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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

So ... it's final? {aka After the Fatwa!}

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Karachi - Come back!

Neruda's line echoes in our minds Irfan Sattar's poem about October 18th says it well. We need to reclaim our city Join our peaceful efforts!

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Proud to know you all ...

Specially you, TT! Much love (and deepest respects) to everyone at Tehelka for an unparalleled report. (This needs be taught in schools of journalism.)

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yesterday (Oct 23, '07)

First came the shockingly sad news that a dear friend and poet, Fehmida Riaz, known most for her feminist poetry and activism, learnt just yesterday of the death of her 29-year old son in the USA . Young Kabir had drowned 3 weeks ago - on October 7th - while swimming. His friend, despite trying hard, was unable to pull him back from the strong current. The process of tracing his next of kin in Pakistan was circuitous and strange. But does that matter anymore?

Ever since the news of Kabir's death, these (unconnected) lines have been going through my mind:

A son of this land, Laid long ago to rest, Wakens now, To bring you peace.

Listen to Kabir, Who pleads with you: Wars of hatred Do no honour to God. Ram and Rahim both Will shun a loveless land.

Fehmida Riaz - Translated by Salman Kureishi

I was informed by Ajmal Kamal, who also told me that Fehmida was leaving for the USA at night. Since my wife, Nuzhat, was returning from Lahore at 8 PM I decided to wait for her and make the condolence visit together. Next, at 7.30 I heard my daughter speak to Nuzhat on her cellphone. Strange, I thought. The plane could not have landed 30 minutes early. I was informed that the plane had been diverted to Faisalabad and she was just getting off the plane but had no idea why this had been done. A steward had said the pilot had received instructions from airlines. Many other passengers called their homes, too, only to be greeted by excited and worried family members wanting to know if everything was ok. Everyone, other than Ragni & I, it seems, had been watching TV tickers running and claiming PK305 suspected of having a bomb on board! How discreet! It would have been best to announce- once the plane had landed - that the flight had made it safely to Faisalabad after being suspected of having a bomb aboard. Imagine the panic in the hearts of the viewers who had loved ones aboard. As is usual in such cases, the PIA Staff (inspired by the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock, I think) maintained the suspense throughout, even after landing - though passengers did see the ticker tape on the TV sets as they were being escorted to the lounge. Only one young steward, we learnt later, was kind enough to say to an old lady passenger on the plane a few minutes before landing, when she asked why they were being diverted: "J-j-j-ust recite the K-k-kalima and p-pray that we land s-s-safely!" We all heaved a sigh of relief when the flight finally took off and arrived at Karachi airport at 00:20 ... but tthe sole, confused-looking PTV cameraman didn't have much luck (at last as long as I was there) when none of the tired and sleepy passengers seemed interested in talking into the microphone he kept hesitantly shoving into their faces. But one must not bad-mouth PIA. They are consistent in their ways. Especially when it comes to flight delay situations. And yesterday, too, they made sure that during their 4 hour delay they did not break their prime rule for such emergencies: "Say nothing. Feed no one!"

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Are we condemned?

After my recent post, featuring MAD, and my modified MAD cover that one reader called 'eerily prophetic', I added a preview of an illutration I had also made around the same time (the link is in the Comments section of that post). Since then a few people have asked me to produce more such modified covers. Praise feels good, but even if I wanted to repeat the act, I am not sure I am equal to it. And certainly not in the mood I am in, these days. Meanwhile, since the requests (and some comments) came from young people, a generation or more after mine, I thought I could at least thrill them and others with an un-retouched scan of a MAD cover (soon to be displayed at T2F). You'll need to click on the image to see it in it's full glory and necessary detail. And to be surprised. (Oh, it's large and may be slow to load. But it's worth it!) Maybe this cover and reading another recent post of mine will convince you that George Santayana was right when he said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

TPS is publishing an interesting set of interviews with bloggers

This is where mine appears. But there are a host of infinitely more interesting ones, too. And they certainly provide an insight into the variety of bloggers, even in a microcosmos. The folks at TPS are trying hard to develop a good site and need the support of bloggers and others. Write for them, send them suggestions, help them shape the site. Most important, suggest a niche ...

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fans of Zeeshan Sajwani need not read this

On more than one occasion I have received email from a Zeeshan Sajwani who, as a search on the internet will show, is a prolific writer of articles, a speaker at conferences, and a lot more. What does he talk about? Well, in the interest of remaining civil and polite, I'd describe it as crap. It's the usual self-help shit that uses a lot of words to say very little, if anything at all. Here's an extract from one of his speeches, with the title LIFE IS LIKE PREGNANCY: Problems are like pregnancy, they grow until presence is obvious.

Ladies and Gentlemen, recently I had a problem to face and I did. I cannot discuss that problem here but it was very common and I can feel that particular problem in hundreds of you today. I know you people might not be interested to listen to my problems but let’s see the solution. The best thing to come out from thoughts is to mediate. I wont’ take more than five minutes of you. Meditation is something we organize through and in our minds. The best exercise to fight against thoughts is to communicate with your thoughts. Get more into them. Think more about it. Feel it. Cry for it. Go sad about it. Get more into your thoughts. Take off for two or three days from your office. Don’t shave. Don’t iron your dress. And than one day you will be able to accept that fact. The fact of life. The fact that happened to you for whatsoever good reasons. The fact with whom you have to live with and the fact of your entire past, presence and future.
Mr. Sajwani also explains things in the oddest of ways, as the beginning of his article, The Logic of Dreams, will show:
When we are dreaming alone it is only a dream but when we are dreaming with others, it is right beginning of the reality. I raise a question right here in the beginning of this chapter. People talk about their everyday dreams and fantasies. Before, we begin talking about dreams, I would love to ask that should we have dreams? Well, I make a political answer right here both in Yes and No. I personally feel that one should not have dreams because when they don't get turned into the reality; it hurts. But if we don't have dreams, we nearly don't have a vision or an objective to live. Now it personally depends on us to have them or not to have them. The word "Dream", is not exactly like it is mostly self-interpreted. There are many kind of dreams, of which one is the dream that we sketch ourselves during the preparing time to sleep. The other one that comes itself in the mid of our deep sleeps. Lets begin with talking about self-sketched dreams. Most of us believe and practice this exercises before getting into deep sleeps. What do we construct? Well, everyone has his or her own set of desires. When it comes to me, I desire for a healthy family life but may when it comes to you, you may have desires to have a good job, education for children, going abroad or fantasies of your love life. The fact that you may believe or deny, It is that every self-sketched dream turns into reality, but it takes some time. Let me be clear more on it. If I desire to be in arms of my loved one, and I practice this self-sketched dream everyday; the vibration of my thoughts take direction towards my loved one and transfer the message to her or him in telepathic codes. Describing the same universal truth, The Source of Gravity explains that everything that has weight comes right down towards earth but everything that has no weight flies right towards the Sky. Gas and Sound Pollution is the right example flies all in the direction of sky.
The whole article is worth reading if you are looking for unintentional humour. But the topper in this category, so far, has been his piece called Out of Box Thinking which I beseech you to read in full. Do keep a printout handy to whip out and read when needing inspiration. Today I received an email from him that contained a long article, of which the opening is quoted below:
The Naked Bond - A Relationship Journey By: Zeeshan Sajwani Dating and marriage is different than it was twenty years ago. In today's society, more than 50% of all marriages fail for one reason or another. Just thinking about that makes "commitment" seem scary. It seems that when relationships are faced with challenges, people quit trying. Dating is more like a marathon, trying to date as many people as possible, instead of taking time to get to know someone at a deeper level. For married couples, divorce is not biased. Whether married for thirty years or eight months, the outcome can be the same. Think of it like choosing a car. You pick out the make, model, year, color, and features that you believe are best for you. After driving your car for a couple of months, you realize that perhaps you should have purchased a larger car, or that maybe the leather seats would have been better, or on hot sunny days, the sunroof would have been nice. However, it is now too late so you choose to keep your car and make it work. It is the same for marriage. Not everything will be perfect and there will be major obstacles to overcome but you have made your decision and now you choose to make it work. There could be thousands of things we can do to better our relationship. To help get us headed in the right direction, below are few ways to build, strengthen, and enhance our relationship.
He signs this piece off with: "Many thanks for heading yourself for an effective relationship. Let me take a break right here. There is a lot more for only those who intend to read more about The Naked Bond. If you wish to read the complete copy of The Naked Bond, write me an email and I'll send you the complete version ... You will not be asked to pay for it." "His linguistic ability certainly seems to have improved", I thought to myself. Unless, of course, it's a cut/paste/alter job. A little search revealed this. Dear Mr Sajwani: I liked the hilarious English ones better. At least they were original!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kahlil Gibran Revisited

I realise that the feelings in this post are extremely negative and are not my usual mode of expression. The truth is, however, that much of what's happening around us is depressing and it is impossible to not be affected by it, however optimistic one may be. An old friend, Frederick Nazareth, sent me this poem in an email with the Subject: Benazir's return & Kahlil Gibran

Pity the Nation Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion. Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press. Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful. Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet submits in its awakening. Pity the nation that raises not its voice save when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except among its ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block. Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking. Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting, and farewells him with hooting, only to welcome another with trumpeting again. Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle. Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.
In reponse I sent him another poem in an email with the Subject: Pakistanis and Kahlil Gibran
My Countrymen What do you seek, my countrymen? Do you desire that I build for you gorgeous palaces, decorated with words of empty meaning or temples roofed with dreams? Do you command me to destroy what the liars and tyrants have built? Shall I uproot with my fingers what the hypocrites and the wicked have implanted? Speak your insane wish! What is it you would have me do my countrymen? Shall I purr like the kitten to satisfy you, or roar like the lion to please myself? I have sung for you, but you did not dance; I have wept before you, but you did not cry. Shall I sing and weep at the same time? Your souls are suffering the pangs of hunger, and yet the fruit of knowledge is more plentiful than the stones of the valleys. Your hearts are withering from thirst, and yet the springs of life are streaming about your homes. Why do you not drink? The sea has its ebb and flow, The moon has its fullness and crescents, And the ages have their winter and summer, And all things vary like the shadow of an unborn god moving between earth and sun, But truth cannot be changed, nor will it pass away; Why, then, do you endeavour to disfigure its countenance? I have called you in the silence of the night to point out the glory of the moon and the dignity of the stars, But you startled from your slumber and clutched your swords in fear, Crying "Where is the enemy? We must kill Him first!" At morning-tide when the enemy came, I called to you again, But now you did not wake from your slumber, For you were locked in fear, wrestling with the processions of spectres in your dreams. And I said unto you, "Let us climb to the mountain top and view the beauty of the world." And you answered me, saying, "In the depths of this valley our fathers lived, And in its shadows they died, and in its caves they were buried. How can we depart this place for one which they failed to honour?" And I said unto you, "Let us go to the plain that gives its bounty to the sea." And you spoke timidly to me, saying, "The uproar of the abyss will frighten our spirits, And the terror of the depths will deaden our bodies." I have loved you, my countrymen, but my love for you is painful to me and useless to you; And today I hate you, and hatred is a flood that sweeps away the dry branches and quavering houses. I have pitied your weakness, my countrymen, But my pity has but increased your feebleness, Exalting and nourishing slothfulness which is vain to life. And today I see your infirmity which my soul loathes and fears. I have cried over your humiliation and submission, and my tears streamed like crystalline, But could not sear away your stagnant weakness; Yet they removed the veil from my eyes. My tears have never reached your petrified hearts, but they cleansed the darkness from my inner self. Today I am mocking at your suffering, for laughter is a raging thunder that precedes the tempest and never comes after it. What do you desire, my countrymen? Do you wish for me to show you the ghost of your countenance on the face of still water? Come, now, and see how ugly you are! Look and meditate! Fear has turned your hair grey as the ashes, And dissipation has grown over your eyes and made them into obscured hollows, And cowardice has touched your cheeks that now appear as dismal pits in the valley, And death has kissed your lips and left them yellow as the autumn leaves. What is it that you seek, my countrymen? What ask you from life, who does not any longer count you among her children? Your souls are freezing in the clutches of the priests and sorcerers, And your bodies tremble between the paws of the despots and the shedders of blood, And your country quakes under the marching feet of the conquering enemy; What may you expect even though you stand proudly before the face of the sun? Your swords are sheathed with rust, and your spears are broken, and your shields are laden with gaps, Why, then, do you stand in the field of battle? Hypocrisy is your religion, and falsehood is your life, and nothingness is your ending; Why, then, are you living? Is not death the sole comfort of the miserable? Life is a resolution that accompanies youth, and a diligence that follows maturity, and a wisdom that pursues senility; But you, my countrymen, were born old and weak. And your skins withered and your heads shrank, Whereupon you become as children, running into the mire and casting stones upon each other. Knowledge is a light, enriching the warmth of life, And all may partake who seek it out; But you, my countrymen, seek out darkness and flee the light, Awaiting the coming of water from the rock, And your nation's misery is your crime. I do not forgive you your sins, for you know what you are doing. Humanity is a brilliant river singing its way and carrying with it the mountains' secrets into the heart of the sea; But you, my countrymen, are stagnant marshes infested with insects and vipers. The spirit is a sacred blue torch, burning and devouring the dry plants, And growing with the storm and illuminating the faces of the goddesses; But you, my countrymen, your souls are like ashes which the winds scatter upon the snow, And which the tempests disperse forever in the valleys. Fear not the phantom of death, my countrymen, For his greatness and mercy will refuse to approach your smallness; And dread not the dagger, for it will decline to be lodged in your shallow hearts. I hate you, my countrymen, because you hate glory and greatness. I despise you because you despise yourselves. I am your enemy, for you refuse to realize that you are the enemies of the goddesses.
Sincerest apologies if turned your mood to sadness, too. If you need to laugh, please turn to a channel where Shaikh Rasheed or Wasi Zafar are being interviewed.

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When I am frustrated, I get MAD ...

From my collection, I mean. Especially one of the old copies from way back when MAD was not a magazine (it became one in 1956, my final year of school) but a good old 10¢ Comic Book. (See if you can find out what a US $ was worth in Pak Rupees then.) MAD started at the time when that giant of delightful insanity, reponsible more than anyone else for the success of the comics industry - William M Gaines, Jr. - was in charge of Entertaining Comics, notorious for its crime and horror publications that angered many. It was believed (and especially by Gaines) that the Comics Code was aimed, underhandedly, at his publications. Harvey Kurtzman and, later, Al Feldstein spearheaded MAD, which now boasts a 3-generation old continuing readership. Kurtzman, who - along with the underground artist, Robert Crumb - was one of my great idols, launched a lot of other very interesting and hilarious ventures after leaving MAD. These included the short-lived Help! magazine which, long before the creation of Monty Python, provided a platform for John Cleese and Terry Gilliam. MAD had, by far, the most amazing cartoonists and illustraters of the time,among them Will Elder, Don Martin, Antonio Prohias, Dave Berg, Al Jafee, Sergio Aragonés, and Mort Drucker. If you are an illustrater or a comics fan, look them up! Primarily a drawing-based publication, MAD's writers, too, were brilliant and far ahead of anything that has existed in the USA since ... with the exception of National Lampoon & The Onion, both of which, I suspect, owe a lot to MAD. The ultimate example of MAD writers' wit that I can give is that they managed to spoof Ogden Nash. No mean feat, as anyone who has read Nash will tell you. It's like trying to make a slapstick parody of Charlie Chaplin. I mean, what more can you do to the grandmasters of the genres? Here - if you'll pardon the digression - are a few of examples for those who, unfortunately, missed out on Nash. His rhymes were not merely funny, they were exceedingly clever and contained side-splitting twists and modified spellings that were sure to make you roar. And his lines spoofed the very blank verse in which he wrote his poems in ways that I have rarely seen done elsewhere. (Urdu readers: The two blank verse pieces - Billiaañ and Kharraatay -by Shafiqur Rahman are just as good, as is the two-liner on the Camel by S M Jafri. More about them, in another post, some day. I will be quoting them on the Humourous Urdu Verse evening at T2F, soon.) Haañ ... to Nash ki baat ho rahee thee. From the stark simplicity of

A bit of talcum
Is always walcum
to the twisted complexity of
What would you do if you were up a dark alley with Caesar Borgia
And he was coming torgia...
and back, again, to the simplicity of 7 words, spread over 4 lines, in a poem titled
Breaking the Ice
Candy Is dandy But liquor Is quicker
Nash was the king of mad versification ... and MAD spoofed him, in a poem with a wonderfully Ogdenian title:
A Poem That Doesn't Do Anything But Rhyme ... One Time! Abraham Lincoln really backed himself into a corner for if you begin a speech with "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...", What do you do for a sequal?
********** Ok ... Ok ... so what has all this got to do with the my frustration at being locked indoors - as must be a zillion others trying desperately to get to where they need to be (home, workplace, emergency ward)? For those abroad and oblivious to why we are locked in, Ms Benazir Bhutto, has arrived and is now taking the [projected] 18-hour ride from the Airport to Bilawal House (usually a 30-minute route) - a ride that is fraught with dangers for her and the city. Even the president has acknowledged the danger by advising caution - after his initial request to delay her arrival was turned down. So, as I said, umpteen lines ago, I often fight my frustrations with reading old issues of MAD. Today I went through loads of them to relish my favourite Harvey Kurtzman covers and came across one that I just had to modify! The original classic can be seen at Wikipedia's Kurtzman entry.
Here's mine (you can see a larger version if you click on it):

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So ... what's new?

I was 18 when Gen. Ayub Khan declared the first nation-wide martial law, ousting his friend and mentor Maj. Gen. Iskander Mirza from power and, we were told, "hounded him out of the country at gunpoint" - an apt image for those of us brought up on John Wayne-isms like "The last train leaves at sundown. Be on it!"

In the media manipulation that followed, we were told vague tales of how the ex-Pres had looted the country's coffers, how he had promoted smugglers - among them Qasim Bhatti, who was alleged to have presented the elegant First Lady, Naheed Mirza, a diamond necklace worth Rs.700,000 (in the days that it bought more than a car) - and how he had "mortgaged the nation's future unscrupulously", as an eveninger put it. (I recall asking my father how one would go about doing such a thing scrupulously.)
Apart from pondering over the semantics of the situation, I wondered why, since Mirza sahab had stolen 'our' money and not Ayub's personal property, was he allowed to get away - under a private deal - to London. Did Ayub have some 'divine right of pardon' granted to him that he could excercise at whim? Whirrrr ... Fast forward to Gen. Musharraf, almost half a century later. He would not be in this position today if it were not for the martial-law declaring Precedent Gen. Ayub. (BTW, some of you may not know that Ayub's autobiography was ghost-written by the father of the person who ghost-wrote Musharraf's autobiography. Mutations do breed true!) The current President beats his trend-setting predecessor 2-to-1 in the deals department, alone. Nawaz, we are told, wanted to crash the plane in which Gen. Musharraf was travelling - but, bear in mind, not travelling alone. So, Nawaz was, in effect, contemplating an act that would kill hundreds of others. Flashback... "Gensaab" manages to organize a safe landing and a coup. Nawaz is tried. There are corruption charges, questionable bank accounts, nepotism, irregularities & more (well, you know, the kind of things that every Pakistani politician in power can be charged with - provable or not - to some degree). Many cases deal with his families' thieving of 'our' coffers. But, aided and abetted by Soddy Arabia - the Islamic country where they chop hands off for even trivial thefts, wouldn't you know - Nawaz and the the self-appointed (anointed?) President strike a deal. Excuse me! Was this something 'personal' between NS & Mush? Nawaz gets to go away stock-free. Poor fellow has to live outside Pakistan for 5-10 years. I dunno about that ... some of our 'leaders' do it of choice ... and all of them have enough money to have families and friends fly out to them whenever they feel lonely (or hungry, if the stories of nihaari-laden flights are more than a rumour). But -errr- there is the slight matter of his trying to kill innocent people on a flight, na? Should they have been involved in a class-action suit against him? Guess that's not a sensible thought. I know nothing of law, other than what Mr. Bumble said. On the other hand, Benazir, who really is aptly yclept like her Kulfa namesake of Lahore (there is no one like quite like them and one round is more than one can handle of either) is in 'self-exile' - a euphemism for running the fuck out of this country where she faces charges that would land her in jail. Her hubby - like O.J. - has been cleared of all charges. (Hey guys, the next time you bribe someone, get a receipt!) Our dear (=expensive?) 'ruler' has, yet again, exercised his 'divine right of pardon' and, lo & behold, struck a deal!!! All cases wiped out. Whoa. Of course, other countries are involved in making this happen. An example worthy of being truly called Amnesty International? On thinking more, I say to myself: "Fine. So be it! He is the President (although I recall BB saying a few days ago that he is not her President. Wonder in what capacity he gives her a pardon, then)." But, such minor quibbles aside, I agree that the political arena needed a little more colour than just khaki, even if in the form of a (hmmm, "castrated" doesn't quite fit the occasion, but you know what I mean) politician. However, anal as it may sound to some, a small matter does remain. Even if we accept that the cases against her and AZ were politically motivated (and, no doubt many were), and she did not line her Swiss Bank Lockers with 'our' money, what about the millions of dollars - certainly 'our' dollars, earned at great risk by being a front-line state - spent overseas by this government in uncovering all the false accounts and real mansions and stuff? Or was that a politically motivated lie, too? What are the nation's children, as they grow up watching this comedy of terrors unfold, to make of leaders who go through living transparently - even blatantly - dishonest lives, merely to espouse every Eed or Pakistan Day or Ashura that our children must uphold the traditions and values of the great Muslim and national leaders. The children learn just one thing: Nothing succeeds like Hypocrisy! Habib Jalib, albeit in another context, wrote something that makes me think of the days way before Ayub:
Zindagee go keh paa piyaadah thee Dhoop say chhaaoñ to ziyaadah thee
To those who feel that it would have been fairer to allow Nawaz to also join the National Election Olympics Convention, just remember the sad fact that it doesn't really matter which of the two civvies come into pseudo-power under the witchcraft state-craft of the military-industrial complex.
"Send in the clowns? Don't bother, they're here!"

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Today's the day ...

Perhaps you have a friend, a work colleague or even a family member who still isn’t convinced about Climate Change? Well help is now at hand!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rejoice, Bloggers and other Pakistanis

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Errr ... (Revised!)

To process a particular request Facebook requires me to leave my present network although I am not subscribed to any
Urdu kee ayk masal hae: Maeñ to kambal ko chho∂ rahaa hooñ, kambal müjhay naheeñ chho∂ta hae!
UPDATE! My apologies to Facebook. I would not have attepted to join a new network had I known of this rule:
So, dear fellow Pakistanis, see you in a fortnight! (That is, if my Internet is warking!)

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Bloggers ... October 15th is coming!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Writing on The Wall

(a modified evolvefish.com poster) Thank you, PF!

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Coincidences

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