Two birthdays in a row. What are the odds? Still, today they were just Generic Cake #5s, so I prolly wouldn't have been able to eat them anyway.
Figure of speech, guys. Put your calculators away.
Thursday, September 30
Remember the book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus"? Well, here's a prime example offered by an English professor at an American University.
In-class Assignment for Wednesday "Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story."
"The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. One of you will then write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back and forth. Remember to re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. There is to be absolutely NO talking and anything you wish to say must be written on the paper. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.
"The following was actually turned in by two of my English students:
Rebecca - last name deleted, and Gary - last name deleted:"
STORY: (first paragraph by Rebecca)
At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.
Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. "A.S. Harris to Geostation 17," he said into his transgalactic communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far..." But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.
He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. "Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel," Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth - when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. "Why must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?"she wondered wistfully.
Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion which vaporized poor, stupid, Laurie and 85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table. "We can't allow this! I'm going to veto that treaty! Let's blow 'em out of the sky!"
This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent.
Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. "Oh shall I have camomile tea? Or shall I have some other sort of FUCKING TEA??? Oh no, I'm such a air headed bimbo who reads too many Mills & Boon novels."
FUCK YOU - YOU NEANDERTHAL!!!
Go drink some tea - whore.
(And you just know that they started going out soon after - Spammy)
Wednesday, September 29
Tuesday, September 28
[after Dutch has nailed a guy to the wall with his knife]
Dutch : Stick around.
Hawkins : [to Billy] I was going down on my girlfriend and said 'sheesh, you got a big pussy... you got a big pussy.' And she said, why did you say that twice? I didn't... it was the echo...
[Hawkins starts backing away and Billy starts laughing]
Poncho : [Seeing Blain has been shot] Your hit man, your bleedin'.
Blain : I ain't go time to bleed.
Dutch : You set us up. It was bullshit, all of it.
Billy: I'm scared Poncho.
Poncho: Bullshit! You ain't afraid of no man!
Billy: There's something out there waiting for us, and it ain't no man. We're all gonna die.
Dutch: If it bleeds, we can kill it.
Gosh. The whole film is one bunch of quotes. More at: http://www.us.imdb.com/title/tt0093773/quotes
For those that it's relevant to, this is just a quick reminder that tonight is Lailatul Barat.
EDIT: At least one person has asked, so I'll post that I only plan to fast tomorrow and possibly the day after and do nothing else out of the ordinary. We've not found enough evidence that says one should pray all night etc, but only to fast (and even that not on this particular day but instead throughout), so it's more out of a personal family tradition that we are tomorrow than anything else. But the day is more relevant to some, so I thought I'd post a reminder for their benefit anyway.
Monday, September 27
Today I found myself lost in the ranting of a few of female friends of mine. They were discussing how, basically, men were crap. Apparently we are all selfish, insensitive, clueless... I won't bore you with the details as this was all standard fare which I'm sure you've heard before.
I always find this kinda stuff amusing - explicit condemnation with the implicit commendation that goes with it, almost paradoxical in nature. The thing some people don't realise is that how a person acts is mainly due to how they are received.
For example take this guy at my workplace (whom I won't name, of course). Almost everyone thinks that he's an annoying plonker, yet the same people humour him, bitching only when he's not around to hear. He's getting the result that he wants, he has friends and is unaware of the true feeling he's generating. After all, he's not a mindreader. So tell me - why should this guy change?
Relate this to a guy and a girl in a relationship. Sure, the girl'll complain about what a loser the guy is (and mainly to others). But will she do anything about it? I'm not talking about asking him to change, although that's a start (although if she eventually did it'd prolly be directed to the wrong person - like a friend, a co-worker, or a random woman she met on the bus that morning). No, I'm talking about whether she would be willing to go look for something better, even if that means to remain single for a while.
In most cases, she isn't. She'd rather settle instead (which is where Spammy's Fourth comes into play) for what she has and tell everyone and their dog about it. Of course the guy knows this, and will subconsciously call her bluff each and every time. Tell me, if he's such a loser why would he change if he knows the girl is happy enough with him as he is? It's basic supply and demand - if women upped their standards a bit and only went for the type of guys they actually wanted, the guys would have to work that much harder to get them (although, yes, for a while you'd have to suffer the hell that is life as a singleton. But hey, sacrifice and all that).
This all reminds me of a comment my aunt (which some of you will know is much like a sister too) made a few weeks ago regarding my brother and father. She noted that they both doted on their wives to such an extent which she had only noticed in a few other relationships. The reasons she offered was that (in these cases) the guys a) didn't know any better since these were the only women they knew intimately, b) in my brother's case had my father as a role model, c) knew how lucky they were to have these women in their lives and thus d) knew they had to continuously work hard to both repay them and keep them hanging around. Or at least not complain about them in their blogs. And the ladies who do should take from that what they will.
This is all symmetrical of course - the effect can be shown to be present in both directions. It's a pretty dire situation actually since we end up with an ever downward spiralling of standards to which to aim for. However it seems that it's only the girls that'll complain about it. Perhaps men are more likely to accept what they have without having to tell everyone about it. Shrug.
Anyway, if you fancy a read drop me a mail and I'll link you to the blog and following discussion.
Lois Griffin: Peter, I'm sure Joe will acknowledge you.
PG: Just don't forget our deal, Lois. I sit through this and later tonight I get anal.
PG: You hear me? No matter how neat I want the house, you have to clean it.
So I took my first interviewee today. Without being too harsh (oh, okay... Maybe just a little) I thought he was a bit, well, crap. I won't go into details since that wouldn't really be fair on the guy. I do think that he won't get in based on what I reported to HR though.
I do feel a bit bad. I mean I've been on the other side, and I've had my rejections. But on the other hand I felt I was fair. It didn't help that he was 36 (ten years my senior) which made me feel like a right tosser trying to show him what he didn't know. But there comes a point where you have to make an objective stand, I guess.
Ah well. No loss. It's not like he was an attractive female or anything.
Sunday, September 26
"A dense, juicy compote fo Senga strawberries, cream & West Country milk give theis thick yogurt a wonderful creamy taste."
Not as good at the Muller, but still a rich yummy yogurt.
Top three ingredients: Strawberries, Whipped Cream, Sugar. Each 150g pot provides you with 863kJ (206kcal) of energy, 5.1g of protein, 23.1g of carb (22.2g sugars) and 10.4g of fat.
Yummy rating: Mmmmmmmmm
Better than I thought, actually. I hated Heat, so was expecting more of the same over actionated pap... But was pleasantly surprised to watch a film with balance. My respect for Tom seems to grow each time I watch one of his films (Note to self: watch Samurai again).
Saturday, September 25
"Strawberries in a mixed fruit flavoured jelly with layers of sponge, vanilla flavour custard and a creamy topping"
Bog standard trifle of the healthy kind - although don't let that put you off, it's not that bad actually.
Top three ingredients: Water, Strawberries, Partially reconstituted dried skimmed milk. Each 150g trifle (in a pack of three) provides you with 723kJ (171kcal) of energy, 5.4g of protein, 29g of carb (26.7g sugars) and 3.8g of fat. Tastes pretty good considering!
Friday, September 24
We're reaching that time of the year when the days get shorter and as a result the time between prayer does also. Fajr especially is getting later, meaning we now get around an hour sleep between performing it and getting up for work. I wonder - is it dangerous to sleep for that short a stint? Who knows... Either way it's tiring and tough to keep it up.
Which reminds me of a conversation I had with a fellow Muslim the other day. We were on our way back from the cinema when we realised that it was quite close to Esha time. Since we pass a mosque on the way to the DLR we figured that we had may as well pray before we took the train home. On completion I flippantly remarked: "Phew. One less thing to do when we get home, eh?" To which my friend responded: "Jeez Shak, you make it sound like it's a burden".
Now I'll be honest. Sometimes (although it actually seems like a lot of the time) it does feel like a burden. I'm sure some here can relate - unless you plan your day pretty carefully it can be quite disruptive, even for those that have been performing prayer all their lives. I've often wondered what life would be like if I didn't have to pray - living a life where you didn't have to interrupt a dinner with friends, or a telly programme, a gaming session, a DVD viewing etc.
But I reckon that it's okay to feel this way. Moreover, I think that it's a good thing. For a start there's the fact that it provides that feeling we all like to have when we complete a duty or job. Then it helps develop patience which is an important quality for any Muslim to have. But more important than both of these, I suspect that if prayer wasn't a burden then there wouldn't be much value in it.
"And seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer) and truly, it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khashi'in. (They are those) who are certain that they are going to meet their Lord, and that unto Him they are going to return." (2:45-46)
Ibn Kathir explains that Muqatil bin Hayyan suggests that here, "patience" means to fast. Mujahid and Ibn Jarir are reported to have said that the pronoun in "it is extremely heavy and hard" refers to prayer, rather than to the advice itself. Ibn Kathir himself suggests that the meaning of the first ayah as a whole is that prayer is "heavy and burdensome". Having said that the second verse suggests that Al-Khashi'in will not consider prayer in this way since they're certain of the result of their actions.
Talking of Sawm, Abd-Allah ibn Amr reported that the Prophet said:
"The most beloved of prayer to Allah is the prayer of Dawood, and the most beloved of fasts to Allah is the fast of Dawood. He used to sleep for half of the night, then get up and pray for a third of the night, then sleep for a sixth of the night, and he used to fast every other day."
I was taught that this protected against the devaluation of Sawm. There's a danger of becoming accustomed to fasting if you did it every day (heck, ask any professional in London how easily they get on without a proper breakfast each morning), and so keeping it to every other day instead may help make it a more effective form of worship, particularly because the effort to fast is still there.
But we pray every day right? Yes, but generally people find that as hard, or possibly even harder, than fasting. And for those who have been praying since they can remember I guess it's now become more of an inherent chore of life rather than an unacknowledged habit - a bit like eating regular meals or taking a shower. Possibly.
And let's not forget fitna. Almost by definition the avoidance of fitna or desire (and I'm talking generally here) takes a great continuous effort. In other words it's supposed to be a burden. And as many of us know it's much easier just to give in. Hey - no pointing fingers now. Ahem.
So yes, prayer and worship in general are burdens. But they're good burdens. A bit like raising kids or studying for an exam or whatever. And we should embrace these burdens instead of allowing them to justify avoiding the acts themselves. These are things that we do not cos we primarily enjoy them (and I'll accept that some people do) but more 'cos we know it's right and worth it in the end.
Oh and before I forget - IANAS and all that jazz.
 As a duty or command rather than absolutely.
Tina at work was handing out fortune cookies this morning. I was pretty excited, y'know, seeing as I've never really had one before. Pacing myself and allowing everyone else to check theirs before I did mine, the anticipation of finding out what life had in store for me was almost too much.
So there I was poised to crack open my future. But of course mine was empty. Which according to some is merely bad luck, but according to Steve means I'm gonna die...
Who's that cheering in the back?
Thursday, September 23
Yes, I've checked the ingredients this time.
"Seriously Thick & Creamy Yogurt made with Spanish Oranges" it says. Top three ingredients are Yogurt, Whipping Cream and Sugar. The nutrition info (per 150g pot) is as follows: Energy - 900kJ (210kcal), Protein - 3.6g, Carbs - 24.2g, Fat - 12.0g.
The BMW of yogurts. And like the car, you don't really appreciate it till you try it. Who woulda thought you get luxury yogurt?
Yummy score: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Wednesday, September 22
The best thing on television at the moment also has the prettiest cast. For those yet to be enlightened OTH is basically Dawson's with basketballs.
Lucas and Nathan are arch-rival half-brothers, a result of Nathan's father's "games" when he was younger. Peyton was Nathan's girlfriend, but they broke up due to her growing attraction to Lucas. However her best friend Brooke moved in first and is now an item with the guy (UPDATE: In today's ep, Peyton copped off with Lucas - but don't worry, they stopped before it got too far). Haley is Lucas's best friend but is now going out with, you guessed it, Nathan. Oh and Karen, Lucas's single mother, has a fancy for Keith, Dan's (that's Nathan and Lucas's dad by the way) brother. And the two brothers play Basketball. It's great, really it is.
Anyway this is Spammy's Choice so you'll be wanting some pictures. In no particular order:
Hilarie Burton (Peyton, the pretty one with the attitude)
Bethany Joy Lenz (Haley, the smart one who happens to be pretty too)
Sophia Bush (Brooke, the pretty yet sexy kitten). I don't like that picture myself but the one I used has been pulled or something.
Sigh. So many girls, so little time... Hopefully this won't become a habit.
Amazingly Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, has made one of the US watch lists:
Tuesday, September 21
This is a neat little piece of software that makes Internet telephony simple. "What's the difference between this and MSN Messenger?" you may be wondering. Well for a start... This actually works. Other than that it seems to do the one job really well rather than half heartedly as some other IM clients may. Another important bonus is the availability of a Pocket PC client which means you can now talk for free on the move (subject to a WiFi connection of course).
If you want to give it a bash download the client from www.skype.com, add me (sshaikh) and give us a call. But remember, no heavy breathing (unless it's on the weekend or any other bank holiday).
Some of you may know that I love my after dinner desserts. So what better place to write what I actually scoff on than my blog?
Today was a Caramel Panna Cotta. "A creamy Italian dessert with a sweet caramel sauce" it says. It comes in a pack of two, and is suitable for vegetarians. Top three ingredients are: Cream, Glucose Syrup and Water. The nutrition info (per 120g pot) is as follows: Energy - 1271kJ (304kcal), Protein - 3g, Carbs - 41.5g (Sugars - 27.6g), Fat - 15.7g.
If you've ever had caramel dessert then you'll know what this is like. Having said that this is probably the best caramel dessert I've had.
Yummy score: Mmmmmmmmm.
EDIT: Oh dear. I've just realised this particular dessert contains alcohol. Oh bum. Great way to start Dessert Of The Day, eh? For the non-Muslims interested I have a pot going for free...
I've just been asked to take two interviews over the next two days - apparently I'm a .NET expert (or something). Now I've never had to do this kinda thing before (and I still think I'm not the most appropriate person to) so I'm struggling to decide exactly how I should approach it.
Should I be the nice guy? We all hate interviews after all - maybe I should start a new trend and give the candidate a break? Or should I be tough but fair and put him through what we all have to at some point? Or vindictive, paying this person back for all the bad interviews I've had in the past?
I think I'll just wing it and be obtuse if he turns out to be a dick, or easy going if she happens to be attractive. Just kidding. (But seriously.)
Anyway, I'll probably post tomorrow how it all pans out.
Monday, September 20
This morning I was caught checking out an oh-so-pretty girl (trainers and hoops, ugugug) on the train going from Oxford Street to Victoria. At least I assume I got caught by the way she bolted after we stopped at our destination. But perhaps she was late for an Overground or something - I mean my usual effect on the ladies is to make them walk faster, not to run off in a full sprint like this one did.
Yup, that must have been it. I've still got it. Ooooh Yeeh.
Sunday, September 19
At last. Okay, apparently they've won the last three matches against India now, but I didn't catch those. On a related note, I'm always surprised that I have the patience to sit through 7 or so hours of the sport... But hey.
I was also involved in an "incident" on the way home... But I'm not sure it's appropriate to post any more here.
Saturday, September 18
Today I decided to intentionally stay at home. Not that I have an especially busy social life, but I usually find something to do on a Saturday night. So seven episodes of Family Guy Season Three and Masti on DVD later and I felt pretty good about keeping my own company. Hell, I may even try going to the cinema on my own soon...
Friday, September 17
Okay. Hypothetical situation for the girls:
Say you regularly travelled on a train on the way home from work or whatever. You repeatedly acknowledge (i.e. don't check out, don't give any thought to) a guy who happens to share your way home - all the way to your house which is in fact two doors away. Let me make it clear that you're indifferent about this fact.
What would be the best way for him to approach you without causing you any offence or distress? Further, what would be the best way for him to approach you that results in a positive outcome? We're not talking "pulling" (urgh) here, if anything a positive result would be a complimentary friendship - they are neighbours after all.
Well? How? Suggestions on a postcard, please.
I don't understand why people text message. No, let me clarify: I don't understand why people have conversations over text messages. I mean it's barmy:
A: wher r u? a xxx
B: in shp bying top its pink b xxx
A: wich shp? a xxx
B: topshp wher r u?
A: wanna meet?
B: wher r u?
A: ok ill c u ther?
B: wher r u? ok bye b xxx
My head woulda exploded long before that. Apart from being the most inefficient way of communicating it's also bloody expensive - the above exchange woulda cost 96p on some networks, and taken at least 3 minutes to complete. However if A had chosen to call B instead it would have taken (and let's face it, they're both gonna be girls) 10-15 seconds - I'll let you work out how much that costs in real money.
I'd say that these people just don't like talking to each other, but we know that's just not true. They'll say its easier and more convenient, but I'm not even gonna humour those.
But hey, if they want to waste their money, who am I to stop them? It's 'cos of these people that I get to have a new phone every couple of years...
A few days ago a friend asked if I could settle an argument he was having with a colleague. A bit of background here: They both play Poker quite extensively, and not just for fun. My friend is a non-Muslim. His colleague, however, is one.
So the obvious disagreement they had was in the Muslim defending his right to gamble. Alarm bells ringing yet? But wait - I wouldn't be posting this if it didn't get vaguely interesting.
His (the Muslim's - let's call him Joe) reasoning was that the prohibition of regular gambling was a consequence of the concept of "unearned incomes" being generally disallowed in Islam, much in the way interest bearing loans are. He further reckons that because he puts in enough effort into playing Poker 10 hours a day etc, his income is just as "earned" as anyone else's. For those of you who don't play the game some consider high stakes professional Poker as a game more of skill, like sport, rather than more about luck. And like sport, if one has a natural talent in a game then there's no reason why they shouldn't exploit it.
My friend on the other hand suggests that gambling, like drinking and borrowing money, is something which can undermine that moral structure of a society. I added that gambling is also unfair in a lot of cases, has an increased likelihood of negatively affecting a person's character, and always has losers.
We then moved on to Blackjack - a game where it's totally possible to count cards and therefore bet lightly when the game is not in your favour and heavily otherwise. "Is there any difference between this and any other speculative/investment activity?" my friend asked. "What about buying stock - like 200 kilos of bananas which may not sell?" They certainly appear to be the same.
The problem here is with the reduction, or inference of a ruling. We live in modern times with a lot of concepts and facilities which didn't exist in the time of The Prophet(SAW) - a prime example is that of the range of securities which now exist in financial markets. That's a natural consequence of time moving forward, and thankfully we have a framework of how to infer new rulings from the old. The trouble is that this framework largely relies on subjective opinion (albeit of a good character), and is itself subject to interpretation. This of course results in disagreements and differences of opinions - you can easily find two equally respected scholars saying the opposite for a particular ruling, be it whether women are actually allowed to pluck their eyebrows to if a suicide bomber is justified in any way for his actions. There is no Islamic Pope (although whether there should be one is another issue beyond the scope of this post. But quickly, I think we're alright without).
I don't really think that there's an issue though. People are naturally good and tend, in the whole, to make good choices between what's good and what's bad. In many ways this comes from God - in the hidayaat he blesses us with and which we should ask him for every day. Further, I think that if one considers all options and makes their own rational decision about which to follow, then ultimately they'll be stronger in following their faith. Of course there are nasty things like fitna, oppression and dunya getting in the way of making the right choice, but that's up to the individual to overcome. Anyone else can only advise on religion which at the end of the day is a personal thing. And besides in most cases we can co-exist with these differences in opinion anyway.
So is gambling ok in Islam? Without listing my reasoning (that's your job) I still don't think that it is - and there are certainly other more clearly legal ways to make a living (although we should make sure not to make haraam what is halal). Joe, however, appears to have thought about it and has made his decision and I wish the best of luck to him. As always, God knows best.
A final note: IANAS (I am not a scholar), and although I feel there is an Islamic basis to what I've written above I can't claim to have spent much time and effort researching in to it. Take what you will, but please do your own further independent research before accepting on this or ANY Islamic concept or opinion.
 For ease of writing and communication I shan't be writing the praise of our Prophet after his name from now on. I trust that the reader will though when reading or mentioning his reference, as I am when writing it.
Thursday, September 16
Don't say that I never do anything for you:
Isn't technology wonderful? This photo alone was brought to you by a combination of a cameraphone, mobile e-mail and a remote desktop.
For those wondering about the background of Atrium Girl: The building in which I work is pretty strange since it has a "hole" in the middle. It allows us, perhaps unwisely, to see the floors below. And that's where Atrium Girl happens to work.
She's too far for me to make out whether she's fit or not, but that's a good thing since at least for now I can imagine that she is. And today, she's wearing boots.
On a more serious note (for the girls really): The pic wouldn't have been taken let alone posted if I had any doubt that it wouldn't have been of any decent quality or resolution. So please don't go kicking me in the nuts or anything the next time you see me...
So, my degenerate friend (hey - his words, not mine) was telling me some geographically apt words of wisdom:
If you are walking behind a beautiful girl, don't follow her too long else she may turn around and you will be disappointed.
And in Greece:
If you see a beautiful girl walking towards you don't turn around when she passes.
Presumably that last one is commenting on the state of Greek gluts. Anyway, do any readers here know of any Asian equivalent? The comment button is right there if you do...
To allow the use of existing COM objects, Microsoft developed the Interop mechanism for the .NET Framework. In short, it allows one to develop a type-safe .NET bridge, or wrapper classes around the target COM class, which is thus seen and used just as another .NET class - object instantiation marshalling of arguments and remote procedure calls are handled by the runtime. But that's not all. Due to the self describing nature of COM binaries, Microsoft also developed a tool which allows you to automatically generate the wrapping Interop DLL usually with a single command. Referencing a COM class via VS.NET creates this DLL transparently (you'll see a newly created class with an Interop. suffix in your list of references).
All good so far. Our friends at Bloomberg have an ActiveX control - used to subscribe to real time data feeds and the like. However although they say it is in development there is no .NET equivalent. Faced with the choice of either coding in C++/VB or using Interop, I chose the latter. Except that it didn't work. The COM method signature in question was:
[in] VARIANT Security,
[in] long cookie,
[in] VARIANT Fields,
[in, optional] VARIANT OverrideFields,
[in, optional] VARIANT Overrides,
[in, out, optional] VARIANT* Results,
[in, optional] VARIANT Monitor);
The trouble is with the out parameter. More specifically with the optional out parameter. In VB one is allowed to "miss out" arguments in a method call, so
obj.Subscribe(a, b, c, , , , )
is a valid method call. The good people at Microsoft knew that this would cause a problem for those coding in .NET (since we have no such luxury of skipping arguments), and so provided the static System.Reflection.Missing.Value to use as a placeholder for when you don't want to pass an argument. This is especially important in the Bloomberg control's case: the Result parameter MUST be left out if you would like to receive date after the call i.e. via an event.
Following so far? Good. The trouble, it seems, is that the fantastic tool that automatically generates the Interop stubs has a bug. For the above method call it provides the following:
Subscribe(object, int, object, object, object, out object, object)
Notice the error? The [in, out, optional] Results parameter has become a simple out one. What this means is that the .NET runtime assumes, even with the variable set as Missing.Value, that you're passing something that (understandbly) has no need to be forwarded since it's just an out - the Missing or null value doesn't get to the underlying COM object but a reference to an object does instead. It returns values in Results instead of firing events, and my program doesn't work.
So, how do we fix this? We need to somehow force the .NET runtime to forward the Missing.Value. Well let's take a look at the IDL which we get if we disassemble the Interop stub we were given:
instance void Subscribe(
[in] object marshal( struct) Security,
[in] int32 cookie,
[in] object marshal( struct) Fields,
[in][opt] object marshal( struct) OverrideFields,
[in][opt] object marshal( struct) Overrides,
[out][opt] object& marshal( struct) Results,
[in][opt] object marshal( struct) Monitor
) runtime managed internalcall
Note the Results parameter. Changing this to:
[in][out][opt] object& marshal(struct) Results,
and recompiling gives us the new signature:
Subscribe(object, int, object, object, object, ref object, object)
A ref parameter is one that may have data that needs to be passed on to the method as well as being used to pass data back. Calling this method with Missing.Value forces the runtime to acknowledge the value of the Result parameter. It sees that it has Missing.Value and replaces it with a null reference as required. The COM object sees this, knows it can't return anything so instead starts firing events which we can capture normally.
Hooray - We now have access to real time events from Bloomberg in a .NET application.
Wednesday, September 15
Picture the scene: A guy is walking down Oxford Street, on his way to Borders to grab a novel or somesuch. On his way he encounters a group of attractive ladies (as guys do on Oxford Street). A quick exchange occurs between him and one of the said group, y'know one of those brief moment in time things. Then it passes, the guy going on his way, the girl being pulled off by one of her girlfriends.
The guy wonders if he should've made a move. The girls discuss how cute that guy checking one of them out was. They all move on after five minutes. The day ends as it begun.
So what happened?
Well, fear. Of course they're both scared. Chicken. Yella'. And understandably so. The risk of rejection, looking like a fool, falling flat on your face or even offending your chosen subject is too much for some (and hey, I'll put my hands up here). And fair enough I reckon - no one really loses apart from those that don't take that chance. However now I'm going to claim that, generally, it's more the girl's fault than the guy's if they both end up going their own way. Please, let me explain.
Think about it. Women in general are in a much stronger position. Spammy's Fourth Rule of Women says that the chances are a woman is probably too good for the guy which they're involved with - probably 'cos the guy had picked them rather than the other way around. Surely this means that they should be the ones picking in order to ensure that this doesn't happen? Add to that the fact that most men are desperate and easy - it's very unlikely that an approach by a girl will end in a flat rejection (as it would probably the other way around - and quite rightly too may I add).
Yes, that's right. Don't deny it - girls are much more likely not to respond to a random stranger than guys are. Hey, I don't blame you, we can be a scary bunch. Which takes me to the next reason: A guy making a move scares the bejesus out of a girl, scarring her for at least a month probably longer, making her look every thirty seconds over the same shoulder which that freak had tapped her on to initially gain her attention. Well okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but the risk of this happening is still there for us. Women have very little ability to make a guy feel so insecure.
And then there are the signs. Listen carefully, ladies: If you think a guy is checking you out, the chances are that they are. If you don't think a guy is checking you out, the chances are that they, well, are. If you haven't even acknowledged that a guy exists, the chances are that he's checking you out. That's what we do, people. So yeh, there's no use in denying that you "didn't see something" that's implicitly and inherently always there. Conversely a girl merely coughing in our vicinity confuses us blokes. Which is probably the intention, you crafty people.
There are other reasons: Women tend to hunt in packs, and there's safety in numbers. Women also have a clearer intent - men on the other hand have no idea whether they want to just say a simple hello or in fact jump your bones.
So there you have it. It's a no brainer, really. So, for the sake of worldy happiness and joy, I humbly request each and every female reader (yes, all two of you) that next time a bloke catches your eye... Go say hi. Wave at him. Heck, ask him the damn time if that's all you can muster. But do something - it's the only safe logical course of action (unless you're related to me. Or any of my friends. Special rules apply to you lot - ask your dad if you want to know them). You'll be proving what we all know - that you are actually the stronger, braver sex after all.
But then women never have been the most rational of sexes. And that doesn't seem to be changing any time soon so the situation probably won't either despite what I've written today. Humph, perhaps I shoulda thought of that before I begun...
 All four rules should be coming to a blog entry near you. If I can ever be bothered to write them up, that is.
EDIT: The rules are now up here.
Tuesday, September 14
It has come to my attention that in my last article my use of words like "screwed up" and "freak" may have been misinterpreted by those reading as me being negative about myself. The article wasn't supposed to be and the words were merely a reflection of the slang used at the time of the discussion - I dunno, perhaps I should've paraphrased or used neutral words like "unique" more.
So let me assure you: I feel lucky that I was raised how I was, and I'm certainly proud of how I've turned out. And yes, I'm sure I'm not that unique or strange. I wouldn't change a thing - and that on some level was the real point of what I had wrote.
So please enough of the "Hey Shak... I don't think you're screwed up at all". Now that's depressing.
Monday, September 13
WARNING: Gratuitous self indulgence follows. You have been warned.
Saturday night was a close friend's surprise birthday party. Except I was late. The reason? Well as we're approaching the winter period and the days become shorter the time for Esha is getting earlier and earlier - and on Saturday I decided to read it first before I left. Don't worry, we're getting there.
Now a particular conversation with a friend I hadn't seen for a while turned to how screwed up I was. But this wasn't meant to be an insult, oh no. My friend was in fact noting how I manage to incorporate quite disparate behaviours into my own. In particular the two of religion and Everything Else.
Now this got me thinking. I was pretty sure that I was the only one in that hotel bar that night who had read his Esha already. And I didn't see anyone else perform their Salaat during the Bollywood Star auditions late last year. I made sure I read my daily quarter chapter of the Quran today before The O.C. Between completing Dead Air and starting To Kill A Mocking Bird, I'm squeezing in volume one of Ibn Kathir. I'll go cinema twice a week, but never touch a club.
I haven't skipped a fast in Ramadhan since God knows how long, and I go out to eat at least once a week. I've holidayed in Europe, Bali and Singapore with my non-Muslim friends, and have always asked them for assistance in finding the direction of Makkah. And I've visited Saudi to perform Hajj with my folks (although funnily enough I didn't have to ask them in which direction to pray).
I'll hang out with friends who happen to be female. Sometimes I'll greet them with a hug and possibly even lock arms with them as we walk down the road. But I've never embarked on a deeper relationship and never will unless it's with a view to marry (despite the implicit permission from my folks to do so - "Are you sure you haven't got a secret girlfriend, Shak?" they'll ask, and a bit too desperately come to think of it).
Let me make this clear - I'm no example of a pious-liberal-modern-Muslim. I'm not claiming that my way is the ideal way, or that the world would be wonderful if you all took a leaf out of my book. Like anyone else I am what I am. Why I am like this, I don't know but I have a feeling it has something to do with my paradoxically strict yet liberal upbringing. And I certainly am not preaching, so spare me the accusations of hypocrisy - I know where I stand regarding my practice of the religion.
So what exactly is the point of this article? Apart from an obvious excuse for sheer self indulgence? Perhaps if I continued telling you what else we had discussed that Saturday: We were actually analysing why I was still single (and no I didn't bring it up. This time). And we basically concluded that it was 'cos I was so screwed up - and questioned whether it really was possible to find someone to partner my quite wacky and almost contradictory lifestyle.
I refused to believe that I was that unique... Hey, it's a fine idea in theory but mathematically improbable as well as immensely depressing (in fact I could name a some guys, but few girls, that are the same). We did agree that it makes life somewhat difficult though - would I really be able to find someone who would briefly interrupt our current karaoke session so we could pray (in Jamaat, of course)? Someone who'll protect their Salaat but would not feel uncomfortable reading it at a non-Muslim friend's house? Or not out of place making a complimentary visit to a friend's birthday in a hotel bar? And most importantly someone with all these things that I'd, well, like?
I don't think I'm being selfish here - this isn't just about my expectations but also about what is expected of me. Should I expect someone who is relatively religious to accept things about me which they may feel a bit... Contrary? And vice versa - would someone who is relatively "social" (for want of a better word) become irritated at how I repeatedly request that we pop off to pray in the middle of a DVD?
Who knows? Perhaps my friend and I are wrong. Perhaps I don't need all this - I mean who wants someone who is just like them (but perhaps of the opposite sex) anyway? Perhaps someone different will add to my behaviour, just like I would theirs, resulting in not one but two even more screwed up characters...
Sunday, September 12
Super Size Me takes a look at ubiquitous fast food industry in the USA. The experiment is to see what effect having 3 meals a day from McDonalds does to an average guy, and apart from the obvious ones, some of the findings are pretty interesting. More approachable than Fahrenheit 9/11 (partly 'cos of the subject matter but mainly cos it doesn't have quite the propaganda feel to it that F9/11 had), the film will have an effect on how you consider fast food.
Ironically the film made me hungry. But don't worry, I decided to go home for a nice home cooked meal instead of the nearest Maccys.
Friday, September 10
I've only had a brief go at this, the GameCube version, but already it feels as great as the GBA one. Of course, that alone wasn't enough to justify the purchase - no, I spent my hard earned quids on this game for the multiplayer options which it offers. I can't really remember a recent multiplayer game that was able to draw us all back, so hopefully Wario Ware Inc. will deliver the goods.
Think Bishi Bashi and you'll be two thirds of the way there.
Lots today, and (gasp) some even in English:
Tera Mera Pyar - Tera Mera Pyar
The title track from the compilation album of the same name. More of the romantic ballad nonsense that I seem to enjoy so much, although this may appeal to a wider audience. Oh, and the video has almost conviced me to visit the cinema on my own.
Yeh Kya Hua - Tera Mera Pyar
Track 2 from the same album, this time sung with a female voice. The strength here is in the music rather than the words - it's a throwback to the old style of bolly songs rather than the updated stuff we hear nowadays.
I'm still going through the rest of the album, but I haven't heard anything of interest so far. I'll keep you posted.
Ready To Go - Republica
Not really much to say about revisiting this classic anthem.
This Love - Maroon 5
Released while I was in Bangladesh, so I've only managed to get it now. Swingy, comprehensible and... Well, fun. I seem to be humming it all the time right now...
I Don't Want To Be - Gavin DeGraw
The theme song from my favourite programme at the moment - One Tree Hill. Yes, it's really only the chorus that I like (as is natural with themes) but that's okay 'cos there's very little verse. Kinda reminds me of Bon Jovi in their old days.
Thursday, September 9
The problem: Allow reports to be arbitrarily generated via a web form. The idea to allow the user to select a report to generate, set a few more options, and then click a "Generate" button to get the report in a PDF embedded in the browser window.
But how to serve something that doesn't exist yet? The first solution that comes to mind is to generate the file on the web server's filesystem, serve it, then delete it. Not particularly elegant, and may not even work if the file system permissions are not set as the developer would like them to be.
Instead we use the magic contained in IO Streams. Or more specifically a .NET MemoryStream. When you're ready to serve your binary include the following code:
MemoryStream mStream = null; // using System.IO
mStream = (MemoryStream)ExportPDFToStream();
Response.ContentType = "application/pdf";
And that's it. Bear in mind that Response.End() will stop any further processing of the ASP.NET page, and so the runtime will therefore throw "Thread Ending" exceptions if you try to do anything useful after that point. You might also want to incorporate try, catch and finally blocks to make this a bit safer.
The only caveat in using this method is that whichever classes you are using to generate the binary has to be able to export to System.IO.Stream. The cast will do the rest. Fortunately, in my case, Crystal Reports.NET does this (its saving grace, imo).
It's also easy to see how this technique can be generalised to other binaries irrespective of how they were generated. Don't forget to adapt the content types and disposition to your particular circumstance.
Credit to Chris Wong's article here.
Wednesday, September 8
I had started this book in Bangladesh, where it had begun promisingly. Promisingly in this case doesn't mean "good", but "good enough", since I find that I enjoy books more when they get better and better as you turn a page. Unfortunately, Dead Air, although well written both technically and artistically, doesn't really get any better than it was in the opening pages. In fact, it just one big Middle of a story, ultimately ending in a quite disappointing anticlimax.
Monday, September 6
So I finally watched the wedding video/media catalogue which apparently included someone I was to check out. Hmm. I wonder if the palms of their hands itch or they sneeze or something when people are pimped in this fashion?
Now obviously I'm not going to post any findings here, but needless to say a video was never going to be that influential in any decision I made regarding going forward. My lunch guests (y'know, safety in numbers and all that) seemed impressed - and we know that's all that matters in these things. That's a joke.
It was still a bit odd though - and I fear that it'll be pretty difficult to approach the whole thing as objectively or at least as normally as I'd like. But then perhaps one isn't expected to...
Yeh yeh, I know what you're thinking - like I have a "normal" approach to women. Ha Ha. But you know what I mean.
Well Sunday came and went. Of course Mum didn't let me cook, but I managed to whip some cream and cut the watermelon... Which is more than what I usually do. I think everyone enjoyed themselves (feel free to comment if you did, guys) and the small fear I had regarding my folks getting along with the others was unfounded. Although it was a bit strange making the introduction.
Star of the show was Idris. The git. Entertainment of the day was The Tape, but then that deserves its very own blog entry...
Saturday, September 4
Yes, it's just a demo (and one I paid for), but for your deposit of three quid you get the first three stages of Easy mode as well as four player Live! play.
It's a bit buggy, but it's still great. Perhaps a bit too good - it's difficult to imagine the full game being much better than this. But for now, it seems the demo will be taking a worthy slice of my gaming time.
Oh, and my GamerTag is spams if you're wondering.
Friday, September 3
One of the good things about expecting a film to be under par is when you're pleasantly surprised that it isn't. This was one of those times. Reminded me much of Braveheart (but mostly cos of the location), the 126 minutes that the film lasted passed pretty quickly. Of course it had its flaws - its editing let it down and the makers decided to include some pretty redundant scenes. But don't let that stop you - it's worth watching just to see the "truth behind the myth" or whatever the tagline was.
Oh, and it has Keira in it.
And it is that of a Supervisor, apparently. Now, I've done these Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests before (I'm sure most have in some form or another), but as the BBC usually make these things more accessible to us common folk, I decided to give their take on it a go.
Personally I think that they're all a load of balls - there's no way that twenty, fifty or even a hundred questions can determine someone's personality; and that's if you accept that there are a fixed number of personalities into which you can pigeonhole people in the first place.
The test had four qualities each with two subtypes, and placed the person being tested in a single subtype per quality. The trouble is that the test doesn't allow you to lie somewhere in the middle - to be half-planner and half-spontaneous for example. This makes it way too coarse and where my result was a Supervisor, I reckon I'm more a mixture of that as well as it's neighbouring categories, and at some level all of the remaining ones. But what do I know - 90% of the people taking the test thought it was bang on. I think it's that's due to what I call The Horoscope Effect - one would see themselves in whatever was presented to them if it was written vaguely and positively enough. But hey - it's this ability of being able to relate to a variety of different personalities that makes us interesting.
But moving on... Discussing the subject with an online friend, I was surprised at how her results didn't match what I considered her personality to be. Her explanation for this was that it was impossible to determine one's "true" personality unless you knew them in a more traditional way. I disagreed.
My theory is that no one ever knows your "real" personality. Y'see, personality is defined in many dimensions, some not perceivable under what we consider to be "normal conditions". You can only get to see it via filters... Or in other words, a limited number of dimensions at a time. And in that manner, how you may consider someone via other means isn't necessarily an inaccurate, untrue or fake perception, rather a different aspect of the same subject. Think of an egg - and how it appears to be a circle if you view it from one end.
So what follows is that a person's personality is more than how they appear in real life. And more than how they appear online. And more than how they may appear to their parents, or to a significant other. Or at work - you get the picture. It's the sum of all these things that begins to describe what a guy or girl is really like. And paradoxically it's only when you realise this about a person - the fact that there's more to them than you (will prolly ever) know - that you really know them.
And that, dear reader, is why all personality tests suck.
You can take the BBC Personality Test thingy here.
Wednesday, September 1
Typical up-down Shyamalan fare - which may not be a bad thing if you're into that kinda thing. Me, I'm not sure. I don't regret watching it (like I did Riddick, shudder), yet I don't recall actually enjoying it. Hmm.
And I still think that Unbreakable is the best of his four.
Alright, so a friend of mine was checking out the wide range of online matrimonial sites currently available for us lucky singletons to check out. Not for any possibilities you understand (well none that he'd admit to anyway), but he likes to check them out every now and then to see what the "scene", as it were, was like. In this particular survey he found that not much had changed.
Firstly, it seemed that plagiarism was rife in the world of Internet Personal Ads. Not only was every candidate outgoing, they were also funny, intelligent and a really good friend - you know, someone you could rely on in times of need. A fair few also stated Islam/Hinduism/Sikhism/Etc "as their strength". "Hell", my friend declared, "I'd immediately snap up someone who admitted that they were insular, stubborn and preferred to watch Eastenders than going out for a meal - at least I'd know they were honest!". Yup, Internet personals have overtaken School Progress Reports as the de facto standard of identikit personal profiling.
Secondly, it seemed that the publicist that they all use (my friend reckons there can only be one of them - two, tops) may not have had the pleasure of a basic school education. He even suggested that English may not be their first language. A bit harsh (I mean it's not like his English is particularly fantastic) but on the other hand you gotta wonder how seriously you should regard an individual who a) uses text language, b) struggles to correctly place "there", "their" and "they're", c) can't be bothered to use a simple spellcheck or take a minute to proofread their profile before publishing, or d) uses the subject pronoun in "Tom and I" instead of the object in "Tom and me". Alright, perhaps the last one can be forgiven. But the point still stands. A little care, people - I mean there's an artistic display of personality and everything, but there's also laziness and a lack of basic decent presentation.
My friend also commented on the poor souls whose profiles were posted not by themselves, but instead by a relative - like the brother who tells us that he can't explain why his sister cant find a husband (you know, since she has a fantastic personality and is ok looking and everything). Little does he know she's been dating her current boyfriend for ages now and doesn't actually want interfering families discussing her lack of a love life online. Or perhaps it was the case that the brother/mother/whoever cant see past their rose tinted spectacles...
So no, he (my friend) wasn't impressed. Of course I had to take him to task (as I do) - he was hardly being fair after all. "They're not all like that, fool" I claimed, while showing him the plenty of normal, professional, genuinely funny yet classy girls (who even had pictures which of course we didn't look at seeing as we're good Muslim boys - and besides, it's not like cared what they look like) available on the site. So what exactly was wrong with them? Does the way in which you discovered a person really have that much of an effect on how you would consider them? I suggested that, if so, it was probably an issue he had rather than anyone he was investigating.
I explained that I had a friend who is due to marry someone she met online (although admittedly not via a matrimonial site) and that I knew a fair few normal people who considered it perfectly acceptable (although these all seem to be single women in their thirties. hmm). So what exactly was the problem, friend?
"You're just looking for an excuse not to proceed..." I accused. Personally, I think that he was scared of becoming "one of them" who, perhaps irrationally, are seen as desperate loners who cant get a partner in a more traditional manner (whatever that is nowadays - I mean is a personal ad any less clinical, romantic or random than an introduction? Perhaps not). Which is totally untrue of course - if anything these boys and girls are braver than my friend was - after all they took the next step and posted a profile rather than remain safe in the anonymity of being just a critical browser. They're the ones who put their neck on the line despite, in all probability, having the same irrational fear that my friend had. I explained to him that the facts that he was a) browsing and, it later transpired, b) considering signing up and posting his own profile, proved that there were people as normal as him (which in retrospect may not have been the best point to make) pursuing a relationship in this way. And of course that he didn't have to make it the exclusive manner in which he found a partner - this just happened to be another option which may or may not pay off dividends.
So yes, I convinced him (with very little effort to be honest) to take that leap and disregard his bogus fear and sign up. And he had his profile ready ("slim, funny, out-bloody-going") and had filled in all the other requirements and various other options that would make life easier for whomever did the searching. And he was about to press the submit button when he suddenly found the (grammatically incorrect and replete with spelling errors) profile of someone he knew... Which for some reason managed to reaffirm his original stance regarding the people who used these sites - possibly because this particular person was still single.
"Hmmm" he said, "Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all. Yeh, perhaps ill hold off signing up right now..."