Today was a gloriously, warm, sunny day (thanks, Allah, you're the best!). Almost 70 degrees, slight breeze, and puffy, white, Simpsons-like clouds. I decided to go for a walk. My 'hood is Adams Morgan, home of the second largest Salvadoran population in the U.S., a multitude of ethnic restaurants (D.C. has the most Ethiopian restaurants than any other city in the U.S. and especially in AdMo), and the dearly departed Tik Tok Easy Shop.

On a beautiful day like today, the streets are crawling with dog-walkers, window-shoppers, and exercise-freaks. Traversing the heart of the Latino community necessarily means going past a few of the more vocal elements of the area as well. So, I girded myself with my shield and headed out. Seriously, without a walking companion or my Rio, it can be difficult to enjoy a stroll through my neighborhood what with the "aye, mami, que pasa?" and the "que bonita! habla espanol?" coming from all directions. While my eyes roll, my jaw tightens, and my pace quickens, all that runs through my head at these times is a line from the Fugazi song "Suggestion": Why can't i walk down a street free of suggestion? Why can't i walk down a streeeeeeeet (oh yeah) free of suggestion? But with a handy dandy mp3-player (fake cell phone calls work in a pinch too), I am left alone to enjoy my walkabout hassle-free. Yay, technology!


Ok, no point in posting the same stuff on two blogs, so if you want to read about the further adventures of Super-T, then go to my travelblog. Otherwise, well, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then enjoy reading this:
Come see Lil Baji's latest crush.


Today's entry is a simple thanks to Abez for polishing up my travelblog and making it all shiny and fancy. She is abezing! Hip, hip, hooray!!!


"Wake up, baby dolls," my dad sang to us. It was still dark outside and I was disoriented simply by the fact that it was my father's voice waking me up rather than those rabid, flea-bitten mongrels next door. The ancient routine was followed as Dad hovered in the doorway to see if there was any movement forthcoming and when the only observable motion was us burrowing deeper under the covers, he would repeat the wake-up call until one of us (me) got up. Today was the day we were going to visit "the village" which is really a misnomer because it covers several villages but the sun was not even out yet and it was too early in the day to debate semantics.

We had stick-to-your-ribs porridge (liberally sprinkled with sugar and full-fat milk) and some chai (equally sweet and fatty) for breakfast to carry us through the drive to Lala Musa, about 90 miles southeast of Islamabad. The drive was smooth and pleasant with my uncle as pilot and tour guide and me as co-pilot (with no map, no directions, and no sense of where we were) to provide the questions and the chatter (nod to Brian Regan). Along the way, we passed Pajeros, Mehrans, Margallas, and brightly decorated buses that are commonly seen trundling down the streets.

Occasionally, we would see a line of goats being lavishly treated to a buffet of rich, leafy greens - little did they know that Eid Ul Adha was right around the corner and that their V.I.P. treatment was going to end in an R.I.P. ceremony! Poor kid.
When we arrived in Lala Musa to pick up my aunt, we were treated to our second breakfast and had more chai, roasted chilgozas (pinenuts), and these delicious sesame-themed, brown sugar-sweetened, cracker-like thingies (can you guess that I don't know the name?).

We drove through the district of Gujrat which, despite its dusty roads and equally dusty children, is incredibly lush and green thanks to the irrigation provided by the Jhelum River and Chenab River, two of the five rivers of the Punjab which merge to flow into the Indus. My uncle deftly navigated the car down the roads that were becoming less paved and more ditch-laden until we reached Ladian, the Bhatti family's ancestral village. We paid our respects at Aziz Bhatti's grave, Inna lillahi wa inna ileihi rajioon (We are from God and to Him we are returning). Uncle Aziz, my grandfather's brother, was honored with the highest military award in Pakistan, the Nishan-e-Haider, for his part in the 1965 war with India (here's a detailed account).

We strolled around my great-grandfather's house where my father and aunt shared their memories of the place: there's where Babuji used to sit us down and teach us; this room was shared by two families; all of the cousins would line up and sleep here on the rooftop during the summer. I waved hello to the neighbors - Madame Water Buffalo and Donkey Sahib. We visited a nearby school and were allowed to peek into several classes where the uber-obedient, neatly-uniformed children would leap to their feet and stand quietly at attention while the principal introduced us (even though it was time for recess and they were itching to run outside). The school was very well-run, had a strict curriculum, was divided into houses (lil baji is from Hufflepuff!) and even had its own mascot seen here in repose-

Over lunch at our relatives' house, we listened to the on-going debate over whether the village of Ladian (site of the famous Aziz Bhatti's grave, access to a major roadway, near a good school) or the village of Bhurch (bigger population, on the route from Lala Musa to Ladian, large mosque and good school) was better. We then called on more relatives and friends in Bhurch where we were running (and by 'running' I mean 'briskly walking') from house to house, poking our heads in to say hello, and taking a quick tour of the public school (Fun Fact: in Pakistani/British terms, a private school is a private or fee-paying school and a public school can also be a private school. Whaaa?). The sun was starting to set and we did not relish the idea of our fragile car swerving in the dark to avoid a barreling truck and then falling into one of the massive craters on the dirt road that led back to Lala Musa, so we said our goodbyes, I got a quick motorcycle ride out of the village, and we headed back through Kharian.

Stay tuned for the next episode: Well, not much, but wasn't today's entry enough to satisfy you?! Honestly!
Sorry, y'all, been away. Back now, but too sleepy to blog. So, instead, I'm going to steal from upyernoz and let all y'all (that's the plural of y'all, you know) take this yankee/dixie quiz. Ah'm 65% dixie (born in the U.K. of Paki parents, raised in Louahvull, and edumacated in St. Looey). Yeee-hawww!

(cue the song "Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel")

We will return to our regularly scheduled entries after a message from our sponsors.


Nestled at the foot of the Margalla hills, the capital city of Islamabad is neatly if not logically divided into eight zones: administrative, diplomatic, residential, educational, industrial, commercial, rural and green areas. I remember a cleaner, calmer, less traffic-snarl-ridden city but these days the population is up, the pollution is rampant, and the tension is high. "Islamabad, the Beautiful" but not everyone thinks so. This is not to say that the whole town has gone to the dogs . . . those maddening, barking, insane dogs. Each sector has its own shopping area, some pretty public parks, and beautiful mosques.

My grandfather lives in the elite neighborhood of Sector E-7, home to the opulent, jaw-dropping, incredible Faisal Mosque which holds the title of the largest mosque in the world (Baghdad started one up, but, well, you know how things are going on there these days). My father, sister, and I took a long, early morning stroll around E-7, passing by several palatial residences - including one Abdul Qadeer Khan whose house was the only one with flowers growing across the street near the guard's hut - on our way to Faisal Mosque.

Completed in 1986, King Faisal Mosque (named after Saudi Arabia's King Faisal) features a large prayer hall, a small mausoleum for Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and four sky-scraping minarets (which, if memory serves me correctly, sports real gold crescents on each minaret). We turned the corner and saw a sheep grazing on a grassy slope. We turned another corner and saw an enormous banyan tree that had been sorely abused and burnt up by some ignorant youths - look closely and you can see my father and sister on the left.

We had a pleasant walk and followed it up with a pleasant trip to my aunt's beauty salon DePilex. My sister and I were treated to soothing, cleansing facials and when we were glowing and refreshed, my cousin picked us up and took us shopping. Eight khussas, three chappals, and one antique collection of tiles later, we came home and relaxed. In fact, we relaxed so much that some of us fell asleep while I was recounting the storyline of The House of Sand and Fog. The rest of us eventually followed suit and we all napped the remainder of the afternoon away. We rounded off the evening with Abez and Owl at the hip, funky "CJ's" (short for Civil Junction) in Sector F-7, sipping cappuccinos, savoring ice creams, and snickering over their humorous menu entries.
Damn those hellhounds! Damn them all to . . . well, hell, I suppose. With confirmed sightings of jackals and wild boars in the area, I was less surprised, but no less irritated, by the early morning doggie alarms coming from the house next door. Once again, I resigned myself to being fully awake and slid down the banister (it's tradition!) to read until the rest of the family arose and prepared for our outing to Murree. Even though the sun was brightly shining and it was a pleasant spring-like day in Islamabad, we bundled up in warm layers. We boarded the coaster my uncle secured for the twelve of us and were on our way (fun fact: Pakistanis call the hybrid mini-van/bus a "coaster" which seemed more like a roller coaster than a smooth and steady vehicle by the time one reaches the twisted, treacherous, nausea-inducing, narrow roads to Murree).

Approximately 40 miles (or 60 km for you metric-heads) northeast of Islamabad and over 7000 feet (2100 meters) high at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, the Queen of the Hills, as Murree is allegedly known (competing with India's Darjeeling for the title), was once a 19th century hillstation, or resort, for British troops garrisoned on the Afghan frontier in Peshawar. Murree is now a popular tourist (both domestic and international) destination for people seeking cooler climes, beautiful vistas of the forested hills, and the possibility of sneaky clouds slinking through the windows.

We wound our way up the slender streets and watched the birds of prey (hawks? vultures? kites?) tilt and wheel at eye-level. We made a brief stop in Bhurban, about 9 km beyond Murree, to stretch our legs, visit my uncle's latest construction project, and take advantage of the panoramic view of the snow-capped mountains. After standing around and shivering for a while, we scrambled back into the coaster and returned to Murree to seek refuge and lunch at my aunt's father's summer house. Because most visitors come to Murree in the summer to escape the heat and dust and humidity of points south, the house had been unoccupied and therefore unheated by the time we reached it. Still donning our coats, hats, scarves, and the occasional gloves-sans-fingers, we alternated huddling around the free-standing heater and positioning ourselves to be in the path of the direct sunlight streaming in through the wide windows. We devoured the steaming prathas, curry chicken, and blessedly hot tea that we brought along. We took turns washing our hands in what must have been glacial water and then walked around outside to appreciate the eye-candy of the tall pine trees, the clear blue sky, and the Kashmiri mountain range nearby.

By late-afternoon, we drove down to the "Mall" which is Murree's popular strip of clothing stores, restaurants, and tourist shops. Half of our group ventured out to browse among the throng of people bustling along the sidewalks and main street while the other, more sensible, half remained cozily ensconced within the warm coaster. We raced the setting sun down the hills and reached Islamabad by nightfall.

Stay tuned for the next episode: Girls' Day Out.


There were wolves baying at the moon and angry, I-mean-business barks and growls piercing the night. A moment of disorientation and quiet descended and then was shattered by further yips and yaps and yelps. According to the Winnie-the-Pooh clock on the wall that had been keeping time with non-synchronic beats, it was 3:30 a.m. -- there's a 3:30 in the morning now? Several thoughts occurred to me: I was in Islamabad (even if my circadian rhythms were still in the U.S.); I was now fully awake with no possibility of sinking back to sleep; and the guard dogs next door were mighty upset about something (possibly intruders, possibly wild boars, possibly a threatening leaf on a tree branch) and wanted the whole neighborhood to know it. Apparently, the whole neighborhood (my sister included) successfully managed to ignore or block out the incessant barking as I was the only one creeping around the house looking for snacks and a comfortable place to read. On her way to medical school classes, by 6 a.m., Chai found Professor Baji, in the lounge, with a candlestick. Well, replace "candlestick" with "Into Thin Air by Krakauer" and you win.

After a hearty breakfast, it was time for lunch. We went to my grandfather's house where we were wildly entertained by my mother arguing with her father over the precise events that occurred on the day umpteen years ago when the principal of her school called my grandfather in for a discussion over my mother's behavior. We lingered over lunch and pored over family photographs ranging from the early 1900s to the early 2000s.

I heard a strange buzzing coming from my bag and it wasn't until I cautiously and with great trepidation opened it that I realized the sound was from my borrowed cell phone. My uncle had lent me a cell phone to call or 'to text' (a perfectly cromulent verb nowadays) our tech-savvy family in order to make plans, call ahead, and goof off. It was our first full day in town and I was already receiving phone calls!

The call was from my cousin who, cognizant of our limited time in town, offered her services to chauffeur us to the shops at F-7's Jinnah Super, F-6's Supermarket, and F-6's Kohsar Market for some whirlwind browsing. Driving back and forth, we saw familiar friends (Mr. Books! Book Fair! I've missed you!) and hated enemies (although I can't remember if the family ban was proclaimed against United Bakery or Prince Bakers). Mentally marking the cool clothing boutique Khaadi for a return visit, we returned home for dinner and half a game of Monopoly that involved quite a bit of yelling, cheating, fining, and shady transactions. I think I won.

Stay tuned for the next episode: Freezing in the Foothills of the Himalayas.


Dear Constant Reader,
Here is a rough draft of my Pakistan travelogue for your enjoyment and review. Just turn your time machines back one month and join me . . .

1.14.04 - 1.16.04
After suffering through middle-row syndrome on the entire twenty-two hour voyage from DC to Pakistan, we reached Islamabad early Friday morning safe and sound, albeit quite disheveled and sleep-deprived. Upon arrival, our parents, my grandfather, and my uncle greeted us at the gate and as we had no checked-in luggage to wait for (viva carry-ons!), whisked us home where we were met by the rest of the family. Stomachs rumbling from lack of food, we were treated to deliciously hot omelets (the healthy vegetables balance out the glistening oil and cheese, or so we try to convince ourselves) and strong tea. Heads buzzing from lack of sleep, we napped for a few hours and rinsed the travel grime off using the good old fashioned, familiar pink plastic bucket with dipper that we have used for nigh on a decade or two.

Later that afternoon, more grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins came to visit and filled us in on all the family gossip and politics. The lounge could have doubled as a train station with so many people coming and going. Each person talked over the next, attempting to capture our bleary attention, to get his or her story told and voice heard, and to rush to share the latest news before someone beat them to it. We spent the whole day indoors, eating several meals at the huge Lazy Susan table in the dining room, meeting family and new friends (that's when I met Abez and Owl) taking several naps in various beds, and trying and failing to make definite and substantive plans for the remainder of the visit. It was good to be back home.

I know. Not much to report for this day. But it gets better, trust me!


Just saw Mystic River, a somber, gritty movie about three men who suffered/witnessed a horrific event in their childhood in blue-collar Boston and how each of them was shaped by that event later in life. Not a light, fluffy, family movie. I seem to be drawn to these kinds of serious, dark, troublesome movies lately. I don't know whether it's that I'm getting older or if it's because so many of the movies out there are crap. On the other hand, I am looking forward to the new Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson venture, Starsky & Hutch, so perhaps all hope is not lost.


Howzaboutthat. Even Alton Brown of Food Network fame (host of the show Good Eats that I struggle to stay awake until 11:30 -- conveniently right after the Daily Show -- to watch) has his own blog.
Seriously folks, how hard is it to follow the instructions "cut my hair straight across, no curves, no layers, just straight across"? It has been four months since my last confession, er, haircut and my mop was looking mighty straggly. I went to my local (and cheapest) haircutting salon ("salon" said with heavy irony) and put my name down for a simple haircut (sans shampoo and blow-dry). I waited. And waited. And went to the library next door for a while and then waited. 45 minutes later, I was finally allowed to grace the barbershop throne.

I carefully and slowly told the hairdresser how I wanted my hair cut. Straight across (insert appropriate horizontal chopping hand gesture). No Farah Faucett Feathers, no trendy "the Rachel", and above all, no mullet. After several sharp yanks, agonizing head-tilts, and a near otoplasty, my hair was cut -- in a "U" shape. What the Shaq is this!? I argued with the hairmesser (stupid bint!) for a while and then just shut up and left. This is the fourth or fifth time this has happened and you'd think I would have learned my lesson by now. Please join me in banning StupidCuts. You won't regret it and your support is much appreciated.


Ok, in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day (only 221 days away!) as well as Johnny Depp snagging an Oscar nomination for his enjoyable work in "Pirates of the Caribbean", here are the lyrics to the song "Sailing, Sailing" which goes out to my good buddy Abez.


New clip by rathergood.com -- singing pandas. My favorite is still the punk kittens. And the emo orangutans. They're both favorites!


My visit to Florida is coming to an end, and none too soon it seems. Granted, I'll miss the 80 degree weather. But I can do without the news reports of kidnapped and murdered 11 year old girl, good ol' fashioned executions, and exploding tankers on the highway; although I do admit I enjoyed the story involving the Cuban camionautas -- or truckonauts -- entering the U.S. on a floating '59 Buick (their second attempt after they failed earlier in a floating '51 Chevy pickup).


It will be good to be back in D.C. and the Vatos Locos and STC, the exploding manholes, and the latest threat to the city (dude, anthrax is so five-minutes ago -- today's winner is ricin!)


I had Jumma Nimaz today in the itsy bitsy mosque in Port Charlotte, FL. It was small and clean and one feature I really liked was that the men's section was next to, not in front of, the women's section, sort of at a diagonal. Everyone could hear the khutbah, everyone got a view of the Imam, and everyone got some sunlight. Werrrry nice. They have plans to build a new mosque and I just hope they keep this design.


Emirates spanks PIA. Seriously. The boarding is orderly and efficient (no mad dash for a seat in which one will be sitting for umpteen hours). The rules on carry-on bags are strictly enforced (which means you won't have overstuffed, monstrous luggage crammed into the overhead compartments posing as 'carry-ons' and hanging threateningly over you Sword of Damocles-like). The in-flight entertainment is varied and enjoyable (your choice of 5 movies, 5 tv shows, and 10 video games including a trivia challenge where you can compete against your fellow passengers).

Best of all is the new feature that allows the passenger to tune her individual screen to the 'forward camera' so that she can get a pilot's-eye view of the take-off and landing and the 'downward camera' so that she can see the runway, the rivers, the lakes, the ocean, and the snow-capped mountains as the plane flies over the face of the earth. The flight departed and arrived on time, my luggage came intact, and I wasn't hassled by The (Paki) Man. British Airways is still probably my favorite (erm, I mean favourite), but for flights to Pak, Emirates Zindabad! Ok, commercial announcement is over. Now back to your regularly scheduled programs.

What's your favorite airline?


You are 45% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com

Although I think I should get some extra points for taking this quiz at 7am. Yikes! (via upyernoz, a bigger geek than i -- in fact, I would think that anyone with a Weird Al VHS should get even more extra-geek points.)


So I'm in Florida right now with my folks, taking naps, strolling around the golf course, and slowly navigating a big-ass car through traffic. It's about 5:30 and dinner is almost ready. I might get used to this.
Many thanks to Abez, webmeister extraordinaire, for the new and improved look to this joint!


Eid Mubarak, Y'all!