Monday, January 26, 2009

Lesbo Concert One Summer Evening

I've been a fan of the Indigo Girls since the 80's. And when I went to San Diego this past summer and saw that they were to play at this place: Humphrey's "Concerts by the Bay" me and my youngest sister immediately booked tickets and went.

The catch was that both Indigo Girls are lesbians (but not lovers themselves), and at the time California was juuuuust starting to issue marriage licenses to gay/lesbian couples, it was an issue being talked about all over the news.

The morning the courts started doing that me and my wife went to a great breakfast restaurant which serves the best scrambled eggs with home baked bread, along with cut fruit and watermelon, the whole table is just filled with hearty juicy food. There were atleast 4 different tables around us that had gay couples dressed in tuxedo suits, with maybe a pink/peach handkerchief neatly tucked in. All celebrating their "weddings". One table had two couples with their families celebrating, the table was so long it took the whole side of the place.

The mood was festive, everyone was happy, they all felt like it was a triumph for humanity and justice.

That night at the concert with my sister I was waiting for salat ilmaghreb and I can clearly see when the sun is setting on the pacific horizon. So I get up to go to the bathroom and I'm told that most of the restrooms are reserved for women. The door with the Male sign has been taped with a piece of paper that said:
"We are sorry, but this restroom is for women only. Please use the male restroom at the gates"

Turns out since most of the fans for this band were also lesbians, 90% of the people attending were women. So I go and join the line of grumbling men waiting to use the single male-dedicated bathroom at the gates, overhearing lines like "How's this for discrimination", and "This is so unfair".

As my turn comes I quickly do my ablution (wudhu) and I hear the opening band starts, Brandi Carlile (The Story):

Lovely song, but I have a bit of a hard time finding a suitable patch of grass behind the bungalows and the stage to actually pray.

Then when I go to my seat which happened to be many rows behind my sister, because she reserved her ticket a month before, while mine was almost a previous day's notice. And surrounding me on all four sides were lesbian couples. And as the night went on and the songs became more affectionate, and the more beer consumed, the more kissing and smooching that happened all around me.

I felt VERY out of place and VERY uncomfortable needless to say. True that I had a good time repeating the words of some of the songs almost by heart, since they were so familiar to me. But I didn't actually like alot of what they stood for, I simply liked the beats and melodies which they wrote. As far as gay/lesbian rights go, I think what Allah decides in them is the most appropriate. Imagine if all the gay/lesbian people in the world lived in a single country, by theory and definition, that country should become extinct in a matter of 50 years or so... basically it threatens the continuation of the human race. Nothing serious really :P

My sister was screaming her head off on 2nd row, so she was clearly having fun. Good for her. Plus as a full blown feminist, the frenzy of justice and vindication for women was right up her alley, true she's not really comfortable with lesbians either, but I suppose she can indulge in some denial here, details details.. don't get bogged down in the details. Only liberty matters right? sure whatever.

And in the end, the noise was so loud throughout the concert my head hurt and I thought to myself, I could have just downloaded their albums and listened in the comfort and solitude of my iPod...... right?

But atleast Ms. Carlile was a pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

His Voice Tore My Heart Out

I 1st heard his voice talking to BBC's Lucy Ash last Thursday, he was afraid for his children. This morning I heard him again on BBC, his voice barely sustained, his sobbing unstoppable, three of his daughters and a niece killed in their room by a tank shell slamming into their building. This happened Friday, the exact next day after the 1st interview I heard.

This is the full heart-wrenching story from BBC's Lucy Ash:
Gaza doctor's loss grips Israelis

He used to work in Israeli hospitals helping jewish mothers deliver their babies. He's been an activist for peace. And during the 21 days of bombing he's been a frequent face of Palestinian suffering on Israeli TV, and 1 day before the cease-fire his tragedy is as we speak shocking Israelis to their core, and forcing them to question what they did to Gaza.

This is the same story reported by Haaretz:
Israeli-trained Gaza doctor loses three daughters and niece to IDF tank shell

And now all he could muster was a cry of impaling pain "Why did my daughters die?". I ask of Allah to give him the faith to endure this and hope for God's reward.

Only a couple of days ago I got a call from my wife that my 4.5 yo son ran infront of a large Yukon at the co-op and got his foot wedged under the tyre before the driver managed to stop the car quickly and the tyre didn't go over my son's foot. il7amdellah alf. Thankfully his foot didn't have any breaks, just a minor injury to the muscle and it swelled.

The point is, when I first heard it on the phone, I was silent for about maybe 5-10 seconds, then was able to ask where they were, and that I'm going to follow them to al-Razi hospital. I guess those blank seconds had my head filled with fears of what might be wrong with his foot, and if the injury is going to ruin his foot permanently or not. and so on of the many fears a parent might have for his child.

It only occured to me to thank God later. Maybe 1 hour later. And I don't mean only thank Allah that his injury wasn't any worse (God forbid), but I mean actually accept the bad and thank Allah for it. because even the bad things than happen to us can be good things if we thank Allah and be patient.

I truly regret that I wasn't able to come to my senses on the spot, and consider how minor this event was. and consider how this doctor lost three of his eldest daughters in a single moment. I really ask of God never to place me a in a moment of enormous test like this one without me being ready to accept it and be thankful for it.

Yalla la teblana.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kiva Rocks the World

Ever heard of Kiva before?

Ever heard of Micro Financing?

It's somewhat like charity, but where you get your money back.

Mohammad Yunus started the whole thing with Grameen bank and won the Nobel Prize for it.

The IDEA is simple:
You give a small loan to a poor person with a small idea (usual example: indian lady wanting to buy a sewing machine). That lady then repays the loan (without interest) using the income of the sewing machine, and can then support herself better. The lender keeps a database of the loan and repayment schedule, and if the lady doesn't pay back in time, she's not taken to the police, she's simply blacklisted to not receive any more money in the future.

The repayment rate is usually between 98-100%!!!!

These people take their loans seriously.

So what's Kiva? It's a website that takes this model to the next level, the INTERNET.

It lists thousands of loan seekers, and you can lend any of them using paypal! You get your money back over a certain time period.

Here's a video that tells the whole story:

A Fistful Of Dollars: The Story of a Loan from Kieran Ball on Vimeo.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Mouse Trap That Doesn't Work..

I only recently noticed a comment by "The Wise One" under "My Friend The Atheist" in which he basically proclaims that he is an atheist himself and mentions a few issues which he thought were proofs that Islam is a lie and also mentions "Intelligent Design" and how our human bodies are not well designed.

I wish to respond. O' Mr. Wise One:

You mentioned how our blood vessels are all chaotic and tangled up. You prefer them all proper and straight and parallel for example? you don't like that there's way too many in there? more than what's efficiently needed? And what about redundancy and failure tolerance? You see chaos but when you get cut and start bleeding, you don't think how all a doctor really has to do is put the parts close together and wait for these veins to find their way to each other and mesh? How come you don't marvel at that? How do cells understand what they need to do as group? how is it that when the healing is sufficiently complete, that the cells actually STOP?? because you know that extra unwanted rampantly growing tissue is nothing but cancer. How is it that we don't get cancer after every cut?

Intelligent Design proponents usually bring the example of a simple Mouse Trap. I recommend this book I read a few years ago "Darwin's Black Box". We all know that the basis of the theory of evolution is "Survival of the Fittest". That random mutations occur throughout generations and which ever mutation is more "fit" (stronger, faster, smarter, more gorgeous) , is more likely to reproduce and survive, while the "unfit" (weaker, slower, dumber, uglier) is less likely to have offspring, and eventually die out of the population.

The problem is that some of our biological systems are so complicated and advanced in order to give the slightest bit of benefit, that slow and gradual mutation can NOT produce middle steps that are "partially beneficial" to the animal.

The book explains in heavy detail the process of blood coagulation, or clotting. If you get cut and your blood doesn't clot quickly, you'll bleed until you die. No one has yet been able to show how the modern clotting process could have had a simpler ancestral chain which would have worked, say with 50% or even 20% effectiveness.

To illustrate the idea more, the book uses the example of a mousetrap, which is many many times simpler than the chain of chemical reactions which clotting needs. To make a mouse trap to work and catch mice, you need about 4-5 parts to make it work. A base, a spring, a hammer, a holding bar and ofcourse the cheese. Those parts need to be aligned so carefully together in order to be ready to trap anything, (I remember that from my childhood qubbi trapping days). Now if any of the parts is missing, or not positioned correctly, the whole trap's effectiveness would not be reduced by a certain amount, the whole trap would STOP working. There's no "previous ancestor mutation" to it. Any previous random mutation to the mousetrap would have been a complete failure at catching mice.

And since we know that these mutations take 10's of thousands of generations to occur, I ask why would any organism that includes a bunch of parts of a system that does not really benefit the animal in any way, keep the system? wouldn't evolution theory dictate that a useless mousetrap be removed? to save the energy and cells required to make it atleast. The animal itself can not predict that the system of parts is useless now, but is HOPING to evolve it into a useful mousetrap 100's of yearsin the future, and thousands of generations later.

I agree that evolutionary mutation is correct when each step produces a benefit. But when each individual step does not produce a benefit, then why would the animal continue in that path? the more logical way for it is to mutate backwards and remove the part in later generations no?

Here's a link that the author of the book Behe talks about an evolutionary experiment where a kind of bacteria evolves to be able to benefit from cirtus Multiple Mutations Needed for E.Coli:

if only one mutation is needed to confer some ability, then Darwinian evolution has little problem finding it. But if more than one is needed, the probability of getting all the right ones grows exponentially worse. “If two mutations have to occur before there is a net beneficial effect — if an intermediate state is harmful, or less fit than the starting state — then there is already a big evolutionary problem.” (4) And what if more than two are needed? The task quickly gets out of reach of random mutation.