Monday, February 27, 2006

Some things money can't buy...

Friday, February 24, 2006


I’d like to refer you to this post, on my good friend Osama’s blog, Rolled up Trousers. From there, he links to a story detailing how one actor, who had portrayed the role of a man released from Guantanamo Bay as innocent after two years of detention (what sort of a world allows that go on unchecked? Western values of freedom and liberty? Hello?), was stopped and question by police. Click on the link to the The LIP. It’s compelling reading:

"She called in a male colleague who threateningly told me to give him the phone before gripping my hands and wrestling it from me. He then sat on a table in the room, grinned at me, winked and went through my phone. I protested, but he ignored me and continued to go through my phone. Then a third officer entered, and all three adopted very aggressive stances, threatening to take me to a police station, calling me a 'fucker', moving in very close to my face, pointing and shouting at me to 'shut up and listen'. I complained at being called a fucker. The officer who still had my phone, and who had sworn at me, smiled at me and then said 'now you’re making things up, no one called you that'."

The government has powers to stop, detain and interrogate us at any time, for absolutely no reason at all, with no requirement for any evidence or even motive. And, according to this account, they claim that they can also deny us access to legal assistance for up to 48 hours. I really do find this genuinely terrifying. Every time I fly the thought of being put through something similar to this plays on my mind. This guy handled himself really well; I'm not so sure I could do the same.


Muslims all over the world are rioting. Like, all of us. Everywhere. At perceived American imperialism, at insulting cartoons, at each other (and - allegedly, I have my own suspicions - bombing each others’ mosques to boot). I find it really, really embarrassing. In fact, when I’m sitting watching the news switching between Muslims rioting in Iran to Nigeria to Syria to Iraq to London to Indonesia, I can’t help but feel that if I weren’t Muslim, I’d probably be thinking something along the lines of, “What the hell is the matter with these guys? All they ever do is get angry about stuff and shoot guns and riot and bomb things and kill people. I don’t like Muslims”. And I’m not exaggerating in order to make my point – I’d really be thinking that. I think I would be able to draw a distinction between the Muslims here and the Muslims abroad doing all the rioting, but the basic sentiment is there.

So that’s one point – we Muslims really need to sort ourselves out and start showing a much, much more professional, media-savvy face. And, nicely, that leads me smoothly on to my second point, which is that all we seem to see in the media is images of Muslims rioting and marching and protesting. Of course, it’s fair to say that that’s because there’s a fair amount of that going on. And I also have to say that some of the pictures – even on ITV news – have been of peaceful demonstrations, for instance of Iraqi Shi’ites and Sunnis jointly calling for peace and calm, and condemning the bombing of the Mosque over there.

But also, it doesn’t help when that’s all that we are seen to do by those watching Western media (again, I concede that we largely have ourselves to blame, but it’s not all our fault, either). When all people see is pictures of angry mobs shooting guns and chanting things in Arabic and burning flags, they forget that there are hundreds of millions more Muslims just trying to get on with their lives in a peaceful manner; people just trying to earn a decent, fair living, to put food in their childrens’ mouths and to improve their lot in the world. People like you and me (OK, so sans children for most of us!).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Masters Project

The site is up! It's taken me ages to get there, but I eventually figured it out (with a lot of help from friends). It's a requirement of our Masters projects that we produce this, and you can check out some of the other groups' sites by changing the group letter in the url.

So check it out and let me know what you think. It's far from complete, but the Project side is is getting there. I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm quite pleased with how it's turning out, but there's always room for improvement. Hit me with your criticisms - thanks!

Monday, February 20, 2006

No wonder it's so big

I am, of course, talking about the internet (or t'internet, as its known in Yorkshire). As part of my Masters project, my group has to produce a website detailing the project itself and our final product. I won’t bore you with the details just now (I’m saving that for another time), but, naturally, the job of creating the website fell upon me.

I’ve never, ever created my own website. I’ve been told by a million people that html is dead easy to learn, but I’ve never believed them because I’ve tried and failed to learn it, several times. I was determined that this time would be different. And with the help of a piece of software costing several hundred pounds (cough cough), it has been. I’ve actually created something half decent, and even learnt a little html and Javascript along the way.

The point is that if I can make a half decent website with no prior knowledge whatsoever – literally, none – then so can anybody. Now, to anybody with half a brain that’s been obvious for several years, what with the proliferation of the internet and the websites it comprises. There are two reasons the net is so prolific today – it’s free, and it’s easy to add to.

Of course, until recently, the ‘adding content’ bit of the net has been reserved for those with at least half a brain (you still need some ability to learn). The difference with blogging, however, is that you don’t even need that much. It’s the internet for dummies. And when you invite dummies to add to the net (ala me), the result is millions and millions and millions of pages of self-absorbed, emotional garbage and unbelievably ill-informed opinions.

I don’t really have a problem with that, though. A lot of people do, but I don’t really understand why. It’s not as if anyone holds a gun to your head and forces you to read anything. You have choice. So let the dummies keep adding to the internet – it’s in the nature of the beast.

I’m not really sure what the point is that I’m trying to make in all of this. I’m just glad that adding to internet is easy, and getting easier. That’s good for everyone.

Yeah. That’s it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pot. Kettle. Black.

My apologies (again!) for the lack of regular updates - it's been a pretty hectic time these last few days.

I want to comment quickly on the unbelievable crap that the US government seems to keep churning out. Three things in particular: The US Vice-President shooting a man in the face with a shotgun, US ‘lawmakers’ criticising some Internet firms on their dealings in China, and the US government complaining about an Australian show that found and broadcast previously unseen images of the abuse inflicted upon the inmates at Abu Ghraib.

On the first thing, you’d think with an idiot like Bush as President, the White House communications people would be used to handling PR disasters – but apparently not. Cheney has (to date) refused to comment publicly about the hunting accident, despite the fact that the man has been in hospital since Sunday and has suffered a subsequent heart attack. They were slow in releasing the news, slow in reacting to question, and why on Earth hasn’t the Vice-President of the most powerful nation in the world got the guts to stand up and apologise when he’s made a bobo?

On the second thing, this really does smack of hypocrisy. The US government continues to invade the privacy of its own citizens by trying to force companies such as Google to give up their records of individuals’ search patterns and illegally monitoring the activities of its own citizens, but has the gall to make a song and dance about companies doing legal business in China. The fact of the matter is that the situation in China is far from ideal, but you have to start somewhere – and this is very much a start. And I believe that China is better off with these countries in than out. Some of the rhetoric coming out of Washington is unbelievable. The cynic in me says its more about the US fearing political liberation in China than trying to encourage it.

On the third thing (watch out - this links to graphic images) – oh dear, really, where do you start? The strategy the US government is trying to pull here is pretty clear. Come out hard, don’t deny that the pictures are truly horrific, but be unapologetic in condemning their further publication. Say it will make things harder for our troops, and cause needless violence, because people know we're not about violence. The problem with that line of thought is that anybody with half a brain will think to themselves “Hold on a minute. This is your fault – don’t go crying about it now”. They’ve made their bed, now they must lie in it. The thing that gets me the most, though, is that we only find out about the incidents where soldiers are stupid enough to record their actions (really makes you wonder about the calibre of people they’re sending out there). I’ve not seen a single media source question how much of this disgusting, low-life abuse goes on unrecorded, unchecked and unheard of. I get the distinct feeling that the recorded stuff is only the tip of the iceberg, yet no-one seems willing to dig deeper.

Least of all the conniving American government. Three PR disasters in one week from the world's only superpower! The geek in me says, "OMG uberROFLLMAO LOL!!!!11!1!"

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sad news

My father-in-law-to-be passed away on Wednesday night at around quarter to midnight. He had been in hospital for several weeks having initially been admitted with water in his lungs. A few days ago doctors discovered a tumor in his lungs, and his health rapidly deteriorated on Wednesday before he passed away.

Please remember him in your prayers, as well as his wife and the four daughters he leaves behind. Uncle Rashid was known for his good humour and calm temperament, as well as the marvellous job he has done raising his family.

I don't really know what else to say right now. Updates will probably be very erratic for the next few days (not that that's anything new!). Please remember them in your prayers.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Here we go again...

I must apologise for the lack of recent updates. The blog honeymoon period, where updating is fun and something I look forward to, is well and truly over. I had been anticipating this stage ever since I started this baby up, but never knew exactly when of how it would hit. Now, updating is beginning to feel more and more like a chore, which is bad. So I need to keep this thing interesting for myself first and foremost, and for all those to take the time to read my ramblings second. Like I’ve said before – I’m selfish that way.

One of the reasons I’ve not posted recently is because I feel like I should say something about the whole cartoon fiasco, but really can’t be bothered. The whole thing has just spiralled out of control into this utterly preposterous situation.

Was the Danish newspaper right to publish the pictures? In my opinion, absolutely not. Do they have the right to do so? Absolutely, according to Danish law. As Muslims living in the West we must understand and respect the ideals and laws of the lands in which we choose to live. These pictures were published because it’s legal. Equally, when such things are legally published we should engage in legal complaint. Freedom of speech does not infer the right to offend, and the newspaper would have done well to consider this before publishing. However, the completely OTT reaction we’ve seen in the Muslim world has done far, far more damage to the image of Islam than these cartoons ever would have done on their own.

There’s so much to be said on this, but I’ll limit myself to just a couple more points. In all the arguing and protesting and everything that’s gone along with this, the point of the outrage has been lost. Yes, Muslims are horrified at the cartoons themselves. However, this is not the main cause of the outrage; rather it is the fact that they were then republished several times out of what appears to have been sheer spite. To a people who already feel victimised and downtrodden, this like was rubbing salt in the wound and then sticking two fingers up in their faces.

What should have been an opportunity for Muslims to explain the significance of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in our faith, and why we abhor any depictions of the prophet or God, let alone such vile ones, has turned in to a deeply embarrassing episode that has left many people in the west wondering why it is that any time Muslims are offended mob culture takes hold, flags are burnt and embassies marched upon. We’ve succeeded in shooting ourselves in the foot, with a shotgun, from point blank range. D’oh.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The decision

After my internship at Accenture, I was dazed and confused. On one hand, I’d managed to secure a (very) well paying job that was based out of Edinburgh, which was awesome because it meant I could stay close to home. On the other hand, I’d discovered that I didn’t really have a passion for IT, wasn’t too keen on the culture at Accenture, and I wasn’t sure that I was really ready to commit my life to Accenture’s demands of constant mobility. I was very lucky to be given 4 months to decide on whether I wanted to accept Accenture’s offer.

If I was going to work in Engineering, it was only ever going to be with one firm – Arup. To me, Arup is the very pinnacle of the engineering consulting profession, and everything – from their projects to their culture to their training – is awesome. The downsides were that it would probably require a move to London, the pay would be considerably less than with Accenture, and that I highly doubted that I had the required engineering aptitude to pass the technical interview.

I attended a presentation they held on campus, and sent off my application form in October. Over 3 months and two follow-up emails later, I was finally offered an interview (only a week before I had to give my final answer to Accenture!). The interview was an interesting experience, and I liked the fact that it more informal – I got the impression that the interviewers really cared about the person they were interviewing. In contrast, at Accenture I very much felt like just a ‘number’. The technical interview apparently went very well, and I think my enthusiasm for the field shone through with the interviewers. I was delighted when they offered me the job immediately after the end of my ‘chat’ with the two senior engineers (which had lasted for one and a half hours).

What followed were an agonising two days of deciding between good pay, good location, good company, boring job and average pay, acceptable location, fantastic company and amazing job. In the end I decided that it’s more important to be happy in my job than to have loads of money, and the attractiveness of Arup’s training policy swung it in their favour.

It is, without a doubt, the second-hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life (the first being getting engaged). I’ve been utterly torn over what to do – and even now that the deed is done and I’ve phoned both companies to tell them my decision, I’m still finding it hard to think about anything else! Nevertheless, I can’t wait until I start the new job in September this year.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

At last!

As I mentioned last night, the reason I’ve not been posting much over the last few days is that I’ve had other things on my mind. Pretty big things, actually – things that are about as big as big things can get. Big, Big Things.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a personal post, so here goes. When I was at school, I always knew I enjoyed maths and science more than art and music (strangely, I’ve also always enjoyed English). So when it came time to go to university, engineering seemed the logical choice. I chose mechanical engineering because it was so broad, and as I had little idea at the time of what I wanted to do for a career, I figured it would allow me to keep my options open.

I can be quite an indecisive person, and have flip-flopped between potential careers throughout my time at uni. Initially I wanted to go in to the aerospace industry, until I discovered I had neither the required aptitude nor any interest in the nitty-gritty of it, so dropped that idea in second year. I went on exchange to the University of Toronto during third year, and during my time there became something of a building geek. So on my return to Glasgow the following summer, I did an internship at a building services engineering firm. In short – interesting job, crappy pay.

During my fourth year I figured I was worth a lot more than what I’d make working as a building services engineer in Glasgow, so instead I investigated the management consulting/big City firms to follow the money. I did an internship with Accenture between my 4th and 5th years, which was very challenging and good fun to do for three months. The best thing I can say about Accenture is that it’s the people who make it a great place to work – everyone is outgoing, down to Earth, good fun to be around and very smart. I was genuinely surprised by how nice everyone was, as I’d expected to be surrounded by people with their heads up their behookies (apparently those types are primarily confined to the financial services companies).

Trouble was, I didn’t find the work at Accenture all that satisfying… and to find out what happened next, including the Big Things I was talking about, you’ll have to tune in at the same time tomorrow!

Yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking… Crappest. Cliffhanger. Ever.

Bite me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Loss of Service

Sorry for the lack of updates (though I'm sure no one actually missed my inane ranting).

I was offered a last minute job interview with Arup (a world-leading engineering consultancy, dealing mainly in the built environment), a company I have long aspired to work for. I spent the weekend preparing, flew down to London yesterday and got back a wee while ago from the interview.

I was offered the job immediately after the interview was over, which is absolutely fantastic.

Problem is, now I'm faced with making a very, very tough decision...