Google Says No ‘Doodle For You!’

It started with the perceptive ProPakistani people noticing how Google has never had an Islam themed doodle on their homepage, and Dr. Awab picked up the discussion the next day.

I personally think that Google not showing any Doodles for Islamic events has something to do with their “Do No Evil” policy  😉 Seriously though, while Google can not be forced to cater to each segment of their customer base, especially since doodling is the secondary responsibility of the guy who creates them, but given that Read more “Google Says No ‘Doodle For You!’”

Celebrating Ramadan

I have invented this thing that I call “Roza-rolling” in the spirit of ‘rick-rolling’. It involves a Google image search on queries like “chicken roast” or “bbq meat”, wrapping a tinyurl around it, and throwing it towards my fellow Pakistani ‘Rozadaars’ on Twitter – during fasting hours. Thankfully, they don’t mind (I hope) due to their great sense of humor/pity towards me.

Now here’s a thought experiment for my Pakistani Muslim brothers (just to make it clear, I consider myself one too):

Imagine yourself, tomorrow noon (middle of Ramadan), at lunch time, sitting besides a fountain near a very busy road in Pakistan (say, Main Boulevard, Lahore) with your favorite pizza and cola bottle combo, eating and joking with another friend as people pass by. What are your feelings? Are you

a) guilty, because you are a Muslim and should be fasting

b) happy, that you live in a country that respects your freedom

c) uneasy, you can get beaten up by a mob, there might be a mosque nearby

d) afraid, you can get arrested for this

e) none of the above, you will not do any such thing as you will be fasting like a good Muslim

So your answer is e? But what if you are a non-muslim by birth? (you can answer in the comments if you want.)

Today, I met a Christian classmate from school (and school ended 20 years ago, so he is a very old friend) who has recently come back to Pakistan from the UK. He asked me that if Allah says that a roza (fast) is for Him alone and He will reward it Himself, then why is it that he can’t eat, drink (water) or smoke in public? Why can’t he go out and buy lunch from a nearby place?

I’m an idiot when it comes to religion, the Pakistani politics and many things in between them, and topics like separation of state from religion make me queasy, so I had to change the topic. He left a few hours ago, but left me wondering about what used to happen in the times of the last prophet when Muslims ruled the land but non-muslims co-existed with them. Did the Muslims let the non-muslims eat/drink as usual, or did the non-muslims change their ways out of respect/fear? Do you know of the Sunnah/history in this regard?

Ten years ago, a relative living in Saudi Arabia told me that most of the government offices switch their office timings to night shifts, probably so that the daily productivity is not affected. I used to wonder if that is how God intended fasting to be. My idea of fasting was to put up a constraint on a single variable (our intake of food/drinks etc.) and keeping the rest of my life constant, but this Saudi adjustment sounded a lot like my physics lab data manipulation practices of keeping only the ‘good’ string lengths and dropping the rest so that the value of ‘g’ turns out to be ‘9.8’ and not ‘10.5’.

Today, I stumbled upon this page reporting how Ramadan was welcomed in different countries around the world this year. A few excerpts:

  • Pakistan’s government marked Ramadan by halting a major military campaign against Taliban rebels on its border with Afghanistan, launched after intense pressure from Western nations.
  • Ramadan started on Sunday in Libya, according to a decision by the authorities based on “astronomical calculations” rather than an actual sighting of the new moon.The calculations mean that the start of Ramadan does not clash with festivities normally reserved for the anniversary of the Libyan revolution on September 1, 1969.
  • Iranians, still waiting for the new moon to be spotted, are likely to start Ramadan on Tuesday, with office hours cut down from eight to five. Iranian police have issued a stern warning to crack down on people violating a ban on eating and drinking in public as well as eateries offering food before iftar except for designated places on the roads for travellers.
  • For many Muslims, Ramadan also means spending time with friends and family watching lavish television productions filmed especially for the festive season.However, the Egyptian Gazette quoted one man as being “shocked that state-run and privately owned studios wasted 500 million Egyptian pounds (93 million dollars) on producing TV soap operas to be show in Ramadan.”
  • Turkish Muslims meanwhile resolved a debate about whether they could resort to appetite suppressing diet patches to get through the daily fast after theologists reassured them they have nothing to worry about. The patches, cannot be considered as corrupting the fast because their effect amounts to “showering or applying a pomade on the skin” rather than eating, theology professor Kerim Yavuz said.

And here is how the Arabs do it. Google search results from a few other websites looked interesting as well, but ironically, most of them were blocked/restricted either from the Pakistani PTA end or the server end, and I didn’t bother going through a proxy. I fail to see how we can fight “evil” when we don’t know “evil”, but that is the topic of another post by somebody else.

If I had the power to change things, I would have asked all restaurants and food shops to continue business as usual during Ramadan – whoever wants to eat should be allowed to eat, it is his roza, for his God! Who am I to stop him from eating? Actually, I would have gone one step further and subsidized all food items during fasting times. If I am a Muslim and see someone eating while I am fasting, shouldn’t it make me a bit more stronger (and perhaps earn me some extra bonus thawab in the process)? I should not have to grab a person by the collar and tell him to stop eating and start ‘respecting’ my roza. How is this any different from the Taliban wanting everyone to grow a beard, or Bush wanting to convert all the islamic countries to democracy?

But since I do not have such power, I guess I’ll just go watch a movie, or three, before going to sleep until iftar. You ought to do the same. Have a safe and easy Ramadan.

The Underscore is over-rated

After years and years of abuse, my pinkies can’t take it anymore and have hijacked my remaining fingers (and the thumbs) into writing this post.

So if you are a developer, a database designer, or just writes APIs or SDKs or programming languages or opensource code that other people will reuse, and if you love coding conventions, and if you like using the underscore ‘_’ as a separator, please STOP RIGHT NOW!. Think of all the little fingers that you will save!

If you are still not convinced, try typing Q_Q_Q_Q a few times. See?

camelCase is just as good for variables, and FirstLeretterCapitalization should be sufficient for functions names. It is bad enough that the curly braces {}, the Backspace and the Enter keys are so far away from the left little finger, and yet it has to cover all those keys – please don’t make it any worse by these horrible underscores!

The generation before us (the pioneers of computer science etc. etc.) probably started using computer keyboards in their middle ages, my generation (in Pakistan at least) started using computers in our teens, and if my son is a good representative sample, then TNG (The Next Generation) started using computers before they learned how to write. This means their poor little fingers will get an extra decade or so of keyboard exposure. The pioneer generation didn’t have a clue, but we do – most of us 30 somethings have aching fingers (or is it just me?) each day, after spending half the day in front of the computer. Let’s make the world a little more pleasant for our kids.

So the next time you get this urge to use the _ in your code, please reconsider. Thank you!

Graph of Thought

chainA phrase that has been really bothering me since I was a teenager is “Chain of Thought” or “Train of Thought” – it even has its own wiki page! As I have recently realized that one use of blogs are meant to be a personal ranting space, so let me do that.

A chain is a lot like a vector, so when I hear the phrase “Chain of Thought”, I see a thinker/brain jumping from link to link, much like an iterator, and most of the links are identical. I don’t think like that, and I’m sure most people don’t either.

When I try to visualize thinking, the picture that comes to my mind is that of a set of stacks, with thoughts popping out of some and being pushed into others.

At other times, thoughts remind me of a tree, with the brain traversing it, sometimes depth first, and sometimes breadth first, but more often, thought looks to me like a graph, with the brain hopping from node to node however the hell it pleases.

A tree is a graph, and a vector is a tree, so why do we have to chain our thoughts by making them look like they follow a linear pattern? They are seldom that linear! Ok, a “Graph of Thought” sounds modern, but trees have been around for much longer than chains!

To me, analogies and models are dangerous oversimplifications. Whenever we use a model to represent something, the thing that is being represented loses a certain part of its being. By sticking to a chain model, we are simplifying our thought process, and perhaps, becoming just a little bit more stupid in the process. I say, let us kill the phrase “Chain of Thought” and climb one teeny weeny step higher on the ladder of evolution.

After this post, I will take the nested brackets that I love (and I do love them (honestly (yes, this is a forced example))) as deep as I want to, without bothering about grammar.

Grammar needs a redesign.

How I Got PTCL to Upgrade my Bandwidth

I, the good cop, mailed a long rant to the PTCL Broadband manager, Mr. Ali Raza Baloch, last week, after getting his email from the helpline.

He forwarded my complaint to a couple of relevant people, asking them to help me out, but that didn't happen.

Meanwhile, a friend, the bad cop, sent a written complaint to PTA – the PTA people wrote a letter to PTCL, and PTCL called my friend, and promised they will upgrade 'tomorrow' – which happened to be a local holiday, so 'tomorrow' never came.

Today, my friend went in person to the Broadband office, spent two hours there, met Ali Raza face-to-face and explained the situation to him. Ali Raza contacted his team, found out that my friend's upgrade was stuck in Islamabad somehow, and got the wheels in motion for him. My friend did manage to get my connection upgraded in the process though – so when I woke up today, I found my modem connected at 510kbps.

So, for anyone who is desperate to get the promised upgrade, you can be proactive and follow the same route instead of waiting for something that PTCL owes you but is reluctant to provide. I'm getting about an 80% throughput – 410kbps or so, which is good enough for jerk-free Youtube, and the upload speed of 300kbps is helping me save a lot of time as well. 20$ for 512kbps is still about 6 times more expensive than the 50$ for 6mbps that my American friends enjoy, but I hope we will get there eventually. Thank god for competition.