Friday, December 25, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Blessings to all. Enjoy the presents!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Stream of Consciousness

Yesterday afternoon, as I sat idly with Daddy wondering why we always manage record-breaking silences whenever we're one-on-one, I looked up to notice a bird take flight from one of the large trees lining the golf course. My first thought was: "wouldn't it be great to be able to fly like that?"

That thought was instantaneously followed by my lazier, more empowering self that said: "I'm glad I'm not a bird. Look at how often and how forcefully it has to flap its wings to stay in flight. That must be so tiring."

My tiny scientific side moved on to wonder about hot air currents to help it glide rather than flap, and how I wouldn't mind being a bird with a large wingspan to benefit from that gliding ability. I wondered about the size and type of feathers I'd need to maximize gliding potential. I figured an eagle would be a cool bird to be, or a falcon. Both birds were loners, were majestic, were respected and were birds of prey. I definitely didn't want to be a small robin or a hummingbird, hunted and constantly flapping their wings to fly. A snowy owl would be cool, too.

Suddenly, my mind shifted to the bird's design and how it evolved to be the way it was today. Birds were gargantuan in prehistoric times. Today, the mechanics remain the same, on a much smaller scale. Imagine the Pterodactyl in flight. It probably managed to glide much of the time. Like a Cessna (yes, I know it has an engine and isn't a glider) with a heartbeat.

Where did evolution really begin, anyway? I'm a proponent of intelligent design as I find the concept of pure Creationism too deliberate or micromanaged. I believe God didn't sit there making every single evolutionary change the Earth has seen. God set things in motion, like one giant thought experiment, and let things take their course. Otherwise, why would an All-Seeing, All-Knowing God create the first micro-organisms in the first place? Why would God go through all those motions of single-celled life forms to dinosaurs to humans? Why not cut right to the chase since He already knows what the end result looks like?

Of course the obvious argument there would be that an All-Knowing God wouldn't even need to create anything in the first place since He is All-Knowing. But that is an entirely different debate that questions one's faith. Part of believing in anything other than Evolution requires a steadfast dose of faith. In this region of the world, you cannot allow yourself to question the existence of a Higher Power.

This conversation with myself lasted about 4 minutes, but went from "why do Daddy and I never have anything to talk about" to "you have to believe in God and in some form of Intelligent Design because then birds adhere to both sides of the debate".

I congratulated my stream of consciousness for a thoroughly, randomly entertaining ride. This is why I enjoy stream of consciousness literature. You can cover so much in one body of work. And you can use it as an excuse to say whatever you want without sticking to the plot line.

The human mind is cool when given the space to learn and question. I wish I made more time to just let my mind wander in landscapes other than my day-to-day life. I think I'd enjoy the conversations I could have with myself. One condition though, Google has to come with me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fundon!

Finally managed to get tomorrow off so I'm off to London for the long weekend with Mrs. Fallon and company. Of course, this is the time my body decides to succumb to my first attack in a year (one of the perks of blogging about my stupid immune system is that I can now track the severity and frequency of my attacks). Sigh. Going to be a lovely flight and a lovelier attack once the London cold hits me. To top it all off I caught a bad cold this week.

But have no fear my friends, I will go, I will enjoy myself and if all else fails, I'll make sure Mrs. Fallon knows where my health insurance card is.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Copping Out With A Cop-Out #2

Back by popular demand (i.e.: mine). Thinking of making this a quarterly series.

Work:

Working late on a Thursday is equivalent to trying to pee outdoors in -50C.

WHY is it only 2:25? Feels like I've been working for 500 hours already

Hate hate hate it when work starts picking up in the afternoon. Really, if you don't plan on working before 2pm, why the 9am start?

Should probably just give up and get a degree in presentation formatting. It's all anyone else thinks I'm any good at.

Eureka Factoids:

FACT: You can tell I'm sleepy when my nose starts running faster than Usain Bolt

I like to imagine that planes flying overhead at night are alien spaceships

Think I'm the only person in the world who can slice her thumb open using her hotel room door's hinge

FACT: I can balance an extra-long shafted men's Titleist driver on my nose.

Chocolate:

I eat enough chocolate to feed a sizable country. Daily. It's beginning to bite me in the buttocks.

Hello, ballooning gut! How nice of you to share this quarter of an inch of my bed with me.

Oh no, don't worry about these pesky buttons on my shirt. They're there for you to pop through. The more buttons you lose the better I look!

My love-hate relationship trinity: men, chocolate and colchicine. Can't live with the first, can't live without the latter two.

Today's breakfast: cocoa powder on a spoon. Yum!

Overdosed on DEEEELISH chocolate. Feeling queasy is totally worth having heaven dance on my taste buds!

Introspection:

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." – Nietzsch

Not-So-Comic Relief:

Discovered that my true soulmate is a long island ice tea

The kid has yet to speak, but has decided that an appropriate word to pick up is a7a (fuck in arabic). Wakid upbringing ladies and gents!

Just drove past Bea Arthur's twin! Maybe she decided to fake her death to live as an Egyptian peasant?

SAD FACT: so tired that I almost put facewash instead of toothpaste on my toothbrush.

Can't help but giggle at the Firth of Forth

Winter:

I cannot believe the weather forecasts calls for another week of 30C in November. I have new coats to wear, people!

Where is the world is Winter, sandy Cairo? #missingwinter

Jurassic Park: The Lost Winter #missingwinter

Where's Winter? #missingwinter

What's Eating Winter Weather? #missingwinter

Cairo weather is so bedan that bedan don't want to associate with it

Traffic:

Um, not to jinx it but where is the traffic this morning?

Oh, theeeereee it is! Hello, traffic! Glad to see you're up this morning. I knew it was too good to be true.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kindness Is Giving a Toddler Your BlackBerry

Upon boarding my flight to Dubai the other week a young Norwegian woman carrying an 18-month-old (give or take) came up to my row and asked the man sitting on my right if he'd be willing to switch seats. We were sitting in the first row where the bassinets fit and her seat was a few rows back.

When the man began huffing I offered her my seat if she or the man didn't mind sitting in the middle.

"No, no I don't want to sit in the middle. I'll go," was the grumpy man's immediate reaction to finding he'd be seated next to a sniffling little boy for 4 hours.

Of course, the little one proceeds to fidget and wail as we wait to take-off. He was obviously exhausted and uncomfortable. I would be to if I were being strapped into my mother's lap in a loud cramped space filled with strangers. He still had a long way to travel. They were going to India for a wedding.

I happen to have an application on my BlackBerry called BabyGO! which turns your phone into a talking, visually stimulating ABC-learning device. It locks the phone and switches the radio off to allow the child to hit the buttons to his or her heart's content. Each button's corresponding letter pops up on the screen as a letter block and is sounded out by a child's voice. The spacebar, symbol, alt and other keys make a BOING sound that even has this university graduate in stitches.

So I hold the phone up to the kid and convince him to hit the spacebar button. That proved to be quite a task considering he didn't understand a word of English. Once he got the gist he really had a ball with the application - much to the chagrin of everyone else on the plane who had to endure the likes of "A, F, T, Y" and BOING playing on and on. However, I think that beats a screaming toddler any day. Count your blessings!

He fell asleep soon after anyway and didn't budge till we were approaching Dubai airport. I can only imagine the trouble he must have caused on the flight to India after a nap like that.

This little incident makes me wonder what happened to the kindness we were taught growing up. The man on my right only gave up his seat when faced with the option of sitting next to the child. The man on my left repeatedly voiced his surprise at how kind I was to volunteer my seat and occupy the boy. This surprise shouldn't be the natural reaction to an act of courtesy. My willingness to help his frazzled mother out should be everyone's immediate instinct - be it a young woman or a middle-aged man.

I noticed that no one helped people with heavy luggage. No one waited for the man in the wheelchair to reach the terminal; the man had to be let off last instead. Patience, courtesy and acts of kindness have become increasingly rare. I notice it in myself as well. I may still be more patient and willing to help than others, but the instinct to be of assistance is steadily waning. We have become a Me First species; in Egypt we seem to be devolving further into ME ONLY.

It saddens me to think of what is in store for the children to come. Who will offer them their version of a BlackBerry when they're stuck on a long flight?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Happy Second Birthday, Eurekaisms!


Momma's so proud!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mercurial Life

I am known as the go-to person when you want a presentation whipped up at the office. People I've never met - people ranking high up in the company's hierarchy - request the most random things from me knowing that I will deliver efficiently.

One such person came to me yesterday asking to recycle some slides I'd created for another presentation, which I gladly sent over. He's a young, energetic, intelligent man and is an easy person to work with because, unlike many people at my company, he knows what he wants, knows how he wants it, and has no problem articulating his needs. I like working with him. He needed another slide to be created and said he's come see me this morning to discuss.

This morning I walk into the office expecting to see him. Ten minutes later I find out he'd died in a car accident on his way home late last night.

We hear these stories often. Stories of people in the prime of life suddenly evaporating. Like they never even existed. We hear the stories of car accidents, murders, bumps on the head and disease. We gently pat people on the back when they lament the fact that they did not do more, did not get to say goodbye, did not do anything to prevent the loss.

I could have stayed a little late and worked on the presentation with him. I could have altered his path in some way. I'm not feeling responsible in any way, don't misunderstand me. I'm just wondering why this man in his early thirties, a man with a wife and two young children, was on that road at that precise moment. Why was it his car that spun, crashed and burned. Is it destiny? Is it the chaos of nature? Is it written by a higher power? All these age-old questions float up when death hits close to home. The what if's, why's and how come's. The need to understand and rationalize death, especially when the victim is young.

The very way we discuss death makes it difficult to digest. It is a crime. The person who died is labelled a victim. Death is internalized as an unnatural force rather than a natural progression. It is only when the deceased has lived a full life and died of natural causes at a decidedly acceptable old age that we do not question. What is the difference if one dies at 30 or 90? Why do we not accept it as part of life and move on? Why is humanity programmed to feel grief, to question events we do not agree with but are out of our control, to decide when and how people should die?

Life is celebrated when it is snatched away unexpectedly. This is the positive thought that came to me when I heard he'd died. When speaking to him yesterday, I spoke to him believing I'd see him the next morning. I looked at my laptop screen to pull out presentations instead of looking at him. I did not offer him 100% of my attention and effort because I did not feel like I would never have the chance to again. I had all of the next morning to create a great slide for him. He'd appreciate it then. But when today came and I could not fulfill my promise, I felt the urge to never again treat anyone the way I treated him yesterday afternoon. I did not treat him badly. I just didn't treat him the way I would have had I known that was goodbye.

Treat everyone with the respect, warmth and attention you'd want to receive. You never know when it'll be the last time you can. This is the celebration of life in its truest form. Respect the life still in front of you. If anything should be taken from this story, it is the importance of the little moments. They are the moments that prove your mettle.

Answers to Last Week's Thoughts

My friend and loyal reader, El Gapitane, is a fellow trivia lover. He and I share a love for technology, dirty jokes, DIY and huge external hard drives to store our digital libraries on. He knows me well enough to know that I HAVE to have the answers for everything, which is why he so kindly initiated the following conversation with me today:

El Gapitane: I'm about to enlighten you about the whole screen looking issue

Eureka: Please do

El Gapitane: Most of the screens you look at all day are liquid crustal displays. Technology has come a long way to make those screens. They emit something like 3% of what TV screens used to emit in the early 90s. When you look at a an LCD all day is like looking at the open sea in bright sunlight actually its safer since the actual sunrays are strongest of all

Eureka: That's fantastic

El Gapitane: Your eyes adjust to that lifestyle but the worst part is that natural sunlight become very harsh to you...making it worse for you in the outdoors

El Gapitane: It’s sort of an equation you just need to balance

Eureka: So you ideally should spend some time in the sun every day for your eyes to remain adjusted to it

El Gapitane: Yup

YES! My shows aren't damaging my eyes! Christmas is early!

El Gapitane: And your friend was right about the drainage thing. He just forgot to mention that in the closed system when you pee in the toilet the nitrates from your pee is actually extracted and used in agriculture in my many developing nations such as Egypt. So at the end of the day you’re saving a lot of plants when you pee in the toilet. And the shower and toilet usually have 2 different drainage systems in the modern world.

And that, ladies and gents, is why we pee where we pee.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Today's Thoughts

An old schoolmate bbm's me every once in a while to chit-chat about life and how things are turning out for us. I've known him since we were 4 but we were never the closest of friends. However, he's been a part of life right from the beginning and, because of his metaphysical distance, is able to see things in a fresh light. Apparently, Musketeer likes to hear random thoughts from me when he's not in the brightest of places. Comic relief? I don't know but hey, I'll never say no to helping someone out.

Today's thoughts were twofold:

1. This is a thought I've had on more than one occasion (usually when Bloft flushes the toilet when she knows I want to use the bathroom as well). I thought I had it pretty much figured out until he provided me with his two cents:

Eureka: Do you know how much water people could save each day if they peed in the shower?

Musketeer: Let me think. Same if they peed in the toilet assuming the drainage systems are the same

Eureka: No you're saving the litres you'd have used if you flushed. When you pee in the shower you're using no more water than if you were showering without peeing. But when you pee in the toilet you flush it down, using what I'd estimate to be 3 litres of water. Now if everyone peed in the shower once a day you're saving millions of litres of water each day

So far so good, right? Then came the kicker:

Musketeer: But how are you saving if the water itself in drainage is not lost, simply re-treated and circulated within the system

Of course, I had to scrounge up a quick response or else face having my solution to the world's water problems shot down:

Eureka: You lose water in the drainage and treatment process. And in many systems the water is lost to drainage out to open ocean. Saving resources in general is the point of this exercise.

Liar, liar pants on fire, Eureka. You just can't bare not being completely right. But anyway, moral of the story is: when I'm empress everyone will pee in the shower.

The conversation soon moved on to the second thought of the day:

Eureka: I think we spend too much time looking at screens. This was today's thought in the car. I wake up to emails on my phone, which I read while making/eating breakfast.

I then read the news on my phone on my way to work = 40 mins of more screen time.

I spend 8+ hours working on a laptop at the office and read more news/bbm on my way home.

Then watch shows on my laptop for a couple of hours at home

That's just about all my waking hours looking at a screen

How bad is that for one's eyes?

Musketeer: What do you want to look at?

Eureka: Cost on eyesight

Musketeer: Good business idea

What do you all think? Are we all destined to be the first generation to be prematurely blind?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Strangers in Our Homeland

Yesterday's topic of conversation during family lunch was surprising. It was a complaint I only expected my age group in our social circles to have. Funnily enough, my parents "feel like strangers in our own country". It saddens me to hear that they've come to share my discomfort in Egypt. I understand people like me when they claim to feel little for this country. We were born in an era where no allegiance was encouraged. We were born and continue to live under the same detached incumbent. We were born into bubbles of financial stability, air-conditioned cars, suburban neighbourhoods, hired help and private educations. We were born a caste unto ourselves, free from infiltration or mingling with the rest of our populace.

But our parents and grandparents were born at times of socioeconomic and political mobilizations. They grew up in times where patriotism was paramount, where you had reason to be proud to be Egyptian. They fought wars for their country. They elected their leaders. They mourned their leaders. Egypt had global status as the link between the East and West. Cairo was the Paris of the Orient. The Egyptian Pound held value. Even those who lived under Abdel Nasser had more love for this country than I ever could. They may have lived in hardship but they believed in a greater united Arab nation. There was an ideology to protect, even if it resulted in their own impecuniosity. Sadat brought Egypt prestige by standing up to the neighbourhood bully. He gave Sinai back to our people. He put Egypt back on the international affairs map. That made our parents proud to be Egyptian whether they agreed with his politics or not.

Egypt was a united nation where you did not know Muslim from Christian. Today, it is the first thing you want to know. More often than not, you don't even need to ask. Until our generation came of age, your country had a middle class that was comfortable without being ostentatiously wealthy. Today, you are either a prince or a pauper. There is no normal option. When our parents were in high school, they went through the public school system and lived productive, enriched lives. Today, there is no public school system. You either go to an expensive private school or receive no education, because what you are supposedly taught by the State does not even cover basic hygiene. Today, you can smell a person before they come into view. Today, you cannot cross a street in baggy clothes - or even in a veil - without being harassed. Today, if you do not speak a particular strain of Arabic, you are a foreigner. Today, if you are not one of the poor, the angry, the frustrated and the radical, you are not Egyptian.

I thought our parents still managed to feel at one with a rapidly deteriorating country because they lived through an important milestone in Egypt's modern history. They connected with the country on more than one level. They knew what it meant to be Egyptian. Unfortunately, it is this very knowledge that depresses them most today. They know what it meant to be Egyptian. They no longer identify with what it means to be Egyptian today. This saddens them beyond measure, because they must mourn their lost sense of self. My identity revolves around my Western education, my personal beliefs, my family, my goals and my accomplishments. I have no sense of self within my country. I never had and never will, so I have lost nothing.

Any emotion I feel towards Egypt is rooted in pity. I feel sorry for a fallen giant but I see no means to help it back up. And this, while is a sad state, does not move me in any meaningful way. This is not my land to worry about. It has never included me, never welcomed me, never nurtured me and never will. But it has abandoned my parents and their generation to the point of depression. To the point where they are actively considering emigration or at least a pied-à-terre elsewhere so that they can detox on a regular basis.

Imagine having to detox from your own homeland. What kind of life is that? What kind of country is that? As doleful as the status quo is, this is Egypt. And by the looks of things, this is Egypt for many generations to come.

Monday, October 12, 2009

If It's Worth Having It's Worth Fighting For

With my major girl-crush on all things related to Girls Aloud, please indulge my posting of Cheryl Cole's first solo effort. In her defence, she was never the group's strongest singer, and the song is pretty infectious after a couple of listens. Plus, she's looking mighty fashionable in the fat man pants and MJ-tribute shoulder pads. Rock on, Cheryl!



Now in relation to my previous post and my need to self-analyze my every half-baked attempt at emotion, should I follow her advice? He's definitely worth having, but is he worth fighting for?

Wedding Tick-Tocking

This weekend one of my cousins (a zillion times removed but a cousin nonetheless) got married. It was the whole 9 yards and then some: huge rambunctious wedding, beautiful bride (naturally seeing as we share genes), ecstatic couple, relieved and proud family, drunk and dancing friends, etc...

Attendees clocked in around the 1,500 mark (which by Egyptian standards is large but not out of the ordinary). More importantly, many of the invitees were Christian seeing as it was a Christian wedding. This gathering of possible eligible bachelors does not happen very often, so of course every other person I know and their great-aunt made sure to tell me to be extra hot, keep my eyes peeled for crucifix-bearing young men and accidently bump into the one that caught my fancy.

Usually, I would do my best to ignore the aforementioned and would just have a good time celebrating my friend and distant relative's blissful union. But recently (as you've been noticing in my increasingly depressing and monotone posts) I've begun to feel the pressure, so I dutifully cleaned up in my evening best, kept my eyes peeled for bachelors that fit the bill, and did more than my fair share of roaming around the room to make sure I hadn't missed anyone worth checking out. In a ballroom full of family friends, there were many spies making sure I did my bit. Hell, some were even pointing people out to me.

That night two very important things were made clear to me:
  1. Even in a room full of Christians, there are no eligible bachelors remaining. They are either taken, or are ugly / fat / short / smelly / missing a liver or six / with an IQ of -3.2 / unable to keep their eyes off Dixie & Daisy (WHO WERE NOT EVEN IN FULL ATTENDANCE I MIGHT ADD) / or any combination of the above. I had always suspected this and it was finally confirmed: There are no men in Egypt. And the taken ones lead me to revelation number 2:
  2. A year later, all I wanted to do was find and "accidentally" bump into last year's runaway guy. This is particularly disturbing since I haven't seen or spoken to him in 5 months and haven't exchanged more than a hello, how are you, lovely weather we're having since October 2008. I can't even claim a broken heart because I hadn't even fallen for him. All I can lay claim to is a mind-full of what ifs and whys. And that isn't reason enough to result in such one-track-mindedness.
Today's lesson is that eventually, everyone will have to face rejection. You need to know how to deal with it and move on. I just never thought I'd take it so poorly.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Take a Popular Harvard Course for FREE

Being the geek that I am, this is probably the best thing I've ever discovered on the internet!

Harvard University (yes, that Harvard) have launched a website allowing anyone in the world free access to one of their most popular courses, Justice with Professor Michael Sandel. Classes, along with required reading and discussion notes for both beginner and advanced students, are posted every week for 12 weeks. Three classes have been posted so far.

Justice is a philosophy/ethics course aiming to challenge students with "with difficult moral dilemmas and asks our opinion about the right thing to do. He then asks us to examine our answers in the light of new scenarios... This course also addresses the hot topics of our day—affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism and rights—and Sandel shows us that we can revisit familiar controversies with a fresh perspective."

I am totally going to "take" this course. If you're interested, I'll post class synopses here and my thoughts on the issues brought up. Better yet, take it with me!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cairo BerryCam

Last night a little thought bubble popped up above my head filled with a big lightbulb. Living in Cairo means spending a lot of time stuck in traffic, which thereby gives the average passenger a lot of time to look out their window and observe (or choose to ignore) Cairo's bustling (and dirty) streets. Just about every street in Cairo is guaranteed to have two things: something interesting and something gross. Both are usually worth photographing.

So, I decided to test my little theory out in an extended art/photography project in a blog I am calling Cairo BerryCam. I will take pictures from my car rides around Cairo using my built-in Blackberry camera and post them on said blog. Sometimes they will be of something pretty, sometimes of something interesting, sometimes something disgusting. But always from a moving vehicle and always of/in the greater Cairo area. This includes Giza, New Cairo/Katameya and all the extended Cairo districts.

Anyone interested in participating is free to comment on www.cairocam.blogspot.com or email me their photo, name/nickname and caption at eurekaisms@gmail.com

Getting to the Root of Things

I mentioned before that at the very core of my being is a tiny librarian trying to fight her way out of the distractions of life to live amongst the stacks. If I could live in any room in the world, it would be a strategically lit room filled to the brim with towering bookshelves stuffed with thousands of books. I can't think of a happier place.

You'd think someone who loves books the way I do would have recommended more than just the passing novel here and there, right? Well, my darling devotees, tonight is the night I get around to listing the books I think everyone should read before they die (all these are books I have actually read and am not merely recommending because other more glittering members of the literati have praised them. If I haven't read it, I won't recommend it). This is by no means an exhaustive list. I will be adding to it whenever something else pops into my head, or if I ever get around to reading the 1000000+ list of books I'd like to plow through. Enough babbling; let's begin:

  1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. This is my all-time favourite book. It contains the most well written sentence-cum-paragraph ever concocted in the English language. I won't quote it here so that if you bother to read it you'll come back and guess in the comments. Wishful thinking on my part, but one can dream...
  2. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. A rare moment in time where the power of writing just seeps into your subconscious. You don't realize what Oates is doing until you're already deeply entrenched in the novel and never want to get out.
  3. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This one really hurt to read. I could only go a few pages at a time. Truly powerful stuff.
  4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Long but worth the effort purely for the descriptions of Salinas Valley.
  5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. The fur coats alone should be temptation enough.
  6. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I lobbied hard to get this book onto a lit class reading list even though I hadn't had the chance to read it prior to that class. My gut just told me I'd love it. I'll be damned if it isn't the finest introduction to the world of Toni Morrison EVER. Many people will disagree with me, but if you have to read one of her books (and I hope you choose to go through them all), this is it.
  7. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Also my introduction to Marquez. You may have noticed that I like to tackle authors head on. Although I love him with intense blindness, this is his standout work.
  8. I Know This Much Is True by Wallie Lamb. If it makes my drought-ridden, dammed up eyes leak, then it is worth every penny you spend on it.
  9. Sophie's Choice by William Stryon. Beautiful, heartbreaking and also much better than the movie.
  10. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. If I liked it enough to voluntarily write a 15 page paper on a play where nothing happens, you will like it enough to finish it.
  11. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. There are lots of great little sentences in this one. Plus, it's the only non-fiction book on this list.
  12. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Great descriptions, observations, vanitisms and generally cool quotable sentences in this one.
That's the start of my book recommendations. If you're interested in an extended list of honourable mentions (which will probably be more diverse in genre/taste), feel free to ask and I'm happy to oblige. Conversely, tell me what sort of thing you're looking for/like and I'll come up with a list of recommendations suited to your specs. Happy reading!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Common Indecency

The other night I had a midnight pancakes dinner with Cheb Khaled and a friend of his. Now, Cheb Khaled is generally a very polite - if somewhat paranoid - person. He opens doors, walks on the side facing oncoming traffic when we're crossing the street and always tries to stop me from paying my share of the tab. In today's society of pansy boys spending daddy's cash, he is a New York cop amongst Riviera sun worshippers. But whenever he speaks to a waiter or anyone serving him, he reminds me of a huge problem I have with Egyptian society as a whole.

Egyptians cannot be polite to anyone working in the service industry.

Now I don't know if this is a shared superiority complex, collective snobbism or just plain common indecency, but it is a rampant trend in our society and it needs to stop. The fact that someone is serving you in some way does not give you the right to snap your fingers, order them around, be dismissive, not look at them while speaking to them, be slouched in your chair as you speak to them, wave them away or treat them in any way that is demeaning or you yourself would find offensive.

If anything, treat them with respect because they are providing you with the comfort of being served rather than doing things for yourself. Say please and thank you, be polite when pointing something wrong out (i.e. don't curse the person out when they bring the wrong dressing with your salad) and always leave a decent tip; you may not remember who served you, but they'll always remember - and reward - a good tipper.

All of this is pretty basic but the memo seems to have skipped Egyptians. My first instinct would be to chalk it up to poor parenting. Mrs. Fallon is a great example of the benefits of good parenting. She is infinitely courteous and considerate to everyone who serves her, even if they totally mess her order up. But I know that Cheb Khaled comes from a good home as well. So why isn't he more like Mrs. Fallon? What do you think is the root of Egypt's inability to show some common decency?

This whole thing reminds me of the way Tom Hanks was treated in Philadelphia. He was treated with respect and even reverence so long as he was considered an equal at his law firm. The moment he was perceived as 'below' the partners, he was shot down, insulted and ignored. Good movie if you haven't seen it. Bruce Springsteen wrote a great song for the movie, as seen below.

Streets of Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Master of Ceremonies

Those of my 6 and a half readers who've seen me know that I am pretty preppy in appearance. Typical Ralph Lauren fare during the day, reminiscent of Diane von Furstenberg at night. My style icon is Audrey, my design allegiance is French.

However, one of my more secret dreams does not fit the bill in the slightest. I want to rap. No, not pop rap like Gwen or Gaga and co. do on occasion. I mean hardcore rap like Jay-Z and Biggie. I am a rap fan. I storm through the H-O-V's discography like it is bubblegum Britney. But I don't mean rap like today's idiots with metal on their teeth and money to burn. I mean lyrics that describe a whole society's struggle to fight against the establishment. A nation's inability to care of an entire stratum of its people. A sub-culture erupting from the seams of America. Specifically, I am a New York-based rap fan. B.I.G and Nas are significant contributors to my music collection. But the most important of all is the almighty Jay-Z.

Sunshine recently mentioned that one of the strangest things she's seen is a white, preppy, law and literature major knowing every word to a Jay-Z track. Not just one track but full albums. We'd be sitting having lunch with an iPod on shuffle and as soon as Jay comes on the world comes to a stand still and I blast off along with him, eyes closed, head bouncing and arm flailing to the beat.

I would love to be the world's first female, Egyptian, English-speaking rapper. But what would I rap about? What hardship have I faced? I'd have little more to mouth off about than the pitiful state of grammar in hip-hop. I'd complain about the lack of leadership through education exhibited by the hip-hop community, where it is considered cool to drop out, use ain't instead of isn't for the sake of a rhyme or meter, and refer to women, drugs and guns in derogatory terms. Who'd listen to music as prissy and uptight as that?

Even Egypt-based qualms aren't engaging. Who cares that the traffic sucks, the government is corrupt and your religion defines your every move? Many people can't even point to Egypt on the map. All they'd really want to hear about are the camels, the pyramids and the harems filled with bellydancers.

But Egypt is what I know. Egypt, religious and gender-based discrimination, corruption, nepotism, bribery, traffic, social injustice and the power of money are the things I'd rap about. I'd rap about family, quasi-parenthood, straddling the East-West fence, the ignorance shared by the world and the impact of globalisation of the messages we send out as rappers. I'd tell the world that there are more important things to focus on than their fixation on combatting terrorism in the Middle East. That fueling the region's misconceptions and thus hatred of the West will do little to save them from another 9/11. That their own view of the region as a backward civilization filled with hate is the cause and catalyst for the hate. I'd tell the world to focus on their children. To improve their education, to encourage cross-cultural dialogue and to stop magnifying global differences.

I'd rap in correct grammar. I wouldn't use curse words just for the sake of it. I'd diss drugs rather than people. I'd preach doing right instead of doing every ho on the block.

I want to rap because there is more to be said than money cash hoes and rims on my rims. Listening to the Blueprint 3 (which I must say is a fun album but is by no means on par with any of Jay-Z's previous work - Jay I love you but please stop trying to do seductive rap) proved that even Jay can run out of things to say. The problem with hip-hop isn't autotune. The problem with hip-hop is a fixation on a limited number of issues that causes the community to fixate on said issues. Rap about something new and your fans will follow. Enlighten rather than limit the scope of their interests. Rap about the future - create a Blueprint for that.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eureka the Smart

I know, I know. How dare I tease you with regular posting only to snatch it away so soon. Busy fortnight at work resulting in an exhausted Eureka, which has therefore created the current sniveling, heavy-headed, sinus clogged, Thursday night at home with a fever creature that claims to be Eureka. Yes, I caught a cold. Boo hoo. Lucky for you faithful (or insane) 6-and-a-half readers, that means I'm home long enough to post an update here.

So, work has been pretty hectic because we've been working towards today's H1 2009 earnings announcement. That basically means Eureka has been pouring over meaningless numbers for the last two weeks trying to figure out how much work the Dragon's Balls has scheduled over the last quarter, how much old work remains, which entity contributed what, how much chemical poo who sold, at what price, to whom, through whom, etc... An endless flow of Excel sheets, links, updates, amendments, adjustments, reallocations, and most importantly, MISTAKES. I cannot begin to list the number of stupid mistakes I've made over the last two weeks. I can't even seem to copy a phone number correctly. I am either stupid, careless, dyslexic, or a combination of all three.

I think it is a combination of lack of motivation and an inherent inability to digest numbers that's making me this prone to error. I mean, when I was at university and writing 30-page papers, I would rarely make more than possibly one slight typographical error. My fact-checking and evidence was always foolproof. My citations were exemplary. My work was top-notch ALL THE TIME. But here? I make stupid mistakes all the goddamn time. AVOIDABLE mistakes. Mistakes anyone with half a brain shouldn't be making. I have never felt stupider or smaller than this week. Mile-A-Minute must think I have the cognitive capacity of a flea. Even a flea is smarter because a flea knows to jump high and feed. I can't even do that properly.

I'll be sitting down focusing on getting all the right items in the right places and Mile-A-Minute starts bombarding me with inane questions because he's too lazy to open up a spreadsheet to check for himself. This distracts me and leads to a mistake, upon which a couple of others are built. He then asks me to do X or Y useless, unimportant and unnecessary task right away, which distracts me once more and leads to mistakes 5 and 6. He later forwards an email he believes he is too important to reply to, distracting me once again, leading to mistakes 10 through 12. And so on. Once I am done, he takes a look at the document and finds several of these silly little mistakes, meaning the document must fly back and forth thirty seven times to amend. And yet, none of these mistakes should have been made, because they're things I:

a) know,
b) should have noticed myself if I'd paid attention to what I was doing, and
c) can easily avoid in the first place BECAUSE I SHOULD NOT BE THIS CARELESS.

I have wanted to take my desk chair and ram my head with it no less than 76,654 times over the last few days. It is a huge blow to my self-esteem. But will I learn anything from this experience? No. I know what I'm like. I will continue to be careless because I know Mile-A-Minute will check up after me. It is a subconscious desire to make him work more than 30 minutes a day - if that. But at the end of the day, I'm still the one doing all the dirty work, and I'm the one who looks like an idiot. Lose-lose situation folks.

But hey, at least I make bank every month :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Regression

This is one of those nights where a lot is attempting to sort itself out in my head. I don't enjoy thinking about all the things that bother me. I've regressed to the point where I don't even want to admit my own thoughts, fears and feelings to myself. It tires me out. One long, repetitive stream of should haves, what ifs, whys and it isn't fairs.

I went out for sohour (late meal to prepare oneself for the following day's fast during Ramadan) with some friends tonight. I carpool with a good friend, whom we shall call Cheb Khaled (he has a thing for Raï). He's been struggling with several girl and job related issues and we tend to use our alone time in the car to talk things out. So far, it's always been about him talking and me reprimanding (and sometimes advising). We've been pretty consistent about this for about 4 months now. In 4 months, I have yet to open up about anything bothering me outside of the superficial work isn't fulfilling enough sort of thing. Cheb Khaled has poured his heart and soul out to me time and again. He's opened up about a difficult break-up, about his ex-girlfriend's immediate rebound, about being held at arm's length by a new girl and how frustrated he feels. He's talked to me about his responsibility towards his father's business versus making it on his own. He's admitted his faults, his fears and his aspirations. I have not.

I haven't told him about how I'm still nursing the year-old wounds of being rebuffed after being pursued by someone who felt like Mr. Right. I'm struggling with my career options and my future. All I know is that I'm underused and unappreciated where I am now. I'm fighting a losing battle in my relationship with my father. We are too alike in so many negative ways that it is nearly impossible to be as close as we should be. I can't stand the way my brother is turning out to be. I can't stand the way I treat him because of my own prejudices. I can't stand the way my mother refuses to try to knock some sense into him. I worry about my mother. I worry that she is fast approaching her wit's end. I cannot deal with her breaking down. We won't survive it as a family because she is the only glue holding us together. I won't be able to deal with a house, unruly teenagers, a sullen and detached father, a 19-month-old and work all at the same time. This house is too cramped for so many people. I need more space and more time for myself.

I need to stop assuming this family will not function without me trying to shoulder some of my mother's burdens. I cannot hold so many grudges against my father, my grandparents and my uncle. All this ill will is only poisoning me further. But after so many years of harboring all this anger and frustration, how can I disperse it? I need to stop assuming Mr. Right will gallop into my living room. But how will I find him if I already know he's gone? I need to stop worrying about what I'm going to do with my life. It will sort itself out. But when?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Born Again Beach Bum

The last time I spent part of my summer on a beach was back in 2006. My family has always been big on sun worshipping, spending most of our non-Europe/USA vacation time in Agami, a small beach-city near Alexandria with a dedicated fan base. We very much loved our summers in Agami, but as soon as I hit 14 and our interests began to lean towards clubbing and being out until 4am, my mother put a stop to our beach bumming days and distracted us by extending our time outside Egypt. No complaints there!

As most Cairenes know, there is an age-old schism between those who are known as Agamists - the Agami devotees - and those who spend their summers on the North Coast, a.k.a Sahel. The North Coast comprises of several large resort/compounds scattered across a stretch of beautiful beaches and bays between Al Alamein (WWII battleground) and Marsa Matrouh (a good example of the beauty of the Mediterranean). Most Sahelites love the hustle and bustle of these large compounds, which are more like cities than beach resorts. Agamists love their little stretch of sewage-smelling dusty roads for the authentic beach bum feel and the change of pace from the big mean city.

This year, we betrayed our Agami roots and spent a week in Sahel. I joined the troops on Thursday morning to spend the weekend attempting to tan. The last time I tried to tan on the beach, I ended up looking like this:

When I start blogging about Melanoma, you'll know what caused it.

Now, I have always argued with Tinkerbell about the merits of Sahel v. Agami. I staunchly opposed the very idea of Sahel and its commercial, hard partying, days into nights lifestyle. Agami was all about the generations of laid back summer loving families enjoying the beach during the day and having a good time together at night. Why would I want anything more to relax? Sure, the sea wasn't as great as Sahel's - it was treacherous and unclean, but it was perfectly swimmable if you were careful:

However, it is nothing compared to this:

[Hat tip: Tinkerbell]
This is the reason the French came up with the word azure. This is the inspiration for every swimming pool created. Even with my irrational and intense fear of everything existing in the sea, I swam in. I swam all the way to the floating lounge-area things about 300 metres into the water (not pictured). Of course, I almost had a stroke with every stroke, but the water was too wonderful to resist. I can't say I overcame a fear by swimming so far in because the very idea of the things that could be in the water still makes me want to piss my pants like a 10-month-old, but hey, you can't win them all.

After my weekend in Sahel, I have made a momentous decision. Agami is great because it holds my memories, my family's memories, and it works because my friends all go there. But if you choose the right place to go to in Sahel, a resort like Ghazala Bay which is as simple and laid back as Agami, you will be in heaven. Avoid the craziness of places like the Marina compounds, and the hectic nightlife beckoning from Hacienda and Marassi, and you will never need to ask for more than someone to hand you a beer.

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