Friday, February 29, 2008

It's Bissextile Day!

I like life's little quirks. They provide extra reasons to smile and act silly. So this post will honour Leap Day by providing you with some things you thought you didn't need to know about the Gregorian calendar’s more ingenious moments:

As most people know, the leap day was invented because the Earth's orbit around the Sun does not take 365 days, it takes 365.24219 days, meaning we lose about a quarter of a day each year. This throws the seasons of kilter because the lost time adds up. When Julius Caesar first suggested the extra day every fourth year in 45 B.C., he made up for this discrepancy in the short(ish) term, but essentially added an extra 11 minutes to each year. This meant that by the mid-16th Century, they had an extra 10 days to deal with - this threw the world into quite the conundrum, as what could they do with all that time? Where would Easter go? What do you mean, there's no Christmas in 1582? Who knew the calendar could be so confusing?

Then came along Pope Gregory XIII who decided the best way to fix the problem was to remove the leap year from most turn of the centuries, meaning that only centuries divisible by 400 would be 366 days long. So 1600, 2000, 2400, etc... would get leap years, but not 1700, 1800 or 1900. With me so far? Yes, I'm lost too, but onward we shall strive.

By doing so, the calendar would only gain 27 seconds a year (being 365.2425 days long) meaning it would take 2,880 years for another day to be necessary. Hence, the inception of today's Gregorian calendar.

Whew. That hurt my mathematically incompetent brain. And my Google skills.

Now for some Leap Day trivia:

A leap day falls thirteen times on a Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday; fourteen times on a Friday or Saturday; and fifteen times on a Monday or Wednesday.

In Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Pirates of Penzance, poor Frederic, who is born on February 29th, is apprenticed to pirates until his 21st birthday. Due to the fact that it only arrives every 4 years, he is forced to wait until his 84th birthday to finally leave and propose to his lady love, Mabel. The stupid woman actually waited that long. Bah, humbug.

Sadie Hawkins day (where women pursue men) originated in 5th century Ireland, when St. Patrick set February 29th as the day women were allowed to ask men to marry them after St. Bridget complained that women had to wait too long to get their way. This was revived in 1288 by Queen Margaret. If the man refused, his fine was a kiss, a silk dress, or a pair of gloves.

On the flip side, the Greeks believe marriage during a leap year is bad luck.

The Savoy Hotel invented the Leap Day cocktail in 1928:

2 oz gin
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serve with a twist of lemon.

With that, I bid you adieu with a toast to Leap Day!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

AUC = Detroit, Apparently

A friend called me up this morning with the following story:

A meek-looking black veiled study-abroad is sitting alone. Up limps another meek-looking black veiled girl.
Girl 1 looks up, smiles, and says: YO YO YO MA N****!
They continue to curse, limp, and act all ghetto.
My friend stares, gob-smacked. Culture shock in reverse.

The End.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oh, Ye of Fickle Faith

Some ignoramus on television said the alleged 'martyr' Saddam Hussein was sorely missed or something along those lines and I am now in dire need to vent a little, so please indulge me.

2006 bid the world adieu by delivering a final act worthy of all the drama it had provided us with throughout the year. On December 30th, former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was executed by hanging. The execution was particularly poignant due to it coinciding the first day of Eid Al Adha, Islam’s most important celebration. Almost immediately after, the Arab world hailed Saddam a martyr, an Arab hero.

The choice of Saddam Hussein’s execution to fall on the first day of Eid Al Adha was not planned for him to be revered. It was not chosen to spite the Muslim world. Saddam Hussein’s execution was a cause for celebration for the Shiite populace, and thus executing him on their most important religious festival made perfect sense to them. Calling Saddam Hussein a martyr and a hero is not a rebuke to the alleged American involvement in the proceedings but a slap in the face to each and every Iraqi who suffered, who lived in fear, who died in agony, under Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. It is an insult, an affront, to the very core of humanity.

This is not a declaration of support for the American invasion of Iraq, nor of the prolonged occupation. It is a reprimand, a cry for the awakening of the Arab world. Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian rule led to the inhuman torture and massacre of millions of innocent lives. Saddam Hussein assassinated countless mothers scrambling to protect the children in their arms. Saddam Hussein even had his daughters’ husbands slaughtered before their very eyes. Saddam Hussein mangled and ravaged a nation – a fellow Arab nation – beyond repair.

Do not revere a mass murderer merely because you disagree with the legality or circumstances surrounding his execution. Do not bestow martyrdom on a man as guilty of genocide and mass torture as Adolf Hitler and Augusto Pinochet. Hitler is not applauded because his suicide is seen as cowardly. Do not let Saddam Hussein’s ostensibly “brave” death redeem him of his innumerable crimes against humanity. For regardless of your political beliefs, your anti-American sentiment, or your apathy, Saddam Hussein was first and foremost a cold blooded killer. Don’t take my word for it; ask the two million families still mourning their loved ones.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Little History Lesson for Mr. Fundie

Two events have brought the never-ending Christian/Muslim dichotomy to the forefront of my usually quite superfluous and daft ponderings. Yes, deep and profound brain things are really happening inside my empty head!

Egyptian courts recently ruled that Christians who had converted to Islam then back were allowed to have their National ID’s reprinted with Christianity as their religion – but with a thick oddly-noose-like string attached. They had to have the words “ex-Muslim” printed next to Christian.

So not only is this person going to live in fear of retribution for what more fundamentalist Muslims would view as apostasy, their entire religious history has to be on display for the world to see, to criticize, and to avenge.

The other event is a blogger being threatened online by an obviously unwell individual who among many things is anti-Christian (see the comments at Forsooth's "Three" post).

I would like to direct him – and really all Egyptians who find Christians unpleasant – to a short little op-ed written by a prominent journalist, who shares his name with the Prophet himself. His name is Mohamed Salmawi, and his February 22nd piece in Al Marsy Al Youm is called “He Who Abandons His Past Is Lost,” in which he comments on the “ex-Muslim” appendage.

Salmawi very correctly reminds all those who are decidedly anti-Christian of their beloved country’s origins. He says that in all fairness, the government should add “former Christian” to all its Muslim citizens’ ID’s, as Egypt was the hub of Christianity for centuries prior to Amr Ibn Al ‘Aas’ conquest.

So maybe the Egypt-loving Christian-hater should take a look at his roots. He might just have to either rethink his attitude, or just make this world a better place by dropping off its face to save his own.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Trump in my Living Room

Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair's son is staying at my 14-year-old cousin's house as part of an ISAC (International Schools Athletic Conference) tournament and boy, oh boy, must that child be suffering from major culture shock.

Being the son of Forbes' 86th richest billionaire (est. worth US$8bn) and FNC Speaker of the House, he has grown up in a completely different world to us little people. On his way to my cousin's house, he very innocently asks if he "knew Hosni Mubarak" because "he was over at our house last week." Yes, of course, dear! He's dropping by for tea tomorrow afternoon, so be sure to come home straight after your tournament.

My brother came home yesterday quite despondent and deep in thought. My mother asked him what was on his mind, and he looked at her and said "do you know what he has parked in his garage?" and went on to list something like 3 Ferrari's, 2 S-Classes, and a plethora of 4x4's, muscle cars, and antiques. My car-loving brother probably doesn't have all of those in his car magazine collection, so I can imagine how distraught he must have been drooling over the fabled garage. I wonder if they need an apprentice in-house mechanic?

And how dare Al Ghurair only come back from the USA with four iPhones, knowing he has five children? Daddy really needs to adjust his finances, people will think he is as poor as we are.

Now my aunt really doesn't know what to do with this kid, who is staying with them for 4 days. This boy's room is probably three times bigger than my aunt's entire apartment, which by Cairo standards is of generous size. Plus, he has to share the bathroom with my cousins, something he probably didn't even knew happened in households. Sharing a bathroom? Is that like a form of fast? Have I done something wrong?

What to feed him? He's probably used to banquets for every meal, not the two-item menus we poor folk are forced to get by on. Where's the roast lamb foetus? What about the poached Bald-Eagle eggs? Chicken? I'm supposed to eat chicken? My dogs get rib-eye steaks as snacks!

Ok, ok, I kid. He hasn't complained or commented once. According to my aunt he is immensely well-raised, polite, considerate, and quiet. His mother was very nice on the phone, thanking my aunt for her "exemplary hospitality".

He's also got great shoes. Who'd have thunk it?

Thursday, February 21, 2008


One uses language as involuntarily and easily as one breathes. One does not usually think about the language one uses and of its power, its consequences, its meaning. Although I am not convinced with Obama as a presidential candidate, I applaud his appreciation of the beauty and eloquence that can be found in the English language.

Finally, speeches with more than just political hyperbole or the tortuousness of legislative phraseology. Finally, speeches that are a little more literary, more articulate, more moving. The American political arena depreciates his speeches as little more than pretty sentences, forgetting that they are a nation that has in recent years shunned real learning for an education promising No Child Left Behind, to the point where even the correct use of a simple semi-colon deserves significant praise from the NYTimes.

But language has the power to save, to incite, to trap, to hurt. When a blogger is imprisoned for four years for his use of language as a tool of expression, the power of language, of words, is illustrated. When a dictator is overthrown – or instated – due to a coup, it is the use of language as rhetoric that has incited people to revolt.

For change to take place, something must incite or motivate people to create it. The only way to create change is to call for it; to convince people to band together and move forward. It is language that brings people together, that pushes people away, that acts as a catalyst for change, that rouses emotion. To underestimate the power of language is to underestimate the power of the human race.

Practicing for Stupidity

So I've been thinking, what's wrong with dumping everything - responsibilities, careers, family obligations, basically all those factors of doing the right thing - for a whirlwind lifestyle in some aesthetically pleasing place like Hollywood or NYC? Why not just throw all caution to the wind and live like a celebrity - even if there is no chance in hell that you'll ever become one?

I don't want the fame, I don't need the fortune, so why not live the life of a pampered trust fund baby in a city where you'll get everything and anything you want just by having the right attitude?

Yes, fine. I know it'll become mind-numbingly boring, but why do I even need a mind when it can be thusly numbed?

I'll end up addicted to something or other. But I'm already addicted to 1000+ prescriptions and I have a deep-rooted love affair with a dark little bean called cocoa, so what else is new? Cocaine is just the rich man's chocolate. Plus, rehab provides you with a whole other level of notoriety.

I'll have to hit the gym/starve myself. Already starved half to death because of my difficult eating habits. The gym would actually serve as an improvement. Hollywood will make me healthier because of the exercise requirement and the healthy eating craze there.

I'll be stuck dating pretty actors/Hollywood types. Ummm... 1) not like I'm dating successfully here, 2) they're fit and paying; I'm game!

So far the only downside to moving to a life of frivolity is being forced to subject myself to Paris Hilton-types. But hell, I'm sure I'll find smart celebrity-types somewhere out there.

Only in America would stupidity by so richly rewarded. With the lack of stimulation I'm finding being intelligent, I'll be happy to trade!

I think I'll give Cairo another 2-3 years. If I'm not successful/happy by then, fancy free Hollywood here I come.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Meet the World


Brazilian artist Icaro Doria, 25, explains world flags.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Revenge of the Chair Snatchers

All the desk chairs are identical at the office. They are all German high quality ergonomic chairs with about 14 different knobs and levers designed to move the back, seat, height, etc... just so to ensure maximum comfort, and thus maximum productivity.

Oh, I've been productive all right. It took about 5 months of fiddling with those knobs and levers to get my seat just right. I'd spend half my day flipping the chair over, examining the physics of the hinges, studying the manual, measuring this trajectory and that angle, all to perfect my posture and the position of my wrists on my desk to ensure total comfort at my mouse and keyboard as I surf the NY Times and read Madness... Crossword and Otherwise to figure out where I went wrong this time. Also, to cheat when I'm stumped. But anyway, back to my chair.

I'd spend the other half just sitting, shifting my weight here and there, leaning in different directions, just testing it out to discover the perfect position so that when I do have actual work to do, I won't be spending time adjusting anything.

I walked in on Sunday after having spent the majority of last week at the chemical poo fiasco and plopped my bottom on my perfect chair, only to discover something was horribly wrong. The back was too far from the seat. The chair was suddenly 15 inches off the ground.

This was not my chair.

Now, as aforementioned, all the chairs are identical. So basically, I would have to sift through about 150 or so chairs on my floor just to maybe find one that was close to my perfection, if not my actual chair.

Did I throw a tantrum? Of course I did. I turned purple and ate the poor skinny fellow who had the misfortune to be seated next to the Man-Eating Chair Obsessed Bounty Hunter. How dare he not protect my chair? I then vomited his remains all over the plumper fellow who sat across him, while wondering why I didn't eat him instead. He has a lot more cushion to savour. Damn it, I hate having to choose when angry.

The purple then turned to an alternating orange and green hue as I prowled the floor, looking for my coveted chair. The minions scattered, allowing me plenty of space to test out their chairs, and of course smash the ones that did not suit my fancy. As you can imagine, a lot of black plastic and mesh was flying out of the 14th floor windows. And walls.

To cut a long story short, I never found my chair. I did take someone else's and come pretty close to my old level of comfort, but it wasn't mine. Sigh...

You'd think after being terrorized so violently they'd learn not to touch my new chair, right?

Today I walked in and plopped my bottom on my not-so-perfect chair, only to discover something was horribly wrong. It was 7 inches higher than my desk. And the left arm was broken. Some people never learn.

Now they're all my office chair slave bitches, doing all the lifting and pushing for me as I sit majestically on my chair, barking orders to move an inch forward, no half and inch back, higher, no not so high, etc... I realize now that I should have done it this way the first time around. I highly recommend the use of office slave bitches.

It's good to be the Empress.

Sunday, February 10, 2008




Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Shit Really Does Attract Flies

If I'm the Chairman of a sizable chemical poo factory, one would expect me to be familiar with the minimal etiquette and decorum requirements of meetings, networking events, conferences - any occasion where I am a public ambassador of my company and myself.

Apparently, this is not the case with Egyptian Chairmen. At least, the 300 or so at today's (through Thursday) Arab Fertilizer Association's 14th Annual Fertilizer Conference. The conference hosts a multitude of distinguished speakers, all of whom are experts in their fields, have held important positions at multi-nationals, UN branches, the International Fertilizer Association, and the European Manufacturers Association, just to name a few. These are high powered men with years of experience and seven Ph.D's each. Do they not deserve a respectful audience?

The Egyptians didn't seem to think so. Aside from the expected Egyptian lateness, people just would not shut up. From 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every single speaker had to stoically endure the incessant rumble of at least a quarter of the audience stage whispering. Yes, not the quiet whispers of people comparing notes or asking their neighbour for a pen, but full out conversations about their latest family trip to Dubai, their new car, their heart conditions, and the inevitable ass-kissing that every Egyptian feels the need to dole out in very generous and overstated doses.

The speakers did not just have to ignore audience inattentiveness, they also had to bear the tone deaf symphony of mobile phone ring tones. The concept of silence, switch off, or set to vibrate does not seem to be one the Egyptian mind can wrap itself around. Silencing is to set the ring tone to Beethoven's 5th. Switching off is to set it to an electronic frantic telephone ringing sound. Setting to vibrate - oh God forbid that happen - is to expose the audience to the wondrous world of Arab pop, like Amr Diab or Nancy Agram, or to 90's hits such as Celine Dion's "My Heat Will Go On" or Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca", or the best one of the afternoon: Enrique Iglesias' "Hero."

I am dead serious. I couldn't make this shit up. Egyptian men in their 50's. What else was I expecting?

I counted 24 phones going off between 10-11 and 12-2:30. 24 times in 3.5 hours. That's a phone going off every 10 minutes. I applaud today's speakers. I couldn't have put up with that kind of disrespect.

To top it all off, not only do these phones ring, and ring loudly, but these inconsiderate men who are completely oblivious to the people around them have the irritating tendency to peer at their phone screen for a good 30 seconds, deciding if this person is worth answering or not. No, they do not push the silence button to relieve those around them while they decide, they leave it ringing until the person calling gives up. OR, they answer the call in the middle of the damn conference. In an outdoor voice. "Beece be ubon you my friend". "I am at za conference." "Yees, eet iz today." "I will meet you in an hour." "How iz your wife? And son? And breety girl?" And this goes on. Complete and utter lack of awareness. Terrible.

And those poor men who obviously spent a significant amount of time preparing their presentations and speeches, researching, travelling all the way here and putting up with all the hassle that comes with a visit to Egypt. What do they get in return for their trouble? A rude, inconsiderate, ignorant, and selfish audience who did not even bother to pay the slightest bit of attention. No wonder Egypt is stuck in the Third World. We don't even deserve that title.

My 15-year-old Junior Model UN delegates understand and implement the concept of conference decorum perfectly. Teenagers who would probably much rather be spending their time sneaking drinks at friends' houses. They act like perfect little diplomats. So why can't a man who has probably attended scores of conferences and meetings throughout his career extend the most minimal of expected courtesy to those bothering to inform him of his own industry's performance? Of the future of his job and livelihood?

I'm so stealing the podium tomorrow. Then I'll give them a crash course in decorum. The Korsi will strike once more.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Tuesday 29th January's Broody Bunch Conversation

A friend announces that he has received his long-awaited exemption from Egypt's army conscription, and has received his new, much smaller, Egyptian passport. Egyptians passports used to be the size of a refrigerator. Apparently, they are now the standard passport size.

Eureka: No way, passports are smaller? Wicked! And mabrouk re: exemption! Glad the navy won't have to pummel you :P

Roonies: The army/military, not the navy you idiot.

Eureka: He would have been in the navy because he's from Alexandria, IDIOT.

Roonies: I will kill you. You make me mad.

Eureka: You bring it upon yourself.

Roonies: Oh! And just so you know, you ASSHOLE, not only do you not do the downloading and make me and nes do it, you ALSO neglect to freaking look up where we stopped. But you have hours and hours and hours to write on your dumb blog. I shall reveal to nes what she needs to download. Actually, I shall reveal it to the WORLD. And, you shall be punished. No shows will be provided to you until further notice.

Eureka: Oh, and let's see you download/swap shows when I have nes's hard drive :P :P

Roonies: I'll walk into your house before you get there and get what is rightfully ours.

Let it be known that my job is a lot more important than yours, ms. "I'm international law/political science but couldn't find a decent paying job so I decided to sell my soul and join the corporate world."

Also, let it be known that your blog used to be funny. Now it’s just lame.

Eureka: It's lame because you've sucked all the fun out of my life. And you sold your soul years before I did, so you can't use that as a jab, loser.

Roonies: It's my passion; it's the path I chose because I love it.

You on the other hand decided to join the bandwagon because you have no soul, because you are useless, because you are bland.

Eureka: The fact that I am able to make this sort of switch shows that I am an intelligent, well-rounded individual. You, on the other hand, are the useless, soulless, bland one because you can't do anything but what has been drilled into your head for 4+ years. Let's see you make a major switch and succeed.

Roonies: Let's see you graduate with three majors less two courses and still say that I can't do anything except what's been drilled into my mind for 4+ years.

Oh, and graduate with a 3.9+.

Eureka: Easy as pie.

Roonies: Keep telling yourself that.

Eureka: Hey, if you could do it my cousin's pet tortoise could.

Roonies: Sucks to know that your cousin's pet tortoise is smarter than you because as I recall you struggled with just the one major.

Eureka: I'd hardly call it struggling. I just preferred to have an active social life. Because there's more to life than hitting the books.

Roonies, no one seems to be paying attention to this… why are we bothering to entertain them?

Rania: I don't know Eurokleez. If we drew our swords right now, no one would care.

Spaz: I would care!
I just didn't want to interrupt the...colorful flow you guys had going.

Roonies: You're the only one Spaz. The others don't give a rat's buttocks. However Eureka and I enjoy our fights.

Eureka: yes we do. False sense of importance and all that.

Roonies: Dead serious about the shows, you dimwit.

Eureka: I'll get on the damn episode check when I have time, nutcase.

Roonies: Already done, asshole.

Eureka: If you're so self-sufficient, why did you make me do the whole writer's strike dates check last week, you peabrained numbskull

Roonies: Because you take advantage of everyone that's around you. This is the least you can do to return alllllll our favors.

And what do I care about the writer's strike dates. You misunderstood. All I needed from you was where we were at. Jerk.

Eureka: If I'm such a leeching burden why are you even my friend? Hypocrite.

Roonies: Who said we were friends asshole? I only speak to you because I love your family.

Eureka: You have my parents' numbers. Why waste your time on the annoying middleman? Speak to them directly and get out of my big fat face.

Roonies: Your big fat face does me a lot of good. It keeps me nice and skinny because I lose my appetite every time I see it.

Eureka: See? You do need me. You also need my big fat belly for your punching exercises.

Roonies: I need to break your big fat knees. I also need to break the uglier knees of your big fat ugly high horse.

Eureka: My knees are actually quite knobbly. However, you may enjoy breaking my big fat femurs. And my bug fat ugly high horse will never break. You will break yourself trying.

Roonies: I don't break, you ignoramus. You underestimate me.

Eureka: My high horse will break you.

Roonies: Your high horse is full of shit. As are you.

Eureka: That must make me and my horse particularly mouthwatering for you, seeing as you live to eat shit.

Roonies: One day you will drown in your own shit.

We break to discuss Brothers and Sisters and Friday Night Lights. After stating we love so-and-so on each show and would definitely go for them if they fixed this and that flaw:

Roonies: Don't think you'd be able to step off your high horse long enough to do that. You'd fall on your big fat face and break your big fat Jewish nose.

Eureka: Hmm... Good point. Although you'd be making a huge upgrade going for a drug addict or a gay man. They're both out of your league.

Roonies: Remind me again, who's been single her whole life?

Eureka: Other than you?

Roonies: That's your idea of a good comeback?

Eureka: That's your idea of an insult in the first place? Since when is being single an insult?

Roonies: No man wants to come near you. They smell your rotten soul miles and miles away.

We then lose interest and pretend to be working.

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