Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My first official restaurant review

I achieved quite a milestone today when my first official restaurant review was posted on the Durban Live website. (see link below)

A friend of mine, upon reading the article commented that it was exactly as I would have verbally described the experience in conversation. I beg to differ because it is a lot more difficult to describe something in a limited number of words with a looming deadline. In any event, the experience and subsequent adrenaline rush was awesome and I cannot wait to write my next piece. The deadline is this Friday, and I am going to write on alternative (more socially responsible) things to do in Durban this festive season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Will the real 007 please stand up?

I, along with every other, male of my generation, completely idolised James Bond. He represented all that was cool. Be it the cars (with the exception of that useless Z3 in Goldeneye), the gadgets, the beautiful ladies he encountered or that amazing wit. I would be convinced for weeks after watching the latest 007 adventure, that I would grow up and join the secret service. Thankfully, I was young enough not to have realised that the Apartheid security force may be sceptical about granting the double O status to a nerdy Indian boy from Chatsworth! In any case, it was not long before a mullet wearing, swiss army knife wielding scientist captured my imagination and with fantasy fuel on offer every Friday, I followed Macgyver down the path that led to a career in science. I was surprised by the lack of plastic explosives in the real world but I digress.

As I grew older, the words used to describe the original superspy included sexist, misogynist, chauvinist. These were the kind of labels that the modern, sensitive guy, which I was aspiring to be, avoided at all costs. It was shocking how much, the writers got away with in a post feminist era but Bond endured it all with the franchise growing from strength to strength. As I have pretty much borrowed all the audio books on offer at the library, I was ecstatic when I discovered the arrival of a new cache of titles two weeks ago. As I often take a chance on books that I had never heard of before (due to a lack of options, not personal taste), the chance to experience a hero I was familiar with was refreshing and better yet, due to the popular belief that George Lazenby was the worst Bond ever, 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' remained the only Bond movie that I had never got around to watching.

The book was a revelation. It revealed a 007 that was far removed from the celluloid persona we have come to know. A 007 that was different, yet familiar and most importantly, real. This was the book in which James Bond, fell in love and eventually married the countess Tracy Vincenzo and after her murder I thought to myself that this is obviously why he is the way he is towards women. I was mistaken. This was the tenth Bond novel (of the 12 written by Ian Fleming) and it became apparent that the literary spy bore only vague resemblences to the movie character and attempts to justify the actions of one with the experiences of the other would be futile.

It appeared that the movies were peppered with characters and devices from the novel i.e The Bond Girl from 'The Man with the Golden Gun', Mary Goodnight, is actually the name of his secretary in this book and the title for the movie “ The World is not Enough”, is in actual fact the translation of the words that appear on the Bond family crest, non sufficit orbis. Perhaps the thing that differentiates the most between the two Bonds, is in the novel you are inside his mind and are therefore privy to all his personal thoughts and emotions. He is not immune to the feeling of fear, love, confusion, frustration. When he leaps towards an assailant in an attempt to disarm him and save himself, you do not merely see the execution of yet another action sequence but you comprehend how the situation was assessed, the move executed, and the outcome was unknown until completed.

I think the Bond movies will always be a cult classic and I am certain that when e-TV has another Bond festival I will watch them all again. If for no other reason, without the movies, we would have never been introduced to 'Q', who was only fleetingly, if at all, mentioned in the novels. If tales of espionage and mystery is your cup of tea, I would definitely recommend that you acquaint yourself with the literary Commander James Bond. For Fleming, the World may not be Enough but there is definitely enough to merit that you explore this character as he was originally envisioned.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Zulqarnain Haider: Hero or Coward?

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has begun legal action against former South Africa coach, Mickey Arthur by serving him with a three page legal notice prohibiting him from repeating recent “whimsical” claims regarding his strong suspicions of match fixing by Pakistan. The PCB cannot understand why Mr Arthur would knowingly concoct a web of lies and deceit, casting the incorruptible nation of Pakistan in a poor light, merely to promote his upcoming book. Surely recent events have proven beyond all doubt that Pakistani cricket is above suspicion in regards to match fixing. . . I sincerely pity the judge who would have to keep a straight face while hearing this argument in court.

I remember, as a child, waking up at 4am and walking alone in the darkness before sunrise to a friend's house (who were incidently amongst the first in our neighbourhood to get an M-Net decoder) to watch that World Cup Final match when Imran Khan's Pakistan team rose from the ashes of that tournament to triumphantly lift the trophy. Although I later went on to support India (in that sub continental rivalry), it was on that day, for some reason that Wasim Akram became my childhood cricketing hero. I wonder how many children would look back on this week and consider Zulqarnain Haider, to be their cricketing hero. Not many I suspect, because other than in the English County he is bound to end up playing for, I doubt Mr Haider would remain famous for much longer (unfortunately fame and success is somewhat of an essential criteria when choosing a cricketing hero).

A brief overview of the saga as it stands. Hours before taking to the field in the fifth and deciding ODI between Pakistan and South Africa, Zulqarnain Haider, Pakistan's wicketkeeper, fled to London. Before fleeing, he posted a cryptic message on his Facebook page suggesting that his life was being threatened and that it had arisen from his failure to fix the previous match. Zulqarnain had scored the winning runs in the fourth ODI against SA to level the series in a nail-biter of a game. Thankfully Zulqarnain is not friends with anybody from the PCB, because when he asked for his passport for personal reasons they had no idea that he intended to flee for his life. He is currently seeking Asylum in England.

The story of a Pakistani cricketer who chose to not get involved in match fixing, at great personal risk, should have been a blessing to the PCB and he should have been hailed as a hero especially after the embarrassment during the English Test series this year. During the fourth Test against England at Lord's in August, three players were accused of being involved in spot fixing after a middle man (Mazhar Majeed) guaranteed three no-balls after receiving £ 150 000 in cash from the News of the World. After it subsequently happened, Pakistan's captain Salman Butt, and bowlers Mohamed Amir and Mohamed Asif were suspended by the ICC and remain so.The ICC had to act swiftly as the PCB refused to impart their own sanctions on the players. The PCB, in this current instance, appear to be much more concerned with Zulqarnain going AWOL with their legal advisor, Tafazzul Rizvi, stating that the player had breached his contract and would face an inquiry and disciplinary action. The reaction of the PCB was in this instance tame compared to the rebuke Zulqarnain received from the Pakistani Sport's Minister who said,

"If he is such a weak and scared person he should not have played cricket in the first place, particularly not for the national team” .

The minister had ironically released no statement regarding the action of the trio above nor had he said anything when Shahid Afridi (current captain) was caught on camera “smelling” the cricket ball during an ODI series in Australia (that was his initial explanation to the match referee).

Courtesy: theaustralian.com.au

Although the umpires acknowledged the rather distinctive, and to some, provocative smell of leather, sweat and grass, they were more interested with the chunks of seam that were now missing from the ball. To really appreciate the subtlety with which this was done, please watch the video, if you had not seen it already. And if you have, it is always worth watching again.

I am of the opinion that Zulqarnain Haider should be congratulated and celebrated for his choice to not get involved with this dark side of Cricket because it was clearly not the easy choice to make in this situation. He is now seeking political asylum in a foreign country, has put himself and possibly his family at personal risk and is currently unemployed. As it is unlikely, based on reading the actual text on his famous Facebook update, that he will be writing a tell-all book anytime soon, I hope he is successful in finding asylum and work in England. He is a young cricketer with great potential and like his namesake1, great courage. Hopefully, others would take strength from his example and stand up for justice if faced with a similar situation going forward.

1 Some eastern historians believe that the name Zulqarnain in Quranic text refers to the great Macedonian ruler, Alexander the Great.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Am I an Indian in South Africa or an African Indian?

The 16th November 2010 marks the 150th Anniversary of the arrival of the first indentured labourers in South Africa. The 1860 Legacy Foundation was set up to acknowledge the contribution made by Indians since the introduction of indentured labour in South Africa and co-ordinate the various celebrations planned across the country to commemorate this event. Am I alone in not being excited about these celebrations. Truth be told, I cannot understand what all the fuss is about.

With the exception of the 20/20 Cricket match between India and South Africa planned for January next year at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium, I do not feel inclined to support any of these commemorative functions (for obvious reasons). I am not clear exactly what it is we are celebrating here or why we are choosing to celebrate it every 50 years? Do the African Americans celebrate the arrival of the slave ships that transported them to America? I believe that to be a fair comparison because indentured labour was in essence the colonial solution to the labour problem in the colonies after the theoretical abolition of slavery in the early19th century.

I have 2 primary concerns. Firstly, this commemoration will perpetuate the myth that the Natal indentured labourers that arrived on the SS Truro mark the start of Indian history in South Africa even with volumes of historical data to the contrary. People may argue that there may have been a handful of Indians in South Africa prior to 1860, but the arrival of 342 Indentured Indians on the SS Truro marked the first significant influx of Indians into South Africa. This notion is contradicted, amongst others, by Dr Robert Shell in his book “Children of Bondage” where he states that, “In the early decades of the 18th century, nearly 80% of all slaves imported came from the Indian sub-continent”. He goes on to state that during the period of slavery (which theoretically ended in 1807), there were 16,317 Indian slaves in South Africa, a figure which did not include the free black Indian population or the offspring of Indian slaves. These Indians played a significant role in the history and development of the Cape Colony and, no, I am not confusing this with the Malay Community, which has a rich heritage all off their own. For more on the history of Indian slaves in the Cape Colony I found this article by Patric Tariq Mellet to be particularly informative.

My second concern is whether this commemoration is helpful/ relevant to us as a developing democracy with the deep racial fractures inherited from Apartheid still very much present. Should our Indian heritage not be celebrated with the rest of our country on Heritage Day, a day set aside to allow South Africans the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge our collective diversity? How many Indians attend the Reed Dance or go to stadiums to commemorate events that were significant in the history of our country? I know that the previous question may sound preachy so let me confess upfront that I have not attended these events, neither do I understand Zulu culture as well as I may know the history relating to the American Civil War. It is for this reason that I would feel uncomfortable celebrating and explaining my Indian-ness to my fellow South Africans. Furthermore, I believe the request recently to national government to assist with funding for these commemorative celebrations should be considered carefully. We are a country severely affected by poverty, and money should be channeled to causes that would assist us in achieving our millenium goals, not the arrival of 342 Indians to South Africa, a 150 years ago. Perhaps if the events were more socially involved, rather than merely speeches, dance and biryani, I would have been more inclined to support the initiative.

I suspect that there will be many people who may take offence to and disagree with my point of view, but understand that all I am asking for is to not be considered a “traitor” or “too-westernised” when I choose not to participate in these events. I am not asking people not to support this initiative, just explaining why I think it is irrelevant.

When Zeph Mothupeng adressed a rally of mainly Indians in London, shortly after his release from Robben Island, he said, to much cheer and applause, that there were no Indians in South Africa, but only African Indians. That is what I wish to be identified as, an African Indian.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How Smartphone users are percieved by others

This is related to my last blog post and was sent to me by a friend last week. Note that users of Windows Mobile were not considered because we are talking about smartphones here :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Google Goggles: The future of Search

A significant factor which made me realise that engineering was the career for me was my fascination with the works of Jules Verne who could arguably be labeled a prophet (hold the fatwa, I said arguably) when one considers how many times the themes/ inventions in his novels have escaped the shackles of Science Fiction to become Science Fact. This occurred most famously with his description of the Nautilus (Captain Nemo's submarine in “20 000 leagues under the Sea”) and then with “From the Earth to the Moon”. It could be argued that he missed the mark with “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, but as an author, his primary intention would have been to entertain and captivate his readers, rather than provide food for thought for retrospective scientific prediction in the future.

I intended to write this with a clear message to potential smartphone buyers in South Africa to seriously consider getting a phone that runs on the Android operating system based on the availability of just one App – Google Goggles. The opening paragraph and the tribute to Jules Verne was to draw an association between the unshackled vision of the author to the realisation of the future, today, by the staff of Google Labs. Google continues to be the primary proponent for the advancement and research of technology in this sector today. What has begun with Google Search, Gmail, Google Docs and Google Maps has now continued it's progression with Google Goggles.

Google Goggles is a visual search application currently available for both Android Phones and the I-phone. It lets you use pictures taken with your mobile phone to search the web with no need to type or speak your query. All that is required is to open the app, take a picture and wait for your search results. As this kind of technology is still in its infancy, it currently works best with certain types of queries e.g. pictures of books and DVD's, landmarks, logos etc and not so well with pictures of animals, plants or cars. Another great feature is the menu translator that may be used when traveling internationally. The video below highlights the functionality of this new innovation better than I ever could with words.

If you are not blown away by what has been accomplished with the development of this app, I suggest that you sit down and ask someone to check for the existence of a pulse. Notwithstanding the functionality already available, the potential for future enhancement is mind boggling. Unlike most apps, Google Goggles, has the potential to significantly enrich one's life and also allow them the opportunity to impress the pants off those people who still believe that cellphones should only be used to make and receive calls and receive SMS's (I omitted send SMS's intentionally).

As stated earlier, my intention was to convince people unsure of which smartphone to purchase, to give the Android phones a try, but then I discovered that like with Itunes, Android Marketplace is not yet available in South Africa. Salespeople would always convince you that availability is imminent but we've heard all that before. Is it our Copyright laws, our former communications Minister, COSATU? Who do we need to talk to to get this to happen? The South African telecommunication market has taught us to never count our chickens before they are hatched but for those Android/ I-phone users who really want the app, I am sure you are already aware of the “work-arounds”.

Unless your social circle is rife with Blackberry's and you are part of the crowd that text a lot, or are a self confessed Apple fanboy (like myself), I would recommend the Android devices to potential buyers in that smartphone market. The staff at Google are encouraged to be innovative and progressive, and have a track record of dominating any market they enter so I expect the Android platform to develop in leaps and bounds in the coming years. Hopefully us, South Africans will be invited to the party.

P.S I have subsequently discovered that Google Googles is available for download in South Africa for both Android and I-Phone users (3GS and I-phone 4 only). Users have commented that there is still some development required as it is not functioning as well as could be expected at times. I still think that it is something to be really excited about and could lead to similar products/ devices in the future. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Call of Duty: Black ops

A Lie is a Lie.
Just because they write it down and call it History,
Does not make it the truth.

I love this line. Call of Duty: Black Ops

Just Pre-ordered this game from Kalahari.net and got an awesome deal. Somebody bought my Call of Duty: World at War on Kalahari Marketplace this week. That combined with a R100 voucher I got from kalahari.net implies that I have bought this game (delivered to my door) for R35. Admittedly the gameplay on the DS will be nowhere close to that shown in the trailer but I enjoyed playing World at War and for R35...click click. ding dong

Welcome to my Domain!

www.knightlynotes.co.za. It has such a better ring to it than www.theinfiniteimprobability.blogspot.com

Today is day 1 of me effectively using my own domain for my blog and it is really exciting. When I started the blog, I did not want to let the selection of the most approriate name delay me from starting, so I registered my account and happened to be reading "And Another Thing", Eoin Colfer's excellent continuation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Part 6 of 3), so I decided to go with the name 'The Infinite Improbability Blog'. Being new to such decisions, I never gave much thought to the impact of such a long title or the amount of time that will be wasted by me having to explain the concept of The Infinite Improbability Drive to people.

Shortly after writing a few entries, I visited my cousin to update my cache of movies and TV series and we got to discussing blogs etc. He was way ahead of the curve and must have started blogging about 5 years ago. Funny story: I discovered his blog by accident oneday and knew that I was going to see him at a function that weekend. I read a few of his entries (because they were highly amusing, not for my evil plan) and when we met that weekend, I started chatting about stuff always giving him my views on various things, which were hillariously the mirror images of his own thoughts. This went on for a while until I eventually came clean. Considering that I regard him as the family member that I have the most in common with, he saw the humour in the prank.

He told me how he had started using his own domain now, how cheap it is to set-up, and who to contact to set it up. My mind was made up, but now came the hard part: choosing a domain name. I did not have to wait long because my wife and I went out to lunch that weekend and came up with the name whilst in conversation. It went through many iterations before she suggested Knightly Notes, and I immediately knew that it was the one. We went further and thought thta I could have multiple blogs linked to the website on different topics with catchy titles, e.g. The Parenting Blog would be called "In the Knight Garden" and the Humour Blog would be called, "On a Knighter Note". Realistically, I doubt I would have the time to contribute to so many blogs so I decided to keep everything as is, and just change the domain name.

The thinking behind the domain name is now also much easier to explain i.e. I often only have the time to write late at night and I am a huge fan of Batman i.e. The Dark Knight I also would have an e-mail address that wold be linked to my blog (fayaz@knightlynotes.co.za). In concluding this epic day, I was reminded recently of a great cartoon of the Dark Knight. Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Iranian Nuclear Debate

It was reported earlier this week that Iran is prepared to hold talks on its disputed nuclear programme in November. It is disputed because the Western powers “fear” Iran is building capacity to produce a nuclear bomb whereas Iran says that it is pursuing a civilian atomic programme designed to meet it's growing energy needs. Shown below is an estimate of the world's nuclear weapon reserves.

When compared to a map of the region, it is easy to understand why the Iranians have just cause to feel like they are the only ones who brought a knife to a gunfight. They are presently flanked by America on either side (I am referring to the strong presence of US Military in both Iraq and Afghanistan). Israel is rumoured to have as many Nuclear weapons as China (shocking that they are even comparable considering land and population size, if that were ever a justification on the number of nuclear weapons one should possess). And rounding up the nuclear neighbours would be Russia to the north and highly unstable Pakistan to the east.

I am not a supporter of Ahmadinejad or his rhetoric, and most definitely not his wardrobe or grooming habits but I feel it is unfair to the people of Iran to have to be subject to sanctions as no evidence has been found to support the 'fear' that Iran intends building a nuclear weapon. Even the Ayatollah Khomeini, who to many is the menacing symbol of militant Shi'ite Islam issued a fatwa, 10 years after the revolution forbidding the development of a nuclear weapon, a stance which has been confirmed even by the contemporary clerics in Iran. Even during the bloody war between Iraq, Iran ,unlike Saddam Hussein, never used chemical weapons. Yet, the world continues to rely on countries that have the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons to police other nations around the world and enforce the Nuclear Non Proliferation Act.

My point, long winded as it may be, is that Iran be allowed to continue it's civilian atomic program and that sanctions be lifted until such time that there is actual evidence that there are plans in place to construct a nuclear arsenal. If Western nations are really interested in making this world safer, then they should assist Iran, which they are required to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, with their civil nuclear program by enriching their uranium for free instead of offering Tehran new fuel swap deals. Oh, they should perhaps also deplete their nuclear weapon stockpiles!

South Africa should take special note, because if we intend increasing our generating capacity by the inclusion of additional nuclear power plants, then it may become financially viable for us to start enriching our own Uranium (SA is ranked fifth in world uranium reserves) rather than exporting our mined uranium resource and then paying a premium for the refined fuel. If we ever decide to do that though, we should be prepared for sanctions and the threat of invasion to help protect the free world!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Hi. My name is Fayaz Khan and I am a procrastinator.

The only reason I am writing this blog entry is to delay writing a longer entry I have planned on "A Nuclear Iran". The main problem with procrastination is that you always manage to get things down in the end or as is often the case with me, you can effectively bullshit your way to an extension. So that my readers do not feel cheated, I have attached my favourite comic from a popular online comic series titled, wait for it, "Procrastination". 

P.S I always get excited and cut out coupons and vouchers (it's in my genes) and leave them in my wallet so I won't forget and then remember them only after they expire. I only remember my kalahari.net vouchers cos they remind you about them everytime you are on their site and even when you are checking out.

P.P.S To any marketers out there, I respond well to vouchers etc.

P.P.P.S Due to Procrastination (trait, not comic series) I may not use any coupons you send.