Ahmed Sajjad Zaidi

Entrepreneur, trekker, and photographer based in Pakistan
Archive for 2010

Linux and Photography

I’ve been a big supporter of Linux for a while, but now that I’m getting more involved with photography, it’s starting to become a hindrance. No doubt there are countess tools available to get the best out of any photos, but the learning curve for most is pretty steep and they usually don’t compare well to their Windows counterparts.

Though GIMP takes care of most of my needs, it can be time-consuming and lacks built-in support for such essential things as RAW images and HDR. For the former, I use the dcraw plugin which does the job, but isn’t very powerful.

There are numerous resources for HDR on Linux, but I’m mostly quite disappointed. My favorite is Enfuse which doesn’t produce the greatest of results, but can be installed via Ubuntu’s repository and is really easy to use with the default settings.

Another great tool that I’m using quite often now is jpegoptim which helps optimize the size of any JPEG images I publish to the web to about 30% of the originals (with some compromise in quality, off course) and can be used for batch processing.

So now I want to take things to the next level (build a proper gallery, shoot and publish more photos, etc.) and it seems like the right time to switch to something more appropriate. Waiting for my new Mac. Let’s hope I get it soon.

My Betterphoto profile has a few pics. So does Flickr, though am building a portfolio that I’ll post soon.

Dengue fever remedy

Dengue fever is spreading across the country and is turning into an epidemic that has claimed many lives. A close friend’s father was recently admitted to hospital with similar symptoms, and thankfully, he is recovering now.

This was an email I received recently and although I usually tend to treat such mails with skepticism, the same remedy was given to me by another friend who found it highly effective for treating his son:

I would like to share this interesting discovery from a classmate’s son who has just recovered from dengue fever. Apparently, his son was in the critical stage at the ICU when his blood platelet count drops to 15 after 15 liters of blood transfusion.

His father was so worried that he seeks another friend’s recommendation and his son was saved. He confessed to me that he gave his son raw juice of the papaya (in Urdu Papita) leaves. From a platelet count of 45 after 20 liters of blood transfusion, and after drinking the raw papaya leaf juice, his platelet count jumps instantly to 135. Even the doctors and nurses were surprised. After the second day he was discharged. So he asked me to pass this good news around.

Accordingly it is raw papaya leaves, 2pcs just cleaned and pound and squeeze with filter cloth. You will only get one tablespoon per leaf.. So two tablespoon per serving once a day. Do not boil or cook or rinse with hot water, it will loose its strength. Only the leafy part and no stem or sap. It is very bitter and you have to swallow it like that. But it works.

Papaya Juice – Cure for Dengue

You may have heard this elsewhere, but if not, I am glad to inform you that papaya juice is a natural cure for dengue fever. As dengue fever is rampant now, I think it’s good to share this with all.
Please spread the news about this as lately there are many dengue cases. It’s great if such natural cure could help to ease the sufferings of dengue patients. Furthermore it’s so easily available.

Blend them and squeeze the juice! It’s simple and miraculously effective!!

Hope it ends up saving more people.

A sad independence day

Today marks Pakistan’s 64th independence day. It’s a sad one, not just because of the ongoing floods, the worst natural disaster in our history, but because of how so many across the country are celebrating it.

(Image from this article)

It is an important day for us, no doubt. But it was sad to see hordes of people burning money on fireworks, running amok in SUVs and firing automatic weapons into the air. Even those without access to these luxuries and banned items were still out on the streets, adding to the traffic jams and the general state of apathy.

At any other time, such displays of joy and celebration are tolerable. It is a common perception that we don’t have many forms of entertainment and occasions such as these are opportunities to let off some steam. However, at a time when 20 million Pakistanis are homeless and in need of urgent help, there is no excuse. This sort of behavior is insensitive and shows that even if we have something better to do, we don’t.

There were also campaigns that called on people to refrain from buying flags, fireworks etc. and instead, spend the money to help flood victims. Sad to see that they didn’t have much effect. Maybe we deserve to be ruled by the incompetent leaders that have mostly stood by and filled their own pockets.

It was heartening to see the armed forces cancel the usual celebration plans for the 14th August and the 6th of September. And their efforts in this front are highly commendable. So are those of countless volunteers who have ventured into the worst affected areas and also those who have donated generously.

But much more is needed. More money, more supplies and more volunteers. Things would look a lot more hopeful if we took part in the operations rather than be indifferent to the disaster.

A tragic week

The past few days have been filled with tragedy on a national level. Pakistan saw the country’s worst ever plane crash on Wednesday when an Airbus A321 crashed into the Margalla Hills, overlooking Islamabad. All 152 people on board lost their lives, their charred and dismembered remains scattered around the hill (link).

As is the case with most events concerning Pakistanis, many conspiracy theories have sprung up about the cause of the crash which was most likely due to human error or failure to follow proper procedures. The exact cause of the crash has not been determined, or at least hasn’t been made public yet, but the incident has put into question how closely safety standards and regulations are followed by the airlines operating here. (link). May we never see such an incident again.

The other calamity to hit us came as a result of the annual monsoon rain and glacial melt-water. Severe flooding has caused hundreds of deaths and left countless poeple homeless in the Khyber Pakhtoon Khwah (formerly NWFP) province. We’re likely to see more damage in the coming days as the flood waters hit the Punjab province and then the Sindh, before emptying into the sea.

A smaller flood hit us in Islamabad on Wednesday cut off most parts of the capital from each other. Though the water receded soon afterwards, it left debris on many roads and even in many homes. It also damaged one of the main power grids (the one in my sector) and caused an outage that lasted for two whole days. I better put my alternative energy plans in motion to avoid another such incident.

The raging torrent that is River Jhelum today

The sad fact is that we experience severe dry spells every year. The monsoons come every year and the waters rise to catastrophic levels almost every other year. Yet we can’t help but fall victim to this recurring nightmare while those in power use it as an opportunity to acquire foreign aid instead of investing in infrastructure. The aid is a fraction of the actual amount by the time it reaches those in need of it, if it ever gets there.

Most plans for the development of reservoirs, flood barriers and dams are shelved due to staunch opposition from powerful people who stand to lose their piece of the pie. Same goes for electricity generation and so many of the other problems we face today. If only we could put national interests before those of the chosen few.

World Cup final plan ruined by good weather

I had planned to watch tonight’s FIFA World Cup final match at the hilly Pearl Continental resort in Bhurban, about an hour’s drive from Islamabad. Too bad a thunderstorm is brewing and it’s unlikely to be over within the next five to six hours.

Too bad for the match, but at least we’ll get a relief from the horribly stifling weather we’ve been having recently. Night temperatures have been in the high 30s (around the 98 degrees Fahrenheit mark), while humidity is high enough to keep your hands all clammy.

Guess I’ll need to find another venue. Oh, and I’m cheering for Spain tonight.

Upgrade to WordPress 3.0

I just spent so much time and effort upgrading to WordPress 3.0, instead of blogging about all the important topics I had in mind (except this one off course). How geeky is that?

Anyway, the interface looks a little slicker, and there must be some hidden features I’ve yet to try out, but there’s nothing really really cool about it. Besides the new default theme off course. That’s pretty nice, as you can see here. Still, not worth skipping the blog posts.

Remind me to post more regularly please.

Chevrolet Cruze on the road

It’s official. The Chevrolet Cruze has arrived in Pakistan and has been sighted in Islamabad. The Cruze replaces the Daewoo Lacetti (also known as my beloved Chevrolet Optra) and the Chevi Cobalt. The latter probably doesn’t exist in Pakistan and the Optra is mostly found in Islamabad.

The Cruze is quite an impressive car with a new design and a very cool, sporty interior. However, the high price tag in Pakistan is bound to be a hurdle for most people. At least I probably won’t be upgrading anytime soon.

More info on it here.

Transitioning to WordPress

The last few weeks have been more interesting than usual and I had lots to speak out on. I’ve been Tweeting quite regularly, but was dying to get a few blog posts in. One thing bogging me down was the old blog format where everything had to be written by hand and passed through my somewhat outdated Python scripts.

Would love to come up with a Python WordPress, but just don’t have the time to work on something that big. For now, I’m moving to WordPress and a really simple theme. Hopefully, there won’t be too many issues to sort out. All previous posts will still remain available as static content.

Good to  be back.