June 28, 2006

World Oil Reserves

I've written about oil prices and world supplies on my blog in the past*, and I found the following information rather interesting. This also comes from the current issue of The Economist.

The world had 1.2 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves at the end of 2005, according to BP. If overall production continues at last year's rate, known oil will last for 41 years. But it will run out more slowly in some countries than in others. At today's extraction rate, Saudi Arabia's reserves, which account for more than a fifth of the world total, will last for 66 years.

As you can see, at last year's production level, the remaining oil that is currently known to exist within U.S. borders will be completely pumped dry in 12 years - 2018. Mexico's reserves will be gone in 10 years (2016).

So, bought that electric car yet?


* See Oil: America's Smack and, more recently, How Much Oil Does America Import?

Eurabia: The Myth and Reality of Islam in Europe

The Economist on 'Eurabia'I happened to come across this week's issue of The Economist at a 7-Eleven today, and bought a copy. The cover story, as you can see is on "The Myth and Reality of Islam in Europe." Actually, The Economist printed three stories in this week's issue that deals with Islam, two of which are available online: Look Out, Europe, They Say, the cover story, and Tales from Eurabia, the editorial. (The third article, a review of four books that cover Islamic-Western relations, is only available for Economist subscribers; to be honest, you're not missing much.)

I'm wanting to comment more on the main article in the Firaushah newsletter that I hope to publish in a few days, insha'allah; however, I will say that I thought the main article was fairly balanced. The editorial, IMO, is less so. While the editors have come to the correct conclusion that "...the prospect of Eurabia looks like scaremongering", they also show a bias against and ignorance about Islam by writing, "In 50 years' time, Americans may be praising this generation of European Muslims for leading the enlightenment that Islam needed."

In the meantime, I will say that I do like that cover. :) "Inspiring," he says (as every French non-Muslim recoils in horror ;) ). Insha'allah, wa Allahu Akbar! :)

You've Got Frustration!

This is not one of my typical videos, being a news account, but it is funny in a perverse sort of way. Vincent Ferrari, interviewed here by WNBC, had heard the horror stories of people trying to cancel their AOL accounts. So he tried to cancel his own account, and recorded the telephone conversation. What follows is a prime example of how not to treat your customer. Golden moment: Ferrari, who is 30, is asked by the customer "service" rep to put Ferrari's dad on the phone so that the rep can plead with the dad for Ferrari to keep his account. Run time: 5:00.

June 27, 2006

Rhea, Mimas and Enceladus

This is an interesting animation, taken by the spacecraft Cassini, which is orbiting Saturn. The movie was taken on January 27, 2006, using 59 clear-filter images taken over a period of about 40 minutes. The camera was centered on Rhea, with Mimas passing by on the top and Enceladus on the bottom.

What this animation doesn't show you is the apparent distance between these three moons of Saturn. In the animation, it looks like Rhea, the large moon in the center, orbits between Mimas and Enceladus. In fact, if you look at this diagram, you'll see that Mimas and Enceladus are much closer in to Saturn than Rhea is; i.e., Rhea has an orbit that's much further out from Saturn. However, Rhea is much larger (with a diameter of 1,528.8 km) than either Mimas (396.6 km) or Enceladus (504.2 km).

June 26, 2006

The Firaushah Hijab/Tudung Survey

Firaushah would like to know more about what women look for in hijabs and tudungs. Of course we have our own ideas about what makes for a beautiful hijab or tudung, but we'd like to find out what you think too. Please take a few moments to answer our very short questionnaire. In appreciation for your taking the time to fill out our survey, we'd like to offer you a FREE wallpaper for your computer desktop!

Pump It

Two young women doing karaoke, a la the Chipmunks. Silly, but funny. Run time: 1:48.

June 25, 2006

The Coulter-Hitler Quiz

Hate Ann Coulter? Join the queue (it ends waaaay back there). In the meantime, test yourself with this quiz of quotations by both Ann and Adolf Hitler (and, no, not the quiz is not rigged with all of the answers being Ann :) ).

June 20, 2006

It's a Matter of Latitude

The North Pole from WebCam #1 on 9 May 2006
So I'm visiting Astronomy Picture of the Day as I do most days, and I find out that there are webcams located at the North Pole. How cool is that? ;) (And, yes, the pun was intentional.) Of course, there are numerous scientific bases located on Antarctica, including the South Pole, but that's solid land that can be built upon. The North Pole is covered with ice only 2-3 meters thick, so permanent structures are impossible. But, the US government (in the form of NOAA) has been sending up several webcams every year since April 2002. The above photo was taken from the Moods of the North Pole in 2006 webpage, which gives a nice selection of photos, from the blue and pink (such as in the above photo), to the yellow and desert-looking, to the dull grey and overcast.

Here in Singapore (11 pm), one degree north of the equator, the sky is calm and cloudy (as usual) with a temperature of 26 degrees Celcius (79 degrees Farenheit).

June 18, 2006

American Fascism

The following article was written by the Rev. Charles Hoffacker, an Episcopal priest, and originally appeared in the Port Huron (MI) Times-Herald. I have some brief comments at the end.

A recent study identifies characteristics common to seven fascist regimes. Laurence W. Britt examines regimes in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Chile, and Indonesia-all of them eventually overthrown - and notes these 14 patterns of national behavior that each regime engaged in to one extent or another.

  • Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. This was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign.

  • Disdain for human rights. Victims of human rights abuse were marginalized or abuse was concealed.

  • Identification of scapegoats as a unifying cause. Scapegoating directed attention away from public problems and channeled frustration into controlled directions.

  • Avid militarism. The military was used to assert national goals, intimidate other countries, and increase the ruling elite's prestige.

  • Rampant sexism. Women were treated as second-class citizens. Homophobia was intensified.

  • A controlled mass media. Leaders of the mass media were often compatible with the regime and kept the public unaware of the regime's excesses.

  • Obsession with national security. A national security apparatus served as an instrument of internal repression.

  • Religion and ruling elite tied together. Propaganda kept up the illusion that those in power were opponents of the "godless."

  • Power of corporations protected. The ability of large corporations to act in relative freedom was not compromised even when personal liberties were curtailed.

  • Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. The poor were seen as an underclass and viewed with suspicion or contempt.

  • Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Artistic and academic freedom were considered subversive.

  • Obsession with crime and punishment. Severe systems of criminal justice produced huge prison populations. Police power was almost unchecked, leading to widespread abuse.

  • Rampant cronyism and corruption. The economic elite and the power elite enriched one another through unethical favoritism.

  • Fraudulent elections. When elections with candidates took place, they would usually be perverted by those in power to achieve the desired result.

Does this sound familiar? Ample parallels can be found between Britt's portrait of fascism and events in early 21st-century America.

Fascism is an ideology built on fear. What breaks the allure of fascism is a faith too authentic to accept lies. One form of this faith is belief in a God of compassion whose perfect love casts out fear. Another is belief in the ability of a free people to govern themselves.

We do not strive for a justice based on repentance and encounter with the God of compassion. Distracted in countless ways, disconnected from one another, we remain deeply ignorant of how all people are one people.

This nation once engaged in a gigantic military struggle to defeat European fascism. We must now undertake a spiritual struggle to defeat the fascism now threatening our hearts and our public life.

Rev. Hoffacker's comment regarding "...belief in a God of compassion whose perfect love casts out fear" reminded me of an ayah in the Qur'an:

"It is but Satan who instils [into you] fear of his allies: so fear them not, but fear Me, if you are [truly] believers!" (3:175)

Is it any wonder that the fascist neo-cons, who have built their entire philosophy upon a series of lies as flimsy as a house of cards, would choose the Muslim ummah and Islam as their enemy du jour? That they have focused their attack on a religion whose members aren't interested in submitting to mere men, but who submit only to Allah (swt)?

Governments, in both their form and as individual entities, come and go; Allah (swt) and Islam remain.

"Have they, then, never journeyed about the earth and beheld what happened in the end to those [willful sinners] who lived before their time? God destroyed them utterly: and the like thereof awaits all who deny the truth." (47:10)

Hulagu Khan (1217-65), grandson of Chinggis Khan, siezed Baghdad in 1258, killing the last Abbasid caliph and making a pyramid of the skulls of Baghdad's scholars, religious leaders, and poets. What must the people of that time felt, seeing the wholesale slaughter and destruction? And yet the Mongol civilization that sacked Baghdad was long ago reduced to dust upon the wind, just as were many other civilizations that had threatened Islam in the past.

Better for all of us to fear Allah (swt). The neo-cons are merely the latest incarnation of a failed system of government.

June 15, 2006

Local Blogger Blasphemes the Prophet Jesus (saws)

As my readers may or may not know, it is illegal here in Singapore, under the Sedition Act, to post inflammatory comments (including cartoons) on the Internet "...which may cause feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore." I blogged about this several months ago (Islamophobia = Sedition), partly in response to the Danish cartoons scandal. Singapore, as I noted in another blog post (Heroes and Hypocrites) would never have allowed the offending cartoons to be published in the first place (nor were they ever published here).

Prior to the Danish cartoon scandal, three young Chinese men were charged last year with making seditious and inflammatory racist comments on the Internet against the Malay/Muslim community. All three pled guilty. Now we have a new case. In a Straits Times article that made the front page of the paper Wednesday (14 June), another young man is being investigated for publishing inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Jesus (saws). An excerpt from the article:

A 21-year-old accounts assistant is being investigated for allegedly flouting the Sedition Act by publishing pictures on his blog that were thought to depict Jesus Christ in an offensive manner. The blogger, who used the online moniker Char, had found the cartoons on the Internet and began posting them in January. He told The Straits Times last week that he was called in by the police for questioning in March, after they received a complaint. Yesterday, the police confirmed they are investigating the matter but declined to give details as "investigations are still ongoing."

News of the investigation was announced online by Char himself last week when he sent an e-mail to a mailing list of more than 300 young Singaporeans. He told them of his experience and how it came about. He removed the cartoons from his blog after he was questioned.

Describing himself as a free thinker, he said he had posted a cartoon that depicted Jesus as a zombie biting a boy's head in January. The following month, he received an online message asking him to remove the image. It came amid the global furore over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by several newspapers. Char did not reply to the message but chose to irk the person instead. He searched the Internet for more pictures depicting Jesus and published three of them on his blog. Looking back, he felt he made an "unwise" move. "I never thought anyone would complain to the police because the pictures were not insidious," he said.

The good news (from my perspective) is that I don't think "Char" is either Muslim or Malay (Update: he's neither). I don't think this was a case of a Muslim trying to get back at Christians for the Danish cartoons fiasco. But I do support Singapore's use of the Sedition Act against Char; Muslims and Christians shouldn't have to put up with derogatory comments and cartoons that blaspheme their faiths. My only question now is, assuming Char either pleads or is found guilty, how he would be sentenced. The maximum penalty for this crime is jail for up to three years or a maximum fine of $5,000, or both. None of the three men who pled guilty last year had sentences that were remotely close to the maximum penalty; however, the judge at that time also said that future sentences would be stiffer should similar offences occur. We shall see, insha'allah.

Update: Since I wrote this post, I've gained a little bit of local notariety. Friday evening, I was interviewed on the phone by a reporter from The Straits Times (the largest newspaper in S'pore). The reporter was working on a follow-up article to the Wednesday article, and a brief excerpt from my post was published in the Sunday (18 June) paper:

There were several netizens who also backed tough action. One was a Muslim American management lecturer based here, known online as "JD".

Said the 44-year-old: "I support Singapore's use of the Sedition Act. People shouldn't have to put up with derogatory comments and cartoons that blaspheme their faiths."

-- "Divided Views Over Police Checks on Blogger," p. 11

(I'm also happy to say that, in this latest article, my position as expressed above was similar to the thoughts of Father John-Paul Tan, parish priest of the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, Anglican Bishop and vice-president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore John Tew, and chairman of the Centre for Contemporary Islamic Studies Ridzuan Wu, all of whom were also interviewed for the follow-up article.)

Then, this morning I was contacted by another person for the Straits Times, who asked if I minded being listed for the "Blogs of the Week" column (specifically about this post) in next Wednesday's "Digital Times," a weekly supplement to the Straits Times that focuses on IT, blogging, computer games, etc. Of course I said "yes," so we'll see how things go from here.

The Bellagio Fountains as envisioned by Two Maine-iacs

Must...buy...Mentos! :)

June 12, 2006

Free Wallpaper @ Firaushah.com

The past week has been somewhat busy for me, in part because I was playing catch-up after the trip Milady and I took last weekend to Kuala Lumpur. The trip was quite nice, alhamdulillah. Milady and I stayed at Le Meridien Hotel, which is just across the street from KL Sentral, the main train station for the city. (Milady and I have always taken the train when going up to KL; while it's a rather slow trip, it's comfortable and the price is *very* reasonable.)

Up in KL, we took quite a few photographs at the various places we visited. For this trip, we visited two masjids: Masjid Putra, which is located in Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia, and Masjid Blue (it's real name is Masjid Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, but everyone just calls it the Blue Mosque because the masjid has a blue and white color scheme). Both masjids were very impressive in their architecture and beauty, although I must say that the Blue Mosque was simply stunning. It is, without any question, the most spectacular masjid I have ever been in to date.

Which leads me to my wallpaper offer: I've created what I hope will be the first of many FREE desktop wallpapers available at firaushah, insha'allah. All I'm asking is that you sign up for the firaushah mailing list. When you sign up, I'll e-mail you with a link to a webpage that will allow you to access the current wallpaper (available in four sizes: 800x600, 1024x768, 1152x864, and 1280x1024), insha'allah. This month's wallpaper is from one of my photos taken at the Blue Mosque. The wallpaper came out beautifully (in my not so humble opinion ;) ), and gives you an idea of both the size and beauty of the masjid's dome.

June 1, 2006

Abayas Turning Trendy

There's an article from the Associated Press about how abayas in the Gulf states are becoming trendy. (Actually, I suspect that abayas have long been trendy, just that no Western reporter has noticed until now. Anyhoo...) One interesting passage, near the end of the article:

But advocates of fancier versions are convinced they can combine fashion and modesty.


Never mind that his elegant consort, sporting an abaya decorated with golden metal and matching head cover, could cause more heads to turn than a less attractive woman in a short skirt.

"Abayas are now both decent and fashionable. Everyone follows the fashion nowadays," Mohammad said.

This is what Milady and I believed in when we started firaushah, that Muslimahs can wear modest clothing that is beautiful and fashionable.

Strike back at these ignorant non-Muslims who say you are oppressed! Wear beautiful clothing - clothing that's better looking than theirs - and ask if "oppressed" women wear as fashionable of clothing as your own.