Customer Appreciation Day

I don't consider myself overly sentimagical but the outpouring of love and support and laughs and condolences this week has made me rethink my position on Hallmark cards. I am thankful for everyone's comments, phone calls, and thoughts and prayers. I may not say it very often, but I do appreciate it when someone takes the time out of an assuredly busy schedule to reach out and offer some words of solace to me. So, me beloved bloggers and commenters, this one goes out to you.



Uncle Bhai Jaan

Inna lillah wa inna ilayhi rajioon. My Grandfather died today. "Nanaji". "Uncle Bhai Jaan". "Bhatti". The last few months had been physically difficult for him, especially after the latest stroke and coma. He awoke to find my parents there and had a nice few weeks with them, but his ability to communicate was greatly hampered. He passed away in his sleep.

He was the bearer of puns, anecdotes, and trivia. As an award-winning journalist, he was the master wordsmith of the family. With his steel-trap mind and his shelves of photo albums, he was the holder of the oral and pictorial family history. He always had a love of the good stuff: fatty foods, chocolaty treats, sneaky salty snacks. He could recite poetry that he learned as a child, drop names and dates of events that occurred decades before, and relate a joke about nearly any topic at hand. He had traveled around the world, lived in many countries, and documented his hilarious observations for the enjoyment of others.

He was deeply religious and loved his gigantic family with all of his heart. Like his father before him, he held a good education as the most important thing to give to his children. He wrote copious letters to family members (first, on onionskin thin airmail with carbon paper between the sheets to make multiple copies; later, on e-mail), he drafted volumes of newspaper articles, he edited books. During a school break one year, my teacher had given me the homework I would have missed while visiting Pakistan and he sat down with me to make sure I did it - even demanding that I clean up my chicken-scratch handwriting at the time. He loved to tinker, to invent, to improvise (hard to find the light switch in the dark? Get some glow-in-the-dark paint to outline the switch!). A chronic bibliophile, he passed his love of words to me. He came to my wedding
and LB's wedding. As he got older, his strength began to fade (upon being hurried out of a car, he exclaimed, "I AM NOT AN ACROBAT!"), but his wit and humor never did. I'm so thankful that the last time I saw him, he was showering ZP with love. He was not just my Nanaji. Just like I am everyone's Baji, whether related or not, he was everyone's Bhai Jaan or, to their children, Uncle Bhai Jaan. He loved and was loved in return. May Allah (swt) bless his soul, show him mercy and love, and reward him for his good deeds. Ameen.



As you may know, I work for the government. We all wear non-descript clothing, have drab attitudes, and generally plug away until we can retire. The interoffice emails are usually pretty humdrum too:
  • The Non-Duty Hours Legal Studies Program and the Non-Duty Hours Technical Studies Program. This suspension became effective on Monday, March 16
  • Recent TWAH deployments opened up several exterior offices on the 5th and 6th floors.
  • OCIO will be performing emergency maintenance to EFS Web starting Friday, March 20, 2009 at 12:01 a.m. until 3:00 a.m., Friday, March 20, 2009. During this time, EFS Web will be unavailable.

But, today? Today, we got this! Yee haw! Sometimes, I quite dig living in this federal city.

Special effects explosion to occur in Washington, D.C. on March 25

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has issued an
advisory that there will be a special effects explosion on Wednesday, March 25,
between 9:30 a.m. and noon on the Potomac River near Key Bridge in Washington,
D.C. The explosion is being filmed as a scene in a new television series
entitled “Washington Field” highlighting the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s
elite District field office.

In the scene, which will be shot just north of Key Bridge near Jack’s Boathouse, one of six nearby sculling boats will be depicted as being destroyed. The fire ball resulting from the explosion is expected to last about two seconds and reach 20 to 30 feet high. Please be advised that the boat will not actually be destroyed, that all explosive materials will be vaporized, and there may be a small plume of smoke. The sound will be a low thud, not a loud bang.

The Department of Homeland Security, the Washington, D.C. police and fire departments, and the Washington Airports Authority have been alerted. Traffic delays due to the filming are expected to be minimal.


Inmate Mail

TP has set me to task - Clean. Up. Your. Office. Or. Else. And so I came across a lovely letter from Yasminay from five years ago. And so I came across some incriminating photographs of TP from his early surly years. And so I came across a few letters from prison. What's that? You've never had an article written about and photograph featuring you in the Washington Post and then received a mysterious letter (right around the height of the anthrax scare) from a prison inmate as a result? Just me, huh? How about that . . . .

Sunday, March 17th, 2002 3:40 p.m.
Asalaamu Alaykum, Ms. [Baji],
Proceeding from the verses of Allah's Book . . . (Al-Quran), I am writing you and sending you this letter card as a cheerful piece to keep you smiling and beautiful. I liked the picture that I saw of you and your cute little sister so much, I decided to make this card. Smile! I hope that it found you at peace [edited from "piece"] with yourself, healthy and strong, focus and feeling charming and very special, [Baji].

My name is Mustafa Umar [etc.] and I am Muslim, who have been truely interested in corresponding and communicating with you every since I saw your pretty name and face in the (Wash. Post) Apartment section of the news paper . . . But it took me to develope the courage to write to you, [Baji], and to ask your permission to write to you and establish a friendly dialogue with you. And with the hope that you and I can be very good friends. On a peaceful, moral and spiritual level. You look so intelligent and strong minded in your photograph hugging your sister, that your smile made me feel good. I've been lonely all of my life in America and one day, Insha'Allah, I will change that. But I would like for you to know that I would love to meet you some day and I pray that you'll give me an honest chance to get to know you as much as I would like for you to get to know me and for all that this is worth, I pray that you won't have any negative hangups about being friendly toward me.

Sister [Baji] -- I don't know if you are a Muslim or not . . . there are so many people born in med-eastern and arab countries who have arabic names . . . but are christians and Jews . . . who hate Muslims and every since 9-11-01 Muslim started really hating each other. Inspite of the New World Order. Most people put all the Muslims in a poor catagory . . . even the people who have arabic names like your are unjustly discriminated against for your name sake. Which is so insane and childish. But if you have experience any ill favor or disrespect for being who you are which no-one can change. Learn to treat it as a compliment . . . Because, regardless, of what the the people in this world put you through . . . you are as beautiful as your name and thoughts and can't no-one take that away from you. So hold on Allah is Akbar and He is leading on and the victory is Allah.

[Baji] . . . when I look at your photo . . . I see a woman that I would love to talk to and I pray that you are as friendly as you look. But more than anything, as beautiful in heart as you are in form.

So Stay. Beautiful.


P.S. I would love to hear from you I'll sned you a photo. Please write me back.
Thank you [Baji]. Salam!!

[editor's note: all spelling and grammar appear as written in the letter except the [Baji] part where he used my real name and that freaked me out and annoyed me b/c I HATE it when people over use your name, especially your real name . . .]

[editor's note: a follow up letter from my buddy Omar appearing a month later included questions regarding my ability to cook as well as homework in reading some articles he included]


Pandi's 'Pinions 2009

It's been a while, I know. I've been in hibernation and babysitting Baji's wee ones is no small task. But I have managed to work in a movie here and a book there. So, without further ado, here's the latest installment of Pandi's 'Pinions.

  • Slumdog Millionaire: I'll be honest with you. The soundtrack is rockin', the story is compelling and exciting, and Dev Patel is adorable with his gushing but sincere appreciation for his limelight circumstances. Nonetheless, I can't say that it is an Oscar-worthy movie. It was fun. It was entertaining. But was the fairy tale yarn more important or eye-opening or prestigious than the others? Perhaps I'm not being fair since it wasn't until half-way through the feature that I got confirmation (from KG seated to my left) that my cousin (seated to my right) was wrong and the movie was not based on a true story which meant that every other flashback left me shaking my head and muttering, "no way" or "yeah, right" or "gimme a break." Once I was aware that it was fiction, I enjoyed it much more but it was hard to shake the initial resentful response. One scene I did love was the montage of the kids on the train. I think I just have a thing for Bollywood train dancing scenes. Quick shout-outs to Tropic Thunder (hilarious), Wanted (good mindless bullet-curving action) and Across The Universe (love the Beatles covers) and shout-downs to Into the Wild (excellent book but trudgy movie), The Visitor (as TP described it: "I listen to NPR and I like world music so I like this too"), and Leatherheads (I liked it better the first time I saw it when it was called Bull Durham).
  • The Wire: I don't have HBO and I barely have time to watch shows in real time but thanks to a combination of Netflix and KG's mom, I managed to watch the full series of The Wire. It took a few months, but it was totally worth it. At turns depressing and gritty and nightmare-inducing (what if ZP turns out to be a corner boy?! interro-I'll-kill-him!) and yet beautiful and hopeful and funny (Omar Little rules). Set in nearby Baltimore, the series was more than just a "cop show" as it delved into themes involving criminal/police hierarchy, the inner workings of the public school system, the good intentions paving the way for the politicians. The butterfly effect is in full force and the show makes you consider the show long after the credits as you think back and realize that [spoiler alert - highlight to read] if Herc had sent Randy to Bunk like he was supposed to, then Randy wouldn't have been labled a snitch and have lost his foster mother to a vengeful fire AND the investigation on Marlo would have been wrapped up earlier not forcing McNulty to take such drastic measures which in turn affected the race for Governor etc. Now that's edutainment.
  • Music? Thanks to fellow bloggers, TP, NPR and others, here are a few new (to me) tunes that get the Pandi Thumb's Up: The Heavy's Colleen, Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Guests Aha Begana, Black Kids' I'm Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You.
  • True to the New Year's Resolution, I have forbidden Baji from purchasing any new books and am going through the ones on the to-read shelf. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris had some classic hilarity and, like the misleading cousin mentioned above, I can't help reading his material without his measured voice in my head which is great because he's a good narrator -- even in there. Unaccustomed Earth: Stories (Vintage Contemporaries) by Jhumpa Lahiri is about half way complete but I feel safe in recommending this to anyone who wants to read about the ABCDs growing pangs. I've finished nearly three whole pages of The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell but her wit and clever ability to make you learn about history through pop culture references will guarantee the completion and enjoyment of this book.

That's it for this installment! Stay tuned for the next time (which, now that the government has cut our bonuses and thus work is decreasing and free time is increasing, may not be too long from now).



Today, a fellow trademark examiner asked me for some advice about an application I had refused based on the fact that REALTOR® is a registered trademark and therefore this person (who was not the National Association of Realtors) could not have it. When she called in a rage to have me explain each and every problem that was wrong with the application, I did so. She then demanded her money back. When I advised her that once the filing fee has been paid and an attorney has reviewed it, there is no refund, she decided to write a letter to the Commissioner For Trademarks. The walk down memory lane was so enjoyable that I thought I'd share the applicant's response with you for your viewing pleasure:

Dear Sir or Madam:

Please review your attorney's denial of this trademark and then return my application fee to me promptly. The reasons she gave were absolutely invalid.

By the sheer number of attorneys that contacted me wanting to represent me in this matter, it is obvious that you gave out my information without my authorization. Is this just another government scam to forward the American Bar Association's lobby? How disgusting. I will turn this matter over to my congress woman, Hilary [sic] Clinton to expose your corrupt practices if my money is not returned. Shame on you for robbing the small business owners of this country. Organizations like yours are why the American public deeply mistrusts our government!!!

When I realized what you were doing. I immediately withdrew the application, so please give back my much needed money. You have spent no time or effort on my behalf, so this should not be a problem, if you're honest.


Perviouslike on Heros

Scene: Night, Interior, Claire's Bedroom

Claire: I love you, Mom.

Sandra: I love you . . . just the way you are.

Claire: I just wish I could be normal. Then maybe things would have been different between you and Dad.

Sandra: Honey, things between your father and I were troublesome long before you came along.

*brakes screech*

*glass breaks*

Come on, writers. "Between your father and I?" Really? Happy National Grammar Day!


Overheard in DC

I love the "Overheard in D.C." segment on DCist. Cracks. Me. Up. Just the other day I heard "I can't be telling you "I love you" 27 hours a day!" Do we have a glut of these folks simply by virtue of being a slack-jawed yokel tourist hot spot or is this city a dummy-magnet? Any gems you've come across lately?

Her Majesty

[to be posted on March 8th but I can't wait that long]

Happy One Year Birthday, AP! A year ago, you made your grand entrance onto the world's stage. Back then, your claim to fame was your calm, your delicateness, and your shock of jet black, Gund-soft hair. You were oblivious to the jealous machinations of your older brother, the power of your hypnotic eyes, and the fact that you were wearing hand-me-down newborn clothes chosen from the baby boy section. Your growth and personality development since then have been staggering. Your talking skills are dwarfed by your singing skills (this is currently your favorite song) which, in turn, are dwarfed by your pantomime skills (the vehemence with which you point for the object of your desire or express your dislike for something is enough to shake the barrettes right out of your hair). You love bathtime because it's the only time you really get one-on-one attention and are guaranteed a song or two if not an entire medley complete with Daddy and ZP bringing a guitar in and serenading you while you lounge in bubbly warm water.

It's a hard knocks life for you with The Beast on the prowl and many is the time your head has met the business end of a Thomas the Tank Engine train. But as he finally understood that you were not taking over his stuff (Daddy included) and you were here to stay, he has been pleased and proud to announce himself your big brother, your protector, your secret giver of extra vittles. Your willingness to eat, let alone eat exotic foods, still astounds us. We were burned so badly by Dr. No that every time you lean forward and open your mouth for masala channa or banana or haleem or cottage cheese, we are blown away.

Alas, your wonderful sleeping habits of laying in a crib and drifting off have fallen by the wayside, in part because you sleep earlier than ZP and have to be cloistered from his super sonic night time screeching rituals and in part because we spoiled you and you got used to sleeping next to me on the bed while holding my hand. As you are getting older, you are becoming more aware of injustice (ZP yanking a toy out of your hands and running away), the comings and goings of people (if Daddy doesn't pick you up the moment he walks in the door, there is hell to pay for everyone), and the superhero-like level of hearing you have (the moment the television turns on, you whip your head toward it before the picture even hits the screen). Such a girl, you are quite eager to dole out hugs, you are happy to lay your head on someone's shoulder, and you are extremely adept at giving smoochies. If you ever find a monkey within grabbing distance, you are more likely than not to plant a nice, loud, wet one on its head. Like your brother, you like to be scared, you like to be tickled, and you like to travel.

You have changed our lives and made them fuller and richer. You are a joy to your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. You are healthy, clever, and have excellent taste in parents. We love you to pieces, even when, and sometimes especially when, you lord over us with your regality. Happy Birthday, me wee lass! Enjoy this limited-time-only clip show in your honor!