How a Distraction Becomes an Obsession

2 November 2012

As Muslims we believe that the true purpose of our lives is to know and worship the one and only Creator. Numerous Qur’anic verses point to the fact that life was not created without purpose:

  • Human was created to worship Allah (Qur’an 51:56)
  • Life was not created without purpose (Qur’an 38:27)
  • Humans were created to be conscious of themselves and Allah and become righteous (Qur’an 2:21, 49:13)

All of the verses mentioned above, and several more, refer to the fact that the purpose of our existence is to attain righteousness, become God-conscious, and to understand life and be aware of one another.

We can conclude that humans are capable to reaching the heights of righteousness. It would be pointless if the purpose of creation was God-consciousness, yet humans did not possess the capability to do so. However, Allah (SWT) also says in the Qur’an that humans are created weak; consequently, He (SWT) has made the path very clear and removed the obstacles (Qur’an 4:28). This does not mean that we will not face any challenges. What it means is that the challenges that we are given will be according to our strength (Qur’an 2:286).

Islam is about balance. It does not dictate that we live a life of isolation and complete austerity. Islam is not into the business of making our lives difficult and miserable. The prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

Do not overburden yourselves, lest you perish. People [before you] overburdened themselves and perished. Their remains are found in hermitages and monasteries. (Musnad of Abu Ya’la)

The prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) always disagreed with excessiveness. He, may peace and blessing be upon him, once said to Abdullah ibn Amr, ‘Have I heard right that you fast everyday and stand in prayer all night?’ Abdullah replied, ‘Yes, O Messenger of God: The Prophet said, ‘Do not do that. Fast, as well as, eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as, sleep. This is because your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you (Bukhari, Muslim)

Islam does not stop us from amusement, having fun, or enjoying ourselves. It actually encourages physical activities, competitions, and gatherings; all within the Halal limits. But we are not perfect. We make mistakes; we commit sins; we neglect our duties and forget the purpose of our existence. We get distracted, and then we overcome and move on. Nevertheless, sometimes these distractions can morph into something more; more than just a momentary disruption.

There is no such thing as good obsession even if the object of the obsession is something good. The fact that it becomes an excessiveness makes it harmful and against the teachings of Islam. However, when a distraction becomes an obsession, it is a greater problem because it should not last long enough to become a potential for an obsession.

Are you obsessed with your handheld devices? A lot of us are. There is a wealth of useful and worthy information that you can now hold in the palm of your hand; but at the same time, there is the possibility of misusing it for vain and useless activities. Assume you are reading an article on your iPad and then there is a game ad. on that page. It distracts you. You become interested in the content of the ad, the game that it was advertising. So you hop on to App Store and find the app for that game and buy it. Minutes later you find yourself playing the game. A few hours later, you realize that you are playing at the expense of work or study. Days later, you find yourself playing it every single chance you get. This is how a distraction becomes an obsession. The ad on the page was only few seconds long, but now you are losing precious time playing the game.

We cannot avoid distractions all the time, but we can control them and make sure they do not turn into obsessions. It is in our nature to like amusements, whether it is by watching TV, browsing the world wide web, going out with friends or any other type of entertainment, but we need to take a balanced approach. Excessive amusements has the potential to murder our soul and we need our soul to reach the purpose of our lives.

MTPuTTY: Not just a Multi-tabbed PuTTY

26 September 2012

I was looking for multi-tabbed PuTTY or a replacement for PuTTY with multi-tabbing capability when I came across MTPuTTY. I immediately started using it and let me tell you that it is great. It is not just about opening PuTTY sessions in multiple tabs in one window, but much more:

  •  You can open unlimited number of sessions in one window so your taskbar is not cluttered
  •  You can dock and tile windows. Place windows in different location on your screen under one windows
  •  You can detach a PuTTY tab and convert it as normal PuTTY window or reattach it
  • You can automatically log in if you save your username/password
  • Native Win32 code without relying on .NET or any other libraries
  • Easily accessible list of servers on a sidebar, which can be relocated on the screen
  •  It is free of charge

I generally work remotely with Vi(m) and now I can easily place windows so that I get the IDE look and feel and not worry about splitting in vim and mucking around with resizing, etc.

You can download it from TTYPlus website.

More Afghan Stereotypes in Alphas

20 September 2012

Episode 2×8: Falling (Plot Summary)


It was really annoying. Rachel has a boyfriend (Steve Byers) and she is planning to take him to meet her parents for dinner.

She is trying to prepare him for the visit so that her parents are impressed. Let me tell you that almost everything she said to her boyfriend is so greatly exaggerated and is ridiculous.

I have family members who are married to non-Afghans and I am very sure the first meeting did not go down as it is anticipated in this episode.

Here are a couple of the gems:

  • if her parents offer food, he should eat it all no matter what
  • he should not compliment anything otherwise her parents will give that to him as gift and then later on talk about it as if he stole it.

Ridiculous! In most cases, people who become modern, like Pirzads, they, in majority of cases, lose certain aspects of Afghan culture that conflict or that might make them “look bad” in front of their western friends. Besides, most people who have spent most of their lives in west understand how to treat a non-Afghan differently so they are not uncomfortable. Either Pirzads are the new standard for FOBish behaviour or the writers are trying to make a comedy of Afghan’s hospitality. Epic fail, either way!

Fair enough, Afghans can be a little pushy at the table, offering food too much and too often, that can be annoying to some people, but she was making it look really awful.

The show goes into the details of the lives of all main characters. Their families are an important part of the character building and I can appreciate that putting someone with an “exotic” ethnicity in the mix might  make things more interesting. But that was far enough… but no they had to bring up the stereotypes as if Muslims and Afghans in particular are not being targeted enough in reality.

Even, if the Pirzads were more traditional or if they were new to America, most of those issues were just over the top. But Pirzads  have lived there most of their lives, raised their kids, established their own business and are very liberal and that is why this whole thing is so annoyingly idiotic.
I could be OK with it, if it were a comedy. In comedy you have to use the stereotypes to make people laugh. But this is not a comedy and it certainly didn’t make me laugh. As a matter of fact, it was rather tragic to know how little they knew.

Other than that, show is getting really interesting and the events seem to be turning more in favour of the ‘good’ Alphas.  Dr. Rosen turning his own daughter in, Kat finding out some aspect of her past, Hicks and his son finally understanding each other and above all the drug that makes you invincible ; the whole thing was really neat.

Afghan Girls and the Dilemma of Marriage

29 June 2012

Contributed by Haya

Afghan girls and Dilemma of Marriage

Except for the monks, priests and nuns who wish to remain celibate and dedicate their lives in worshiping God, sacrificing affection, love, partnership and children then this article will not interest you. The rest of us who are too selfish to do so may read on.

Now, I’m not going to talk about the wedding expenses or what marriage in itself looks like as I haven’t got the experience to do so and my version may mislead many of those who wish to be realistic about it – which is probably the best way to do it. Thanks to the many hours dedicated to Bollywood movies that have forever ingrained in me the hope that I will find Raj and I will be his Simran have probably set my expectations bar way too high that if I jump to pull it back down I wouldn’t reach.
However, what I can be useful for is to give a little walk into the mind of single Afghan girls who suffer the pressures of the community and society at large that have been put on her when finding her spouse. Of course this will not be a general account but I will do my best to incorporate what I can of every version of an Afghan girl from the highly conservative to the “ultramodern”.

Buckle up guys, you heard it here first from some random anonymous claiming to be a single Afghan girl but for all you know can be a balding Afghan father crying out to single Afghan men out there to give their daughters the benefit of the doubt.

For starters let’s begin with the fundamentals that apply to every version of an Afghan girl whether she fears God or fears getting caught by her dad.

Introducing the AGE BRACKET!
That’s right folks we have an expiry date. 17-26 if you aint married in this bracket you have one of the following;

  1. A past that everyone knows about
  2. In love with an Indian or a White boy
  3. Has no idea how to wrap up a quick Qabeli palao
  4. Has a tongue so sharp she strikes before you serve

If she’s lucky and ends up being a Doctor or a Lawyer then they might forgive her a couple of years otherwise she has no reason to be picky and it serves her right for still being single! That ought to show her!
Anything outside the border specially Pakistani or Iranian you’ve sold your soul to the devil and you deserve to be outcast from the community and your parents for the rest of their lives will have to give apologetic smiles upon entering functions and “mehmanis” where they’ll be asked about how their foreign son-in-law is doing. This is still an exaggeration! Oh, no silly not the last part, I mean how we can only select from Afghan guys, we have families that won’t look past their own ethnicities within Afghanistan, better yet they might even tell you you’re stuck to picking from your first cousins. Enjoy!

Of course this is totally flexible to the Afghan guy. Why would I even bother talking about that? I mean his one legitimate excuse is … “Well he’s guy!” DUH!

Anyway, again we are subject to random searches that take place when our parents suspect that Mariam may just be Michael. Whether Afghan parents like it or not there’s MSN, Facebook and a plethora of other means that technology today has made possible. Seat belting them into everything they do in life will teach them to be dependent and naive forever; they might as well tie us in a straight jacket.
Either way, they are going to go behind their parents’ backs, because their hot-blooded and no amount of security will have them monitored every step of the way. Even if she does and is caught, she has tarnished her father’s name and it’s her fault for not suppressing her wishes to spend her life with someone she has a mutual understating and interest with.

I don’t see how Afghan families do not allow their daughters to have chaperoned meetings with individuals so that they may have the chance to formally meet and exercise their birth right. The girls suffer the most because we live in a box that has a ticking time bomb on it. We have to race to find the groom before the alarm beeps and we realise we are a day over the bracket.

The pressure does not only stop there. Treading softly all our life until we are married is our duty upon us. Obviously, in many cases if this does not work out then we ship her off to Afghanistan and we hand her over to the next guy that gets a wife and a free ticket to the land of the white man. Buy one, get one free!

We don’t need to treat our daughters like possessions. Women have been suffering enough as history illustrates very clearly. There is not one type of Afghan girl willing to sacrifice her list that her future husband would tick most of the boxes. There are many dynamics to her and each one whether she is traditional, conservative or modern lives a different day-to-day life in which they have different ideals and expectations that they want in a man.

As a Muslimah, I understand that Islam has freed us of the shackles of nationalism and limiting ourselves to one race.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you people and tribes so that you may know one another” (Qur’an 49: 13)

There is nothing wrong with marrying within your own race and to limit the differences as much as possible, but only if it is an option and not a requirement.

There are many ways in which women can get to know a prospective husband the” safe way”, rather than having to wake up a day after your wedding and getting ready for work when your new husband asks you “Where do you think you’re going?”

Marriage is the biggest decision of our lives. There is a biological clock that we should pay attention to, but not to rush into it.
If parents teach their daughters that they are free to choose and select their life partner but to consult that matter as a family and to exercise that right in a manner pleasing and safe and stop shipping off their daughters and making them someone else’s problem when they “deviate”. The problem can be nipped in the bud.

Parents play a major role in every child’s life and being brought up with Afghan values and the culture is to be respected. However, we should keep in mind that times are changing and Afghan girls are no longer submissive and will not allow to be treated how they were back in the days. We have rights that are given to us and being able to select our life partner without feeling like running a marathon is an obvious one.

In conclusion, if you are still here reading then congratulations you are one step better at knowing what we deal with.

Bottom line is that the only way for an Afghan girl to get married is not with her cousin, who she calls her brother one day and is then walking down the aisle hand in hand with him the next day because her parents weren’t able to trust anyone else. She does not need to be shipped off and made somebody else’s business either (although this is not a bad idea sometimes but there may be backlash).

Taking your sweet time cruising through life and then realising the only way you will have kids is through IVF or adopting isn’t the way to go either and neither am I trying to say we need to be treated like princess’s. There needs to be a balance of what someone is comfortable with. As Afghans are pretty divided when it comes to being traditional, conservative or westernised, every family will have a different take on the issue. We just need to sit back a little and stop standing on our toes all the time. Otherwise it’s just a vicious cycle that never ends and creates more problems than it does solutions.


Afghan War: A popularity contest for Western Leaders

20 April 2012
Afghan War
Afghan War

From when NATO invaded Afghanistan under the guise of fighting terrorism, the poverty-stricken country has served as an election-winning tool for leaders of the involved countries. Every time election gets closer, the leaders of these countries make an announcement that could potentially win them votes.

Julia Gillard’s announcement of Australian troops withdrawal is nothing but a means for Labour to try and gain some popularity as they have been doing not all that good in the polls. This might just work for them as noted 64% of Australians are in favour of pull-out.

Every time the government is in trouble, they talk about the “War on Terror” to take people’s attention away from their national screw-ups and to try to stay as the favoured party around the time of the election. It is not surprising that withdrawal might start just before next federal election.

Obviously, both Obama and Gillard will spin the achievements as victory, but they know and everyone else knows that this illegal war and occupation will end as badly as it started.

Afghan conflict is complicated, obviously, NATO has not figured it out. Sooner or later they all will leave, shamelessly and all they have is nothing to show apart from a claim that they supposedly killed Osama and dropped his body in the sea and neutralized terrorist threat that supposedly existed in Afghanistan. And of course no one will ask them about the innocent lives lost and destructions they brought upon people of Afghanistan.

Adding Code Formatting Tools in Notepad++

12 April 2012

I am a big fan of beautiful code, not only in terms of quality of programming but also formatting the code nicely so that it is easy on eyes.

If you are using a full-blown IDE, they come with their own formatting facility, but if you are using a multipurpose editor such as Notepad++, then you may have to use a plugin to format your code. There are many 3rd party programs that can be used with Notepad++ that will help you format your source code without going through a lot of effort.

I use different tools for different languages. I use PerlTidy for formatting my Perl code, and AStyle for certain other languages. Here are the steps taken to add AStyle to Notepad++. Please check the AStyle website for further information on AStyle and its options.

First you need to make sure you have NppExec plugin added to your Notepad++ by going to Plugin menu.

NppExec Menu
NppExec Menu

Download AStyle. The zip archive includes all the source and an  executable. You can simple copy the executable to a suitable location (For this demo, I am copying it to H:\tools\AStyle.exe. Or you can recompile from the source.

Go to NppExec under Plugin menu and click on Execute or hit F6. You will get the Execute dialogue box.

Execute Dialogue Box
Execute Dialogue Box

Select ” from the dropdown box if it is not already selected.

Type in the following commands in the window:

h:\tools\AStyle --style=allman "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)"

The first line saves the file. If you do not save first, then it might format the last saved version of your file (Thanks arduinoparty for pointing out). The 2nd command formats the code and saves the file. The view doesn’t get refreshed, so we need to reload the file from disk, and npp_open does that in the above. Note that I am using AStyle with –style=allman flag which uses broken brackets.

Hit the save button and it will ask you for a name, just type an appropriate name and hit OK to run.

Execute AStyle
Execute AStyle

You could stop right there and every time you need to run the command, just go to Plugins -> NppExec -> Execute… But let’s go one step further.

Under Plugins, go to NppExec and click on Advanced Options.

NppExec Advanced Options
NppExec Advanced Options

Select “Run AStyle” from the Associated Script drop down menu and then hit the “Add/Modify” button. Make sure the “Place to the Macros Submenu” is ticked.

This will add a new option in Macro Menu.


Notepad++ Macro Menu

That is it. Hope you have found this short tutorial useful.

Afghanistan: The blame game

31 March 2012
از ماست که بر ماست – It is from us which is upon us

It is very rare for a country to get involved so deep in the affairs of another country without an ulterior motive. If NATO countries are fighting in Afghanistan, they are doing it only for their own sake. They are not the least bit interested in what happens to Afghans and Afghanistan. If in the process of their work, some Afghans benefit, they claim the credit but they don’t really give a fig either way.

Let’s face it, Pakistani government is not our best friend either. Fair enough, they let refugees in their country during the years of Soviet invasion and Afghans are still living there as refugees in somewhat peace of mind, but their intention is clear. They only want a government in Afghanistan that is more than just friendly neighbour. The same goes for Iran and even India.

Consequently, whenever there is a discussion about Afghanistan among Afghans, there is hardly a time when some outsider is not blamed for the miseries Afghanistan has faced and still facing. Some blame America, some blame Pakistan, some other blame Iran, and some blame all of them. While there is no doubt all these countries played us over the years, what people forget is a great deal of blame falls on us too. A puppeteer without his puppets is nobody. His art can only exist if he has puppets.

There is a saying in Dari, “Az maast ke bar maast” which translates to “It is from us, which is upon us.” Certainly external forces have been a big factor in the destruction of Afghanistan, but we as Afghans have done enough to 1. Directly by following their order, 2. Indirectly by creating unfortunate situations to benefit them. We have been more than accommodating to their demands for a few dollars.

If we keep a balanced view, we should notice that we share enough responsibility in making Afghanistan what it is now; either as a proxy for outsiders or for our very personal advantages. Next time when you get into a discussion about who is to blame for the bad fortune of Afghanistan, do not forget to mention “Afghans” along with other candidates.

How Long is too Long in one Job

26 November 2011

I had a discussion with a friend the other day about career development, capacity building and whether staying in one company specially in the same or similar capacity for too long makes one  unemployable and how long is too long for an IT professional to stay in one job.

I read somewhere that regardless of the industry if you are in an organisation for 3 – 5 years without being promoted, then it is time to move on. This fits my situation because I have been with my current employer for over 5 years now. Although it is a good company, people are nice and work conditions are great, it seems I have reached my limit in terms of learning and expanding my skills.  Not only that, due to the nature of our company, there is no position for me to ascend to. The only thing I can become is a senior developer, then a more senior developer and so on. Of course I can rely on my yearly review and expect some praise and some raise, but that will not keep anyone going on.

The other issue is  that the main technology we use is propitiatory and we are in a vertical market that has a fairly limited application. This in itself puts a limit in the on-job training and capacity building.

I have been keeping an open eye and looking into my options. IT job market is good at the moment and based on my skills, I can land on a job easily. However, I have been slacking and not getting the courage to leave my comfort zone. The options are there, the opportunities are there. I should be able to take the risk that the conditions in the next job may not be as good, people may not be as nice, and hours inconvenient, but as long as there is opportunity for career development and the pay is reasonably higher, I should not hesitate to take on the next opportunity.

Based on my experience, an IT professional should try to move on after maximum of 4 years in one place. This helps in career development and exposing oneself to different technologies and markets. Of  course unless you work for an organisation that is extremely dynamic and cater for different domains. I should listen to my own advice.

PCL – Centring Variable-width Text

24 November 2011

If you ever had to deal with PCL you would know that there is no command to centre the text. There are some printers that support HPGL command embedded in the PCL file, but not all. If we are printing a predefined text, we know the measurements and would set absolute positioning. But if we are dealing with data generated from a data source, then how can we centre the text? One way to do it is to know the width of every character in every font-family and when printing, calculate the width of the text in whatever unit we are using and then position the text accordingly. The other way is to write an email to your manager and tell them that unless they move to PostScript, there is no way you can centre the text correctly.

But if you really want to do it without having to dramatically change your code or moving away from PCL, there is a trick that you might or might not have figured it out or heard of it.

The trick is to print transparent text upside down in half the point size from the centre of the page. What you will print next will start exactly from where the last one ended. Now, change rotation back to normal, and print your text in regular size in black. This will work very well.

  1. Choose transparent color [ESC]*vo1T
  2. Rotate 180 degrees [ESC]&a180P
  3. Drop the font size by half (assume your normal text size is 12) [ESC](s1p6v0s0b5T
  4. Print your text
  5. Choose black color [ESC]*v1oT
  6. Change rotation back to normal [ESC]&a0P
  7. Choose the normal font size [ESC](s1p12v0s0b5T
  8. Print your text.

Note: Please refer to your printer manual for specific PCL commands, such as font sequence.