve a particular religious, ethnic or language group, for example, can continue to favour members of that group without penalty. But, the commission says, private schools cannot make exclusionary rules that have nothing to do with their central mission. A religious school, for example, can't exclude a child with a mild physical handicap just because the school also places a lot of emphasis on athletics."

All of which sounds perfectly reasonable. If only the French could be like their relations in Quebec...

June 14, 2005

The Madrassa Myth

A good op-ed piece from the NY Times, confirming earlier reports that terrorism doesn't spring from poverty or from being educated in madrassas; rather, most terrorists who have struck Western targets in recent years are quite well educated, many in Western universities. Some highlights:

"While madrassas may breed fundamentalists who have learned to recite the Koran in Arabic by rote, such schools do not teach the technical or linguistic skills necessary to be an effective terrorist. Indeed, there is little or no evidence that madrassas produce terrorists capable of attacking the West. And as a matter of national security, the United States doesn't need to worry about Muslim fundamentalists with whom we may disagree, but about terrorists who want to attack us.

"We examined the educational backgrounds of 75 terrorists behind some of the most significant recent terrorist attacks against Westerners. We found that a majority of them are college-educated, often in technical subjects like engineering. In the four attacks for which the most complete information about the perpetrators' educational levels is available - the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the 9/11 attacks, and the Bali bombings in 2002 - 53 percent of the terrorists had either attended college or had received a college degree. As a point of reference, only 52 percent of Americans have been to college. The terrorists in our study thus appear, on average, to be as well educated as many Americans.

"The 1993 World Trade Center attack involved 12 men, all of whom had a college education. The 9/11 pilots, as well as the secondary planners identified by the 9/11 commission, all attended Western universities, a prestigious and elite endeavor for anyone from the Middle East. Indeed, the lead 9/11 pilot, Mohamed Atta, had a degree from a German university in, of all things, urban preservation, while the operational planner of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, studied engineering in North Carolina. We also found that two-thirds of the 25 hijackers and planners involved in 9/11 had attended college.

"Of the 75 terrorists we investigated, only nine had attended madrassas, and all of those played a role in one attack - the Bali bombing. Even in this instance, however, five college-educated 'masterminds' - including two university lecturers - helped to shape the Bali plot.

"Like the view that poverty drives terrorism - a notion that countless studies have debunked - the idea that madrassas are incubating the next generation of terrorists offers the soothing illusion that desperate, ignorant automatons are attacking us rather than college graduates, as is often the case. In fact, two of the terrorists in our study had doctorates from Western universities, and two others were working toward their Ph.D."


"While madrassas are an important issue in education and development in the Muslim world, they are not and should not be considered a threat to the United States."

One of my pet peeves

A co-worker of mine has just tried to stir her drink with a spoon. Except that she didn't stir the drink, causing the liquid to swirl within the cup with the spoon rarely touching the sides. No, she had to FREAKIN' BEAT the cup likes it's a bell! And did she stop after a few seconds? No, she kept going on and on...

Some people near and dear to me are guilty of this sin as well, although I shan't mention their names. All I can say is:

Typical freakin' Singaporeans! :)

June 12, 2005

New Post in my LAI Blog

I've a new post in my Learn About Islam blog about how people should handle the Qur'an that I think you should read. Check it out!

June 9, 2005

Fencers at the Athens Olympics

I like this photo. It's from a NY Times article (linked above) on photography, "Which Camera Does This Pro Use? It Depends on the Shot." This picture appeals to me for a couple reasons: the blur of the fencers (I learned the sport while in college, although I haven't fenced in ages), and the silhouettes of the background crowd with the solitary light shining in the corner.

The wife and I finally bought a new digital camera this past weekend (one of those semi-cheapy things that are small enough to slip into a pocket). I haven't really had the chance to play with it yet, although I'm curious to see how well it works. When I lived in Korea, the owner of a portrait studio where I got my film developed had suggested that perhaps I should buy a digital camera at the time; instead, I bought a Nikon 35mm SLR. I rather enjoy working with a film camera because I think they provide a superior resolution to most digitals (one of the reasons why I want to experiment with the digital, to test this theory), and I also enjoy shooting a film SLR manually (none of this autofocus crap for me). Of course, there are a lot of plusses for using a digital camera as well (most of which are stated on the second page of the linked article). But whether I can get "postcard-quality photos" out of the digital like I can with the film SLR is another question. Insha'allah, we'll find out soon enough.

June 7, 2005

A Nation of Faith and Religious Illiterates

This brief, interesting article was mentioned on the blog, Mere Islam (see the link to the right). The article tries to answer the question, "How did one of the most religious countries in the world [the United States] become a nation of religious illiterates?"

June 6, 2005

Getting an MBA

Tai, one of my students (see the link to the right), has posted a couple of interesting comments from others regarding getting an MBA. I thought I would repost my comment here that I made on his site:

"Generally speaking, I would agree with these comments. The MBA, though, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it opens up a lot of doors, especially managerial positions that pay (of course) more money than lower-level positions. On the other hand, there may be times where the MBA can close off doors...fairly or unfairly. Some people might think you're overqualified for a position (and this might very well be the case). Other people, I've found, may be jealous that you've gotten an MBA when they haven't; they may feel insecure with an employee who has better academic credentials than they have and fear that the roles will quickly reverse - you will become their boss.

"But, on the whole, I truly believe that getting an MBA is important for those who wish to have a successful business career. It's almost a minimum requirement for those wishing to get into management (especially in larger corporations, like MNCs). So for those who are thinking of going on for an MBA, I highly recommend that they do so."

June 4, 2005


I enjoy getting comments to my posts, and I encourage people to write comments if they so choose. However, I won't tolerate rude comments or comments that are anti-Islam or anti-Muslim. Any comments that *I* find objectionable will be removed immediately. Other blogs written by Muslims may be more lenient in the comments they allow (the blog, "Mere Islam," comes to mind). That's fine for them, but I'm not that way. If you don't like it, visit another blog. If you're interested in decent, respectful dialog, welcome!

June 3, 2005


The largest masjid in the U.S. I'm impressed. (Of course, this region - SE Asia - has a number of huge ones too. :) )