Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Smart phones and the illusion of identity

Having an iPhone makes me feel that I am a fun-loving adult who hasn't lost touch with her childhood. Partly in jest, I usually deride BlackBerry owners as stuck up business person wannabes who think they look professional just for owning one. Of course BB users retort by making fun of my "toy". The Android phone owners take a different stance. They are at a higher moral ground because they support open-source solutions, instead of the "fascist" closed-source that is Mac (Yes. I have heard the word used in that specific context). Of course the counter-argument by iPhone users is that no one who spends over 700 dollars on a mobile can claim any moral superiority.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fairy tales don't just suck

If you and me have ever sat down for a chat, odds are you've heard this argument in some form or another. It always comes up and never fails to stir angry thoughts in my head. Why did it come up now? Because every time I go into a toy store to buy my little nieces a present, I am bombarded with fairy tale princess pillow covers, balloons, cups, dresses and barbies. And I know that if I got any of them, I will score points with the girls. And that always bothered me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Of motivational posters and other useless stuff

So I'm watching this pretty cool comedy called Modern Family and I stumble upon a couple of scenes that fit nicely with something that's been on my mind for a while. Not sure how well I'm gonna be able to get my point across. But here goes. Scene 1: In the dad's attempt to comfort his step-son, he brings him a poster that says: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger", to which Manny, the son and my favourite character on the show, retorts "That's not true. Lots of stuff that doesn't kill you makes you weaker. My friend's grandfather had a heart attack, now he needs a machine to breathe.”

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Untold tales of courage: A series?

A few posts ago, Loulia left a hilarious comment on what she dubbed "the most vocal, loud and intimidating" people on earth: post-menopausal Arab women. As soon as I stopped laughing, it occurred to me that Loulia was not joking. There are actually so many layers of truth to her statement that it got me thinking, "Who dares talk back to these women?" And it's not just the post-menopausal. I think this applies to many Arab women who could intimidate the living hell out of any adult male. Maybe it's because they have brought humans out of their bellies and know it. And they know that others know it.

Anyway this inspired me to attempt a series of posts - if I gather enough stamina and material to see it through - in recognition of some amazing feats of courage by women and mothers, who stood up to what they believed in, be it their families or causes, despite the extraordinary duress they were under: The Lebanese Civil War.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Should we be happy that Qatar won the World Cup bid?

As soon as the announcement that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup was made, I tweeted that I had "no clue how I feel about this". A few days and articles later, I think I have a clearer assessment. There were so many pro and con arguments made that it was quite difficult for me to filter out the pettiness and fake pride. But all in all, the discussion centered around 4 main issues that I will briefly describe.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time we'll never get back

The chairman of the board of the company where I work is a well-accomplished but humble man. He built a company from scratch and it is now a relatively large firm with a headquarter building in Amman. In that building, there is a parking spot dedicated for his car. I guess that's not a lot to ask. Unfortunately, the entrance to that spot is frequently blocked by visitors to the Lands and Survey Department next door to our office. I've often seen him through my window walk to his car, heading out to a meeting, only to find that he cannot leave because someone decided that they'll be gone for "only five minutes" and parked their car there. Sometimes I go out to chat with him while the gentleman  / gentlewoman return. And sometimes he's too angry to converse with. One day, I was standing outside next to him when the person returned and immediately got into his car to leave. The chairman approached the driver, and I will never forget what he said. "Can I ask you something?" The driver responded in a friendly way, "Sure" and my boss, very calmly, went "How come your time is more valuable than mine?"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rom coms of the decade

A few nights ago, I had a rare experience. I went to the movies to watch a romantic comedy, and I enjoyed it. I was so excited that I wanted to write a review but to be honest there wasn't that much to write about. So I thought "Hey. Maybe I'll make a list of 5 fun rom coms of the year!" It took me a day to figure out that such a list does not exist. So I thought, "OK. Let's do Top 10 of 2005 - 2010". Yep... A weekend later and I barely had a handful of movies to consider. Here's the best I could come up with: 15 rom coms of the decade (2001 until 2010).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Independent and happy women: A myth?

I have been rattled. I'm confused. And I'm not sure what to believe anymore. All my life, I've been brought up to trust in one thing: My career is a continuous strive towards perfection marked by never ending successes. Of course family comes first, but work is pretty damn close. This is the only way to get respect and be treated as an equal. I work 9-10 hours a day and come into the office on weekends more often than not. Sure I've had my setbacks but I've always tried to remain focused. If I am not happy with my job, it's because I need to change it. I never considered an alternative.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

5 degrees of separation

I'm sure most of us have at one point stayed at a hotel in a Gulf country. The question is, did anyone ever take a look at the thermostat inside the room to check what temperature is set in there? Well I have and it's 17 bloody degrees! It's 45 outside. Do they really feel the need to take it down 28 whole degrees? Is 22 not bearable weather anymore? How can all of Europe, which is normally accustomed to a much colder climate, live with 22 but we can't? How do we justify those 5 degrees less? OK I'm not gonna ramble. I'll leave the hilarious Ed Byrne to make my point:

Now this post isn't about the Gulf; I think we can safely give up on those guys. It's about my recent experiences in Beirut and Amman, where the weather has been quite mild and pleasant (and I'm talking 24-26 degrees during the day!). But in most places I went to, the A/C was blasted on at Siberia levels. And when I complain to the waiter, they always say they will take care of it and just ignore me. I have to carry my jacket with me wherever I go. Now I don't get this. Last time I checked, we weren't exporting any fossil fuels. What we seem to be importing though is the fossil-fuel-exporting countries' bad habits of unjustifiable waste - simply to show off.

Can't we just enjoy the weather a bit, bask in some sun and never ever have to listen to a smart ass like Ed Byrne say how great his summer would have been in Beirut if it weren't for the penguins?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Everyone should watch Supernatural

"A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are 5 people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you can flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch?" Supernatural tests this morality question again and again in so many different scenarios: What if the person is possessed by a demon? What if the only way you can get rid of the demon is to kill the person? What if you can exorcise the demon, but it takes time, and in the meanwhile, he might kill several people? Would you kill the demon and the person who's body it possesses? What if the possessed is a 5-year-old child?

Supernatural is not a philosophical series. It's not a horror series. It's not a comedy. And it's not a drama. It is everything all at the same time. It is a classic, and considering the number of people I've met who have seen it, it may even be a cult classic. Supernatural does what Lost should have if its creators had any sense of planning. It has a clear path, and it sticks to it until the end... well almost.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stating the obvious

"Here's the thing. Don't even think about an Indonesian, because they are simply not clean. Sri Lankans would work very hard in the house, but don't let them near your child. Philippinos... now that's a tricky one. They're great with kids and they can do household chores. But they will never agree to do both. Their major weakness is that they babble on about human rights and demand their day off a week. Oh and they will never let you hold on to their passport."

I did not make this up. I overheard this conversation between a woman in her mid-30s, giving advice on how to select a foreign domestic worker. For me, the most baffling thing was how this woman had gathered enough information about groups of people from 3 different countries to make this very confident conclusion. And then it dawned on me, she didn't. She probably just based these conclusions on a few experiences that she's had and feedback from her neighbours and friends. Not the most scientific of methods I suppose.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

When paternity leave and HDI meet

Has anyone heard about the study done by Lancaster University on 1,100 working fathers in the UK? Well get this. The interim results of this study is that fathers are happier when they, take a deep breath:
1. do more of the housework themselves.
2. spend longer times with their children.
3. have working partners who are in the office just as long as they are.

I love these findings! And I think they constitute a major step towards striking a balance between gender roles. What I don't love is the following. According to the 2010 Human Development Report prepared by the United Nations Development Programme, Arab states suffer a loss of 28% in the inequality-adjusted human development index. The comparison with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which were the only regions that had greater losses due to inequality, is sadder. What's worse is that "the Arab countries collectively had the highest overall loss of any region in the education dimension: 43%." This is largely attributed to gender inequality.

I say, we can talk about economic development, democracy and transparency all we like, but the bottom line is this: If we don't educate our girls properly and allow them to participate in world outside, we are gonna be stuck in the same loop. Almost half our population cannot contribute to our economy and the poor Arab man ends up less happy and more stressed out than his British peer.

So let's do this, if not for our women, then for our men.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Queen of Confrontation

One of my favourite Seinfeld moments is from the episode where Elaine talks about this neighbour she met once at a party and kept saying hello to at a diminishing rate of excitement until one day he decided to stop. Elaine of course couldn't let that go. Here's the scene as described by her:

Elaine: So, I walked up behind him and I tapped him on the shoulder. And I said, “Hi, remember me?” And he furrows his brow, as if he’s really trying to figure it out. So I said to him, I said, “You little phony. You know exactly who I am.”

Jerry: You said "you little phony"?

Elaine: I did. I most certainly did. And he said, he goes, “Oh, yeah. You’re Jeanette’s friend. We did meet once.” And I said, “Well, how do you go from that to totally ignoring a person when they walk by?”

Jerry: This is amazing.

Elaine: And he says, he says, “Look, I just didn’t want to say hello anymore, All right?” And I said, “Fine. Fine. I didn’t want to say hello anymore either, but just I wanted you to know that I’m aware of it!”

Jerry: You are the Queen of Confrontation.

(End of Scene)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Career development?

I want to share an experience that I recently had while sitting in for a few job interviews conducted by our HR Manager. Mind you, these were well-paid, long-term positions, at a time of supposed recession and high unemployment. Here is a transcript of some of these eye-opening interviews (I wrote them as one interview with "Imad" for the purpose of brevity):

HR: Good morning Imad. You are aware that your interview is at 9.30 and that you are 30 minutes late. Right?

Imad: I'm not late. There was a lot of traffic.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Better off doing...

I have a problem that I wanna bug you with. I'm not in my 20s anymore but I still think as if I am. How? By obsessing with who I want to be when I grow up. I still take courses in different subjects insisting that I can steer my career the way it should be so that I can fulfill my destiny, or whatever it is I'm meant to do. It's a little sad but I guess it keeps me going. And that's why I want to write about this. I've always wanted to and now I have the perfect medium for it.

If they still had their careers ahead of them, what would they have been better off doing? And for that, I stick to what I know best. Actors and performers. And I'm going for singers who I would definitely have loved to see at the cinema more often:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My take on The Social Network

*Spoiler alert*-ish

Can anyone finally sense the birth of a new genre in the film industry? Are you all, like me, surprised that it took so long? Online social networking! Of course. All the stories you can come up with. Sure, there's been a few movies here and there: You've Got Mail, Julie and Julia… I can't think of any more. OK, maybe less than a few. But The Social Network is not just a movie about social networking. It is THE movie that pushed the genre into the limelight. And if you have any interest in its history (I'm talking 7 seven years here), then this is a must. The producers will tell you it's a movie about betrayal and enemies, about good guys and bad guys. They want to get you interested. But they don't need to do that. We are already interested because we are all living it. This film is about our era. An era where a woman from Lebanon can write a film review that a guy from Brazil may read and think, "I can do better than that." Think of the possibilities.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The little things

This is a picture from today's Addustour concerning a news item on water costs and government subsidies. But that's not what I want to talk about. The caption below the picture translates into "Ministry of Water Secretary General in the Press Conference". Now you tell me, from the picture, which one is the Secretary General? Would you ever consider that it's not the man with the large red microphone who seems to be hogging the conversation and speaking with authority?

Well it's not. It's the lady in the back, who probably looks like she's writing minutes or just watching the audience.

Just thought I'd share this. Cause in the end, regardless of achievement, it's the little things that matter.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The drive back

I spent all of yesterday at a waste disposal site in Jordan. Obviously, it was not a very pleasant experience. I saw the the site of the accident where one worker drowned in an industrial waste pond (hopefully from suffocation and nothing worse). I also visited a site where brand new clothes from the industrial estates were being burnt because they did not meet the specifications to be exported, no one was willing to pay customs on them and there was no mechanism for giving them to the needy.

On the ride back from the site, I was involved in a heated discussion between driver and the environmental engineer who accompanied me on the visit. Basically, the driver was upset at what he saw, saying that people shouldn't have to work under such conditions while the engineer was complaining that no one takes the environment seriously in this country. The driver was adamant that concern for the environment was a problem for other, more affluent people to worry about. While the engineer couldn't understand what the driver would lose if he segregated his waste and every once in a while brought a bag of papers into the office to place in the recycling bin, the driver couldn't understand what he would gain if he did.

My electronic scrapbook

OK so I know that blogs aren't that in these days. People don't feel like reading much. But I'm going to start using this to save my own thoughts and ideas, regardless if they ever materialize. Could be useful, could be not. But I wanna give it a go.

So let's do this. And welcome to my electronic scrapbook.