Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Clarification for the crackheads

It has come to my attention that some folks still seem to be confused about this weblog - or, at least, where I blog. To put it simply, I no longer blog here, and haven't been for quite some time now. Instead, you may find me over at SWEEPTHESUNSHINE.COM. Dude, what're you waiting for?! Come wisit!

Have beautiful days,
-yasmine, rockstar extraordinaire

Thursday, March 08, 2007

It's just the beginning (PART 2)

Who the hell opens at freakin' noon?! (interro-disgracious!)
Who the hell opens at freakin' noon?! (interro-disgracious!), originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

I remember how much I freaked you all out last time, so I'm going to make this short and sweet: COME VISIT ME AT MY NEW HOME! I know, I know, we're all fancy schmancy now. "Daat caam!"

Please come play at the new sunshine space. I promise there will be more fake updates coming soon to a weblog near you.

Meanwhile, because I will never tire of this line, here's a laugh for all you bloggers and blurkers who love reading about one another on the internet so much: "My life is as dry as bath soap in its packet. But I pretend like it's the ending sequence of some Bollywood flick." *

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Once again: Numbered lists & lots of things in Threes

This way down
This way down, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Four years of blogging, and up 'til now I'd managed to dodge completing any memes thrown my way (I've been tagged for my share, though, you can be sure; I still owe you one, Maliha!), and I still don't even know how to pronounce the word "meme," so why don't you rockstars help me out here?

Meanwhile, brimful tagged me for this "Three Things" drama, and then had the audacity to retort in response to my whining, "Yasmine, I knew immediately that I was going to tag you. I'm evil like that." Luckily, I love brimful's writing and her fantastic taste in music (don't let her self-deprecation about either of those things fool you!), so I'm going to man up and do this.

So much for trying to step away from numerical-lists and bullet-point posts, though. And, really, I am so boring that there's absolutely no reason why you needed to know any of the following about me. But, here we go!

Three things that scare me:
1. Car crashes
2. Getting water up my nose
3. Thinking that, one day, I'm going to raise my arm too quickly and chip my front teeth while drinking from a glass

Three people who make me laugh:
1. ummm, EVERYONE. I am so easily amused, it's not even...funny
2. 2Scoops, for his emails/IMs/facebook wall posts/5+ minute long voicemessages where he gets cuts off/weblog comments/shared love for the Pearls Before Swine comic strip
3. Z when he uses "MUTHAFUCKLE!" in IM conversations (I can't remember if we made this up together, or if he did singlehandedly, but it hella makes me laugh, regardless)

Three things I love:
1. My sister, and our amused, knowing glances shared across a crowded room
2. The smell of citrus, particularly tangerines and oranges
3. Punjabi songs, because they remind me a little bit of my dialect, Hindku, and thus always make me laugh in recognition

Three things I hate:
1. People who micro-manage
2. People who drive under 80mph in the fast lane
3. WINTER. &*$#($%#@!

Three things I don’t understand:
1. People who are such drama
2. People who think that wearing socks with sandals/open-toed shoes is perfectly okay
3. High school

Three things on my desk:
1. (Hiding under my keyboard:) Lots of yellow post-its, with scribbled song and book recommendations
2. An empty paper plate that used to contain a piece of pistachio baklava
3. The phone I refuse to answer, unless someone calls specifically for me, and then B has to tell me to get Line One (or Four, or whichever one it is)

Three things I’m doing right now:
1. Holding a BOYCOTT TODAY campaign, because I am annoyed with various things about today
2. Looking forward to this evening's dinner with the lovely A!
3. Telling everyone I know that they have to join me at Suheir Hammad's poetry session in San Francisco next week! (And, look! She's going to be performing in Berkeley the evening before!)

Three things I want to do before I die:
1. Visit Spain
2. Drive on a cross-country roadtrip
3. Something constructive, helpful, and occasionally selfless with my life

Three things I can do:
1. Remember all the lyrics to every single Savage Garden song
2. Figure out all the places where people are missing commas in material they give me to edit (last week, it was an architect's design portfolio in PowerPoint)
3. Ignore/reject phone calls from anyone without feeling a twinge of guilt

Three things you should listen to:
1. HijabMan singing on your voicemail, especially when it's '80s songs! Freakin' awesome
2. Your heart - because, your brain? It doesn't know jack. (...Or is it the other way around? I never listen to anything, clearly)
3. People who encourage you to buy books. Those are the friends worth keeping

Three things I’d like to learn:
1. Sign language
2. Praying the five daily ritual Islamic prayers with regularity
3. Dancing

Three favorite foods:
1. Potatoes, in pretty much any form (Samosas, masala dosas, boulani, biryani, aloo parathha, french fries, mashed potatoes...)
2. Hot apple pie with ice cream (or cold apple pie, alone)
3. Dessert of any sort - so, basically, sugar

Three beverages I drink regularly:
1. Cold water. The end. (I am so boring, really.) Irregularly now, I also drink the following:
2. Cranberry juice
3. (I wish I could say blue raspberry slurpees, but, really, it's:) Pulp-free, organic orange juice that I take - along with fresh doughnuts - to halaqa every Sunday morning

Three TV shows/books I watched/read as a child:
1. MacGyver!
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
3. All the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books I could get my hands on

Three people I would like to tag: (Uh, dude, who and his/her mother hasn't filled this out yet?)
1. Arafat
2. HijabMan
3. Uzi
And some more for good measure!
4. Knicq
5. Momo
6. DeGrouchyOwl


Monday, February 19, 2007

The sun must come

flickr beach collage via H_A
All photos originally uploaded by yaznotjaz; collage created last summer by Hashim_A, rockstar (and tea-lover. gross!) extraordinaire. Photos may be individually viewed in the Muir Beach photoset.

Tomorrow is the sister's birthday, and in ten days it's mine - and I'm so horrible at this birthday business, mine or anyone else's. Last year, all I wanted for my birthday was sunshine. This is a predictable wish, and it worked out quite well in 2006. I already know how I'm going to spend the last day of my birthday month, this year. It's the first day that I've got to figure out.

Today, I spent the morning at the dealership, learning that a 30,000 mile service and new brake pads and rotors on my car would cost a whopping grand total of $810+tax. Tomorrow morning, I should make them give me a spiffy rental car to make up for it. Spiffy cars can make up for a lot of things. That's why people buy red sports cars when they go through mid-life crises. Me, I'm going to go through a quarter-life crisis. Perhaps, I might as well have an identity crisis, too, while I'm at it. It'll be like this morning, when the lovely gentleman who was driving me back home from the dealership asked, "So, where are you from?" And I raised an eyebrow and responded coolly, "Oh, the Bay Area, mainly. But I also grew up living in Sacramento and a few other places."

"Oh," he said, and I smiled at him. There was silence for another minute, until he ventured again, politely, "I meant, where are you from originally?" I mentally threw up my hands in defeat, and replied, "Pakistan."

"Oh, that's nice!" he said, delighted.
"Yes, it is."

After this morning's car-related dramas, I've spent the rest of the day at work, because, unlike the rest of America, I'm not off for President's Day. That sound you hear? That's the sound of Yasmine unsheathing her stabbing paraphernalia - because, as Hamza asks, "What fun is life without stabbing paraphernalia?" But, seriously, what is this drama about working on a national holiday? It's disgusting. Almost enough to make a kid contemplate unemployment. I should be sitting outside in the sunshine, looking at the fourteen plastic grocery bags filled with tangerines that we picked this weekend, eating breakfast in the courtyard - all the things my parents were doing this morning when I called home to ask the daddy-o about advice related to my car.

Instead, I've spent the day indoors, ostensibly project-planning, but also day-dreaming about sunshine and beaches and warm water and the day my hands will turn brown again, because, as the sister exclaimed over dinner last week, "You're so white!"

That's it. When spring is here for sure and the weather stays consistently warm, I'm heading down to Santa Cruz for some sunshine and sand.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Does Josh have a job? Thanks for letting me know

When I came in to work yesterday morning, I checked my personal emails and found this one - accidentally, I'm assuming, sent the evening before by an administrator from my alma mater, to the University's pre-health sciences listserve, of which I'm still a member (yeah, don't ask - I don't know why, either):
Hi, P!

Hope you had a good time with Earlene and Dorothy--and that you made it back in one piece to CM :-) I didn't hear a peep out of SV for my birthday, but just received a message that her car is not running well because they had to put chains on (what's that about?) and that she doesn't have money for food or rent. Sigh. And what to do. If I call, I will have to ask that question I'm not welcome to voice ("Does Josh have a job?"), so perhaps I'll just wait a bit. BIG SIGH!

Happy Valentine's Day!
My first reaction was, Holy freakin' smoley, she is going to be SO FREAKIN' EMBARRASSED when she realizes she sent this to the entire list! My second reaction was, YEAH! Does Josh have a JOB? Get with it, Josh! And, hey, what's THAT about CHAINS, huh? And then I kept laughing to myself the rest of the morning. I was so amused by this hilarious start to the day, that I changed my GMail away message to the following:
It's so funny when people send emails to the wrong recipients. TOO MUCH INFORMATION, kids!
A few hours later, as I was frantically preparing for an afternoon meeting, I clicked through my open firefox tabs and found a new email in my inbox, this time from blurker, erstwhile blogger, and fellow GMail user, Shaheen, with the subject line: "Friday night." Her email read:
Hey Jasmine!

Just thought I'd let you know that I won't be able to go out Friday night anymore. I have to take the kids this weekend; their father's being a real jackass and saying he can't look after them. He probably just has another playmate on the side to take to some fancy resort, again. I don't know when the fuck he's gonna quit that crap. I'm just glad I got out of it as soon as I did.

Anyways... I hope you have a great night without me. Don't drink TOO much, and make sure you tell all the hotties about me too.

Your bitchin' buddy,
It is a testament to my utter cluelessness that I spent about two minutes staring confusedly at my computer screen, wondering, Whaaaa...? Who was this supposed to go to? Who is this from again?! Maybe it IS a real email! And then I laughed my ass off and IMed Shaheen with, "SUTT PANJAA!" (except I misspelled it, and she thought I was saying, "SAAT PANJA," which means "seven fives" or something).

Shaheen, I'm sorry you're going through so much drama and turmoil with that jackass husband of yours, but we all know I need more drama in my life anyway, so at least I get to live vicariously through you. As soon as I get back from my night of binge drinking, I'll be sure to lend you an emotional shoulder.

PS: I love Shaheen because she introduced me to "SUTT PUNJAAA!", which is how the Punjabis say, "HIGHFIVE!" It literally translates to, "Throw a five!" Isn't that great?! I think it is. (Almost as good as "Oopar/ooncha paanch!", the Urdu version.)


Thursday, February 08, 2007

And the toppling sand mounds

We are like these things, impermanent and unpinned.
We are like these things, impermanent and unpinned; originally uploaded by yaznotjaz. [Click here for larger view.]

A few things I have been grateful for, so far this week:

one. ...That so many of you took the time to read my last post about Imran Saithna. And that, for once, my commenting system seemed to cooperate just long enough that I could read your own responses to and reflections on Imran's life. One of the things I love most about blogging is the feedback (I admit it) from those who read, and it meant so much to me that you took the time to comment on the one post that meant more to me than anything else I've written in a long, long while. I'm trying to move beyond posting bullet-points and numerical-lists so regularly, and trying to go back to posting deeper, more meaningful pieces of writing. The last entry was a good start, although I wish it didn't have to begin this way. Thank you all again for the comments, the GMail IMs, and the emails. As Rick said on flickr, No one can say exactly what paths one leaves on this earth. May your friend's path be one of heart. Amen to that.

two. ...That my lovely friend A's fiancé has finally woken up, after being hit by a car and unconscious for two days. After the last two days of holding my breath and being too scared to venture saying the word "coma," I am so relieved about this much. The bad news: Both his legs are broken, and doctors are still unsure about the extent of his back injuries. The fact that A is here, halfway across the world and unable to go see him, makes this doubly difficult for her. It broke my heart hearing her voicemessage on Tuesday, hearing her voice say, "I don't really know what to do...'cuz I'm sick, too, and I'm worried...and I'm just trying to be okay, but it's really hard. [His sister's] leaving tomorrow, and his parents the day after...and I get to stay here...by myself." I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be so far away from someone you love. Please pray that he recovers quickly and fully, so that he and A can live happily ever after in the green house in Berkeley that A covets so much.

three. [I don't know why this list is harder than it usually is. Here's a third thing:] ...Dinner last night with B and N, two of my favorite Pukhtu-speakers and Hindku-speakers, respectively. The evening was filled with rocking (Malaysian) food, beautiful company, and the endless laughter that always characterizes our time together. My new favorite quote is a profound statement by B's father: "There's no point in making money if you can't eat good food." Listening, amused, as both B and N regaled us with stories, I promised N I'd make up some drama of my own, so that I, too, can have stories to share next time we hang out. As someone who prides herself on the fact that her life is "gorgeously drama-free, always," this is really going to be SUCH a process. So, I ask you, how does one imbue one's life with drama? Please provide advice, suggestions, and/or examples.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

In memory of Imran Saithna, rockstar extraordinare: Bleed the pen, burn the paper, dry those tears of eternal sorrow

Courtyard of Lions, originally uploaded by Imran Saithna.

And we meet...
to depart,
And then depart -
Just to meet again.

The problem with - and the beautiful gift of - the internet is that I always fall a little bit in love with everyone I interact with. I refer mainly to blogistan and flickr, since those are the two spaces I spend most of my time online and where I come across other bloggers, (b)lurkers, and photographers. Through weblog posts, flickr uploads, weblog comments, personal emails, simple flickr comments that somehow transform into lengthy, off-topic threads, and sometimes even "stalkerish" (I joke) and baffling facebook friend requests as a result of these two spaces, I marvel that we all become connected through such tenuous, fragile networks.

But, we do - we become connected through comments and story-telling and emails and instant messenger and photographs, and everyone becomes my friend, regardless of whether or not I know them offline. This is how I walk the world - the world which, for me, just as much includes these wires that connect us all together, as it does the "real-life" friends with whom I regularly coordinate hanging-out sessions in person.

Which is why it felt like a sucker-punch to the gut yesterday morning, when, in the midst of replying to emails and slurping down my breakfast cereal, I clicked over to my friend Zana's photostream and found one of her recent uploads dedicated In Loving Memory of Imran Saithna. I struggled to take a breath, eyes glued to the computer screen as I tried to take in the information. People who are 28 years old are not supposed to die. People who have just returned only a few short weeks ago from performing Hajj - the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia - are not supposed to die. People whom you've been meaning to email back within the next few days are not supposed to die before you reply to their messages.

Many thanks to Maliha, whose email I was in the midst of responding to when I clicked over to Zana's photo, for her lovely note back, and to the beautiful Shaheen, who provided me some comfort as I raged, "It's just so sucky when all the good people die. Why can't God just take the fuck-ups instead?"

I met Imran Saithna through flickr, when he added me as a contact back in late 2005 and I reciprocated. He posted stunningly beautiful photos, and sometimes commented on mine - unfortunately, more often than I commented on his, in retrospect. You all know how good I am at these (b)lurking habits of mine.

When I posted my small photoset of Zaytuna Institute to flickr last spring, I was surprised by the number of people who took the time to comment on and appreciate the series of photos I had snapped on a whim one afternoon while waiting for my sister. Imran was one of those who commented, and our exchange made me realize how much we Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area take for granted our proximity to Zaytuna and the spiritual goodness available there. I promised him I would post some more Zaytuna photos; he particularly requested shots of the grounds. In turn, I admired his photos of Spain, a place I have always wanted to visit.

In these last couple of days after hearing of Imran's death, I've learned more about what he did than I ever knew when he was alive. As Project Manager of Muslimyouth.net, he was a passionate advocate for Britain’s first online support and guidance forum for Muslim youth. The website provides an open space for young Muslims to discuss issues which are relevant and important to them, without fear of censure or condemnation, and is part of the umbrella organization Muslim Youth Helpline, a confidential telephone and e-mail counseling service for young people. MYH understands well the effect of "the climate of fear, fury and media sensationalising" on the mental health of Muslim youth in Britain. The tribute to Imran on Muslimyouth.net lists in moving detail the various projects to which he had dedicated himself.

Under Imran’s creative and dedicated guidance muslimyouth.net flourished from a fledgling project into a thriving online community for Muslims across the UK and beyond. Much of this is a testament to Imran’s innovative and unique energy, drive and commitment to the cause.

A typical example of Imran’s maverick approach was exemplified in some of the campaigns that he ran on muslimyouth.net. Few will ever forget (especially the participants involved!) the Homelessness Campaign that ran on the site in April 2005. Imran and a group of volunteers spent a weekend on the streets of London with a budget of £3 to survive on. Crazy, unheard of and unorthodox –maybe. Pure Imran –absolutely! Behind the stunt however lay a desire to raise awareness amongst the Muslim community about issues that often get swept under the carpet. He led through example and took great care to ensure the safety and comfort of the volunteers who joined him on this experience.
This is my favorite comment-story about Imran, because the image in the first part made me laugh so much:
my best memory of Imran is the british 10K marathon in 2005. He ran the whole thing smoking marlboro reds and still beat me.

Imran touched the heart of almost every muslim youth in london.
There are many posts and comments about Imran all over the internet these days, it seems. I found one of the most poignant tributes on deenport, written by Yoshi Misdaq:
Then, a month or so ago, I went to a poetry event. I wasn't scheduled to perform there, but I did. Imran was scheduled to perform, although I didn't know it beforehand. And so, he did. I remember thinking that his poem went on a very long time. I thought it was a bit too much. But then, when I had that thought, I was caught up in the world. And when you're caught up in the world, feeling worldly (not that you're aware of it at the time) you forget about the bigger picture. Death is the only thing that could make me look back at events in this way. And so I did. I asked my friend (who was filming that night) to lend me the tapes earlier today. I watched Imran's poem (the second, the last performance) again. And it was a miracle. Later that night, when I had told him how nervous I was to perform my poetry for the first time, and how calm he seemed, he corrected me, saying that he was doing all he could do stop from shaking. And so, this performance meant everything to him. That's why it went on for so long that night. It was as if he were putting every single significant disappointment and feeling into that extended piece of rhyme. He was rinsing out this water-pain from his soul, taking it from every single angle, from every perspective. He felt it that night. And I felt it when I saw it again. After he had left Earth. Every other line of poetry was about death, the next world, the pains of this world. I could quote it at length. I just typed the whole thing up. I won't do that though. To see his face again was a blessing. Some peoples eyes light up when they smile. Other people are always lit up, subtly.

[...] As I've said, Imran didn't fit perfectly here. Others closer to him would no doubt have seen more worldly sides to him. For me though, he is now in the place he was so clearly destined to be in. The spirit-world. And I can't help but fear for myself and those I love who do not have that odd way about us. Those of us who sometimes seem all too eager to get comfortable here in this filling-station called Earth. Selfishly, I feel fearful, because, in a way, God seems to have taken him so perfectly, after having just returned from Hajj. What more mercy could there be for him? And yet, what ambiguity and uncertainty there is for the rest of us. In the poetry event before he left, through his poems, he was purging himself. And, I will always believe the on the pilgrimage that followed, he discovered himself, nourished himself, filled in the holes and gaps. What he was meant to be, where he was meant to go. Within a few moments of hearing that news, and thinking about my encounters with this wonderful human, I knew it was meant to be. It was right. It was a story that God so clearly wrote.
While I spent winter of 2005 writing and writing and writing about the aftermath of the South Asian earthquake, Imran was one of those amazing people who jumped on a plane and went to help with earthquake relief efforts. He posted to flickr the photos from his time in Pakistan, and wrote about his relief-work experiences on his weblog; the BBC interviewed him, too, in a November 2005 story.

I went searching through my GMail account yesterday afternoon. As I expected, my last email exchange with Imran is marked with the all-important "must reply soon" yellow star and a red "Draft" note next to it. When I had neglected to upload photos to my flickr account for nearly two months, Imran emailed me in mid-December of last year to check in. He ended his email with "Fi amanillah [(Go) in God's protection]," which made me smile. In my reply, I explained that I'm not much of a multi-tasker when it comes to writing and photography, so if I'm active on flickr, I tend to neglect the weblog, and if I write more often, then I stop uploading pictures consistently. I also wrote:
Just replied to your comment on my weblog post. Thank you for taking the time to stop by; it's always nice to see the flickr folks over at the weblog, too. There isn't much overlap; the flickr folks check out my photos and the blogistan folks check out my writing, but only a couple of people stop by both, as far as I know.
At the end of my email, I added, "I'm a big fan of other people who also say 'fi amanillah.' HIGHFIVE!"

He replied that he did indeed check out both the weblog and the flickr, a sentiment that was repeated again just recently, when he commented on my "Bethany" post that made us all laugh so much.

And he responded to my How goes the life with you? query by ending with:
Life with me is good, just really busy doing so many mad voluntary things in the local community here, am back in London for the time being as insha'Allah I will be flying out for the Hajj on Monday. Pray that my Hajj is accepted insha'Allah, and also let me know if you want me to bring you back anything from Saudi at all, it would be a pleasure.

Fi amanillah, Yasmine, take care and keep smiling so it can rub off on us all.
I remember staring at my computer, thinking, Bring me back something from Saudi? What a beautiful, incredibly generous offer. I decided I would send him the list of duas [prayers/supplications] I'd been emailing to all my friends who were leaving for Hajj. The most I could ask of anyone was that they add some prayers for me while in the holy cities.

My reply to his last email is still sitting in my Drafts folder. It begins simply, Wa alaikum assalam, Imran -, and then there is a bunch of empty white space, and his email below. The draft was saved on December 15th; by the time I remembered I still needed to send him my dua list two days later, he had already flown out for Hajj, and I figured I'd just save the reply and send it as a congratulatory email when he returned from the pilgrimage. I never did send it, obviously, and now I can't even bring myself to click the "Discard" button.

I wish I had made time to reply to people's comments on the weblog. I wish I had sent him another email, and commented more often to let him know how much I appreciate his beautiful photos and poetry. I didn't understand at the time what he meant by "doing so many mad voluntary things," but in the last couple of days of reading people's reflections about Imran, I've come to understand what a truly generous, giving person he was - someone who, as Zana said, had all the time in the world for people less fortunate.

Last October, I had sent him a short email saying,
I randomly came across this today and thought of you, since you are such a Zaytuna fan:


Eid mubarak! Hope you had a beautiful, blessed day inshaAllah!
At the end of his reply to me, he added:
Alhamdulillah, Eid was fantastic, probably one of the nicest, bestest and most rewarding Eids I've had in many years.
Yesterday, scrolling through Imran's weblogs, I came across the post that began with a reflection on both his 2005 Eids, spent helping with earthquake relief efforts in the mountains of Kashmir; the post culminated in a description of the October 2006 Eid he had referred to in his email to me:
This year I was again away from home on the day of Eid. I found myself in a place where one might suspect there to be little reason or cause to celebrate anything except imminent release. However, I was overwhelmed at what proved to be one of the most remarkable days of my life.

I have been working on an ad-hoc basis out of HMP Wormwood Scrubs for the last 6 months or so, and although there are some genuinely pleasurable and memorable moments, in general it is one big reality check. A reminder of my long forgotten past, a chance to give something back to society and an opportunity to remember the Blessings of our Lord that fall upon us so abundantly that we can do nothing but take them for granted.

Every year is different, every Eid Allah puts before me another opportunity to atone for my sins. Only this year however, have I realised quite how lucky I am to be blessed and tested in this way.

Close your eyes and try to picture 200+ brothers in one room, smiling like they have never smiled before, eating as though they have never eaten before, greeting you so sincerely with the greeting of peace and hugging you as though you were a long lost relative.

The beautiful chanting of the Takbirs still resonate warmly in my ears, almost every conceivable nation was represented in that hall, and often I wonder if this was a tiny vision of what paradise might be times a million.
Who needs Zaytuna, when you've found the real deal, Imran? Paradise-times-a-million must be yours by now; how could He deny you that blessed entry?

There are many, many people who knew Imran far better than I did (a simple Google search pulls up dozens, if not hundreds, of recent weblog entries, forum posts, and comments and prayers dedicated to him and the work he did, all across the internet) - there is, for example, Zana, who still can't bring herself to delete his number from her phone; there is Balal, his close friend and photography mentor, who wrote to me about his experiences knowing Imran; there is Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, with whom he shared his love for poetry. But even I, who knew him so briefly and barely, feel that I've lost someone whose kindness and generosity touched me enough that even I'm feeling heartbroken. When I struggled around the lump in my throat and cried hot tears for him yesterday, it was not because his life has ended, but because our own lives are a little bit emptier, having lost such a beautiful soul to accompany us through this world.

Mabrouk, ya Hajji! And rest in peace, my friend. When next we meet, I'll tell you what it felt like for me to have - by then, God willing - finally seen Spain and the Alhambra in person, and you can describe for me what it must be like to sit in the Light of the Divine and see the Creator face-to-Face. I have no doubt that you will be one of the Illuminated. May the Lord, in His infinite mercy, grant you all that is good and pure and blessed - and an internet connection Up There, so that you can see, even through your infamous humility, how positively you've impacted and inspired all those of us you've left behind.

[Post title from a poem by Imran Saithna:

Forget the past, sleep the day,
Wake not for the dawn of tomorrow.

Bleed the pen, burn the paper,
Dry those tears of eternal sorrow.

Blind the eyes, pack full the ears,
Wipe the traces of that lonely smile.

Turn full-around, re-trace your steps,
and walk alone for a while.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Beautiful things from a Tuesday in the month where everyday felt like Monday

yellowsunshine diptych
yellowsunshine diptych, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

From Tuesday, January 23, 2007

one. The Howie Day album I haven't listened to in over a year because it inexplicably started skipping just as inexplicably works perfectly again when I pop it into my CD player while driving to work. I spend my commute listening to music that reminds me of college, partly because I once used the opening line of Brace Yourself (So you think/You can hold the world up by a string) as a post title to illustrate the hectic days that marked my last quarter of college. Standing in the Sun and This Time Around are two other favorites (I still distinctly remember having just gotten off work one evening, sitting in my car at a traffic light in downtown Sacramento, head turned, glancing at something to my right, as the line I always knew the sun would burn away spilled out of the speakers for the first time), while Numbness for Sound unexpectedly brings back bittersweet memories.

two. I've got my favorite Desi restaurant on speed-dial! I walk in to pick up the one, single naan (and nothing else) that I've ordered, and the Indian lady at the counter smiles at me. "I'm sorry we didn't have samosas again," she says. "The baba who makes them is out today."

"That's alright," I say. "I always come here for the naan anyway!"

"Your friend didn't come with you today? She was here the other day."

"Which friend? The tall one?"

"Yes! She's so beautiful!" says the woman, wide-eyed. "I asked her where she was from, and she said Afghanistan."

"Oh, did she?" I say, laughing to myself. "She's Pathan, that's probably why she said that." My family and B's are both from the Attock district in Pakistan, but, as a native Pukhtu speaker, she also identifies quite strongly with Afghan culture. I can't wait to get back to the office and say accusingly, "Oh, so now you're Afghan, huh?"

three. In corresponding with a colleague with whom I am working on a project, I send the following note:

Could you please forward this to ______? My email, below, didn’t seem to go through to him. Thanks so much!
His response makes me smile:
Hi Yasmine, I seem to have forwarded it successfully. But, you know, it goes into cyberspace and then what?
four. Scrounging around for writing instruments, I borrow a pen from my co-worker (without telling her) but like it so much that I decide to keep it. This, I guess, would be called stealing, but who cares? My left-handed clumsiness and I are grateful for pretty pens that allow us to write in smooth, streak-free lines.

five. Driving back to the office from the aforementioned lunch, I notice some beautiful yellow flowers planted across the street. I make a u-turn, park illegally, and walk swiftly, camera in hand, down the sidewalk to the corner with the yellow flowers. The image at the head of this post is a diptych of two photos I took that afternoon. Yellow sunshine flowers on a day that feels like Monday are a warm and unexpectedly soothing remedy when spring seems so far away.

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Send some love to Momo

Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Please take a minute to send some love and prayers to the beautiful Momo, whose brother-in-law passed away last week after a difficult struggle with cancer. He is survived by his wife and their two children, 6 years old and 13 months old. I can't even begin to imagine how painful a time this must be for his family.

Momo's gorgeous poem, my sister's Love life, made me cry when I read it, over and over at least a dozen times, a couple of weeks ago.

Wishing Momo's brother-in-law much light and ease finally, and wishing strength and nothing but goodness for all the loved ones he left behind.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Friday, February 2nd: 'Rockstars Wear Red' Day

Rockstars dress in red dresses Rockstars dress in red dresses (ii)
Rockstars dress in red dresses. Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

It wasn't enough that I've been getting emails about children I never knew I had (Bethany is still quite busy unleashing her slacker tendencies, by the way). Now I'm receiving emails from the Office of the Governor...of the State of Kansas. This is better than Bethany, though, because the Governor of Kansas had this to say:

Dear State Employees,

Friday, February 2, 2007, has been set aside as National Wear Red Day. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to join me in wearing red as a showing of support for the fight against heart disease in women and to raise awareness that heart disease is the number one cause of death of women in Kansas, the United States and the world.

Wear Red Day is a nationwide movement that uses a Red Dress as the symbol for heart disease awareness in women. If you do not think heart disease is of concern to you, consider the following facts:

  • Each year more women die from heart disease than from the next five leading causes of death combined.
  • One-third of women will die from heart disease or stroke.
  • Every minute a woman dies from heart disease.
  • 64% of women who die from coronary heart disease had no previous evidence of the disease.
Fortunately, heart disease is largely preventable. I believe that preventive health can reduce the number of Kansans at risk for heart disease and urge you to know and control your risk factors:

  • Smoking is the single most preventable risk factor for heart disease.
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Unhealthy dietary habits
Your health care provider can work with you to develop a plan to lower your risk for developing heart disease. Additional information about heart disease and Wear Red Day can be found at the American Heart Association or National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

While this observance is a call for women, I am also asking male employees to be involved as a showing of support for the women in your lives.

Thank you for participating in this wonderful cause on this Friday, February 2, as a way to increase awareness, thereby hopefully preventing and controlling heart disease.


Kathleen Sebelius
Governor of the State of Kansas

[Just to clarify, I am not an employee of the State of Kansas.]

Heart disease is the number one killer of American women (and men), in case you didn't know. For more information about women and heart disease, check this. As the poster says, No matter how great you look on the outside, heart disease can strike on the inside. And being a woman won't protect you.

I'm all for symbolism, but this is really about education. The Resources section of the NHLBI website includes a number of factsheets, print and radio PSAs, and one especially important infograph entitled, Questions To Ask Your Doctor/What's Your Risk? Spreading the Go Red For Women message Love Your Heart raises awareness of heart disease and empowers women to reduce their risk.

Red is ROCKING. Wear it on Friday (and take the time to educate yourself beforehand about why you're doing so), like the rockstar that you are. Guys, I'm looking at you, too.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hands up!

Hands up!
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Cross-posted from flickr, because I CAN. And also because I doubt the Blogistanis check out my flickr photos, except for those I post right here on the weblog. Lazy kids.

The following email came straight to my inbox this afternoon:

Everett High School
Message sent - 1/18/2007
Attendance Message

Hello, this is EVERETT HIGH SCHOOL calling to notify you that your child, BETHANY, was absent from EVERETT HIGH SCHOOL on 1/18/2007 for periods 1, 6. In order to waive an absence the parent/guardian must submit a waiver application form with appropriate documentation attached. Thank you.


First of all, I never knew that I had a daughter named Bethany all along. Seriously, why does no one tell me things? Secondly, BETHANY? She's probably blonde. I bet she's on the cheerleading squad, too. Clearly, Bethany did not inherit any of my genes. Finally, the hell was Bethany doing, skipping class during periods 1 & 6? (I like to think she inherited some of my genes by sleeping in through period 1 and sneaking off-campus for lunch during period 6.)

Maybe I should ask Bethany if she could teach me how to dance...in return for signing her waiver application form for periods 1 & 6.

PS: Everett High School is in Michigan. It's hella freakin' cold in Michigan, I hear. If I had a daughter named Bethany, Bethany and I would not be living in Michigan. I think we just might live in the UAE instead, where apparently it's sunshine-y and warm year-round.

PPS: The above email reminded me of Jamelah's post from last year. Jamelah is on flickr, too, by the way. And she's a ROCKSTAR! who merits all capitals and an exclamation point.

PPPS: Most importantly, those are my nieces, pictured above. They are also rockstars. You can see some of their silliness in action - on the same day as the above photo - here.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

How to balance work and play

How to balance work and play
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

My new business cards came in at work today, and the first thing my friend A (he of the Halloween GMail chats) said was:

A: Think of all the guys you can now meet at ISNA* conferences.
A: "Salaams brother...here's my card...fax me your biodata." **

*ISNA = Islamic Society of North America's annual convention, held in Chicago. (Here are a few photos I took when I was there for the first time, in Sept. 2006.)
** Biodata: For those of you who aren't South Asian and in the know, check this and this.

Oh, and next time I go to ISNA, I'll let the world know in advance, so we can hang out. I promise I won't give you my business card.


Sunday, December 31, 2006

Akhtar de mubarak sha & Happy New Year!

Akhtar de mubarak sha, and happy New Year!
Abraham & Eid-ul-Adha, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.
Verses 103-111 from Chapter 37 (Those Who Stand Together) of the Quran
[The Qur'an: A New Translation, by Thomas Cleary]

Eid mubarak, beautiful rockstars! May we accept the challenges that come our way with just as much fortitude and patience and willingness for personal sacrifice as that displayed by the prophet Abraham. May this Eid, as well as the upcoming New Year, be a beautiful and blessed time for you and yours.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Take a glorious bite out of the whole world

Three beautiful things - Friday, Dec. 29th:

one. While walking to my office in the morning, I whistle at a beautiful, furry orange cat sunning itself on the sidewalk, and surprise myself with the clear notes that come out of my mouth. I can't even remember the last time I whistled. Has it been years? I thought I had forgotten how.

two. Getting off early from work (3pm!) and going to the movies with B. Best part: sneaking my bottle of chocolate milk inside and drinking it while watching the film. By the way, I thought Dream Girls was ROCKING. Note to self: Coordinate plans to watch it again with Princess Pretty Pants and D.

three. Personalized license plates seen on a sports car zooming down the freeway: IHAV2P


You gotta let me make my choice alone before my food gets cold

Hi, I like taking pictures of my food
Eliza's, at California & Divisadero in San Francisco, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

This is just to let you know I'm alive and well and constantly complaining to friends who apprehensively fear for my safety - not to mention my soul - about this winter weather business. (My favorite whine of the week: "Winter is stupid. What was God thinking?") Shut up, I know I live in California, but it's freakin' cold 'round here, take my word for it.

All I've been doing these last few weeks is eating, sleeping, lying on my couch watching Season One of Grey's Anatomy (I am so behind the times; they're actually on Season Three now, apparently), and making plans left and right to hang out with friends who support me in my predictably last-minute whims involving get-togethers and food sessions.

Speaking of food: A couple of days ago, having skipped breakfast (I can just see 2Scoops, my self-appointed Nutritionist Extraordinaire, shaking his head over there in sunny San Diego), I continually whined to B while at work about how hungry I was. Lunchtime came and went, and I hadn't even left my desk to go and eat. I think we've all realized by now that my eating habits while at work are disgraceful, to say the least, but even I've got to admit that there are days when I need what the rest of the world calls real food. Even the thought of the mint chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles, which I brought in the day before and which were now sitting abandoned in the workplace kitchen, just wasn't doing it for me.

Finally, at 3.45pm, I pushed my chair away from the desk, announced, "I'm going to go find some food!" and walked out to my car. While pulling away from the curb, I called the closeby Desi [South Asian] restaurant. "Hi, I'd like to order two samosas and a naan, to go."

I could swear I heard a muffled laugh from the guy at the other end of the line. "Is that all?"

"Yes, that's it. About how long will it take for the food to be ready?"

"Less than fifteen minutes. What's the name?"


When I walked into the restaurant ten minutes later, a guy called out, "Are you Yasmine?"


"I'm sorry, we only had enough vegetables left for one samosa," he said apologetically,

"Oh." I stood stock-still, thinking, "One samosa and one naan? Geez, what the hell kind of real meal is THAT? The one day I even bother."

Out loud, I said, "One samosa is fine. I do get a naan, though, right?"

The guy smiled. "Yes, the naan is all ready."

I swear I go to this place just for the naan. I had barely settled back into my car before I tore into the bread, freshly-baked and piping-hot. Curiously, I opened the styrofoam container containing the other half of my order. Inside were two samosas. TWO.

I let out a confused, "What the hell?" before I realized that "one samosa" means one order, which actually means two samosas. Suitably enlightened, I closed the container and continued munching on the naan. I had already eaten more than half of it by the time I got back to the office, where B greeted me with, "It's past 4. I can't believe you're eating lunch now, when we're leaving at 5.30 anyway."

Good lookin' out, because by the time I met the lovely rehes for dinner at 7pm, I was still far too full to properly enjoy our Desi/Thai meal. Anyone who can give me good Thai food recommendations is a rockstar in my book (I am extremely wary about Thai food; what I've grown up eating as savory food - i.e. vegetables, etc. - should not taste sugary sweet, as far as I'm concerned). rehes and I need to hang out more regularly. I trust her recommendations.

By the way, did you know that Desi restaurants have spiffy-looking websites now? Man, we're coming on up in the world these days. Never mind the fact that any Desi restaurant describing its food as "seductive and enticing" makes me giggle.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Winter house-cleaning of my virtual home

Brick red
I admit to a weakness for red brick, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Apropos of nothing, I have a new cell phone (a Motorola Razr in case you're wondering, now that they're not trendy anymore and are instead one of the most affordable phones in the T-Mobile store). Remember all the freakin' drama I had to undergo over three years ago, just to find a decent phone that worked properly? Well, Motorola's been good to me numerous times since then. The Razr has such lovely sound quality and clarity, I didn't have to ask T to repeat himself even once while talking to him twice in two days (this is a new record for frequency of phone conversations, when it comes to me), even while I was wandering around my house, which has frustratingly horrid reception. Also, my new phone comes with a built-in camera. Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm about two years behind the times, but who needs a camera in her phone when she's got a rocking digital camera? I mean, really now.

Speaking of years and time (which is the real point of this post, actually), today is the one year anniversary of Sweep the Sunshine (that means nearly FOUR years of blogging, rockstars. Can you believe it?), and once more I took it upon myself to fiddle around with stuff 'round here.

I've finally been granted the opportunity to switch over to Blogger beta, so I played around with my template a bit, adding labels [that's "categories" to the rest of you] and fixing old permanent-links that still pointed back to good ol' ramblingmonologues. Of course, I've realized that every time I edit and republish such old posts, they show up as new posts in my RSS feed (hello, Google Reader). Sorry, people.

The only template problem I'm having right now is that not all my posts categorized under each label are showing up on their respective label pages. Apparently, it only shows 20 posts under each label, because I refused to switch over to one of the new Layouts templates offered by Blogger beta and am thus missing some necessary piece of code.

Also, here's a question I've been contemplating lately, while getting overly excited about things like labels/categories (features that non-blogspot users have had as default for ten thousand years already): Which is better, TypePad or WordPress? And why? Or, what do you like about either/both of them? I've been contemplating a switch lately, especially since my comments box is sometimes unpredictable and I hate the Blogger commenting system. Such drama. Clearly, I have issues with commitment and I like change (even though I know you all hate it).

Here's a list of all my labels/categories, although they're pretty self-explanatory [I just like making lists, unless they're to-do lists]:

(3)BeautifulThings celebrates all the beautiful stuff I'd noted from any given day or week. A lot of it is in list format. The "3" is in parentheses because I only started the "three beautiful things" exercise recently.

All-Star Crackstar Squad: Friends and buddies and people I engage in hangingout sessions with. HIGHFIVE to my favorite crackstar 2Scoops for originally coming up with and using that phrase while commenting on Baji's April 4th post [turn your permanent-links on, Baji!], after we hung out in Berkeley in late March2006. [Dude, I never wrote about that!]

Bibliothek means "library" in German. Books make me giddy like nothing else can.

Blogistan lists all posts related to blogger meetups or musings on blogging or Blogistan in general.

Casa420 and Familia: While "420" is my house number - and also code for marijuana, which is amusing if you consider my inexplicable fascination with all variations of the word "crack" - this label contains posts related to all various homes I've lived in, as well as posts about my immediate family and what I (lovingly) call the "soap opera drama family" (the relatives). I write about my father a lot. Here's an introduction to my mother.

Conversations and Encounters - This is my favorite category (I forgot to label it as also including [disconcerting] eavesdropping sessions!), and, as such, I can't help but recommend some of the older stuff to those of you who might have missed it the first time around. Since Blogger is being annoying and, as mentioned, only showing 20 posts from each label, here are some of my favorites from the total forty: There's Lily from Borders, little Somiyya, the heartbreaking conversation with my friend Z about self-righteous Muslims and their haste in labeling others as "kaffir," the Persian poet and student activist [two-and-a-half-years old now, this post about a few seemingly simple questions sparked 130+ comments], "Maria" the difficult workshop participant, the "state of mind" girl, traffic school Day One and Day Two, the Target girl to whom I was rude, the charity bell-ringing man at the grocery store, those annoying aunties at that one wedding, the adorable preschool kids to whom I used to read, the Jack Nicholson look-alike with the hard-hitting questions [this is still one of the most intimidating but thought-provoking conversations I've ever had], the man in the panama hat, Dennis the Menace, the girl I wanted to hurt [the comments on this post still make me laugh, especially in light of the previous post], and, finally, the drummer boy on the bike.

Glorious mundanity: Wherein I celebrate the trivial. Contains lists and paragraphs and lists masquerading as paragraphs.

Hit the Road: I spend too much time blasting music while driving in a car on the freeway.

Links to love from across this webbed world we inhabit.

Loss and laments and letting go: Because, contrary to popular opinion, not everything is about sunshine 'round here. I won't pick out specific posts, but please do check the posts under that category, so you understand that even I'm capable of going through gloomy days.

NineToFive outside the 925: All posts that reference work - mainly my old jobs in downtown Sacramento and at university. I had the rockingest co-workers ever.

Rhymes and unrhymed lines: Anything related to poetry, mine or others'.

Rockstar and Crescent: Islam/Muslim-related posts.

Salaam Namaste: Posts dealing with being Desi/South Asian/Pakistani.

Suckool: There's a reason why it's spelled "stuDYING." Other than that, university and I got along really well. As I mentioned to HijabMan lately: "Man, I miss college. It was rocking good times." And then, as an afterthought: "Except for that taking-tests business."


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Links to love on this online webbed world

San Francisco 70
My buddy S and I stand still for a moment during our hanging-out session with Anjum, early this year. Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

I keep bookmarking websites and then not doing anything with them, so perhaps I should share them with you all. Here are some stops I've made on the internet lately [apologies for not giving credit where it's due; I always forget how I initially came across such links]:

- Hamza's photographs on flickr [He messaged me to say he enjoyed my Zaytuna photos, which is how I found his photos in turn.]
- Archived photos on the Muslim Cultures weblog
- The Olive Ream's photos at Over a Mile

- Google Reader, you make my weblog-surfing so much more efficient!
- The Bravia paint ad: So many colors! ROCKING.
- Beautiful poetry by Murtaza Danish [Check Coffee in Times of War]

- Seeing the downside of 'cause celebs'
- For my fellow bookworms: Librarian Avengers [Their weblog description on ReviewMe.com says: Librarians need a blog to avenge their low pay and appalling working conditions. This is that blog. With jokes.]
- flickr photoset: The Vicissitudes of Moi, Moi, Moi

- Reading up on Tin-Tin ("billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!")
- Juan Mann and his "free hugs" campaign
- "We are here": Mission schoolkids urge grownups to set a good example

- Where the hell is Matt?
- I'm Hip, I'm With it! - How To Talk Like Sumana Harihareswara

- Rock, Paper, Scissors: Reffing the RPS state championship is no job for the nervous
- Four Steps to a More Meaningful, Less Commercialized Holiday — with Kids [No, I don't have kids of my own, in case any of you were confused about that]

- One of the most talented people I don't know, though I've seen videos of her performances, years ago while in college: Anna Deavere Smith (1, 2, 3)
[Check out Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 the play in book format, as well as the film.]

* Some weblog posts I've especially loved reading lately:
- Brimful - most of all, when snowflakes fall and inarticulate speech of the heart
- One Female Canuck - Rules for Life
- HijabMan - Bio Data Construction For Dummies (Men's edition)
- BrooklynBrown - What You Should Do When There Is A Death In Your Friend's Family
- And my favorite: Chai's post entitled Magical Nights, Magical Connections. In all the weeks (months) I attended the Wednesday evening meditations, I was never able to articulate the beauty of it through writing as Chai managed to do so well after the single evening she attended with me last week.