Abez sez Assalamualaikum!

Monthly Archives: October 2003

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Dear Blogistanis, if you go back two days and read my engagement post, you will notice that the first sentence is: Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. Well, since you guys asked the questions, you can’t blame me if most of what I’m about to type is all lies. –ahem-

Alias: Brother Terminator

Real Name: Sven

Status: Officially conned into marrying Abez.

Place of Birth: Iceland

Hair color: Platinum blonde

Eye color: Ice blue

Height: 10 feet, 5 inches.

Weight: 190. Stone.

Languages spoken: Finnish, Swedish, English, Arabic, Hindko, Urdu, Punjabi, and a smattering of Indonesian Bahasa.

Hobbies: Flexing, horseback riding, battling barbarian hordes in B-class seventies movies, running for governor of California, more flexing, studying Islam, flexing…

Education: Doctor of Theology from the University of Veterinary Physics, Ottawa.

Occupation: Lifeguard, Fireman, Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, Muezzin, Neurosurgeon, Rocket Scientist, Big Game Hunter and Hand Model.

Brother Sven aka Terminator is a non-smoker and an avid reader modern history, strategy, fiction, and cereal boxes. He enjoys long walks on short piers, candle-lit fast-food dinners and wearing his pants too high. Though of Scandinavian descent, Brother Sven is a distant relation of Abez, in that they both claim to be descendants of Hazrat Adam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

Further inquiries about Brother Sven/Terminator may be directed towards him….errr…directly, as he is regularly present in this blog.

Thank you. Good night.

Illiteracy stinks

Was chilling and watching channel 4 yesterday. Channel 4 is Iqra TV, by the way, I’m not sure whether it’s from Saudi or Cairo, but they always broadcast all five Jamaats from either Mekkah or Medinah, and these days they’re broadcasting Tarawih as well.

I love watching the jamaat prayers, I love seeing everyone lined up, Arabs, Africans, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Caucasians, and tons of people I can’t label, all of them touching shoulders and facing the same direction. It doesn’t matter that they don’t all speak the same language (though we should, really) but everyone’s worshipping the same God and they’re standing together as brothers. I love seeing the worshippers break their fast too, there are over a million guys sitting together eating dates, olives, bread, and passing things to each other though you know most of them can’t even understand each other. Though there are times when the discord in the Muslim Ummah depresses me, there are also times when the harmony and discipline makes me all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Iftar is one of those times. A million hungry people sharing dates and bread, then they all help clean up, pray together, and then go home. Awwww…

I digress. Anyway, I was watching the Tarawih prayer and I was surprised to see that they had finally put subtitles on the bottom of the screen, so I could read in English which surahs the Imam was reciting in prayer. I was reading the translation and saw one particularly brilliant line of the Qur’an (they’re all brilliant actually, but that one struck me as being particularly beautiful) and I nodded, and I was like Yeah, SubhanAllah. And I was shocked to see one of the guys nod and smile during his prayer at the same time!

It was so freaky, until I realized (duh) the guy could understand the Qur’an and what the Imam was reciting. He didn’t NEED subtitles, he understood the beauty of that particular passage in its original form, and he nodded and smiled too. I was jealous, almost insanely jealous, and so sad. I still am sad. I can’t believe that I would need someone else to tell me what the Qur’an says, because my Arabic is so bad that I wouldn’t be able to tell myself. It’s a handicap, actually, a really big one. And there’s potential for confusion there. Someone could give me a bogus translation or interpretation and I would have to take their word for it, because I would have no way of verifying it for myself. I can’t understand my own Holy Book, the pages of beauty and wisdom I’m supposed to be using to guide my life. Shame on me.

This was the second big reminder just this week of how illiterate I am. The first was when I went to Sadaat’s blog on Ramadan and found it to be in Urdu. Everyone’s been telling me it’s an absolutely beautiful post, but you know what? I can’t read it. My Urdu is only slightly better than my Arabic. I’ve never studied Urdu before, everything I know has been picked up from being thrown into the language head-first.

I lament my lack of language skills, and I get to feeling like it’s terminal or something. But you know what? It isn’t. There’s no reason why I can’t learn Arabic, especially when I want to so badly. And if I did this ok with just hearing Urdu, maybe I’ll do better if it’s written down somewhere for me to study. I think I’m going to add that to my list of things to do: Learn to understand my own Holy Book! Stop being such a lazy illiterate!

InshaAllah. 🙂

Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.

Abez is engaged.

Everybody dance.

In case anyone’s looking for proof that Shaitan has, in fact, been locked up for Ramadan, I just put a perfect pie into the oven. 😀

Following in the brilliant footsteps of Choco and Sana I’ve decided to put together a list of things I will try to accomplish this Ramadan. And so, in no order of importance whatsoever, here is My List!

No computer games. (eeek!) Computer games are my enemy, and I know it. Any time I get on to the computer with the intention of doing something productive, I find myself clicking on the wrong icon and opening up Nethack instead of one of the many Islamic articles I’ve started but not finished. Then, an hour later, I’m done playing and I get up and leave the computer, totally forgetting why I got on it in the first place!

More Playstation games. I’m serious. Let me explain. I only play Playstation when I’m working out. I turn it on, hop on to the elliptical trainer and manage to forget that I’m exercising for about 50 minutes. Once I’m done, I turn it off. You wonder how much skill I’ve got to be able to jog and push the little buttons on the controller at the same time. Well, I don’t play fast-paced shoot-em-ups. I play RPG’s, like Final Fantasy (I have VIII and IX). It doesn’t matter how quickly I push the buttons. Though I admit, sometimes I make mistakes and there’s been more than one time where I’ve made Squall take a whack at Quistis instead of the bad guy, he he. Oops. So, back to the beginning, more Playstation means more exercise, and I should have more time to exercise since I’m not going to be playing Nethack for the next month, InshaAllah. (I mean after Iftar, by the way.)

Read more Qur’an! This is a really important one. I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading the Qur’an every night. I enjoy reading it when I pick it up, but the problem is, I can’t remember to pick it up. I’ve got to re-incorporate it into the nightly bed-time ritual (wash face, brush teeth, pray Isha, arrange pillows elaborately and crash). I just need to move my desk so that it’s in front of where I pray, and then put the Qur’an on top of that. Then mebbe when I see it I’ll remember, InshaAllah.

Begin everything with Bismillah: I used to be much better about doing that, but I’ve been forgetting to lately. (which is probably because I haven’t reminded myself until now!) It’s a good habit to begin everything in the name of Allah, in the hopes that Allah blesses your effort and purifies your intention. It’s an excellent way to re-instill Taqwa and awareness of Allah into your daily actions.

Concentrate more on my prayers: It’s so shameful that sometimes I can pray and then not remember having prayed later. This is because I wasn’t paying enough attention the first time to even know that I was performing an act of worship! It’s shocking to me, how stupid I can be about it. I joke about the Muslim Macarena, but it’s fairly serious. I can’t just be going through the motions without meaning anything I’m saying or feeling anything I’m doing. Gotta concentrate more.

I’ll probably add more things to the list as I go. At the moment, I’ve got to make Iftar. Oh wait, that’s another thing I have to do:

Plan better Iftars!: Pakoras have officially been banned from the house this year. And, we’ve all resolved to be smarter about eating, not to gorge ourselves at Iftar time, but to have dates and tea and maybe a few crackers. Then pray, relax, and have dinner a short while later. This means I can’t be lazy and just do pakoras. Hmmm…

I’m going to go and rummage around the refrigerator now…

Ok, I repent of that substandard blog. Having had a nap now, I can try to make amends for the aforesaid lameness in blogitude.

People sometimes ask me how our inter-faith household has dealt with holidays. Between having a Christian mom and a Muslim dad, our house has both Iftar parties and Easter Dinner, and last year, Christmas was in Ramadan.

Now, I am in no way advocating the idea that Muslims should celebrate Christian holidays. But, in my house, it wouldn’t be right for anyone to forbid my mother from celebrating her holidays and us helping her. So how does it work out? Strangely.

After years of assorted inter-faith holiday seasons, things start getting mixed around. Christmas dinner is served after Iftar, and no Ramadan would be complete without gingerbread men and fruitcake. Actually, I’ve already made the gingerbread men, and since my momma isn’t here to whack me when I start taking artistic license, the gingerbread men now come in two themes, _-Pirates and Punjabis-_. (click for the tasty photo!)

We may skip the fruitcakes, but we have already starting singing the carols. Yep. Ramadan carols. Family favorites like,

(to the tune of Deck the Halls)

Fill the glasses with Roohafaza

Ta-na-na-na-na, Dheem-ta-na-na!

(to the tune of Frosty the Snowman)

Greasy Pakoras!

In a jolly, happy bowl

With the besan mix

And the deep-fry ghee

And some ketchup and chut-NEY!

Additionally, we get this nagging feeling that some guy with a beard is supposed to come down the chimney on Eid to put peppermint miswaks into the leather socks hanging from the mantle. I can’t remember his name, but I know he’s the same guy who chases reindeer around with a knife on Eidul-Azha.

Rudolph the Eid Qurbani…

It’s the weekend.

::jogs around chair in slow-mo:::

wheee.

I think I need a nap. In the mean time, read this _-Eid story-_

zzzzzzz

(pss pss, visit the Muslim Writers Society page for one of Hijabified poems and vote for it!)

Ok, now I’m really writing about Ramadan. One thing that’s come up on the tagboard (many thanks to Choco Bean) is the idea of preparing for Ramadan. What exactly does ‘preparing for Ramadan’ mean, anyway, making a month’s Pakoras in advance? Stockpiling enough RoohAfza to last until the Mehdi comes? (in my Khandaan, yes. He he)

-ahem-

Ramadan is a time of spiritual renewal: Allah does us a favor by locking Shaitan up for an entire month so that it’s easier for us to fast and also to get back into the Islamic habits we may have let slide since last year. True, we’re capable of doing stupid things and neglecting our Islam without the help of Shaitan, but for those of us who are trying not to, the removal of the ‘Shaitani factor’ from our brains is a big help. It’s one less mental battle to fight on the way to the prayer rug, or when passing by the TV, or staring longingly at the CD’s that you know have haraam music on them.

Ramadan is a Shaitan-free Zone: Allah makes it easier for us, He gives us a whole Shaitan-free month to strengthen our resolve and to kick the counter-Islamic habits that Shaitan has worked so hard to trick us into. People often use Ramadan to jump-start their efforts to quit things, smoking is a big one. So is swearing, listening to haram music, lying, etc. The idea though, is to not resume them when Ramadan ends. The idea isn’t to behave ourselves just because it’s Ramadan, but to behave ourselves starting in Ramadan and lasting all the way till next Ramadan.

Ramadan is a Reminder: The fasting itself plays a big part of this spiritual renewal, because being hungry and uncomfortable is a shocking reminder of the blessings and comfort that we take for granted the other 11 months of the year. You stumble around with dry mouth, bloody cracked lips (I do anyway), growling stomach, and you remember that there are people who live like this, or much worse, every day. Going through this discomfort, no matter how temporary it is, still causes you to feel genuine sympathy for those Muslims who are in straightened circumstances. If we didn’t have Ramadan, there’s a very good chance that none of us first-world Muslims would ever go hungry for a single day in our lives. We wouldn’t have a reminder, or a clue for that matter, of how very much others are suffering and how very much our help is needed.

Ramadan is Boot Camp: Additionally, putting your self to the test by fasting and abstaining for all haram possible is like boot-camp for the soul. The purpose of boot camp is to try you, to train you, and to make you do your best by putting you through hardship. That way, if you come across something difficult later, you can be like, “This isn’t so bad, I did harder things back in boot camp.” It’s the same thing with fasting. If you miss breakfast one day and find yourself getting cranky, you can just relax and say, “No breakfast? Big deal. I went without breakfast, lunch, and coffee, and I didn’t get grouchy.” At least that way Shaitan can’t goad you into losing your temper just because your tummy is rumbling.

If you find yourself in a difficult Islamic test you can say, “I can do this. I fasted for thirty days. This is nothing compared to that.” So you do this once a year, to remind you of what you’re capable of, of how strong you should be, how strong you CAN be. You prepare for it by cutting out everything from your life that’s haram. And you don’t just resolve to do this for only as long as Ramadan lasts, because otherwise you’ve wasted the whole opportunity and missed the point.

Ramadan is Spiritual Fitness Month: A lot of Muslims believe the myth that spirituality is something you’re born with, or that some people just have it and some people don’t. The truth though, is that spiritual fitness is rather like physical fitness. There may be a few people to whom it comes naturally, but the rest of us have it because we work on it. If we pray it’s because we’ve trained ourselves to, the same way an athlete can train themselves to jump hurdles or run a 400 meter sprint. If we don’t train, then we shouldn’t blame our spiritual flabbiness on lack of ‘religious tendencies,” we should realize we’ve been lazy and we’re neglecting our spiritual health.

So, Ramadan is:

A time of Spiritual Renewal and a Boot Camp-like Reminder to exercise your Spiritual Fitness during one Shaitan-Free month.

With Pakoras.

I had intended to write a blog about preparing for Ramadan, but instead I’m writing about pie crust. Now, about the pie. There are only four ingredients in a pie crust- cold water, butter, flour and salt. It is almost impossible to go wrong. You add the flour and salt, toss in the butter till it’s all crumbly and them pour in a few tablespoons of water. Then you roll the dough out into a lovely round shape, and in my case, you wholly destroy it while trying to lift it off of the counter and into the pan.

You gather up the broken bits, mash them back into a ball and roll it out again. You carefully edge your fingers beneath it so as to not damage while lifting it, and then watch as it comes to pieces again. Five of them to be exact.

You fume. You rage. You add more flour. You roll it out one more time and threaten the pie crust as you try delicately to lift it from the counter. When the middle of it drops out, leaving you clutching at the edges of an uncooperative pie-crust twenty minutes before dinner is supposed to be served, you leave the recalcitrant pastry right where it is and go sit on the sofa and count to ten.

You call in reinforcements. You wake your sister up from off the sofa and explain your pitiful story. She stumbles groggily over to your piecrust and looks at it. She adds more butter, a little more flour, and she hands you the ball of dough so you can see what piecrust is supposed to feel like. You nod and give the ball back.

She rolls out the piecrust, nicely, roundly, and then lifts the edges. She picks it up and…it disintegrates in mid-air, landing halfway in the pan and halfway all over the counter.

You look at her.

She looks at you.

You both pick up the stray pastry bits and mash them into the bottom of the pan like play-doh.

You convene a council of bakermeisters to discuss the possible causes of the disintegration of the piecrust. After rejecting theories of:

Not enough flour? (you can’t mis-measure one cup.)

Water not icy enough? (It had ice-cubes floating in it.)

Wrong butter? (Same kind we use every time)

You are left with only one possible reason: the evil inherent in some pastries.

It’s a well-known fact that some pastries (specifically Napoleon and puff) are in league with the devil. They will do their level best to thwart you at every turn. They will crack, collapse, melt, implode or explode, sometimes all in the same baking session, just to test your skill as a baker and your Sabr as a Muslim.

Think about it, Shaitan isn’t really here to mislead us in big things, he’s never going to get Muslims to start worshiping stone idols or anything really major like that, so he just leads us astray in small ways. Like with diabolical pie crust. You think the piecrust is on your side, but actually, it’s not. It’s whole purpose is to make you lose your temper and become frustrated enough to direct your anger onto other things and people. This is also true of:



Non-functioning staplers.


Flat tires on days when you’re already late.

Destructively-hot irons that burns holes in new clothing.

Etc.

Though this doesn’t seem immediately connected to our Iman, we realize that these small things put you in a bad mood, which in turn, causes us to wrong our brothers. We snap at people. “Don’t bug me!,” we say, “I’m in a bad mood!” We allow our stress-levels to accumulate and then burst on people who had nothing to do with it. As parents, sometimes we take a bad day at work out on our kids. As kids, we take a crappy day and allow it to reflect in a lack of patience with our parents. As brothers and sisters, we talk to each other with rudeness and exasperation apparent in our voices.

The little things are a test of our patience and our ability to keep our tempers in check. The solution is to push the reset button on your emotions (it’s in the middle of your forehead. It can also be activated by going into Sajdah) and not allow the piecrust to win by making you lose the love, patience, and honor you’re supposed to treat all Muslims with.

Hmm. Looks like I’m writing about Ramadan after all.

I had a picture taken the other day. For posterity I suppose, which is a nice way of saying that thirty years from now, at least I’ll have proof that I wasn’t always old and ugly. Right.

I went into the studio and sat down, and the photographer came in and started arranging the lights with the aluminum foil umbrellas attached to them. I waited patiently for him to adjust everything, to put up the right background (grey), to give me confusing directions about which way to face (forward. No, not that forward, left and forward. Yes, no, more to the right. But forward.) When everything was finally ready, and the muscles in my neck had atrophied from holding my head still for so long, the photographer ducked behind the camera and said, Ready?

I took this as my cue and I smiled. And he stood up again. “Mun band karo!” he said, “Shut your mouth!”

“Shut my mouth?” I said as I ruined the pose I had been holding. “Why do I have to shut my mouth?”

“No teeth!” he said gruffly, and he re-ordered my head into position and then ducked behind the camera.

“Ready?” he asked. “One, two, three…”

::teeth!:::

I tried to spring my teeth on him at the last minute, but he stood up again angrily and said, “No teeth!”

“Why?” I pleaded, “What’s wrong with my teeth?”

“No teeth!”

Great. Of all the photographers in Islamabad I get to find the photo-Nazi. I finally acquiesced, and started wondering whether this was his way of telling me there was something intrinsically unphotogenic about my teeth. The pictures were taken, I left the studio. End of round one.

Fast-forward to a few days later when I go to pick the photos up. The man at the counter (who is not the photographer) very happily hands me the photos and smiles expectantly at me as I open the envelope.

“I hope you like your pictures, Baji!” he says. “We did a lot of hard work on them!”

“Hard work?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, leaning over the counter and whispering sympathetically, “To remove all of your spots.”

My spots?

????

My freckles.

Oh boy. They erased all of my freckles. All six million of them that are scattered over the bridge of my nose and cheeks. I haven’t a clue as to how they managed that. He was right, it must have been very hard work indeed!

I go to get a haircut at the beauty parlor and the woman cutting my hair touches my face and says gently, so as not to embarrass me, “You know, you need a deep-cleaning facial. You have very bad skin.”

“Bad skin?”

“Yes, for 300 rupees we could get rid of all those spots…”

There we go again. People talking about my spots. I get relatives asking me whether I’ve ever tried to have my skin “cured,” acquaintances asking me whether or not I’ve thought about micro-derm abrasion or some other crazy plastic surgery where they scrub the first layer of your skin off and you wear a mask for four weeks while it grows back.

Actually I have thought about it, but mostly in horror and aversion. And plus, where I come from, freckles are cute, dammit! Freckle-faced kids have been a mainstay of cultural American adorability since the beginning of time. I’m trying to instill this idea (read: brainwash with propaganda) into the new crop of Pakistanis that my cousins are breeding. Whenever one of the nieces or nephews gathers the courage to come and point at my nose and ask me why it’s covered in all those spots, I tell them that freckles are absolutely the best looking thing a kid can have. That in America, when they want to make a kid look cute, the paint him with freckles. That women go to plastic surgeons to have them permanently tattooed into their skin, and that at least four wars in the world have broken out on account of the fact that some people had less freckles than other people. And they tried to take the other people’s freckles. I tell them that freckles sell for over a thousand rupees a kilo and when I’m done, I’m going to sell mine and get rich.

Then we both nod solemnly.

:::teeth:::

Five minutes (and two cups of coffee) ago I was sleepy and didn’t feel up to typing a new blog. But now, five minutes (and two cups of coffee) later, I suddenly realize that it’s too late to be napping and there’s little else to do at the moment.

Whoops, but I’ve just realized that I’m still very, very sleepy. Was up late last night with dinner guests and didn’t get to bed until 5 am. Yes, 5 am, that crazy time when Fajr has already started and work is just four hours away. I caught a few zzzz’s (not many, just two or three) and then dragged myself off to work, where I nearly fell asleep in one of my student’s offices several times. What do you expect when I’m sitting on a sofa? You start off sitting, but the sleepier you are, the more you slouch until it looks like you’re reclining with your eyes half-open and talking grammar in your sleep.

(mumble mumble…the present-perfect tense…mumble mumble…infinitives easily confused with gerunds…mumble mumble…no czar, I didn’t put ketchup in your shoes…*snore*)

After coming home from work I prayed Zuhr and crashed in the waterbed, which I think may have forgiven me, or is at least tolerating me. After all, it didn’t burst and drown me. Woke up for Asr, have since prayed Maghrib and am now trying to stay awake by *doing* things. Like blogging nonsense and wandering aimlessly around the house.

I don’t know how much longer I can keep the pretense of *awakeness* up….If awakeness is a word at all…no czar, I didn’t put ketchup in your shoes…zzzzzzzzzz

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Adventures in Taxistan

I seem to have the most interesting luck with cab drivers. I always get the ones who don’t speak either language that I do, or sometimes, I get the ones with ‘stiff neck syndrome,’ a terminal condition that prevents you from turning your head either way as you zoom out into an intersection. (I usually drive, but the car was otherwise booked)

I walked out of the house today and hailed a cab as it passed the house. The cab pulled up and I bent over and looked inside the window. Today’s cabbie was sporting those HUGE tinted shades with gold rims, the kind you would expect on a cheap cop show from the 70’s. He has the mustache to go with them, a tad too large for the typical Punjabi villager moustache, but no problem.

So I tell the guy where I’m going and how much I’m willing to pay him (this is Pakistan, that’s how it works) and instead of bargaining, he just kind of tilts his head sideways, which is the Pakistani gesture that means both yes and no, as well as maybe and whatever. It’s an all-purpose gesture, and I assumed it meant yes so I jumped into the cab and we were off.

As soon as we started driving past the first turn, I piped up and said, “Yahan left turn lena hay.” (take a left turn here.) And he made a sudden left turn and said, “Kahan turn karna tha?” (where was I supposed to turn?) “Yahan, left.” I said, trying to reassure him.

“Left?” he said, “Now is that badda (sp?) or gadda (sp?)?”

Now people, I can say left and right in three different ways because Pakistan has a lot of local languages, (whose speakers have nothing better to do than invent ways of confusing me.) but I have never, ever heard of badda or gadda. I still don’t know whether that’s what he was really saying. (bogga?) The moustache was causing some sound distortion.

“Ulta or seedha?” he asked, turning and looking at me like I was from outer Mongolia. Or space.

“Ulta,” I said, “Left is Ulta.”

“So now where do I go?” he asked.

Here I paused. See, in Urdu, the word for ‘straight’ and ‘right’ are the same. Seedha. I’ve had many moments with cab drivers that could pass as skits in some comedy (whose sole focus would be ridiculing white-washed Pakistanis) where I’ve said seedha as in straight, only to have the cab driver turn right, and where I’ve said seedha as in right, and the cabdriver has driven past my turn. I had to choose my words carefully.

“Aagay,” I said, “Ahead.”

So we drove ahead, and I used hand-signals as visual aides to the directions I called out from the back seat. When we got onto the main road that we were supposed to follow straight for about five kilometers, I relaxed in the back seat and started taking in the scenery. (on a clear day the Margalla hills are beautiful) After a couple minutes the cabdriver cleared his throat and nervously said, “You haven’t told me where to turn yet.”

“I know,” I said, “That because we’re going straight.”

At a certain point I realized that the guy had no idea where he was and no idea where he was going. The farther we went, the more nervous he got. Several times, as we drove straight through the major intersections that mark sector limits in Islamabad, I saw him sigh and make a frustrated gesture with his hand. (are we there yet?)

When we were about five minutes from the destination, and he had nearly passed two of the landmarks I had given him, driven uncertainly through red lights (which I think he didn’t know were there) and tried to turn down the wrong side of a street, I finally asked. “So,” I said, “How long have you been working in Islamabad?”

He actually turned around in his seat (while still driving!) and looked at me forlornly and said, “Two days. I’m from Karachi.”

Actually, I should’ve realized he was a Sindhi, because once his local language failed to work with me (badda? gadda? gobba? ???) he went to Urdu. The Punjabi cab drivers first try to use khabba and sajja, and when they realize I’m confused by it, they switch to English. (layft, raeet.)

Well folks, as long as this story is, I haven’t reached the end. We reached my destination and as I was getting the fare from my purse, he smiled sadly and said, “Baji, before you leave, can you tell me how to get back…?”

The End.

I almost killed myself last night. Really. It was a near-death experience, I almost died of….guilt. You wonder: what could I possibly have done that could nearly kill with me guilt and yet NOT leave me incarcerated? Or do they allow blogging from prison? Ok, I’ll get to the point, though my mom will kill me after she reads this.

Last night, I started filling up my parents’ waterbed. See, it had been drained for maintenance a few uh…weeks ago, and my dad had been sleeping on the sofa since then. If it were up to my father, the waterbed would STILL be empty, because he prefers the sofa anyway.

Alors. I decided to fill the waterbed last night. I grabbed the garden house and hooked it up to the sink with a few nylons. (family tradition, don’t ask) I put the other end into the waterbed and turned on both taps. I waited.

I stood around.

I poked the bed.

It was taking too long.

I got bored.

I went to watch TV.

(slaps forehead)

Doh!

An hour later I heard a piercing shriek from Aniraz. I rushed downstairs and saw…this. (click link at your own risk) And then I died.

I can honestly say I have never felt so guilty in my entire life. I feel as though I have done an unspeakable wrong to an old friend. What did the waterbed ever do to deserve such heinous treatment? I think the only thing I could do worse than this would be to run over the family dog. Like the dog, this waterbed has been a true and loyal member of the family since time immemorial, and now, well…it’s still around, but I know it hates me now.

The taps were turned off immediately and we started draining the bed, and then cleaning up the flood of water that had gotten as far as the computer table in the next room. I couldn’t look at the waterbed, I felt as if it was going to burst any second, and the creaking and groaning of the waterbed frame didn’t do much to allay my fears. I turned off the lights, left the room and closed the door behind me.

I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea to calm my frazzled nerves. Your nerves would be frazzled too if you had overfilled a family friend to dangerous limits, flooded the house and had no way to rectify the situation in the half hour before your father was scheduled to come home. I sat down on the sofa and tried to figure out how I would break the news to my father.



Abez:
(wringing hands nervously) “Dad, there’s been a terrible accident…”

Dad: (standing up suddenly) “What is it! Is everyone ok? What’s going on?”

Abez: (turns dramatically toward the camera) “Please sit down, it’s nothing fatal but there may be permanent damage…”

Dad: (taking a few uncertain steps towards the audience) “What’s going on! Tell me!”

Abez: (turning around suddenly) “The waterbed, it’s…”

Dad: (turning to face camera with both hands on face) Nahiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin!

(translation: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!)

I felt as though I had failed the waterbed somehow, that I wasn’t helping the situation by closing the poor thing in the room by itself. I had abandoned it a second time…how could I? After all that I had done to it, did I not have the decency to show my face, to offer what little comfort I could?

I picked up my cup of tea and pulled a chair into the bedroom. It was the least I could do. The waterbed greeted me with silence. I could tell it was wrestling with its emotions, trying to forgive me despite the pain I had caused it, the neglect I was so pathetically trying to make up for even after the damage had been done. I didn’t know what to say, so I sat there in embarrassed quiet, periodically mopping the waterbed’s forehead…err…surface to catch the rivulets of water that were escaping from the hose.

When my father came home, I left the room and brought him in. He stood before the unhappy and distended bed with a look of polite shock on his face. You never want to overreact around the patient, it might upset them. He said a few sympathetic words, it was a surprisingly subdued reaction on his part, and then we left the room together to give the waterbed some peace. He shook his head sadly when we were no longer with earshot, and he didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was disappointed in me.

It took a full hour and a half to return the waterbed to its normal dimensions, but its skin has been permanently stretched out. Our relationship is strained as well. The events of last night are too fresh in both of our memories.

The waterbed hasn’t spoken to me since.

Is it Friday yet?

Almost?

Good. An Islamically themed blog is in order then. :::rolls up sleeves, cracks knuckles:::

I like praying early. I’ve discovered this for myself only recently, though I’ve been hearing about how great it is my whole life from my father, who likes to pray two minutes after the azhan has been called. And so, having now discovered that praying early does, in fact, rock, it is now my duty to follow in my father’s barefootsteps (with prayer marks on the ankles) and talk about how great it is to pray early. (yes, I am talking in circles again. Yes.)

So, Praying early rox because…

1.You have enough time to perform your prayer deliberately, and you’re not hurried into doing what looks like a Muslim Macarena instead of an act of worship. When you have the time, you can stand on the prayer rug before saying Takbeer for as long as it takes you to get into a worshipful state of mind, to clear your congested brain from stress and the problems that insidiously surface when you’re trying to concentrate on prayer instead.

2.Having prayed early, you are free from the nagging thought of, “Gee, I haven’t prayed yet.” This same thought is what keeps you from being able to nap when you’re tired (I can’t lay down, I haven’t prayed yet) or doing anything that involves a commitment of a few hours. I’m not saying that praying is a nagging or annoying thing, I’m saying that putting prayer off till the last minute is mentally taxing.

3.Prayer early is a practical way of making your worship a higher priority. Though you may feel like you’d rather play a game of basketball first and then pray on the court afterwards, you logically know that your spiritual fitness is more important than your physical fitness, so you work on the more important one first.

4. Praying at the earliest time ensures that you never miss a prayer unless you’re dead or unconscious. Once the azhan is called (it isn’t in the US, but you know what I mean) you just drop whatever you’re doing and pray because actually, you have no guarantee whatsoever that your life won’t end within the day. Of course, you’re young so you may laugh there for a moment, but think about it. What, did you get a special promise from Allah that you would see old age? That you would never be included in the statistic of people who die suddenly, such as physically fit footballers who collapse and die in the middle of a game? Or pedestrians killed instantly by hit and run drivers? Lots of people die young. You’re not any more or less special than they are. Your life doesn’t come with a guarantee, so pray while you have the chance.

“…Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and Paradise…” 57:20-21

I’m under quarantine. We all are, actually. My poor daddy has gotten bronchitis and he’s a coughing mess, and the rest of us are starting to feel substandard. Now whether this is because we’re actually getting sick or whether we’re just having sympathy symptoms, we don’t know yet. Either way, I’m drinking out of a yogurt container.

Yep. This is my hi-sci (that’s high-science, not fidelity) way of trying not to get sick. It’s very un-Pakistani of me, but I’m not letting anyone use my glass…errr…yogurt container and I’m not going to use anyone else’s. They better keep their microbially-charged fingers off my pickle-jar of tea, too.

If there’s on thing I remember from Microbiology back in skool, it’s Chapter 1: the Ubiquity of Microbes. The filthy little fiends are everywhere, lurking, squirming, planning, scheming to jump inside of you and wreck havoc, knocking things over and chewing on your important bits. That’s EXACTLY what it said in my textbook, yep.

It is a bit of a family tradition for us to all get sick at the same time, but I’m hoping to avoid it. There are only so many days you can take off from work before your employers start looking for a replacement. I’ve already taken one off today to keep an eye on my daddy-dearest (I’ve only got one, so he’s the dearest by default :p ) and I may have to take off tomorrow too.

My poor daddy, when he gets sick, he really overdoes it. He’s got a fever and he’s disoriented and he’s coughing himself into fits. On top of that, he’s such a workoholic that he wakes up every few hours and starts phoning the restaurant (Chez Daddy: Good food, terrible service) to see if everything is running smoothly without him. Which it isn’t. So now he’s run off again.

Hmmm.

Have any of you guys ever read Strega Nona? It’s an old folk tale about a woman who has a pot that magically cooks as much food as you tell it to. All you have to do is say the magic words and it starts filling up with pasta. When you want it to finish, you say the magic words and then blow it three kisses, and the pasta stops.

Well, in the story, Strega Nonaa goes out shopping one day and a mischievous neighbor sneaks into her house thinking he’s going to make himself some dinner. He has, after all, heard her say the magic words many times and thinks he knows how to work the pot. So he comes in and starts to pot. As fast as it fills he scoops out a plate and eats it, and when he’s finished he says the magic words, but the pot keeps filling. He says them again and nothing happens, and soon the pot is overflowing with pasta, and it’s spilling out onto the floor, up the his knees, out the door and finally it deluges the entire village. In the end, Strega Non rescues the village by blowing the pot the three kisses that the neighbor hadn’t known about.

There isn’t much of a moral to this story, except that maybe now you’ll understand what I mean if I say I made a pot of Strega Nona’s chili today. That’s where you add about six times too much pasta (because it didn’t look like much at the time, ok?) and then watch in horror as the pasta expands and starts to out-grow the confines of the pot. Then you switch it to a bigger pot, add more beef, more sauce, and watch as it continues to grow.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The pasta does stop growing eventually, but by then you’ve got Hamburger Helper instead of a small pot of chili, and you also have three times more than you intended to make. Incidentally, it will also have only 1/3 of the taste if you don’t do some creative last-minute correction.

The real trick though, is to blow the pot three kisses.

Wow man, I just had a blast from the past. I downloaded a freeware mystery pack and found…Doom. The original. (Knee Deep in the Dead)

:::shakes head:::

If you never played Doom (back in the old days) then you have no idea what I’m talking about. Well, Doom is a low-plot, high-gore single player shoot-em-up. Your view is basically of a hand holding a weapon and your job is to point the weapon at things and kill them before they kill you. What’s the story? It has something to do with demons in outer space. Right. It’s not intellectual gaming fare, but I used to play it way back in ancient times… (counts on fingers…count on toes…) when I was a freshman in high school. Yeah, that was when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Anyway. What a weird culture we live in. Kids kill imaginary people and things for fun, but we still wonder (as a society) why they’re so violent. I remember visiting my cousins last year, and as we were all sitting around watching some of them play Playstation, I heard my six-year old nephew yell out, “Shoot him in the head, shoot him in the head!”

Frankly, I was horrified. That’s probably because when I think of someone being shot in the head, I don’t think of the video-game version where they drop to the floor and then disappear. (bad-guys mysteriously evaporate after they die, have you noticed that?) I think of the real-life version, where being shot in the head means an explosion of blood and flesh and brain-matter. And if the person who’s shot doesn’t die right away, that means lying on the floor in pain, in a pool of your own gore, waiting for either help of death. No, they don’t really evaporate. They probably had a wife, or kids, or at least siblings or parents who would wonder what happened to them and die of worrying. Even if they were the bad-guy in your own real-life adventure, they would still have family members who would probably work themselves to the bone trying to pay the medical bills of their loved one (now a vegetable in the hospital) all because some gun-happy idiot had to come along and shoot their father/brother/husband in the head.

So yeah, I have problems with a six year old yelling for someone to be shot in the head.

Kids these days. I can’t blame them though, because they aren’t actually in charge. It’s the adults who are at fault here, the parents who allow their little kids to watch and emulate violent behavior and practice killing imaginary people. You don’t get a true-to-life idea of death or violence from TV or video games. In cartoons, Tom (from Tom & Jerry) will often get shot in the face with both barrels of a shotgun. He then shakes it off and goes back to chasing Jerry. In video games, you shoot the bad guy and he flashes and disappears. People in cop shows kick each other’s heads and punch each other in the face five, ten, fifteen times and then everyone gets up again, a little bloodier but mostly ok. In reality, if you got punched in the face once you’d be in real trouble. Even just two or three kicks to the head causes permanent damage.

During this same trip, I also saw some of these same kids trying WWF (that’s the World-wide Wrestling Federation, is has nothing to do with wildlife) moves out on each other. One of them nearly busted his head open on the floor trying to do a flying crotch-attack. I don’t know what else to call it, I’m sorry, but those moron wrestlers fly crotch-first at each other and try to wrap their legs around each other’s heads. There’s no other way to explain it. So please pardon my French.

There’s a huge difference between real violence and imaginary violence, in that imaginary violence has not consequences and looks kind of fun, actually. Older children may understand the difference between imaginary violence and real-life violence, but the little kids aren’t smart enough. That’s why their parents have to make the choice for them.

Forget Doom. You should play this instead.

ClassicGaming.com – Game of the Week: The Lost Vikings

_____

Did you know…

The attorney for a 13-year-old boy accused of killing a six-year-old playmate by slamming her into a table has subpoenaed Hulk Hogan and another wrestler to testify at his client’s upcoming murder trial. The boy was mimicking wrestling moves he had seen on TV.

– Associated Press, Miami 3/21/00

A year-long 98/99 study of World Wrestling Federation’s “Raw is War” by Indiana University revealed:

Grabbing one’s crotch – 1,658 incidents

Giving the “finger” – 157 incidents

Simulated sex – 128 incidents

Simulated drug use – 42 incidents

Urination/talking about/simulation – 21 incidents

Prostitution as a character role – 20 incidents

Indiana University, Department of Telecommunications, 1999

The Experimental Chef

Abez (smiling cheesily and wielding wire-whisk): Hello everyone, and welcome to my cooking show, The Experimental Chef! Today we’re going to try a new recipe for cream-based frosting. We’ve heard rumor that in other places you can whip cream and add a little sugar, and it makes a lovely topping. My side-kick Kitchen-Aid has more to tell us about it.

K-A: grinning): Thanks Abez.

Abez: You’re welcome Kitchen Aid!

K-A: Our previous experiments have shown that Pakistani cream doesn’t have a high enough fat content to whip properly.

Abez: (with mock incredulity) Is that so?

K-A: Yes! In fact, any attempt to whip it usually results in…nothing. Nothing happens. You can whip it for half an hour and then put it back in its container in the same form.

Abez: Imagine that!

K-A: So we decided to increase the fat content. Let’s see how this works out today.

Abez: (whispering) that was my line…Err, yes! (brightly) So we have our ingredients lined up, two boxes of thick cream, and a packet of butter. We’ll just throw some butter in here, and pour the cream on top….

K-A: And start the mixer….

(mixers starts)

Abez: Ummm…

K-A: It’s still not whipping.

Abez: Maybe it needs more time.

K-A: It looks flatter than pancake batter.

Abez: Maybe it needs more fat. (throws in lump of butter) Does it look fluffier now?

K-A: No, it’s starting to look like cottage cheese.

Abez: Stand back, maybe you’re giving off bad vibes or something.

K-A: (throws in a handful of white powder) Maybe this will help.

Abez: What was that?

K-A: The label said corn starch.

Abez: Does corn starch whip?

K-A: (morosely) Apparently not.

(machine continues to whir loudly)

Abez: Looks kind of like haleem.

K-A: Is that good?

Abez: Not unless it tastes like haleem. Hey, let’s throw it in the blender!

K-A: Right! Lemme just clean the hummus out…

Abez: (turning to face camera) Remember kids, we are trained professionals, don’t try any of the things you see us do at ….hey!…stop licking the blender blade! You want to cut your tongue in half?

K-A: It had hummus on it…

Abez: (hastily pours non-fluffy cream into blender) Alright, turn it on Kitchen Aid, let’s see what happens.

K-A: Hmm, smells kind of…hummussy.

Abez: I thought you cleaned the blender?

K-A: (wipes hummus from chin) You made me stop.

Abez: Quick, add some baking soda!

K-A: (grabs can of soda frantically) Why?

Abez: To neutralize the smell!

K-A: Right! (dumps it in)

Abez: And some blue food coloring!

K-A: (upends tin of food coloring into blender) Right! Blue frosting tastes the best!

Abez: And an egg white!

K-A: Right, egg whites whip wonderfully!

(both stand expectantly over blender.)

Abez: It looks…bigger….

K-A: Is it whipped?

Abez: I don’t know. Maybe we should taste it. (extends finger towards blender)

K-A: Wait! You can’t eat that, it has raw egg in it!

Abez: Oh yeah.

K-A: Wait a sec… (rushes off camera, returns with a small bottle and begins pouring its contents into blender.)

Abez: What’s that?

K-A: Hydrogen peroxide. To kill the egg germs. Now you won’t get salmonella.

Abez: Right, here we go! Time to taste the frosting!

K-A: Wait! It will turn your mouth and fingers blue!

Abez: Right, throw in some bleach then. We wanted white frosting anyway.

K-A: Ok, NOW it’s time to taste the frosting.

Abez: Right.

K-A: Right.

(both stare expectantly at each other)

K-A: I thought YOU were going to taste the frosting.

Abez: Me? You’re the assistant, you eat it!

K-A: But it’s YOUR show!

Abez: And I say, YOU eat it!

K-A: No, you!

Abez: You!

(lights on set begin to fade)

Abez: Well folks, I’m sorry our time for today is up! Join us next week when we’ll be showing you how to-

K-A: How to remove blue frosting stains! FIRE!!!!!

-exeunt-

Oh wow, my blog is back to normal. I’m going to make a flying leap of assumption and thank the *mysterious* Mr.Passerby on my tagboard. Yay!

This keyboard is dangerous by the way. I’m using one at Aniraz’s office, and it has a sticky backspace key. I try to delete one letter and it gets stuck and gobbles up an entire paragraph before I can unstick it. So I’m trying to type accurately, which of course means slowly.

One of my morning students cancelled so now I’m wasting time in Aniraz’s office until it’s time for my nest class to start. So far I’ve:

messed up my blog template and gone back to the original.

checked my email four times

Deleted all the porn that someone has downloaded onto this compuyter. :::haha:::

And read through various blogs.

And there’s just an hour to go. I know that some people can spend hours and hours on the internet and be perfectly entertained, but I don’t know how they do it. I have sent Aniraz cryptic and useless IM messages (she’s in the next office) but so far it’s a one-sided conversation. Now I’m just complaining. Shame alaina. Have a laff instead. I’ll try to blog properly when I get home this evening.

Literary Taunts

“A graceful taunt is worth a thousand insults.”

–Louis Nizer

“I feel so miserable without you, it’s almost like having you here.”

–Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man & worships his creator.”

–John Bright

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

–Winston Churchill

“A modest little person, with much to be modest about.”

–Winston Churchill

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”

–Irvin S. Cobb

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”

–Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

–William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

–Ernest Hemingway about (William Faulkner)

“He has sat on the fence so long that the iron has entered his soul.”

–David Lloyd George

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.”

–Moses Hadas

“His ears made him look like a taxicab with both doors open.”

–Howard Hughes (about Clark Gable)

“He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.”

–Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”

–Paul Keating

“He had delusions of adequacy.”

–Walter Kerr

“There’s nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won’t cure.”

–Jack E. Leonard

“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.”

–Abraham Lincoln

“You’ve got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I bet he was glad to get rid of it.”

–Groucho Marx

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”

–Groucho Marx

“He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.”

–Robert Redford

“They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.”

–Thomas Brackett Reed

“He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them.”

–James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.”

–Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.”

–Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”

–Mark Twain

“A solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg who looked like he was waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity.”

–Mark Twain

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

–Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”

–Mae West

“She is a peacock in everything but beauty.”

–Oscar Wilde

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

–Oscar Wilde

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.”

–Oscar Wilde

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.”

–Billy Wilder

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts… for support rather than illumination.”

–Andrew Lang