Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Semantics?

Racist, Prejudice, Opinionated, Associations. Is there a difference?

I've come across this project, implicit. They set out to see what people associate with different topics, types of people, and things. You can find general information about the project here. They have gathered a ton of data and use it to make conclusions about culture and society and their influences on our sub-consciousness.

The conclusions that they draw are eye-opening and their 'data' is substantial and convincing. I haven't taken the implicit test. In part because I don't know how much credence I give to the test and in part because I am afraid of what the results might be.

Proceed at your own risk.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fast Friends

Five and a half years post-ZP. It started as romantic as I could have imagined; across the world, unexpected, and with its own obstacles. Instant attraction (at least from me) and a certain amount of wooing. It was difficult, but easy at the same time. Falling in love was easy, and having it happen in a story book way made it so perfect.

I think back to those first few months and wonder what it was that I fell in Love with? I enjoyed the time we spent together and we connected so often and easily...but what did I LOVE? I think it was part physical attraction and part loving what I thought those parts of ZP's identity I didn't know about yet could be. That unknown was exciting.

Fast forward to today. The attraction is still most definitely there, but those unknowns aren't. And the certainty is glorious. Take away the attraction, and what's left is my best friend. The best friend I could have ever imagined, the part that is not in story books but should be.

Your best friend ZP,
Taher

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Little things

I've been thinking how it's little decisions snowball and can really shape your life, who you are, and what you become. We make small decisions almost daily because of or inspite of fear. I look back on the last several years and, at least in my personal experience, can identify overcoming and succumbing to little fears that have really shaped the person I am today.

One example among many is namaz. At some point many years ago, I was afraid (at least on some level) to do namaz outside of a mumin's sanctuary. But then one day, I gathered the courage to do pray in a public place. I must admit, I was probably nervous, anxious and rushed through all the neccesary arkans only doing the bare minimum of namaz. As before, I again found myself out during namaz time and found it just a little bit easier to do namaz in public...this happened again and again. And now, I carry a compass whereever I go, do namaz without hesitation, without care of my surroundings (and I don't mean to worry you ZP). Now, it's as if I can not miss namaz.

This is one fear I could have easily succumbed to and made a habit of not praying on time or not praying at all. I ask myself if my actions or some innate religiousness are the cause or the effect...a classic what came first, the chicken or the egg case [feel free to make fun of MA, I won't erase the comments]. There have been many small paths I've taken in my youth to bring me where I am right now, and it's important to realize there are still those little things almost everyday.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Monday, November 27, 2006

Reading is...

FUNDAMENTAL

This weekend, I've had the wonderful company of a very bright four and a half year old. It has been amazing just observing. She seems to learn so much everyday, and everyday is a milestone, like a mini-graduation. I am sure every kid on the planet goes through this at some point in their lives, but to me, that makes it all the more amazing.

The coolest thing by far is watching her read. What age do you learn to read anyway? Words are so familiar, second nature and just done without thinking....if there are words in your field of vision you read them, just can't help it. I feel like I was born knowing how to read, I can't imagine learning to read.

Watching her sound out words, big words, is just amazing....I see a 7 letter word, and that's it. It stands alone, just a symbol etched into my memory...she sees it as the sum of all it's parts, each letter a sound and each word she figures out is an epiphany for her. A little victory. So amazing to watch...what it must feel like to have that kind of mental growth so often.

It's so crappy that you can never fully appreciate what you have.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Photos

I was watching my favorite news source, FoxNews, and sawthis piece. I watched thinking, are you serious? Could someone really spend their life researching the way people are smiling in pictures? Spend years analyzing the way eyebrows look and the crookedness of lips. ABSURD! And to what end?

To realize that if you're happy now you're more likely to be happy in the future.

I could have told you that.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Staying power

"Where are we going?"
"To the airport"
"Can I come too?"
"YES!"
"Where are you going?"
"Chicago"
"Can I come too?"
"YES!"

Thursday, November 16, 2006

9 letter words

Terrorism. The operative word that is like a cloud over this country, me, and my life. I can only wonder the ways that my life would have been if not for this word. It is everywhere. After the elections, I read this poem and was moved.

I lift my voice aloud,
make Mantra of American language now,
I here declare the end of the War!
Let the States tremble,
let the Nation weep,
let Congress legislate its own delight
let the President execute his own desire--
this Act done by my own voice,
published to my own senses,
blissfully received by my own form
approved with pleasure by my sensations
manifestation of my very thought
accomplished in my own imagination
all realms within my consciousness fulfilled

Communism. Another 9 letter word. If I was born in a different time how would things have been different?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

cheeky

Well it was a fun weekend at N.E.R.D, I'm officially a member. Along with the other 1,000 or so in attendance plus the Microsoft conference happening in the same hotel it may have been the highest concentration of geeks in glasses this side of the Mississippi (and yes I wore my glasses).

The conference got underway with a motivational speaker, Joey Cheeks, an olympic speed skater. After finding out who the speaker was, I was thrilled. I just couldn't wait to hear what wisdom this speed skater from North Carolina who is a couple years younger than me could impart and the motivation he would provide. Oh, plus I was just dying to hear all the great sport cliches (note the sarcasm). But I was pleasantly surprised. His thoughts very much echoed exactly what it was that I was feeling going into the week. Why do all this work? For what? His story was very different, but very much the same.

He talked about his years of training growing up and moving away from home to skate and be coached by the best. He talked about all the years spent preparing, the countless hours spent training on the ice and in the gym. All the people along the way who helped him get there. His coaches, his parents, a nutritionist, a sports pyscologist, a team of rocket scientists who designed a suit that cost $15k. All this time and effort to finally make it to the olympics and spend 30 seconds competing...all those years of preparing, a life spent focused on one thing...and only to be over in 30 seconds. In the end he was just, "a grown man in tights skating in circles." He spent all this time building up the story and then made you see that reaching his goal is not the most important thing to him.

I really felt like he was talking to me and it gave me some much needed perspective. I've spent so much time and had the support of so many people along the way; I've been working so hard I forgot to ask myself what is really important. It was good to be reminded that it is far better to be signficant than to be successful.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Finally!

After what seems like an eternity of studying a bit of recognition this weekend. This weekend is the beginning of the annual Actuarial (N.E.R.D) conference in sunny California. This will be my first conference and my induction into the society.

I have spent countless hours in what has been a blur of studying and test-aking over the last four and a half years. I have never put so much effort towards anything...and this weekend I'm getting recognized for being ALMOST done. I have been thinking, has it been worth it? Will it have been worth it to have given up a large part of my 20s to get a couple lousy letters after my name that only 5 non-actuaries worldwide will know the significance of (plus or minus 3 people).

There are so many other things I could have been doing during that time, namely spending with my family and Zahra and other things for which there is never ENOUGH time. Time I can never get back. So many other pursuits given up.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy 'use your time now doing what's important' and though I respect the 'work hard now to emjoy later' camp, I can't understand them and would not want to be one of them. But am I one of them? Why spend all this time and energy on this? I don't really know the answers to these questions and it has been bugging me...but for now, I think I will just enjoy this weekend.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hiatus

Wow, it's been a while.

For the first time in a while my mind feels free to wander and think about things not actuarial. I love learning and that is what drives me to study, but sometimes it's like a prison, stuck to the same thoughts and no mental energy to devote to anything else.

I have this new mental freedom, the best kind of freedom and I'm taking advantage of it. This freedom feels so new; I had forgotten what it felt like. I am in awe of this feeling and am going to hold on to it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Neither here nor there

Both personal and professional lives are full of compromise. It’s everyday. The middle-ground always seems to be moving…well, away from the middle.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I anagram, I

Twelve plus One = Eleven plus Two
12 + 1 = 11 + 2

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Spice Trade

Four centuries ago spices and tea had some role in the colonization of India. Come on, spices! When we were there, we went to Kashmir, one of the few places in the world that arguably the most valuable spice, pound for pound, saffron is grown. It can bring in anywhere from $500-$700 a POUND.

What is saffron anyway? It’s the stigma of a flower…this little strand inside bud the flower and there are only 2-4 inside each flower. So that means that 166 flowers have to be hand picked to make a gram (as heavy as a paper clip). Usually, most spices are sold by the ounce, so for those of you keeping track that is 4,700 flowers, hmm…that’s a lot of flowers, can you picture 4,700 flowers in a field, flowers in bloom. If you do the math the numbers just become mind blowing, but there are 16 ounces in a pound which make roughly 75,000 flowers!!!

Imagine 75,000 or so flowers in a field all in bloom...$500 seems like a bargain.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Culture Merchants

Wal-Mart has a laundry list of…alarming, to put it lightly, statistics. Over a quarter TRILLION dollars in sales (~4% GDP), accounts $120B trade deficit with China, roughly 20 lawsuits daily just to name a few…and trust me there are MANY MANY more. There is just no way to really grasp the influence and impact a gargantuan company like Wal-Mart can have on the economy and the country.

The hypnotic effect statistics often have, make us overlook something which may be just as alarming as the numbers that get thrown around. Media. Wal-Mart is America’s largest seller of books, magazines, music, AND dvds. Scary huh? Scary to think that “Will Wal-Mart Buy It” is an important consideration made by companies producing this media. All of it ‘censored’, as it were, by a giant corporation with its own agenda.

How many books, magazines, and movies will you never come across because Wal-Mart doesn’t deem them appropriate to carry in their stores?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

just for fun?

I used to be competetive. I had this bloodlust that was just brought out in me in certain activities. And I was good...I had this confidence, this cockiness and it helped me do good in school, it helped me kick peoples' but in wrestling, and once upon a time win in tennis. And then one day a long time ago that competetiveness just disappeared. Now, I usually just play for fun, as gay as that sounds.

Well, twice a year I spend a long time nerdily preparing for exams and I go in to those exams with tons of confidence and even if it doesn't show a certain amount of cockiness...actually a lot of it. Not to be confused with some elitist attitude, I am not smart, but I am prepared and I have studied and I am not modest about that.

For a brief moment I really have that competetive spirit, mostly within, but I can feel it coming back. I can go into pressure situations and handle them with a certain amount of grace. I have that confidence, that was in hiding, back, and I am ready to be a person who gives direction rather than one previously so apt to take it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Free Trade

What are your opinions on free trade? Everyone else seems to have an opinion and ‘credible’ supporting data. It can be misleading and all these ‘stats’ should be taken with a grain of salt, and unfortunately they rarely are.

Free trade is great, it leads to lower prices and ‘allows’ more efficient production which ‘puts’ more money in consumers’ pockets and they have all these stats about how the ‘net social gain’ is positive…increases in GDP, blah blah blah.

The words in quotes are deceiving. ‘Allow’, allow? Does it mean jobs are eliminated and those out of work have the privilege to be more efficient? That’s nonsense.
Lower prices means more money for consumers…this is a tricky sentence, lower prices ultimately are a result of lower, if not eliminated, wages…not lower profits, no body cuts profit to lower prices.
Net social gain…basically means those made better off will benefit by an amount more than those made worse off…it doesn’t consider WHO is made better off and the utility (the usefulness) of one more or fewer dollar.

The US has a $220 billion dollar trade defecit. Why is that bad? Think about it this way, if it takes 10 jobs to produce 100 tvs for export, that’s an extra 10 jobs, and conversely if 100 tvs are imported, that’s 10 jobs lost.

For economic wealth, for there to be winners there has to be losers.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Tankman



It never ceases to amaze me that a single person and come along and change the world.

This person inspired millions by standing up, literally. It isn't even known who this person is, but this act, this picture inspired a whole country to stand up...and continues to influence the world.

In 1989, Communist China dealt with a huge pro-Democracy demonstration in Tianamen square. Martial Law and a force of 300,000 were sent in to quell the demonstrations. After the army takes control this man, fed up, stood up to these tanks in a final act of defiance, but his story and inspiration live on.

It inspires me to believe I can stand up for what I believe in.