Tuesday, January 31, 2006

ananya's first birthday

life: we had a great first birthday party for ananya on saturday. our friend jas put together THIS flash show.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

news spin

politics: well i must say, things in the middle east have taken a rather odd turn. what are we supposed to make of the palestinian/israeli situation now that hamas will be in the center of the political process? one of the things i find interesting about this situation, is how the press is not really sure what to make of it either. a few days ago, most stories seemed to run something like: the establishment verse the terrorists, with little real attention paid to why palestinians are actually voting for hamas. one exception was the christian science monitor, which ran this story a few days ago, Why Hamas is gaining in Palestinian polls. last night, i was particularly surprised to read THIS analysis on CNN - this was the most popular article on google news last night - it basically compares the israeli reaction to hamas winning, to that of the palestinians when sharon won - some sort of embrace of an unpredictable peace move... now today, the spin seems to be something like:

1. this is a protest vote against the corrupt PA
2. hamas will moderate itself now that its in the political mainstream.
3. hamas is terrible, and the peace process has nowhere to go.

the problem is the media is eternally optimistic, so they need to spin a path, however hypothetical, to peace, so 3. is not such a great take. 1. is a mere stating of the obvious. and 2. is well, editorial.

in any event, it kind of looks like the bush administration is in a bit of a jam. they need to spin how happy they are with the introduction of democracy in the middle east, but at the same time, its tough to spin hamas winning as a desired outcome. the CSM leads with, in my opinion, a no brainer article that should have been written the day the bush administration professed the desire to "let freedom ring" around the world. CSM writes:

Palestinian voters availed themselves of the time- honored democratic right to "throw the bums out" in their first legislative elections in a decade Wednesday - exactly the kind of action implicit in President Bush's push for democracy in the Middle East.

But by snubbing the Fatah Party of US-supported Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in favor of the radical Islamist group Hamas, Palestinians also put the Bush administration in a difficult spot.

The US might now seem hypocritical to many Arabs - encouraging democracy in the Middle East, while rejecting the choices that result from its exercise. At the same time, questions mount over whether Mr. Bush's campaign for democracy is encouraging the empowerment of Islamist militants across the region.

go HERE for the full text.

why is this a shock? one of the things that really bugs me about an exclusively-profit-driven-media is that there's so little analysis of positions occuring early on. i mean, its not like these are new issues, think of the franco-algerian war. why the heck can't the media use a little common sense and dare i say it, historical perspective, and analyze things a bit more. anyway, i should hardly pick on the CSM, they're one of the stars.

so back to the hamas thing, well, my take is that the bushies and israelies give this government a few days and a red line to decouple the militant wing of hamas from the service arm, else risk a complete cut off of funds. how that plays out, i have no idea.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

bike swarms and acid etching

life: nayan had a birthday party to go to this morning. was down at the nordic heritage museum - a great time for the mini people. all the boys were racing around the play area on their bikes. most of the boys at the party had a second younger sibling. in all cases, the young ones seem to hobble and roam, solo, while being swarmed by speedy, though not quite stable, cycles. this, in normally quite uptight seattle is quite an aberration. typically seattle parents can be found micro managing the tiniest minutia of their kids' lives. what a pleasure to see parents just cruising about, young boys in unconstrained play, and toddlers meandering happily exploring their environment - all in all, a low key low stress birthday affair.

after b-day fun, i've spent the last couple hours applying vast quantities of acid to the floors of our studio. this lithochrome stain is seriously toxic stuff. basically, i spray it on, brush it into the concrete (while wearing thick rubber boots, gloves, respirator, goggles, etc.) it bubbles and gurgles and makes all kinds of noise. i have absolutely no idea whether it is going to end up looking good. the sample i did months ago looked great, unfortunately the floor seems to be behaving quite differently now. my gosh the sun is out. first time since i can remember. must go now.

Friday, January 20, 2006

doorway trouble

life: so there's this 30 something wiggy new yorker guy who i'll refer to as NYX. for the past 4 years, every work morning, i park my car, i walk along the water front to work, and i see NYX smoking a cigarette. about 4 months ago, it was a nice sunny late august morning, and NYX was highly animated, upset and very agitated. as i got closer, i heard the following conversation:

NYX: "dddon't tell me i can't smoke here, ok!"

RandomMan: "sir, why are you getting upset? i simply asked if you could move down the sidewalk a ways instead of smoking right in front of the door lobby."

NYX: "look man, there's no &*&@# law against smoking in a door way okay! its not like i'm smoking in the &*@#&@ hallway. you people have pushed us out of everywhere!"

RandomMan: "i think you're a little too angry. i don't think its much to ask ..."

NYX, cutting off RandomMan: "look man! don't bring this @#@# up ok? i know the law, man, i'm a @#^@#^'ing lawyer. don't mess with me, or i'll sue the @^#%@^%# out of you."

RandomMan calmly walks away.

NYX starts shaking, and slowly moves out of the door way, cigarette in hand.

now, fast forward to yesterday. for those unaware, seattle has recently placed a smoking ban in all public establishments. not only can people not smoke inside any public building (bars, restaurants included), but people can no longer smoke within 25 feet of a doorway.

so, i'm walking to work, its pouring rain and pretty dark. i look up, and i see NYX standing in the middle of the street, about 25 feet away from the doorway. no jacket on, just jeans and a green sweater, and a cigarette.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

maya speaks

yesterday i went up to the mountain to do some snowboarding. its been dumping snow all week, but alas, it wasn't the fresh day i was hoping for. a few inches of new on top of some very wet heavy sloppy stuff. my sister and i did have a good time though. we managed a nice little hike at the top of stevens to get in a few decent uncut turns.

its amazing how utterly unmotivated i am to snowboard these days. it used to be such a huge part of my winter. after working all week, i really look forward to having unfettered time to just laze around the house w/ the kids. its dumping rain these days. i have atleast 4 points where water is seeping in to the studio. its a bit frightening, given that its the building's first winter, but fortunately, most of the leaks are relatively easy to resolve. my memories of winter as a child are so much brighter; i think it was all the days i spent at the mountain - snow brightens up your view. these dark gray days just seem to go on and on. i can't really complain, given that we missed most of winter this year.

i had a fun dream last night. i dreamt maya, our dog, could suddenly speak. unfortunately it was polish, so i couldn't understand her. i ran out the door trying to find someone who understood polish. by the time i got to the car, i forgot what language she was speaking, so i ran back inside to double check. and, of course, it was too late - she was back to dooberese.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


its over a week since we returned, and i'm still rising at 5AM. nayan wakes up at 4, and then eats his first breakfast. after feeding him, he roams the house playing with his toys. here's a post from a few days ago while back in india:

when i read things in the US, about the war in iraq, and political instability, i tend to put the information and my mental image of the place into a little box that i can open and close -- typically when starting and stopping a news article, or conversation on the topic. punjab, as most of you know, experienced quite a sustained period of insurgency and political instability. from the early 80s until the mid 90s, punjab was in essentially a state of war. sikh separatists were fighting for an independent nation to be called khalistan. it was a 'terrorist' style war that affected nearly everyone in punjab, my family included. one thing that strikes me while here, is that while society has returned to "peace and stability," the wounds of this period are still very fresh. another thing that strikes me, is that there are bizarre conspiracy theories for just about everything, including the khalistan question.

let me start by explaining my macro-view on the period of conflict. i should first say, i have a read a small amount and spoken with a number of people over the years, but i by no means have a thorough academic understanding of the subject. anyway, to distill a large complex topic into a couple lines, basically, here's my take:

1. sikhs, are a relatively prosperous people, and fierce warriors both respected and feared in pakistan and india.
2. we also have a violent history of battles to control greater punjab. (read kushwant singh's history of the punjab for more info).
3. in addition, india in general is composed of ethnically, religiously, linguistically, and culturally diverse people which have historically been segregated into independent "nations." the indian national identity is a relatively new phenomenon in the thousands of years of indian history.
4. in addition, india is a poor country with deeply entrenched corruption and an utterly innept and extensive beauracracy.
5. india and pakistan have been essentially at war since their foundings; india has never truly accepted that pakistan has a right to exist, and pakistan, feeling threatened, has struggled to break up the nation of india in an attempt to address its perceived threat by leveraging an understanding of point 3.
6. the US funded the mujahedeen in afghanistan to fight the soviet union back in the 80s. since the muj (1 of which is now the infamous osama bin laden) despised the american christian "infidels", the US had to route funding through the pakistani ISI (pak's CIA). well this was no small sum of cash, the ISI, routed a good chunk to the muj, but an even larger chunk went to itself, to essentially build a war chest, and fund what virtually amounts to an independent pak government.

ok, so what of the punjabi separatist movement? basically, a group of who i'll call separatists had legitimate grievances, harnessed a general spirit of economic malaise and tribalism to gain a modest voice, then morphed toward violent resistence. ISI saw an opportunity and started routing funds and started some training camps. the indian government mistepped a few times very signficantly (operation blue star), and popular support for the separatists rose, along with communal tension. then the government granted too much power to the police, in a society where virtually no checks and balances on the police exist. the police, not unexpectedly, ran amuck, killing lots of terrorists, but also many many innocents in their path. eventually, the police were able to drain popular support for the insurgency (mostly by making the situation so violent, that the populace just wanted it all to end), and stop it.

well i thought i would get further than that, but it turns out my couple lines grew into more. anyway, i'll come back to this topic sometime soon. my basic point was supposed to be, that a sort of intellectual analysis ending in a macro-view of a situation, is so utterly irrelevant. when you actually live through something like this, what you see means so much more.

a good friend of mine, who fit the visual profile of a terrorist (which i should mention included about 50% of all punjabi's), was brutally tortured on multiple occassions. only afer his family sold off ancestral land, raised a very large ransom, and paid off the police was he liberated. he figured out later that he was picked up, because a guy he had a conflict with in his juvenile college days was picked up, and under heavy torture, stated his name. this was a common occurrence, people took advantage of the situation to deal with their enemies. this friend went on to tell me many first hand accounts of utter brutality that were previously neatly wrapped up in my macro-view of these days as "instability." i often hear this here in punjab, that what one reads from afar, is so completely different from what those here who lived through these dark days experienced. hearing these first hand accounts from my friend really brought this point home for me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

trip photos

i just uploaded the pictures from our trip. you can view them by clicking HERE.

Monday, January 02, 2006


was at a dinner party w/ some interesting friends of friends. i've always known i know very little about philosophy, but now i'm convinced i know absolutely nothing.

back when i was in college, i loved the idea of hanging out in a cafe and being immersed in a nietzche book. i even went out and bought some despite being utterly clueless and drool dazed during my 15 minutes of browsing. i assumed some nugget of enlightenment would leap out and into my brain after a half day of staring at the pages. my highschool english teacher always warned us, "read that crap while sittin' on your kitchen counter. that way, when your face smacks onto the floor, you'll be nice and awake to start that paragraph over again."

after repeated attempts at "thus spoke zarathustra", no nuggets were jumping, and the kitchen counter trick didn't help much either. while i gave up trying to read this stuff, i never gave up having the books around. i liked them on my book shelf, and on the cafe table. after all, the image of the philospher was still so exciting to me. well after the fall of communism, 6 years of happy marriage (me-thinks some of this nonsense was typical teen impress-the-girl angst) and a conversation with my friend haitham (who's 7+ years into a PhD program at the university of chicago), i can safely say, the image isn't quite what it once was.

what bugs me about this field, and similar fields, is the intentional obfuscation of delivery. this group of friends is able to explain simply just about anything i ask about. so... why the heck can't the authors? i shouldn't just pick on philosophers, i find this phenomenon all over the place. the engineering equivalent of this is writing a technical paper while unnecessarily using inanely complex mathematics to describe a relatively trivial idea with moderately interesting results.

perhaps what i should be railing on, is the intellectual inferiority complex that drives one to obfuscate ideas. i mean, if you have a good idea, wouldn't you just want to clearly explain it so people know what it is? this whole diatribe reminds me -- i read this great geek analysis of post modernism. its called how to desconstruct almost anything - my postmodern adventure by chip morningstar and you can read it HERE.
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