August 31, 2005

Breaking some stereotypes, enforcing others

I was browsing the web for information regarding the upcoming ISNA conference in Chicago. I never go to ISNA conferences, but wanted to keep abreast of the latest happenings to get an idea of the scale of the event. This eventually lead me to the infamous Naseeb.com site, which I've heard much about but have never visited before.


Anyway, it has always bothered me that in spite of all our efforts to promote Islam in North America and in spite of the extremely educated Muslim population living here, we still can't spell. There, on the front page of this famous website, is a typo, in a sentence claiming that American Muslims will be breaking stereotypes. I love the irony.

August 25, 2005

Google Manipulation

It's old news that a search for the word "failure" on Google returns the biography of President Bush as the first result. This works because numerous people have linked to that page using the words "Failure" or "Miserable Failure" as the link text.

Bush supporters, unable to think of something original, decided to counter this Google manipulation by using the same trick to push Michael Moore to the top of the search results for that same query. Currently, his webpage ranks second on the word "Failure". First of all, I find it funny that Bush supporters find Michael Moore to be their greatest enemy, and not an actual political figure who could actually have some real influence.

Anyway, even with this attack on Michael Moore, the Bush supporters have lost again, as I discovered today. By virtue of what is probably some server-side scripting on www.michaelmoore.com, whenever someone tries to visit the Michael Moore website from the Google "Failure" search results, it will redirect the user back to the website of George Bush. Hilarious!

August 23, 2005

Speculations on Google Talk

The web has been abuzz with rumours of Google releasing their own Instant Messaging service, which they are calling Google Talk. Only mere days after they released Google Desktop 2, which puts a multitude of Google and web services on your desktop without need for a browser, Google seems poised to release a competitor for the IM services of MSN, Yahoo, AOL, etc. It appears as if the service is already live, though the Google client software is not yet available.

There are probably already too many IM services as it is, but history has shown that Google always goes several steps beyond what anyone thought was possible. Much of the innovation on the web today can be attributed directly to Google. With that being said, these are the types of services I expect Google to eventually include in their IM client if they do in fact release one.

  • VoIP. It's pretty certain that this is part of their plan, as Yahoo has launched a competing service, and I think MSN is working on it.

  • Integration with Google Desktop 2. I imagine that your contact list will be neatly stored as a module for Google Desktop 2, leaving no need for another program running as the client.

  • Integration with GMail, which will double as a voicemail box and the central contact list (all available from Google Desktop 2). Like Skype, I expect users to be able to have actual phone numbers that people can call and leave voice messages. Incidentally, Yahoo introduced a very similar service 5 years ago by the name of Yahoo By Phone, which provided users with a 10-digit extension that can be reached at by a toll-free Yahoo number. Yahoo By Phone used to also be able to read your mail out for you, so you could literally check your e-mail from any payphone.

  • Integration with Google Local, Google Maps, and Google Earth. I expect that some day, I can click on a location on Google Maps and have it automatically place a call to that location. You can almost do this already with the Vonage "Click2Call" service, which provides a couple of web services that make it extremely easy to automatically dial any number. Unfortunately, the service is not available to Vonage Canada customers like me just yet.

  • Voice-based ads. There is a service in Ottawa where you can pick up a payphone, call a toll-free number, listen to a short ad, and then make a local call. It saves you the quarter if you're not in a hurry and don't mind listening to a couple of short ads. I expect Google to employ a similar revenue scheme for their service, perhaps delivered when checking your voicemail.

  • Integration with Blogger and AudioBlogger, which will allow a person to quickly publish a voice or text conversation to their blog or podcast. They can also receive instant messages whenever a comment is posted on their blog, which they could then reply to immediately through the Google Talk interface.

  • this is an audio post - click to play


    So let's see how much of this actually happens. And remember, you heard it here first!

    August 12, 2005

    As the ink dries

    The same night I encountered the "white-anglo" who insisted I should address him as sir, I also witnessed a violent scuffle between a few other people. Some guys who live in my building had gotten into an argument with the Chinese convenience store owner over something trivial, and started smashing the windows of the store.

    The Chinese man, enraged, chased the kids outside, where the kids all started attacking him jointly, kicking and taunting him. I happened to be passing by at the time, and pulled one of the kids aside and spoke with him. He was a Muslim kid, a pretty nice guy who tends to find himself in the wrong crowd all the time. He pulled away from the fight, and eventually the others dispersed. Shortly afterwards, police arrived at the scene. By that point, I was long gone enjoying my meal at the nearby Somali restaurant.

    Though the dispute was a trivial one, the violence erupted largely due to racial differences. As I witnessed myself shortly afterwards, racism still exists in our society all over the place. Over the last little while, somehow, it has become even more apparent especially within my own neighbourhood.

    For the first few months after I moved into this building, there was quite a bit of vandalism on the walls and elevators, with most of it aimed at the large Bengali community in my area. Recently, all the elevators were redone, and for once they were clean and racism-free. Last week though, the vandalism started again; as I was taking the elevator to go down to the musalla, I saw the words "f***ing muslims" written on my elevator.

    Thankfully, the building administration dealt with it promptly, and it was removed the next day. As I went down for Isha today, however, all the elevators had been freshly filled with more anti-Muslim and anti-Bengali vulgarity; the ink must be drying now as I write this. As I returned from prayers, I got into a discussion with the guy riding the elevator with me.

    "Man, there's still so much racism, eh?", he asked me.

    "Yeah, unfortunately. The administration has been very prompt in cleaning it up, though," I replied.

    I reached my floor, and thought about the inaccuracy of what I had just said. The administration can clean non-erasable ink, but they can't clean up the hatred of the hearts.

    August 09, 2005

    No thank you

    I had just come back from a restaurant with my cousin when I witnessed another case of the racism that still unfortunately exists in this great country.

    I was on my way back to my apartment building. I reached in my pocket to get my keys to open the front door, but this man got to his keys first and so he opened it instead. So me and my cousin walked through the door. The man then yells at us, "YOU'RE WELCOME."

    I looked back at him, and he looked angry, presumably because I didn't thank him for unlocking the door.

    "Haven't you f**king ever heard of manners?", he asked me. I smiled as I found that comment deliciously ironic.

    I apologized for not thanking him for getting to the door first, and we all got in the elevator.

    "You guys better f'in learn some manners," he reminded us in the elevator.

    "Alright sir, I'll keep that in mind," I told him.

    "That's right, f**k. SIR. Especially I'm a white-anglo in this country, so you f**kin' better be calling me sir. It's all going to hell, just like Nostradamus said. It's gonna end where it began."

    After some more incoherent muttering and expletives, he reached his floor.

    "Have a nice night, sir!", I called out.

    "F**k off."

    Man dies after marathon video game session | CBC News

    He quit his job for this!

    When 'Izraeel comes to take your soul, there's really nothing you can do at that point. May we all be saved from leaving the world in such a state.

    August 08, 2005

    Funny Comments on Seekers Digest

    Shaikh Rabbani pokes fun at bad English

    Something I enjoy doing as well!

    August 07, 2005

    Isti-car-a

    I have recently been in the market for a car. While I'm not too knowledgeable about cars, I have been thinking for some time about what a car means to someone and how it defines a person. There are so many factors to consider, but perhaps the first thing that I began thinking about was deciding between an import or a local model. They both have their pros and cons.

    I find these days that a lot of my friends have decided to go with imports. Most of the people I know who imported were highly pragmatic people, with no intention of portraying a certain image with their car. They just wanted to have a car to go from one place to another, and not have their lives defined by it. Many of them have been with their cars for some time now, and while there are the occasional problems (often because foreign cars may not be well accustomed to local roads and weather conditions), they have never complained. The cars are reliable, safe, and have their own inner beauty.

    At the same time, the foreign car has certain limitations. Often, they tend to be more expensive. While the cost of materials may be cheaper, when you add in the freight and other charges, it adds up. Whenever anything goes wrong with the car, it can often be a very expensive task to get things back in shape. Also, they often have certain quirks that cannot be dealt with appropriately in North America. Sometimes the part you need can only be found back at the manufacturer abroad; that makes maintenance quite expensive. Granted, they generally need less maintenance overall.

    As for North American cars, the options are much more limited. To find a good domestic car is not an easy endeavour, but it may be worth the effort in the long run. Domestic models tend to be built for the surrounding environment, thus often making them more suitable for many people. The initial purchase of these cars tend to be cheaper, informed advice is more readily available regarding their particularities, and parts are generally cheaper. If anything goes considerably wrong, you would not need to go far for service.

    While the cost of parts may be cheaper, these cars tend to need maintenance more often. In many ways, they tend to be more expensive even though the initial purchase cost may be less. Sometimes these machines are built more for style and image than performance, which becomes noticeable after some time. Even then, people I know with these cars end up spending even more money on maintaining the style than on ensuring decent performance.

    One friend of mine frequently urges me to go with a North American car in order to support the local market. Too often, he says, people go out and buy foreign cars and then the North American market suffers. He reminds me that people living abroad don't buy North American cars much, so if we don't support our own local economy, the entire system will suffer as a whole.

    I've also received advice going the other way, that a foreign car is the best option. One friend keeps on telling me that if I went ahead and settled with a foreign car, I'd be much happier for it. He reminded me that owning a North American car would make it difficult to spend my money on things important to me, since so much would end up going into maintaining the car. I recently even visited a foreign dealership where salespeople worked very hard on convincing me of the benefits of their machines, though nothing I saw then interested me.

    In my family, I've seen both. My eldest brother has settled comfortably with a North American Cavalier, while my two other brothers have foreign cars. Overall, they all seem really happy with their cars, so I guess it really just depends on one's own personality. At this point, I have no idea which option would be better for me.

    August 02, 2005

    'A miracle' no deaths as Air France flight skids off runway, burns in Toronto | CBC News

    No deaths on Air France 358

    Amid all the chaos and tragedy in the world today, good things still happen once in a while. I was at work when this first happened, and initially we were told that few were likely to survive. The fact that no one died at all is truly a blessing and a miracle.

    May Allah SWT continue to protect Canada and it's people from harm and calamity.