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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Match Tickets: An Egyptian Short Story

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Procrastination is another name of Egypt. Yeah, really...we have Misr, Egypt, and Procrastoland!
The reason I am starting with this, is that I think it's better to blame yourself first before blaming others...it makes you seem more credible.
But really, as most of you know Egypt will now play DR Congo (DR Congo...that sounds like the name of a DJ in a club called Ebony Beats, or something...) in the quarterfinal of the African Cup of Nations, which is currently held in Egypt. Having attended a couple of matches for Egypt already, I really can't imagine watching the match on TV; I have to be in the stadium. And to do that, I have to have tickets (naturally!), and here is where procrastination comes in. The tickets were on sale last August, but most of us didn't bother to buy. We'd be sitting in a cafe, and somebody will say something like "We have to buy tickets for the tournament", and somebody will reply "Don't worry, hanzabat" and then they all suck on their shishas and then blow smoke in unison. (In case you're wondering: hanzabat is an Arabic word, which I think has no translation in English, for an apparently good reason; it means something like "we'll fix things up"...and as matters are never "fixed up" the term is actually redundant).
That happened in September, October, November, December, and even a couple of days before the games kicked-off. And for the couple of games I went to, the strategy was actually working.
But not this time, not for this match.
(Here is were I shift to the part where I blame others)
According to Al-Ahram (arabic), 30% of tickets were sold before the tournament. So 70% of the stadium 74,000 capacity (approx. 52,000 tickets) should be up for grabs. Well, apparently not!
The organizing committee started selling tickets on Monday (their justification is that until Sunday evening they didn't know who will be playing against Egypt...well...I'll buy that for now!). Now here is when the thing really develops into a farce. As Monday is a working day for almost all human beings (except of course the un-employed, and the barbers), selling the tickets at 9 AM didn't seem like a very good timing. But so be it. "I'll pass by the FA on my way to work, and be late for work for maximum 30 minutes; that should be ok" I thought. I was in front of the Egyptian Football Association building at 9 AM sharp. The street looked every bit like a battle-ground. "Kefaya shouldn't be having demonstrations now" I thought, but I was wrong. The huge crowds, the riot police, the chanting, the beatings, and the name calling were all for the tickets. "That is going to be one long day" I said, as I untied my tie, rolled up my sleeves, and jumped into the action. 35 minutes later, I reached the tickets booth, only to be told that they're not selling second class tickets (the ones I wanted). I asked when will they be available, but nobody responded. I drove back to work, thinking that maybe later I would be able to get them. On arriving to work, I was really surprised that a lot of people didn't show up. When I asked where they were, I discovered that they're taking the day off to go searching for tickets.
(Let the games begin!)
For the next 8 hours, you'd hear this sort of conversation all over the office:
"So did you get any tickets?"
"Not yet, but somebody is getting them for me"
"Will he find any?"
"Yeah of course; we have somebody in the FA, Zamalek, and the two gates at Ahly...we've got it covered"
"So, can you get me a ticket?"
"Sure, hanzabat"

Mobile operators surely made a killing during that day. Thousands of calls were placed to operatives in the field roaming the streets of Cairo, looking for the elusive tickets. People started calling everybody they knew who is remotely related to the tournament, football in general, police, or any other entity (I know somebody who complained to his manager that he can't find any tickets!). This massive search operation continued well into the night. You can see groups of young people driving around the streets of Cairo looking for any sign of any sort of gathering of people (they should be selling ticket!). At one point, we saw a group of people gathering at the side of Salah Salem: "These guys are selling tickets!" the driver shouted, as he pulled over. The other passengers were like "GO, GO, GO". In a moment everybody was out of the car racing to get the ticket from the "street vendor". A few moments later, somebody returned "it is just an accident, somebody was apparently killed. Never mind, let's go!!"
Early today we went again for the tickets, but were surprised to learn that they were all sold!
So apparently 52,000 tickets just vanished in a matter of, get this, two hours! If you do some math, it turns out that they were selling tickets at a rate of 108 tickets per minute in each of the four outlets! Now that's fast!
Of course, we're in Egypt, and in such situations rumors are abound. Somebody kept swearing to me that Samir Zaher (the president of the EFA) has 5000 tickets for himself, as well as Hani Abou Rida (the president of the organizing committee), which they will sell on the black market, just before the game (update #1: there are some pretty-reliable news that many members of the FA have bought entire tickets booklets, and are selling it in the black market). People were talking about how the tickets are all going to people with connections, and naturally this progressed into a discussion of how corrupted this country had become, with some people even wishing for us to lose on Friday (now talk about emotional reactions!)
So what started as a show of patriotic feelings, degraded into a feeling of betrayal, and a stinky smell of corruption.

And that's how things go in Egypt.

Black Market Price Watch (1/2 12PM): 50 LE for third class (originally 20 LE), 100 LE for second (originally 50 LE)
Black Market Price Watch (1/2 8PM): 70 LE for third class (originally 20 LE), 140 LE for second (originally 50 LE)

Moved on!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dog Catches Car

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For all of you out there who are trying to make sense of what Hamas will do now that it won the elections in Palestine, Scott Adams at the Dilbert Blog makes a perfect point.
He also makes a prediction which, strangely enough, is materializing!

Moved on!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Boycott America!

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There are two main reasons for the action I'm starting today:
  1. I'm a fanatic FOOTBALL fan
  2. Boycotts apparently work
This is one thing that I feel strongly about.
For years and years we had to suffer the humilation of having our most beloved sport called a name other than it's own. Every day we had to endure hearing that stupid term, without responding back, added to our misery. We were shut-up, and silenced by America's greedy corporate machines.
But, it's over. The silence is over. The humulation is over.
Today, we're inspired by the Maradonnas, Peles, and Ronaldos of the world. Today we end the wait. Today we break the silence. Today we say it:


We'll be posting here a list of ALL American products for you to boycott.
Today we redeem the honors of Wembley, Old Trafford, Camp Nou, Maracana, Cairo Int'l, and Aztec. We won't stop until the Yanks cut the crap, and give us back the name of our game. Football is a real sport, and not a game you have to wear a jock strap for!

To show your solidarity, and add a badge to your website, copy this code into your page template

<a href="http://tomanbay.blogspot.com/2006/01/boycott-america.html" title="Boycott America, Say NO to soccer"><img src="http://static.flickr.com/38/92749421_bb123db0e4_o.jpg" alt="boycott" height="85" width="200" /></a>

May the ball be with you!

update #1: Preparing the list of ALL American products is taking more time than I imagined. Here are some IT related for starters: Internet, Intel Processors, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office(can you imagine that?, it is American!), OS X, Google.com, Blogger.com (uh, oh!)...update you again in a while...keep the revolution alive!

update #2:
Well, it turns out that blogger.com isn't really American, you see Sergey Brin isn't really American, so we're in the clear comrades! Anyways, here is the hourly instalment of Yankee-trash: KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Hardees ( :( ), Pepsi, Coke (yeah, yeah, handover the can kid!), nike (gimme my 3 stripes!), and Durex!(Is it? let me check...ah...it is...sorry!)...keep on dribbling!

update #3: While we are at it: what's up with this World Series thing? We are the world, we've never been invited! Why do you call a game where two teams across town from each other play World Series?! Stop that! or else we'll carry on with the boycott!

update #4: All football fans should recite the following pledge before each game: "I Swear on this amazing game I shall no longer refer to it as Soccer. Football it is all the way!!" Thanks Neil

Moved on!

Google: Do Some Evil

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Some of you might be familiar with Google. You know, the search engine. Yes, and the verb also, like in "I googeled the company you said you were a general manager of, and as it turned out, the company was shut after the revolution; the 1919 one!"
So what about Google?
The geeks among you might now a bit about Google, and the culture it spawned. Those were guys who came over in an industry controlled by Microsoft and it's embedded security holes, and monopolistic tactics, only to take the world by storm. Google became more than a household name. The guys set very high standards for themselves; "Google's mission is to organize the world's information"!! And the amazing thing, is that they're actually doing that. From searchable books, to Google Earth, those guys were on a real roll.
So what happened?
Nothing, they're still going strong. The only problem they got into this far, was Sergey Brin's (co-founder) insistence that the mission statement of the company contains those three words: "Do no evil". The saner of us will go "C'mon...that's just hype". But Google continued to prove everybody wrong, from donating to charities, to giving their employees 20% off time to pursue individual work, to covering their home city (Mount View, CA) with free wi-fi. These guys seemed to be truly good.
Until...until, it was China (they're quite handful those Chinese, aren't they?)
In order to get a google.cn domain to improve user experience in China, Google had to comply with, let's say some sort of agreement with the Chinese government.
They had to censor their results!!
(I can see the horrified looks in your eyes; I know son, heroes rise and fall!)
Overnight, literally, the company which looked every bit as the Mother Teresa of the digital worse transformed into the Great Satan! People are calling on others to sell Google stock, while others are writing lost-love letters to the company...it is just, snif, sad!
What's hilarious though, is that Bill Gates is actually defending their action...that's not just expected, that's dramatically ironic! I can see that line in a butt of a joke and not in the real news!
Can't wait for the google.eg!

P.S. I am not in any way criticising Google, or endorsing their actions, there are a lot of arguments for both sides (read this for Google's response)...I am only commenting on the cultural phenomena that Google became and the huge following they have, which is unprecedented for a company.

Moved on!

Winning Is Sweeeeeet!

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I know that this football thing is starting to get out of hand, but please bear with me here. It is only 12 days until the tournament is over (hopefully not less for Egypt) and then we can again focus on the real issues (like how Fathy Sorrour is still possessed with the headmaster's spirit).
For all of you who didn't watch the match, Egypt completely destroyed Cote D'Ivoire winning a very deserved 3-1. And as expected from such a respectable news-source, as yours truly, I was in the middle of the action.
The stadium was PACKED. It was a full house. 80,000 Egyptians were already roaring and screaming 90 minutes before the game even started. Usually I don't believe in things like home side advantage, and that the fans are the 12th player, and that sort of things, but yesterday I really changed my mind.
Cote D'Ivoire has 23 players playing in Europe on its rooster, who are supposedly really professional footballers. Yesterday, however, they were really shaken. For at least the first 20 minutes of the game, they looked as if they were dropped behind enemy lines with nothing but their green jerseys on as armor. They kept passing the ball aimlessly, and their goalkeeper even passed the ball twice to Emad Metaab.
I won't talk about how the game unfolded, there are some people more specialized in this. But I'm really impressed with the fans. I know that sometimes football is looked down at as trivial, or even worse, as some sort of opium for the masses, and I can agree with that sometimes. But what I saw in the stadium were people (very diverse people, not all alike like the Egyptian media tries to portray us) who are really passionate about their country. How to make this energy and passion useful? I still have no ideas. But as one of my friends commented: "if we can do such great Mexican waves, why can't we have a decent industry?!"...I know that the two are not really identical (except if the industry you're considering is exporting football fans!), and there are a lot of other trivial factors (education, democracy, etc...) , but if the will is there, everything else should fall in place. Shouldn't it?

Some fun from the stands:
  • Hossam Hassan (Egypt's 39 year old veteran) got most of the jokes. At one point Hossam was arguing with the referee when a friend commented "You know, the referee shouldn't be arguing with Hossam, he is older than him!"
  • Commenting on the giant balloon flags behind the goals: "Amr Zaki (Egypt's sub) is so dumb, they just show him the other team's flag in the locker room, and tell him just follow it, it'll lead you to the goal'"
  • A Cote D'Ivoirian (is that right?) defender kept going in circles when one fan yelled at him "What is the name of Papa, dear?" (you know, as if he is lost. You got it? Ok, sorry)
Did I mention that winning is sweeet? I did? Well, it is! Congo, we're coming!

Moved on!

Friday, January 27, 2006

TB Goes To The Stadium

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Although I usually give the impression of a hard-headed, snobbish kind of intellectual who frets only about the most challenging problems, and the most paradoxical of philosophical paradoxes, I am also an avid football fan. (Yeah, it is football, not soccer, and if you don’t stop using soccer, I’ll start using the British name: footie; you’ve been warned) And as you might have guessed, the levels of my obsession with football are in an all times high now. With the Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Egypt, I can hardly keep track of all the matches, results, and news (especially that I have to do such trivial things as work, and so on). But I managed to get tickets for a couple of Egypt matches (very hard by the way); the opening match against Libya, and Saturday match against Cote D’Ivoire.
I know that this post is one week overdue, but you know: better late than never. So here are the photos of all the action of the opening day from the stands(until my camera battery died, my phone memory was full, and the guy next to me refused to give me his phone for a spin). You can’t get that anywhere.

1:30 PM The stadium is still empty, I guess we're early. What are they doing? Are they still painting the lines? Isn't it a little late for that?!! Only in Egypt, sigh



3:00 PM The stadium is starting to fill up. It wouldn't be a full house though. I hope I am wrong. Mounir is playing on the new scoreboards. They look cool!

Our beloved security forces are assuming a new role today: entertainers! The openinng show is played by approx. 5 thousand army soldiers.

4:30 PM Now we're talking

4:45 PM Some troubles at the Libyan stands

5:30 PM the opening is underway!

The marching band is one of my favorites. Their red customes on the new blue track is really cool

Wow! 16 parachautests each with the flag of one country are landing into the stadium. The whole stadium is singing: "Ahom Ahom Ahom El-Masreyen Ahom" ("Here Comes the Egyptians")




The sun ship entering the stadium. That's a real size replica

The Fans:



Let me leave you with some fireworks!



Meet you next match!

Moved on!

Be Careful What You Wish For

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Here is a resolution I won’t keep: I will not look again at traffic statistics for this blog.
Every blogger seems to be concerned about this; how many hits he/she is getting/day, the numbers of visitors, the frequency of the comments, and so on. Which is fine, but the problem is that sometime this diverts you from the real purpose of blogging, which is essentially to vent off; in one way or another. The problem, in my opinion, is that we approach blogging in the same way we approach any other project that we hope to succeed in. Most of us are trained to measure success using a quantitative measure (sales figures, school grades, etc…), which translates in web lingo to (page views, hits, and unique visitors). After a while we become obsessed with those measures, even if those quantitative measures has nothing to do with the goal of the project (again, to let off steam)
Actually, blogging success according to quantitative measures can have a lot of diverse effects. Aside from the fact that my dad is now reading my blog (which might at one day hold me back from, you know, doing my thing), the mere thought there are hundreds of people out there who will check and scrutinize your every word puts a lot of pressure on the writer. Instead of just venting off, you’re now venting off to an audience. And while it is fun to watch somebody let it go on stage, it gets somehow boring after a while. Plus, even if you managed to be lunatic-funny for a while, there is the possibility, even if you’re Egyptian, that you won’t have anything to bitch about. And without having anything to bitch about, the whole blogging world comes crumbling down. You wouldn’t want to read about how somebody is happy with his life; that would be annoying, wouldn’t it?
Also, there is the whole problem of identity. Whether a blogger should be anonymous or whether he should operate in the dark (that makes it sound sexy). For me this is not a very important issue. The reason I started blogging anonymously was that I didn’t want my views, expressed here in this blog, to be understood within the context of people’s view of me (the people I know). So if you think that I am as funny as an armchair, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying all the incredible jokes in this blog.
Plus, now that a lot of my friends, who are most of my readers (hi, nini), know that I write this blog, I get into all sorts of strange situation. One of my friends came over and told me this “hey listen: you haven’t been blogging for a while. Why don’t you write about so and so…I’d really like to read something about that”
If that is not “on-demand blogging”, I don’t know what is it!
P.S. I already copyrighted the term, so take your hand off, you #%@%$

Moved on!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's Next...Truth Or Dare Instead Of Debates??

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I was flipping through El-Ahram, fishing for a story for today's post when I noticed this little piece of news about yesterday's people's assembly session (the page is no longer available on El-Ahram site, so here is a rough translation, but I swear I'm not making this up. I swear):
An unprecedented incident happened yesterday when Da'ahliya MP, Elhamy Agena, rushed to sit in Fathy Sorrour's (the speaker of the house) chair, just before Mr. Sorrour arrived. Several MBs tried to talk him down the podium, but he kept saying that he arrived first and he had the right to sit there, while he kept ringing the bell.

Again, I swear I didn't make this up...I don't know what to say...if you could excuse me for a second to regain my composure. I really can't stop laughing..

Uh..ok, I guess I'm ok. Now what should I say. There are actually a lot of jokes, I just don't know where to start. But, I heard that Fathy Sorrour was really furious and called Mr. Agena to his office where he told him that he is barring him from the next session, unless Agena brought his parents with him. Afterwards, Mr. Sorrour, asked the security guards to have the chair removed from the podium and fitted onto a pickup track where Mr.Sorrour will safely sit on it on his way to and from the Assembly, thus preventing anybody from getting to it first.

In other news, Gamila Ismael, Ayman Nour's wife, reported to El-Daher police station that her husband had disappeared after reading the newspapers. When she last saw him, he was doing sprints and told her to prepare a pot of tea for him and send it to the people's assembly where he'll be spending the night waiting for the gates to open!

I swear I didn't stop laughing while writing this post. If you still can't believe it check 18/1 Ahram P.17!!

Moved on!

Submissive Resilience

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Remember the "Egyptian Are Know For..." post that I did a couple of days ago? (I thought so: it is about querying google to know what people think that Egyptians are known for, basically)
Well, one trait that I found out turns to be quite, what should I say, amusing. It's the last one:
  • We Egyptians are known for our submissive resilience (here is the source. It is actually funny)
At first sight it doesn't sound very flattering. But at second sight, it seems even worse. Nothing puts it into perspective better than this comment by the ever insightful Ossoss:
Resilience: The property of a material that enables it to resume its original shape or position after being bent, stretched, or compressed.

That means that Submissive resilience is: The ability to recover from submission without enduring any harm. This leads to individuals who don't mind submission. In other words, the ability to submit an infinite number of times. An admirable trait :).

Umm...is it just me or does this really sounds like Egyptians.

Our whole modern discourse is sometimes criticized for the "sound bite"-culture (taking a sound bite out of its context and drawing conclusions depending on that; which is exactly what I did) But coming to think about it, this is not actually a very bad thing. What was once only a sentence in an article, had morphed, through abstraction, into a topic of discussion, which may end up helping us understand ourselves a little better. This, or me winning a Nobel prize, I still don't know.
Anyways, following this line of thinking, I think that we should wear those t-shirts during the ACN matches: "We lose with resolution!"

Moved on!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Environment Issue Anybody...Nobody?.....Me?...Why Does It Have To Be Me?...OK!

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(wow, that's probably the lengthiest title I have seen for any blog post...miracles keep on happening here!)
While I'm not a Tree Hugger in anyways, I'm a firm believer that all kinds of problems are inter-related (economical, social, educational, cultural, sporting, you name it). So apparently the only way for us to win the upcoming African Cup is through stopping a certain French ship from passing through the Suez Canal (oh...what an irony, Ferdinand de Lesseps must be rolling in his grave now!)
But seriously.
The Green Peace is trying to stop the French ship Clemenceau from passing through the Suez Canal on its way to India where it will be scrapped, and then dismantled. The problem is that this ship (an aircraft-carrier to be more precise) contains large amounts of asbestos, PCBs, lead, mercury and other pollutants. The workers in India do the scrapping manually, and as a result will be exposed to all kinds of hazards, not the least of them is cancer.
According to Green Peace, the Basel Convention (in which Egypt, France, and India are all members), prohibits the exporting of toxic materials from rich to poor countries. They're also claiming that Egypt has the right to send it back if it is found to be in breach of the convention. Egypt sent a letter requesting clarifications from the French.
Well, I wouldn't jump to any conclusions just yet. I certainly hope that Egypt do the right thing. If we do, then I'd really start feeling jealous towards Indians. But, every good deed counts.

Ah...Mr. Maged George, while we are at it, what's up with this "dark cloud"? That's the term you use, right? Yeah, yeah it happens in some place called Egypt. Ever been there sir? It is a lovely country! You should go sometime!

update: It was good while it lasted (the feeling that Egypt could use its control over the Suez canal for any good), but the expected happened. Egypt cleared the ship, after recieving confirmations from the French that this was indeed a warship on its way to India, where the authorities are welcoming it. The Greenpeace is furious was Egypt. Are we looking at some environmentalists protesting in El-Tahrir square? THAT would be interesting!

Moved on!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Egyptian FM Exposes CIA - accidentally!

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Un-true to form, Egypt seems to be getting into all sorts of international troubles these days. I've just learnt about the French aircraft carrier yesterday, only to be surprised that the Swiss secret service (I know!) had intercepted a fax from the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Abou El-Gheit, to the Egyptian embassy in UK which is throwing light on CIA secret prisons in Romania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia and Ukraine.
Well, well. I know, with all theses countries' names thrown around, faxes, Swiss secret service, and information about underground prisons, it is sounding more and more like a bad Roger Moore Bond movie, but wait there is more.
According to Spiegel Online, the "very professional" Egyptian secret service had unearthed some information about 23 Iraqi and Afghani prisoners, and forwarded it to the foreign ministry, which in turn forwarded it to the Egyptian embassy in the UK (for heads up maybe?, I don't know). The fax, which was sent via satellite, and written in French, was intercepted by the Swiss secret service in November, and was only leaked to a newspaper called SonntagsBlick over this weekend. The information is causing a lot of waves in Europe, prompting at least 3 European countries to start investigations into the illegal use of their soil, or airspace to transport the detainees.
Well, I don't know what to make of that. But this whole 24-ish plot seems fishy to me. Whether this is a Wag-the-dog scenario or a cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die truth is anybody's guess at this point. We should just wait and see.
P.S. it is all over the internet, if you want more sources, click here

Moved on!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Egyptians Are Known For...

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I really, really need to sleep as I'll have to got work in the morning, but I saw this, and I thought I have to blog about it.
The guys over there at Google Blogoscoped have come up with this magnificent idea: asking the seers at Mount View (Google's HQ) what are the people of the world known for. The result is a Prejudice Map.

Sadly the map didn't include Egypt, so I went forward myself and tried to know what Google thinks the Egyptians are known for (I eliminated things which have to do with ancient Egyptians, as we're not ancient anymore, you know); it turns out that:
  • Egyptians are known for fatalism (that's actually the first hit. Weird!).
  • Egyptians are known for cunning.
  • Egyptians are known for their hospitality.
  • Egyptians are known for their generosity, care, and strong will.
  • Egyptians are known for their ability to turn any situation into a farce (!, good one)
  • Egyptians are known for their love for sweet and sticky desserts.

Here you are. You now know everything about the Egyptians, without even having to go through our own little hell we like to call Cairo International Airport.

That's just awesome. I am imagining a day when you'll go to propose to a girl, only to find out that her father knows all about your little habbit of sharing lunch with your little chihuahua (here is a business idea for you...umm). Until then, good night my fatalistic, cunning, hospitable, generous, baklava loving friends.

me and a couple of friends keep on finding funny ones:
  • Egyptians are better known for chunkier gold jewelry
  • Egyptians are sometimes known for their own version of "IBM."; Inshallah, (God-willing), Bukra (Tomorrow) and Malesh (There's nothing you can do about it, so why worry)
  • We Egyptians are known for our submissive resilience (what does this mean??? bas it seems true!)
Tell me if you find anything new!

Moved on!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Possible Conflict of Interest?

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One of the peculiar symptoms of the Egyptian blogsphere (I hate this word, but it's handy!) is that most of our reactions are more Egyptian than we are willing to admit.
For example, a lot of people talked about the incident of the soldiers killed at Rafah (me included), and most were, rightly so I might add, emotional about the topic. But as important as this incident is, a lot of the less apparently important matters just pass by without us giving it the due consideration. If it's not a shooting, a beating, or an arrest then we are not interested. Maybe the Egyptian bloggers are not the ones to blame, but rather our dire conditions which are making of the aforementioned incidents a daily routine.

Anyways, this just caught my attention, and I was surprised no one mentioned it earlier. Mohamed Mansour, who was appointed as the transportation minister in the new government, is, as some of you might know, also the CEO of the very successful Mansour Group. Now, before I go on let me make a couple of things clear: 1)I don't object to businessmen assuming public office, especially at this point in time for the Egyptian economy; I think they will bring a much needed practicality and creativity in tackling some of the most pressing matters; 2)I have no problem with the person; from what I know he is one of the most professional, understated, and respectable businessmen around. Having said this, it came to my knowledge, that most of the state-owned road construction companies (which are directly related to the transportation ministry) have extensive dealings with Mantrac (they supply equipments, loaders, drillers, etc...), which is owned by, guess who, Mansour group! Imagine what would happen if some sort of conflict happened between the two sides (late deliveries, incompliance to specifications, etc..), which are so common.

Now, I'm not jumping to any conclusions, but a word of advice to the government(as if they're actually reading this...huh...well, apparently they do, anyways...) : Such things should be brought into the light promptly, so as not to give the people any chance to assume wrong doings from the outset, but more importantly to guarantee that none happens.

Moved on!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Egyptian Soldiers: Tragedy Updated

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I have some info that the number of soldiers killed in Rafah is actually more than 2. Some people are saying the number is as high as 20. Whatever is the right number, I agree with some commentators who are placing most of the blame on the officers who refused to allow the soldiers to fire back. I wouldn't say that it is all their fault, but it is certainly the fault of an accountability-evading culture in the army, which actually praises chickening out from shouldering responsibility and discourages personal from taking matters into their own hands.
Even when bullets are flying over their heads!
That's just depressing.

Moved on!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Those Guys Should Have Their Own Show - aka The Funniest Political Ad Ever!

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What's worse than somebody who misrepresent the views of others and attack the misrepresentation? Well, somebody who invent a myth, credit it to somebody else, and vehemently attack the myth!
It seems some organization called Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME! It sure tells you something about their male members!) decided to get, you know, creative with history. Here is an excrept from The Skeptic's post about an ad they published on the back page of The Nation:
Until then [1948], the Jews were the Palestinians. There was the Palestinian Brigade of Jewish volunteers in the British World War II Army (at a time when the Palestinian Arabs were in Berlin hatching plans with Adolf Hitler for world conquest and how to kill all the Jews); there was the Palestinian Symphony Orchestra (all Jews, of course); there was The Palestine Post, and so much more.
That's priceless. The Arabs were in Berlin hatching plans with Adolf Hitler for world conquest! That's really up there. You know what, I was supposed to have a lengthy post about all the lies in this ad, but, heck, laugh yourself silly reading this ad, while I recollect myself listening to some tunes of the Palestinian Symphony Orchestra.

update: listen, listen, listen to this "The web of lies and myths that the Arab propaganda machine..." Here are 4 words I thought I'd never hear: the Arab propaganda machine. Man, it gets funnier everytime you read it

Moved on!

We're being framed!

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In case you've been wondering about the current (couple of years) onslaught of terms like Fekr Gaded (New thinking), and El-Obour Ela Al-Mostakbal (Crossing forward to the future), it seems that the NDP wasn't only taking pages out of Gobbels' playbook, but they apparently have some active operatives in Red State, USA.
This article, written by George Lakoff, a cognitive scientist in Berkley, describes how the conservatives are winning the political debate in America by associating their policies to certain favorable frames of reference. An example:
On the day that George W. Bush took office, the words "tax relief" started appearing in White House communiqués. Think for a minute about the word relief. In order for there to be relief, there has to be a blameless, afflicted person with whom we identify and whose affliction has been imposed by some external cause. Relief is the taking away of the pain or harm, thanks to some reliever.

This is an example of what cognitive linguists call a "frame." It is a mental structure that we use in thinking. All words are defined relative to frames. The relief frame is an instance of a more general rescue scenario in which there is a hero (the reliever), a victim (the afflicted), a crime (the affliction), a villain (the cause of affliction) and a rescue (the relief). The hero is inherently good, the villain is evil and the victim after the rescue owes gratitude to the hero.

The author goes on describing the two world views that Democrats and Republicans have, and how the type of language they use affect those views.

Although the author focuses in the later parts of the essay on preaching the Democrats on how to frame the debate into their own advantage (a good one: describe taxes as "the price of civilization"), it is still a very readable and insightful essay to read. In fact its a must read for any writer, activist, or person who doesn't want to get framed!

Moved on!

Internet headcount

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This is my first post on technology on this blog. The way I see it: all the issues of politics, technology, economy, and blogging are all interrelated. Think of this question: how many persons read this blog, or any other Egyptian or Arab one for that matter? You can, as a blogger, know this number through using some application which measure the traffic on your blog (Statcounter for example). But the bigger question is: how many can potentially read this blog? And here is where it gets more interesting. A lot of factors are in play here: the number of internet users, which is somewhat related to their economic affluence, and their educational backgrounds (especially that a lot of those blogs are primarily in English), etc.. You can see how trying to answer such a question is really dependable on a lot of societal and economic factors.
So as a way of leveling the discussion field, I'm posting a link to a research conducted by ClickZ Networks about the Global on-line population.
Some quick observations:
The percentage of internet users in Egypt is 3.12% compared to 35.2% in UAE and 49.8% in Israel!. Tells you a lot about what's going on in these countries. Doesn't it?

Moved on!

Self-referential Logic

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I was talking yesterday about people who take what other people say, dress it in their demons, and go on a crusade trying to dismiss those daemons.
Well, this post has nothing to do with them, except that maybe the Einstein who put up this sign was pulling some existential, post-modern, philosophical joke on the current state of the Egyptian blogsphere. Whatever! It is just funny.

From Gridskipper:
This Manila sign hanging above an escalator in the Greenbelt 3 mall appears to warn you not to bump your head on the sign warning you not to bump your head on the sign that [brain explodes]. OK, ostensibly, the point of the sign is to alert morons that if they lean over the escalator and look down, their head may be caught by the rising action of the escalator between the handrail and the horizontal beam above. Fair enough. But you’re still going to bump your head on that sign, man, unless you read it, and then … God, I don’t know what happens. Maybe this?

Moved on!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Don Quixotes of Cyberspace -- (except that I actually admire Don Quixote!)

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About a month ago I read this article by Scott Adams on his hilarious Dilbert Blog. He was speaking about how is it impossible to have constructive discussions (if such things exist) on the internet, because people keep on taking other people's point of view, misrepresent it, and attack the misrepresentation. I think it's true.
Take an example.
I was reading an article by fellow blogger Egyptian Sandmonkey on the unfortunate incident of the murder of two Egyptian soldiers on the border at Rafah. Now, you know my opinion (if you don't read this), but I was really astonished by the discussion that followed. Some people are really having a hard time trying to get around the idea that somebody might have an opinion which doesn't necessarily reflect a generalization. For example, if I said that those responsible for the killing of the two soldiers should be brought to justice and, if convicted, killed (that's what I think by the way), that obviously doesn't mean that I hate Palestinians or approve of the atrocities committed against them on daily basis. I certainly am not saying something which deserves this kind of response from one of the commentators there:
Ok guys you've convinced me, let's ask ourselves a question, and say what would Sharon do and emulate it, then take permission from him (through a medium or a psychic of course), to allow us to use our F-16s and destroy some already destroyed palestinian homes in Gaza to punish the blood thirsty savages.
WTF!! Who said anything about that?
Still, I believe that humans are inherently smart (can you imagine?!) and refuse to believe that somebody with such poor deduction powers can actually type on a keyboard. So, you know, he might be doing this just for the kicks. Anyways, for all of you who have similar intellectual abilities: sleep tight, wake up early, and look to your left and your right before crossing the street. You can't contest that....right?....Wow!, you actually can?

Moved on!

Friday, January 06, 2006

I have a little story...

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...and it goes like this:
The first time I saw him he was standing in line waiting for the medical checkup. While I managed to get there in my Speedos, he was only wearing cheap, worn-out cotton jockeys. Utterly disgusting, I thought. But didn't give it more thought. I was more occupied with pondering the 1 to 3 years I'd have to spend in this shit hole, my well-paying job I'll have to forgo, and how I’d manage to live with similar white-jockeys-wearing guys.
When the inevitable happened and I knew that I'll be spending my year there (while my world was tumbling down, and the earth shaking beneath my feet), I saw him for the second time. This time he was standing with a bunch of his friends and laughing. The bastard, I thought, he must have had his luck and escaped this shit. Involuntarily, I moved nearer, trying to hear what those army-evaders were talking about. All I heard was a guy telling him "your mom, son of a bitch, will throw a real celebration for you when you're back in your shitty village....at last, she'll be able to get you out of home for three years...” I didn't believe it. They're cool with that? I can't stand the thought of spending 400 days there (I was already counting the days), and they're laughing about it. Then I thought that's probably because they don't have any job out there, and they practically don't have a life. The army is actually a step up for them. Yeah, that's it. That's the reason they're happy. Yeah, it is...
Three weeks later I saw him in boot camp. He was sitting beside me in mess. I was disgustingly, playing with the strange looking food in my plate. I was thinking about the daily insults, the exhausting drills, and the long hours we had to stand under the burning sun in attention. It was too much for me, I pushed away the food. "Gonna eat that ya dofaa?" he asked, calling me this hideous term that I hated. "No" I replied. He immediately pulled my plate, and gestured me a thank you. Typical, I thought.
Shortly after I was transferred to my base unit, I saw him coming through the gate, holding his mekhla (sort of the military handbag). Obviously he recognized me, because he came in my direction, with a wide smile across his face, and as soon as he was near, dropped the mekhla, and hugged me. I was puzzled. "I can't remember your name, but I remember you" he said. "You never knew it" I said in a typical deadpan fashion. He was hurt. I thought I should make it better. "My name is Wael" I said as I forced a smile. "Ahmed Hassan" he said enthusiastically. "You're a university graduate, right?" he said as I walked him to the barracks. "Yes, I am" “I guess you're having it easy" he said "you're out of here in no time" "10 months!" I protested "that’s a lot of time". "10 months! I have 37 left" he said in a hurt voice. This time I didn't sympathize. You're not missing anything out there, I thought.
A couple of months later, I was standing on guard, when it happened that his shift was the same time as mine. On that night I wasn't able to smuggle in my little mp3 player, so I was pretty much bored to death. He moved closer, and started whining about the army. This would be a long night, I thought. A couple of hours later, he asked me: "so what are you a graduate of?” I told him. "And how much do you pay as fees there?" he asked. Unlike my fellow classmates who went to the army, I had no problem answering this question. I didn't like to lie, and I never thought it was something to be ashamed of. So, I told him. "60000 pounds a year for college!" he exclaimed. I nodded. "And I ended up in the army, nevertheless" I said trying to smooth-out the situation. He didn't consider my last remark, and went on "I'll never have 60000 pounds in my whole life”.”Surely you will" I said trying to lift his spirit. "What 60000 pounds ya am Wael?" he said in a broken voice "we're really poor people..." And then he went on telling me about his family, their little home in a village near Mansoura, his dream to work as a menady for a microbus driver "I can get 500 pounds a month doing this" he said in an excited voice. This time I was really interested. In some level I felt a connection with him. He had a life that he had to forgo to get into the army. But more importantly he had a future to dream of. He had aspirations and he had hopes. This I could relate to, I thought.
Since this night on the gate, I really started to like the guy. Despite having a hard life, and a harder time in the army, he was very funny nevertheless. He would joke about officers who call him names while he is driving them around. He would joke about how he didn't see his mom for 2 months while we, stationed in Cairo, were able to go home every couple of days. He used humor to battle his misery. And he was winning.
The day I was leaving the army for good was the last time I met him. In his typical, smiling manner he told me that he will be transferred to Rafah to serve in the border guard. An officer was being transferred there, and wanted to take him there with him. I promised him to keep in touch. I never did.
I did hear about him though. Three months later, his name was published in Al-Ahram under the headline "The name of the Egyptian Army martyrs in the Rafah border clashes", and next to an article be some guy trying to play the incident down because of "political considerations"

This story isn't fictional. Although I don't think I knew the guys who were killed on the border, I will never be sure, though. But even if I didn't, somebody else did. Because they all have families, hopes, and aspirations just like Ahmed did, and nothing, absolutely nothing can justify their murder. I can't stop thinking that it could have been me, a relative, or a friend who received those deadly bullets. I wouldn't care whether it was a Palestinian, an Israeli, or a godamn mormon who pulled the trigger. The tragedy had happened, and nothing could bring back those very real people who were killed.
What's tearing me apart, though, are people who, sitting in the comfort of their homes, demand to cut the killers some slack, because they're being killed and harassed themselves. How about: no we won't cut them any slack! If they grieve for their dead and pray day and night for vengeance, it is only respectable to our dead that we do the same.

Moved on!