Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fortune cookie

You are about to make some changes in your life (again). Changing jobs, changing residence, and if that doesn't work, then changing continents. As for changing marital status, unless she falls right in your laps, you're not getting any.

Nothing stays the same. Hard times pass and never persist, just notice when the good times arrive, and make good use of them, and thank God for both the bad and good times.

And remember: إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرً (alInshirah:6) and وَعَسَى أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسَى أَنْ تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَكَُمْ (alBaqarah:216)

Patience is a virtue. Sometimes you don't wait long enough. Don't let time scare you. Wait as long as you can before you settle --but not too long. Sometimes concessions are worth it, but know how to live with it.

Just keep on working hard, know when to rest, and know when to quit --but don't make it easy. And hey, keep on trying.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Integrating the Islamists

I've been reading relatively more Islamic thought books lately that I'm getting tired of the whole thing. Reached a point where I'm just in this "oh, whatever" state. I wish we would work more and talk less, especially all this ideology talk. We need more of the business mentality, the non-greedy one (and yes, it exists), were work has no ideologies. The goal is to achieve, work, and get things done the right way regardless of the ideology behind it. Incorporate that with scientific research, and you get something good going for sure. And then everyone can think of their god or whatever. I reached this state, of who cares who your god is, just get to work damn it, and do something useful for your god's sake. Produce and develop, that's for sure the best way to worship Him. I get tired sometimes from all the macro abstract vision that leads to no where.

Back to those books I'm going through. Last was a book by Tarek AlBishry, one in a series about Islamic thought in modern history, which I stopped reading half way through and jumped to Abul Ela Mady's collection of essay's about the adoption of alWasat Islamic vision by the alWasat party (founded by Mady).

The book is a slightly good change for me, as this is abit more of the practical implementation of the Wasat line of thought led by Selim AlAwwa, Tarek AlBishry, Fahmy Howeidy, and Mohammad Umara et al. The book is a collection of the Wasateyya thought poured in the party's basket for on-the-ground implementation.

In a nutshell, the party is a civil party (non-theological party) with an Islamic reference, adopting the Arab-Islamic civilization project. A party which does not claim that it holds or monopolizes the truth, nor claims that it speaks in the name of Islam (hence, nor God), but presents a human understanding of Islam, whoever accepts it accepts this human understanding, and whoever rejects it, rejects this understanding and not Islam itself.

Quite a bit of progressive thought in an attempt to be implemented by the party (to be), accepting pluralism and adopting the understanding that Quran and Sunnah did not specify a certain form of government, but rather specified a set of Islamic values for the nation to hold to. Among those values are; freedom, equality, selection of leaders is through the people's free will, the nation is the source of authority, citizenship (mowatna), and freedom of criticizm, speech, and opposition, which equates to el'amr belma3roof walnahy 3an elmonkar.

On the high profile topics of non-Muslims and women in the Islamic society. The book emphasizes the long established Wasateyya thought on the issues. Referencing alAwwa's and Howeidy's books on non-Muslims, and alBishry's large study on the topic, where the Dhimmi contract that the prophet has established with the non-Muslims at the time has basically ended long ago, and a new contract is now established based on a national constitution providing all citizens (of different religions) equal rights and responsibilities.

As for women in high profile positions such as the judiciary, alBishry and alAwwa conclude that it is allowed in Islam for women to be judges (as well as non-Muslims). Among the reasons is that the judiciary has become an institution, and is not based on individuals who have absolute powers. AlAwwa also discussed in one of his studies that the Quranic versus were directed to both men and women equally in all the duties, and that women participated since the beginning of Islam in all forms of public service, and there is no evidence to prevent women from public service.

How can a group of people trying to implement that line of thought be dangerous? Wouldn't allowing them enough political space to move in, curb some of the religious extremism that we're seeing these days? I can't help but think that this is probably one of the good ways of integrating Islamists into the society in a constructive manner. Sure, such thought is too progressive for many of the fundamentalists, but it could be a wall for them to lean against, and if its a strong enough wall, it will not lean with them, but will stand firm with its progressive thoughts.

AlWasat are still trying to get that party status. If they do, atleast there will be practical channels for the Wasateyya line of thought to be tried at some level, rather than just be read in books and essays.

Now, if I was Egypt's Pharaoh I would scrap all the exisiting political parties (especially all those useless ones whom are nostalgic to the past, pre-1952, Nasserists, salafists, and so on. You want the past, then stay there and don't annoy us in the present.) except for four. Those four are pretty much representative of a large enough portion of this nation. I would start by alGhad, alTagammu, alWasat, and the NDP. alGhad representing the liberals and pro-Western, alTagammu representing the socialists and pro-Arab, alWasat representing the pragmatist Islamists and all those who like to be part of anything with the word Islam in it, and the NDP representing the opportunists and the thugs.


--
The Pharaoh shall now go smoke a cigarette in his royal balcony from his first bought pack in almost 5 years. The Pharaoh shall ban smoking in Egypt as soon as this pack evaporates.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Land of Fear

My friend's recommendations never fail. He recommended the movie Ard elKhof three years ago, and since then I tried to see it a few times, but for different reasons, weren't able to get it. Finally, I just finished watching it now.

Interesting times for me to see it now. A story of an undercover cop who lives a supposedly fake life for over 12 years as a drug dealer. The movie is a grade one human movie, full of symbolism that I'm still trying to figure them out. The cop's code name is Adam, sending his reports to the authorities to a recipient with code name Moussa. The post official who delivered the letters happens to be called Moussa as well, so when the recipients are not receiving the messages anymore, he decides that he'll meet Adam and explain what was happening, after reading the messages and not understanding them. Adam realizes that he's all alone, his messages have not been delivered, and no one knows the truth, there's no one to back him up, and the life he's been living as a criminal drug dealer is in fact his real life.

All along I couldn't help but see the evil in him motivating him rather than the good cause that he was supposedly working for. The good cause just helped him keep going and have a clear conscious.

During his life as a 'fake' drug dealer, what was keeping him going is his false belief that he was doing it for a good purpose, just like the real drug dealer, Me'allem Hodhod, would not hurt his cusomters by replacing his Marijuana business with the powder business which has five times as much return, constantly saying religious versus, but knowing deep down that what he was doing is wrong.

The woman that Adam married with his money and 'fake' identity is the woman that loved him, and the woman that didn't know his fake identity and which he had feelings for is the woman who couldn't stand him when he told her that he was a drug dealer, and couldn't tell her that he was doing it undercover. Yet at the end, when she knew he was an undercover and came back to him, he was longing for his old life in the land of fear.

Ahmed Zaki is good. He sure will be missed.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Divorce diaries

Hilarious outing. Thursday night, I finish work and pick up my constantly-in-a-divorce-state friend to go out for dinner. He starts complaining about his wife, and describes this long fight with his mother-in-law that ended in a demand for divorce. I think this is like the 70th time or something. His usual dilemma; he'd like to divorce her yesterday before tomorrow, but he'd also like to keep the little girl. Which ofcourse he knows that it will most likely not happen.

Another friend of mine calls me while I'm listening to the latest divorce story. I told her, hey, I'm bringing my friend and coming over to meet you. Both are cool friends, so they were okay in meeting for the first time. Although she was abit worried about meeting a constantly-in-a-divorce-state guy who will probably be depressed, and turn it into a lousy outing, but I knew it would be fun. I only urged my friend to watch his mouth and avoid any foul language infront of the lady.

So we all meet at this Pizza place, which I find nothing good about and don't know why everyone thinks so highly of (both the food and the seating are bad)! I order a large pizza to finish it on my own, and my friend who had a quick dinner at home, orders a medium one. The femme just goes for tonic water. A beauty and two beasts basically. Then they roll. He tells his endless stories about his marriage, and how his wife cannot sleep at night without having a good fight. And she, analyzes him and his parents and his wife and her parents. As long as she's agreeing with him on how his wife is wrong, then he's enjoying it, and as long as she's tough on him, he wants to tell more stories to prove how much of an angel he is. So I had to intervene (considering that I'm always siding with his wife, and he's always hating me for it), and tell the story when he was flirting with a girl and telling her that she was sexy through an SMS, and when his wife saw it and was fuming he told her that the SMS was to me! I also had to tell about his meeting with his other girlfriend in Italy when he was engaged to his wife. So then he had to tell some of my stories to prove I was crazy, like when I jumped off his car because he wouldn't let me out, and when I was fighting with them in the house in Agamy and went running out of the house with two brooms in my hand, a pj pants and a torn t-shirt and came back an hour later, and how I get off my car to curse the guys who throw flyers in your car while you're driving. I think my poor lady friend didn't know all this was coming. The guy said everything, and just stopped short of telling his intimate stories with his wife (thanks God he stopped there).

We're laughing so much, but their eyes start tearing from all the onion chopping going on in the kitchen, so we continue over at the cafe next door. Now that was comfortable, so we get more divorce stories, and our lady friend starts to think that this outing can't be real, and she must be dreaming. She asks my friend jokinly, "so how long have we known each other for?". Then he says there's one more thing she doesn't know about him, "my underwear is size 6", and we all crack. Man, even I didn't know that!

Three hours of constant fun and laughter, and he was actually truly depressed about his marriage, but totally helpless (or so he believes). Two years of a failed marriage, nothing they do works because they're not really trying hard enough and they don't trust one another anymore. He's a stubborn child and a dumb control freak, and she's selfish and insecure who always puts herself ahead of the relationship, that she'll never do what will satisfy him.

We separate at midnight, Cinderella heads home, I drop my friend at the 'ahwa to continue his night, and I head to bed. As my friend is getting out to the 'ahwa he tells me that he had lots of fun, and asks me why her and I are not together!

6 Kilos

Still gaining weight. Yes, I'm running 8Km again and slightly improving, but I need to run 30K to burn the amount of food that I eat. You're eating like a pig, and turning into a cow. Stop eating. Stay away from that fridge. Don't look at that menu. Starvation. Starts NOW.

Well, I couldn't help but get my favorite juice after today's run --Strawberry with Orange. This had better be the last thing I put in my mouth today.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

What's wrong with Egyptians?

No, not everything. There are lots of wonderful Egyptian individuals, who have many good characteristics and who are able to excel in various fields of life.

There are many efforts done by individuals in an attempt to develop this country too. All the efforts are sporadic and random however, that the net effort amounts to zero. Some think of zero as a good number, a neutral number. But its actually a very degrading number. Try to multiply a number with it, or divide it by another number and you get no where. Try dividing a number by it and its an undefined operation (not a number).

So unfortunately, the good efforts done by so many Egyptians seem to maintain the survival level of this country more than to develop it in any way, and that is the zero number I'm talking about. It looks like we're standing still and surviving, but we aren't. Survival alone without development is a degraded state of being, and that's what we're living.

There are a few great Egyptian individuals whom are well known, but many more aren't. What makes great individuals even greater is being able to achieve what they do in the tough environment they're in, fighting back all the factors that are fighting them, instead of supporting them.

At a younger age, I used to think that one cannot achieve except outside of this country. But small achievements here are worth a great deal. Helping a few helpless help themselves here and being part of the early trivial development activities that could happen here (if ever), could be as worthwhile as getting to the moon and researching rocket science elsewhere, and sometimes its just as hard.

Every moral man and woman in this country that is holding tight to their morals, in this lawless swamp of immorality is making a great achievement.

Humans are the same everywhere. Some of the differences arise from the surrounding culture and from how we're raised. Yet we all have the same traits and chracteristics, needs and desires, just balanced differently. But Egyptians as a group have common factors that can be attributed to us in general, which are a result of the surrounding culture, and the environment we're being raised in.

I claim that what's wrong with Egyptians is not the individual within us. But what's wrong with Egyptians is us, as a group of people. Its how we function together, and how we perceive others. In fact, its how we are not able to function together. The problem is with Egyptians as a society functioning through our culture.

How we are governed by our regime is not an exception. Its from us, onto us --wa min a3malekom ma solleta 3alaykom. If we take snapshots of our society at any level, we'll find that every sample mini-government in our society functions the exact same way. Every power figure acts the same way, and every group of governed people in our society act the same way. We personify leadership (sometimes to an idol status, intentionally or not), blow them up, then suck up to them so we can be closer to them to benefit from their power, and when their time is up, we throw them over to take their place or work through the next powerful figure. And those who don't do that, allow those who do to rule.

For some reasons that anthropologists and sociologists can analyze, cutting corners has become a theme of our culture, where its important to get the job done, but not important how it gets done. Ana wa men ba3dy eltofan (I come first, and the tsunami can destroy the rest), is the definition of being smart in this culture, and if you care and work with others then you are by definition naive and dumb.

Lawlessness is at the core of our problems. What is not an attribute of a culture can become so with the application of suitable laws that are enforced effectively and justly, and which eventually over time become natural laws of the society. I see the West applying more of God's laws than we do here. Not Islam per se, but God's laws in general. They've managed to create man-made laws that in many aspects reflect God's will on Earth, and we haven't been able to do so. Look at some of the basic laws. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt pay your taxes, and others shall benefit from it. Thou shalt not harass women, not even with an offending gaze. Thou are equal infront of God, except through your deeds and actions. Thou shalt respect others' rights, including right of belief and religion. And so on. All these are laws in the West which are applicable there, but not here (either because they're not written, or because they're not applied). So its not really a matter of whether to apply the Islamic Shari'a or not. I think its a matter of working hard and sincerely on having relevant and suitable man-made laws to start with, and if those laws are well-thought of and genuinly for the benefit of the people, then they will resemble God's will on Earth and they will be God's Shari'a. Then, such laws should be justly applied in form and in spirit. If we can't come up with such laws and apply them justly, then we'll never understand God's Shari'a.

All that is not the main problem however. The problem is with our monolithic culture that accepts no criticism and no diversity. We are not allowed to criticise us and our culture. We think one way, and its the right way, and if you deviate from the group thinking, you are un-Egyptian, have ulterior motives, a traitor, or a kafir.

Yet most of those who do deviate, and criticize, do so with such an extreme manner that it just proves how similar they are to the culture that they're criticizing. Well, they're Egyptians. They too are unwilling to see the others' point of view. They too are not willing to be criticized, thinking that they hold the truth. Well, they too are obviously part of this culture that don't accept criticism.

I read some of the Egyptian blogs and opposition papers for example, and see an outlet for criticizm of everything Egyptian, which is wonderful. In blogs specifically, there's criticizm that is hardly acceptable --not by the regime-- but by our culture in general. Yet still, it is criticizm that is too extreme and too rigid most of the time. Criticizm that is not to be criticized. Egyptian style criticizm. We are the kind of culture that want everyone to think the same way, our way.

I see the problem is as much with the Islamic fundamentalist extremists as much as it is with the Secularist extremists for example. Both act the same way, both would govern the same way, both are bred from the same culture obviously.

The way I see it, is that every culture has major flaws. Yet a culture that is not capable of self-criticism in a constructive manner, of embracing all of the diverse thoughts within, and of self-correction, cannot progress. So the problem with us, is not the different flaws we have --which are all treatable, but its that we are not willing to admit that we (as a culture) have flaws and work on them in a constructive manner. We blame everything, especially individuals, but not us as a group.

We're not necessarily doomed however. I've learnt that everytime I make a criticism I should provide atleast one alternative solution (and I didn't learn that in Egypt). So one of the solutions to me does come from changing the top of the pyramid. Although I've argued that our problem is with us as a group of people, yet it is almost impossible for this culture to change itself, to change without leaders.

That's why I question the application of democracy here sometimes. We governing ourselves, through our own self-bloated culture, won't make us work on our problems. The general overwhelming traditions, thoughts, taboos and approach to life will be more general and entrenched even further. I'm only afraid that our cultural traits would eat up the good that might come out from democracy.

What we might need is a group of good leaders that take us through the leap. That work, first and foremost at mending the way we function as a group. But they could turn into a group of good dictators, and there's no such thing as a good dictator. So go figure.


--
* I dedicate this post to the wonderful jog that I enjoyed running this morning which motivated me to put my thoughts together for this post. Little things motivate little things.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

PLEASE GOD... Save me

from my job.

No. Thou shalt save thyself.

And I will.

----
UPDATE:
I just screwed this Danish guy, Jakob, for a whole one-hour conference call, slapped him on the face --over the phone. Threw every point he made right back at him (this idiot) and people around me were watching me with surprise. I feel good about that. He's been irresponsive and arrogant since last week when he took over the work, and my patience with people has limits.

The joy I'm getting from screwing this guy is not enough to love this job though.

----
My ex-manager called me again tonight offering me a job at a company that I've praised here before. He described how he thinks that new project is great, pushing hard for me to join them, and at a certain point callimg me inexplicable and almost crazy for rejecting the yet-to-come offer without even asking for more details. Well, if I rejected that other offer, why not reject this one. But aside from a number of reasons for my rejection, I'm just totally demotivated, and am not willing to try another blunder. Need a big change.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Monday, June 20, 2005

Manipulating our education system

Unbelievable how low some Egyptians can get. Unbelievable. As if the hypocricy through the signs are not enough. And we wonder what's happening to the new generations.

Got this through email (so it could be made up). The Arts final exam in AlArish high school has questions requiring students to draw scenes of Mubarak's achievements and design logos for him!



On a lighter note (or is it a heavier note, I don't know!), go read 'Arfan's latest post. This is basically how most Egyptians think. Maybe we should have that united republic again with Syria afterall! I think we'd get along very well with the Syrians. Personally, I would get along very well with their food (far better than Egyptian food), and their women.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The poor in Egypt

Hanan, 3 orphans, 100 pounds from pension
Hammad, 4 kids, retarded
Rawya (Bahbouha), 7 orphans, deaf, unemployed, no pension
Rabee'a, 5 kids, deaf husband
Fatma, 5 girls, husband died after kidney failure
Um Hashim, widow, 58 pounds from pension, heart disease
Eatemad, 2 girls and 1 boy, divorced, 90 pounds income, the daughter is sick
Um Mohammed, 2 kids, no income, husband has kidney failure
Fayza, 5 kids, husband has kidney failure
Fay'a, 4 orphans
Fawzeya, 2 handicapped kids
Mabrouka, one daughter paralyzed, the other unmarried
Manal, burnt
Mostafa, paralyzed
Saeed, handicapped with one leg, died.
Samara, died.

and the list goes on, and on, and on, and on.

Everytime I do this I have mixed feelings of relief and satisfaction, as well as pity and helplessness. That Chinese proverb always hits me hard, to teach someone how to fish, versus giving them the fish to eat.

We used to walk around from house to house, which made the experience have a much stronger effect on me. Now, they're way too many to walk around their houses. The poor in Egypt are getting poorer, and their numbers is constantly on the rise, and they all have rights.

My grandmas used to own many of the surrounding land, but now the city slums have crawled in eating most of it, and inhabiting the village with the poor, and that's the only connection we have left with the place.

I've realized a while back that the few progressive thoughts I have regarding women, are not because I spent sometime in the West, not because of Laura Bush or Suzanne, and not because of our Sheikhs who preach that Islam liberated women but believe and act differently, but because of my family and my grandmothers. The two of them who were among the first female physicians in Egypt back in the 40's, and even the one who stayed home to support them while they're in medical school, and how they raised my mother and aunts as independant characters. While abit snobbish and crazy, yet full of compassion and progressiveness that they're instilling in a generation without knowing it.

Still, the poor remain poor, but with many good hearts in this country that keeps it going, and many good minds that try to teach the helpless how to fish (here's a good example of those minds).

Friday, June 17, 2005

Moussa naby.. Eissa naby.. Mahammad naby..

we kol men loh naby yessaly 3aleih.

Why do people tend to idolize their prophets and raise them upto a superhuman level? Muslims overdo it, Christians way overdo it, and Jews just abandon their prophet and worship a hollow statue.

I was at that religion lesson at a friend's home once and the sheikh asked the attendants if they did their homework. I thought to myself, that's interesting, he's giving them religious exercises, I'm getting excited. Then the guy goes around asking each one how many times they prayed on the prophet during the last week. Those who didn't say the prayers failed, those who did 500 times in one day and stopped failed, and only those who did it frequently on a daily basis passed. I was astonished. These are highly educated people, some received their PhDs from the States and they are apologizing to the sheikh for not praying on the prophet 100 times a day! Is this what we've reduced our religion to? Is this the best religious exercise they could come up with? Are we to elevate the prophet to a godly status to feel better about ourselves as Muslims, that we are special.

Muhammad is a messenger, Jesus is a messenger, Moses is a messenger. All messengers with one message, from one God, and no god but God.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Puff puff

The Judges yesterday upped the pressure on the regime by declaring that the Referendum was a sham. I am yet to find an official statement, but I got this piece of news through the word of mouth.

Fahmy Howeidy in yesterday's Ahram writes about the Change movements, counting 14 movements so far, and writing about a new movement led by intellectuals, where he was invited.

Tarek AlBishry attended the first meeting of the National Coalition for Democracy led by Aziz Sedky, yet he is not a member of that coalition as he is not up to such action at his age.

Kefaya has its general conference on the 23rd of this month, where they will discuss their strategy in the upcoming elections, and whether they will back one candidate, and who that candidate may be.

Was I so numb when I didn't feel any change before? Well, someone is certainly puffing, slow but sure.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

What shall become of me?

I'm in one of those moods. Not sad, not depressed, not anxious, not confused, but wondering maybe. Wondering about the future. No, not Egypt's future. My future. What will become of me?

I've always been worrying about that. My mom used to tell me that when I was in grade 4 or so, I would constantly express to her my fears of failing, leading her to believe that I am a dumb student, just to be surprised that I do pretty well at the end of the year.

School years are different though. You worry however you like, but then there are exams that you enter, and you finally get a chance to put your fears to rest.

Once you enter college, then you start thinking of that career you're building. Some take it easy and totally enjoy college life, some are too dedicated making sure to ace all the courses as if life ends after College. And some are in between, more dedicated closer to deadlines and exams. I was one of those, and I managed to do pretty well with that strategy.

Then you graduate and realize that college didn't matter for most. Those who won the achievement cup, are having mediocre jobs, and some of those who were constantly on the fringe of failing are overachieving in the job market and they have a stronger entrepreneurial spirit than the book worms. I, wasn't satisfied with what I learnt in college, wanted to do more with more, so decided to go farther in the road of education. Then after so much education, you realize that you don't necessarily need someone to teach you, but more of someone to guide you. Then if you've been educated and raised well enough, you should be able to guide yourself and take yourself to greater depths with any subject you want to benefit from and make use of.

So at this stage of my life I know that this shouldn't be it. The buildup of knowledge should definetely continue, and it should pour into what I do for a living. I look at people who work as janitors or security guards at my building and I feel so bad for them. Not because of the nature of their jobs, but because 8 years ago they were working the exact same jobs, and because they sit there gaining nothing from what they do except the money they need to survive. Their jobs are useful and they are doing good by performing their jobs, but do they feel that or do they care, and shouldn't they always aspire for more?

This is the strongest of my fears -- to end up stuck in a rut doing nothing useful.

I'm not confused, and I'm not worried. I know exactly what I want, but I'm not getting it, and I'm not working hard enough to get it, and when I hate myself, I hate myself for that, and only that.

I am pretty sure that everyone out there thinks of the meaning of their life at one point or another, think of what they've done and what they'd like to do. Lots of answers out there, and everyone picks their favorite.

What do I want from my life? Lots of philosophers filled lots of books about the meaning of life, and what it means and so forth. I don't ask those questions. Call me superficial, but I pretty much know what I want, but alot of the time I have no clue how to get it or I don't work hard enough to get it, and that pisses me off.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Egypt from up top

First off, excuse my ignorance when I wrote before about what I think Kefaya should do. Its always easier said than done. But it doesn't mean that I'll shut up. So I finally made it to some of those activists' events. Went to Wednesday's night candle light vigil, and to yesterday's The Street is Ours event.

The reasons I started going to such events are pretty simple. One, they're finally starting to pick some convenient times (8pm for the vigil and 5-8pm for the women's political event). And I don't mind being involved in democracy when its convenient. Two, I was a little affected by what I saw and read about the May 25th public assaults on women. And three, I have nothing better to do.

The candle light vigil started out boring, but ended up interesting as more people showed up. Some formed a small street theatre singing songs, reciting poetry, playing Oud. Some can never help but shout chants as strong as they can, as if someone is listening to them, and as if the louder they shout the more they will listen (kinda reminds me of those in prayers who shout Amen so loud after every supplication as if God will hear them better that way). Some were reporters, and some were constantly giving interviews to reporters. Oh, and some were uniformed and plain-clothed state security guys.

With my limited imagination, I just keep wondering how that will eventually lead to toppling Mubarak and establishing a democratic state with less corruption and more justice. Just shows my lack of imagination, lack of history readings, and lack of political experience (what have the experienced politicains achieved though?) I guess.

The candle light idea was novel and looked nice. It is more of a Christian tradition, but a cool one, that no one minded --including those Islamists from AlWasat party. The night ends peacefully and I take the subway to Tahrir square and walk to Zamalek. Kasr ElNile bridge was packed with people (close to the number of those who were in the demonstration), people hanging out, families, and couples enjoying the not-so-fresh air and the cool breeze. It was like walking in a different world entirely. Most of them don't know there was a protest going on a few blocks away, not to mention that they probably don't care. But I don't know that. I know however, that they've had a rough day in the morning, a rough life ahead of them, and they just want to enjoy the night out without depressing themselves more by wondering how can their lives improve by participating in political activism and demonstrations.

The Street is Ours event was also interesting. Dominated by women, with quite a number of upper class women invovled. Didn't really get to hear the testimonies and the small speeches by people, but I got a chance to have a good chat with a friend, to talk to an acquaintance whom I've seen holding a video camera in the last two events, and to say hi to an old friend whose not talking to me anymore (but that's another topic). The friend I chatted with managed to take 2 pounds from me as contribution in exchange for a "Street is Ours" badge, but didn't manage to get my name on the sheet. She talked to me about how the committees in the Youth for Change movement are starting to function, and how they've been trying to interact with the public by distributing leaflets, and talking to people. How they're trying to get a permanent location for their meetings (and how some make jokes that this is so that the police can find them easier), and how they've stopped being active in the subway because its way too risky, with the police waiting for them in the next station. I suggested one of their activities be to deface the Yes To Hosni posters in the streets, and she said they're already planning on that. Then I asked her if they had preparation plans for the upcoming elections.

Another friend of mine who was enjoying two luxurious nights at the Four Seasons Nile Plaze kept calling me, threatening that he'll have dinner without me if I'm not there shortly. I had to cut my attendance of the event short, and run to my friend to catch my free dinner with him at the Nile Plaza's Spice. Now, that's a Chinese restaurant that even most Chinese would probably be impressed with.
The place was almost packed with mostly Egyptian families, couples, and some foreigners. The topic comes up with my friend over dinner about Communists, and his high regard of Karl Marx's thoughts, and the rich father from the table next to us takes a peak at those two sitting on the next table (so I slightly raise my voice so he can hear what we're talking about). So ofcourse dinner was just awesome (the not paying part).

We finish the fruit platter and the fried bananas to go have the drinks up in the suite's balcony. And truly, the saying is a fact, "seeing Egypt from up above, is totally different than seeing it from down below." Sitting in that balcony, watching the beautiful Nile, the city lights and detaching from everything real in Cairo is just a breathtaking experience. Sitting in that wonderful blacony, I tell my friend that all we need now is to have this balcony closed with a glass window to isolate us completely from the noises down below. Then after a while I realize that hearing those noises adds to your sense of isolation from everything filthy down below, easily forgetting how filthy some have to be to get up here.

The night was just wonderful until that night's god of complaining arrived. Our friend arrives with his heavy relationship burdens. At first, I don't want to be involved and just want to enjoy the rest of the evening. I'm sick and tired of failed relationships and stupid couples, but I just can't help it. I always end up taking the women's side when my friends start complaining about their girlfriends or wives, and it seems that this is why they like to listen to my opinion. Well, ofcourse our other non-neutral friend has to throw in, "if you know it all, why don't you do so yourself then?" But its not about me, is it!

Dead tired at the end of the night, and falling asleep at that balcony couch, I go home thinking of how depressing it was, to be down in those street protests and political events without being able to figure out how that will improve the life of Egyptians, as well as to be up there watching Egypt from up above, getting a taste of the lavish lifestyle offered here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Huh, me?!

What's the fastest way to go to jail in Egypt?

By having a political activist friend ask you to join their newly formed committee that will represent the independents in the Youth for Change movement in the Kefaya conference on the 23rd, and you say "Sure".

Absolutely no comment. Abit funny actually! They obviously haven't read my blog. I doubt that I'll last for more than a meeting.

A night out

I went out with total strangers tonight, except for a guy and a half. My friend has been wanting me to go out with their group for a while now, and I've always had something else to do. For him, every new girl we meet is a potential bride, and he thinks that it will do me good! That reason aside, I joined him today. Different setting, meet new people, good change, why not.

It was a pretty casual outing, friends hanging around, chitchatting about whatever, not really that interesting. Found that connection between one of the girls and a close friend of mine who's not related to this group, small world, etc. etc., happens all the time. Then comes this girl that triggered me. She has this lesbian hard look with the sharp eye glasses. Very arrogant (and I hate arrogant people). We got to know about all her desert camping trips, and about all her Paris stories, and how she's going there again this September and October and November, how the Algerians speak their Frenched Arabic, and how she can't sleep at night before watching Amelie. I talk to her, and she gives me this look before responding (the who are you look), then gives brief answers --for a guy who deserves no more!

Later in the night, the setting got lighter, some left, she was eating that burger, and I made a joke about the way she was eating (well, that she ate half of the sandwich in one bite). Sorry, couldn't help it. She looks at them, points at me and says, "Who's this guy. I don't wanna see him again." I simply responded, "just don't look here again. Look the other way." So we ignore each other for a while, and then she starts asking me were I work, how I know those guys, "no no seriously, how did you get to know them, do you work with them?" I know I wasn't mean at all, it was just an innocent joke really. But a saying that one of my friends used to keep saying about women, and I used to always fight with him disagreeing with it just popped to my mind. I still disagree with it (especially that its rude), but some women, uhh, just get to you. So my friend used to keep saying what could be loosely translated to, "screw the girl and she'll love you, love the girl and she'll screw you." Hmm, I know one thing. He's being screwed big time now by his wife, and at some point he used to love her.

The outing ends safely, and my friend and I then go meet that activist friend in front of Chantille to get a copy of a video tape of the referendum day protests showing the women who were assaulted. We stand in the street talking for almost an hour, and I get to hear some interesting inside stories about the Youth for Change movement, about Kefaya and who's involved with them (which was a bit of a shock), about how the women provoked the security forces and the thugs, about how some of the demonstrators keep cursing the police force in their face (including their mothers and their religion), about how the Communists and the Revolutionary Socialists are trying to control those movements, about the revolutionary thought that overwhelms those people that the goal sometimes becomes to get hurt and arrested, while achieving the stated goal becomes a secondary objective, about stories of how Suzanne Mubarak is the one running the country and is pushing for Jimmy to take over, and Hosni is becoming a show puppet. The more you hear, the more you realize how messed up this whole thing is, how messed up this whole country is, those running it, and those opposing them --whether the stories are right or wrong.

That arrogant girl might've been better than all those actually.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The street is theirs

I received an email that's in circulation about an apparently new movement in the building called The Street is Ours. The movement is being initiated by a group of women whom are having an event in the Press Syndicate and affirming the role of the Egyptian woman in the desired political change. The email and English version of the invitation are below.

The girl who initially sent the email and invitation had her name and mobile number in the email, which I didn't think is particularly the smartest thing to do. I think this thing is getting way too emotional, which is partially fine, but is quite dangerous and ineffective I think.

Anyway, so since the girl had her number in the email and asked for the widest possible circulation, I decided to call her up. She was a bit defensive. I would too, if a total stranger calls me up and asks me that he received an email about an upcoming protest next Thursday. Well she immediatly said that its not a protest, its an event. So I asked where the financial contribution is being directed to, and what entity will be receiving those funds. She said there is no entity, but was a group of people, and the funds were being directed to finance this Thursday's event only. I asked her if this was a new movement, she said, not yet, but they are contributing to the public forces that are asking for change and they have similar demands. I asked her if Dr. Heba was one of the organizers, she said yes. I asked why the division among the opposition and the separation from Kefaya. She said its 'nice' to have a multitude of opposition forces aiming for the same goal, similar to other movements like the Youth for Change movement. I told her the Youth for Change movement are under the umbrella of Kefaya, she said No, they are only coordinating with them but not part of it (I was there and they said they were under Kefaya umbrella, but ofcourse she knows better!). I actually think it could be effective to have more than one movement with the same goals, as long as they coordinate as much as possible. One movement down, 10 others to go. Not a bad model. Oh, and I asked her if this was a pure feminine movement, she said no, all are welcome.

Anyway, so here's the email and the invitation. Haven't decided if I should go or not. The timing is certainly more suitable than the usual Kefaya demos, so this is an encouragement to me.

Dear All,

In light of the dramatic events of May 25th, and as part of a stand against the systematic targeting of women in the public sphere, I am attaching an invitation (in Arabic and English) for a political gathering organized by a number of women-activists and non-activists -next Thursday 9 June.

Your participation is invaluable. Also your financial contribution would be highly appreciated since the event is organized independently form any institution or organization.

If you have any questions, suggestions or would like to make a contribution please email me at: name@yahoo.com or call 012-xxx-xxxx.

Please give it the widest possible circulation.

Name


[Invitation Below]

The Street is Ours!!
A political gathering organized by Egyptian women
Thursday, 9th of June 2005:

Political meeting: 5 – 8 p.m.
Press Syndicate – 4th Floor

Everyone is invited!


On Wednesday the 25th of May the Egyptian Ministry of Interior and the Egyptian ruling party joined hands and efforts to attack men and women protesting the farce referendum, which the Egyptian regime is trying to sell to the international community as evidence of political reform. On the same day the Ministry of Interior and the ruling party used a tactic that was new to them. What was new is that they used it in the streets of the capital, in clear daylight and in front of everybody who was around the points of gatherings, which we had wanted to be peaceful.. the tactic was to target women, using violence, molestation and sexual harassment.

On that day the Ministry of Interior send a clear message to the women and their families, friends and colleagues, that women should stay at home.

Wednesday the 25th of May was not the first time where sexual harassment was used to terrorize women and limit their participation in public life. They harass us in public buses and when we complain they tell us to stay home! They harass us at the workplace and when we complain they tell us to stay at home! They harass us in demonstrations and when we complain they tell us to stay home?

But we shall not remain imprisoned by fear in our homes. The street is ours. It belongs to us as it belongs to all Egyptians. We have taken to the streets as pupils, students, workers, peasants, housewives, professionals and faculty.. we have taken to the streets in solidarity with the heroic Palestinian Intifada and protesting the criminal war against Iraq. We have taken to the streets protesting the desecration of the Koran in Guantanamo and in solidarity with the women peasants in Sarando and the women of Arish and the ESCO and Asbestos workers.. We shall not retreat!!

Thursday the 9th of June 2005
An open political meeting
for women to have their say in the struggle for change.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Youth for Change movement

Somehow I ended up going to a meeting for the few weeks old Youth for Change movement. It is apparently somehow affiliated with the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kefaya). It is the youth component of Kefaya I suppose, all under the larger umbrella of Kefaya.

The meeting was interesting. A bunch of young people that I didn't particularly identify with. Some were pretty cheerful singing some Negm/Imam songs before the meeting. Felt like I was taken back to the early 70's and 60's, and the characters were taken out of a Sonallah Ibrahim's novel. Ofcourse, in order to be a rebel and an intellectual you have to be a smoker. So I inhaled lots of second hand smoke. This is my contribution to the advancement of democarcy in Egypt.

George Ishaq started talking. Snowy white hair, but very youthful in spirit. I liked what he said but wasn't really convinced by some of it. He talked about how all the political affiliations should melt inside Kefaya and no one should come here trying to impose his or her political thought. He talked about next Wednesday's quiet 'vigil' at Saad Zaghloul's tomb at 8pm on candle lights. I made sure to ask for affirmation that there won't be any chanting or slogan shouting, and he and others insisted that there shouldn't be any (I was happy about that). He talked about how they will not accept that Kefaya's demonstrations be attended by only 2-300 demonstrators. We will not go out in demonstrations less than a 1000 (I'd like to see how they'll do that). He talked about how last week's beatings and indignity will not be tolerated again. I was wondering how will they stop that, until he said; "we have our utmost respect and trust in our judiciary, but if we don't get justice by this regime, we will take our cases to the international tribunals." I really wanted to clap my hands and applaud. He talked about how a member of Kefaya was arrested a few days ago, and how they would not rest until he's out, and from now on they will have dedicated people to follow-up on any one who gets arrested.

So then George left, and left the youth behind to practice democracy, and I wish he hadn't. It was democracy in its purist forms I suppose. All what they were trying to do was to come up with some organization of their youthful movement, form some committees to oversee the work, and some coordinating committee to oversee the committees, decide what are the roles of the committees, have less or more committess, call them committees or working groups, how each committee should function, bla bla bla, endless. But all was done in a democratic way, just a bit uncivil and disrespectful of others at times. So I left, and an hour later my friend calls me to tell me that they haven't reached a decision yet. I had asked to get the floor for two minutes to tell them to just start with any organization, and worry about restructuring later, start with something, stay dynamic, and most important, have a 2-3 non-charismatic leaders to get things going. But there were too many people that had their turn to talk ahead of me (and two said more or less what I wanted to say), and I have had enough of the smoke and the endless details, and who am I aslan, so I decided to leave.

Real achievers

From the book Wizards and Their Wonders: Portraits in Computing, the following is part (edited for length) of the Inventors chapter:

Wizards and Their Wonders: Portraits in Computing is a tribute by The Computer Museum and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to the many people who made the computer come alive in this century. It is unabashedly American in slant: the people in this book were either born in the United States or have done their major work there. With the exception of the Forerunners listed in the first section, the book concentrates on living innovators in computing, comprising: the Inventors, who created the work; the Entrepreneurs, who drove the work; the Communicators, who shaped the work; and the Venture Capitalists, who funded the work.

Inventors


"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." --Alan Kay

One of the benefits of the fast rate of computer development is that many of the industry's primary inventors are still very much alive and active, and could be photographed and interviewed for this celebration. It is perhaps the first technology in which we hae the luxury of actually meeting the people who created its key inventions, in this case, the mouse, the laser printer, the Internet, the World Wide Web, the word processor, teh Ethernet, the spreadsheet, and the graphical user interface. Though some of the people in this chapter will be well-known to many readers, you may be pleasantly surprised to connect a face with a name for the first time. In this chapter you will meet the people who helped create the wonders we use every day - the inventors of the modern computer.

Marc Andreessen


Marc Andreessen is Senior Vice President of Technology for Netscape Communications. Andreessen developed the idea for the NCSA Mosaic browser for the Internet in the fall of 1992 while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois. He was named one of the top 50 people under age 40 by Time magazine in 1994.

"Marc Andreessen had barely come of age when he co-wrote the program that is helping to tame the Internet... he is often cited as one of the few people who have a road map for the 'infobahn.'" --Time Magazine.

Andreas Bechtolsheim


While a graduate student at Stanford University in 1981, Andreas Bechtolsheim designed a workstation for himself using off-the-shelf parts. Using $25,000 of his own money to build prototypes, he soon attracted the attention of Vinod Khosla and Scott McNealy, two Stanford University M.B.A. students. The trio then recruited Bill Joy, principal architect of the Berkeley Standard Distribution (BSD) Unix operating system, and founded Sun Microsystems. The name Sun originally stood for "Stanford University Network".

Tim Berners-Lee


Tim Berners-Lee, World Wide Web developer, trained in physics at Oxford. In 1990, he was working at the Swiss-based European Particle Physics Laboratory (CERN) when he wrote the specifications for the global hypermedia system, using the then innocuous acronyms HTTP, HTML, and URL. In 1994, Bernes-Lee left CERN to found the World Wide Web Consortium, a non-profit group of research institutions, Web technology users, and providers based at MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science. In commenting on the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee has said "The Internet, specifically the Web, is moving from appearing as a neat application to being the underlying information space in which we communicate, learn, compute, and do business."

"Web' [stands for the Web's] decentralized nonhierarchical topolgy, which is key, and 'World Wide' goes better with 'Web' than does 'global' ... I got a lot of grief for making an acronym with more syllables than the name itself." Tim Berners-Lee, on naming the Word Wide Web.

Dan Bricklin


Dan Bricklink, an electrical engineering graduate from MIT in 1973, began workign for Digital Equipment Corporation as a programmer. He later left Digital to enter Harvard Business School. In the late 1970's, he teamed up with old MIT friend Bob Frankston to create thew world's first electronic spreadsheet, VisiCalc. The software was inspired by Bricklin's personal experience at Harvard with "running the numbers" to determine company financial health by performing many laborious computations. VisiCalc first appeared for the Apple II computer, greatly accelerating that computer's sales. By 1983, over 500,000 copies of VisiCalc had been sold.

Bob Frankston


Bob Frankston did most of the coding for VisiCalc, the world's first electronic spreadsheet, after Dan Bricklin proposed the idea. Working in his attic at night, Frankston created a working version of the program in four weeks. Released in October 1979, the first commercial version of VisiCalc was 20K bytes and available only for the Apple II computer. He holds four degrees, all from MIT: Bachelor's degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering (1970), an engineering degree, and a Master's degree in electrical engineering (1974).

Vint Cerf


Cint Verf, known as the "father of the Internet," is the co-developer of hte computer networking protocol TCP/IP, now the transmission standard for data communications on the Internet. Much of Cerf's early work was undertaken during hte period from 1976 to 1982, when he worked on the DARPA project for the Department of Defense. He holds a B.S. degree in mathematics from Stanford University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA. Cerf is now Senior Vice-President of Internet Architecture and Engineering at MCI Corporation.

"We're a society that wants everything, and we want it now. I think that's what the Internet is responding to."

Fred Brooks, Jr.


Fred Brooks, Jr., was 29 when he joined IBM and was put in charge of System/360. He shared the National Medal of Technology in 1985 with Eric Bloch and Bob Evans. He is the author of The Mythical Man-Month (1975), an important book about software engineering incorporating Brook's Law, which states that, "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." According to Bob Metcalfe, "Mr. Brooke saw his law operating at IBM in the late 1960's, when the joke was that if IBM asked its programmers to jump a 100-foot gorge, a hundred of them would each jump one foot."

Ed Catmull


At Lucasfilm, Ed Catmull created special effects for the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He was a key developer of Renderman software, used in such Hollywood films s The Abyss, Terminator II, Jurassic Park, Jumanji, Beauty and the Beast, Batman II, and Toy Story. In 1996, he received an Academy Award from the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for scientific and technical engineering contributions to the evolution of computer graphics in filmmaking.

John Cocke


At IBM, John Cocke developed the concept of reduced instruction set computer (RISC) technology, a cornerstone of high-speed computer design, relying on minimal instruction set and highly efficient compiler design. He was a multifaceted talent at IBM, working on compilers, and inventing the concept of "look-ahead" for the IBM Stretch computer. He has inspired generations of engineers. He has won both the National Medal of Technology (1991) and the National Medal of Science (1994), as well as the ACM Turing Award (1985) for this innovation. He graduated in 1956 from Duke University with a Ph.D. degree in mathematics.

Douglas Engelbart


Douglas Engelbart is best known for his pioneering work during the 1960s and 1970s developing computing technologies that have since become commonplace -- the mouse, hypertext, windows, cross-file editing, and mixed text and graphics files. In partnership with Sun Microsystems and Netscape Communications, he is pursuing his long-standing interest in boosting human intelligence. In describing Engelbart's contributions, EECS Department Chair Randy Katz (UC Berkeley) says that Engelbart's ideas "are aimed not so much at creating new technology, but at making people's lives better -- the ultimate accolade for an engineer."

Richard Stallman


Richard Stallman simultaneously earned a magna cum laude degree in physics from Harvard University and served as a system programmer for Russel Nofsker's Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. Stallman's guiding principle was "The Hacker Ethic," the philosophy that software should be distributed for free. He worked on the development of EMACS, and editing program allowing limitless customization by users. Stallman, a "lone ranger" for "The Hacker Ethic," was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship to stay at MIT and to continue programming.f

James Gosling


For many years, James Gosling has designed satellite data acquisition systems, several compilers, mail systems, window managers, and the EMACS UNIX editor. He was the Lead Engineer for Sun Microsystems' Java/Hot Java project and is presently a Vice-President and Fellow at Sun. He has received a B.S. degree in computer science from the University of Calgary (1977) and a Ph.D. degree, also in computer science, from Carnegie-Mellon University (1983).

Dennis Ritchie


Dennis Ritchie is best known as the author of The C Programming Language and as part of the famous team of Ritchie and (Ken) Thompson. Together, they formed the driving creative force behind Bell Telephone Laboratories' legendary computer science operating group. In 1969, they created Unix, an open operating system for minicomputers. Unix helped users with general computing, word processing, and networking, and soon became a standard language. Ritche also co-wrote Plan 9, the next-generation operating system created as the natural descendant of Unix by Thompson and Bell Labs colleague Rob Pike. Interestingly, Ritchie's favorite computer language is Alef.

Ken Thompson


Ken Thompson co-invented the Unix operating system with Dennis Ritchie at Bell Telephone Laboratories. It was a scaled-down version of the Mutlics operating system, hence the pun in the name "Unix." Thanks to the development of the C programming language by Ritchie, Unix became portable over many computer platforms. He received B.S. and M.S. degress from the University of California, Berkeley. He is an amateur pilot, and once traveled to Moscow to fly a MiG-29.

Donald Knuth


Donald Knuth is perhaps best known for having written the classic, multi-volume series, The Art of Computer Programming, the "Bible" of computer science pedagogy. He has written dozens of books and hundreds of articles on mathematics and computer science, and has influenced the thinking of countless students of computer science. He als invented the typesetting language TeX, which remains a worldwide standard for technical publishing. In The Art of Computer Programming, Knuth wryly compares a computer program to a recipe by quoting from McCall's Cookbook.

"I am now a happy man." -- Donald Knuth after giving up the use of email in 1990.

Bjarne Stroustrup


Bjarne Stroustrup is the designer of the C++ software language and the author of The C++ Programming Language and The Desing and Evolution of C++. Stroustrup is the recipient of the 1993 ACM Grace Murray Hopper award and an ACM fellow. His non-research interests include general history, light literature, and music. He received a Ph.D. degree in computer science from Cambridge University, England.

"C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot. C++ makes it more difficult, but when you do you blow your whole leg off."

Charles Simonyi


At the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) during the 1970s, Charles Simonyi led a team of programmers in developing Bravo, the first WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") word processor. Simonyi is now Chief Architect of Microsoft Corporation.

Ivan Sutherland


Ivan Sutherland's 1963 dissertation, Sketchpad: A Man Machine Graphical Communication System, is one of the starting points of computer graphics. Teaching at Harvard University, he experimented with three-dimensional computer graphics, building a head-mounted graphics display in 1966 (a forerunner in today's virtual reality systems). In 1968, he co-founded Evans & Sutherland, a computer graphics company. He is a holder of twelve patents.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Egyptians in action, seeking democracy.