Friday, December 18, 2009

23 Books I've Read This Year

I consider myself one of those people who prefer watching novels on the silver screen than reading them as a book. But I think I've read many books this year, they may be even more than those books that I've read during my entire life. I'll try to list them in a non chronicle order, along with my comments on them.

  1. Virtigo, this one is an Egyptian novel written by Ahmed Mourad, and it has nothing to do with Hitchcock's movie that carries the same name. I consider it one of the best novels I've read this year.
  2. The Kite Runner by the Afghani writer Khaled Hosseini. This is the second best novel I've read this year. In fact, it's hard to tell which one is better. And you know what, I am afraid to see the movie as it may ruins it.
  3. Chicago and Neeran Sadeeka, i.e. Friendly Fire, by the Egyptian write Alaa El Aswany. Those two novels are good. Neeran Sadeeka is a combination of short stories while Chicago is a novel by itsown. As I said they are good, but not that much.
  4. Wahet El Ghoroub, i.e. The Sunset Oasis, by Bahaa Taher. The writer was about to convince me to add it to my top-two list, but he ended the story in a way that ruined it.
  5. Don't Make me Think, by Steve Krug. Ok this one is not a novel, but who said that I am going to list novels only here. This book is about Web Design and I read it after Ramez Mohamed of eSpace recommended it to me. It is really good and in face it made me think, a lot.
  6. Azazeel, by Youssef Zeidan. This one was so controversial and this is what made me continue reading it, otherwise I'd have got bored of it after four or five chapters.
  7. Maza Hadas Lel Masreyeen, Whatever Happened to the Egyptians by Galal Ameen. This one isn't a novel too, it's more like a sociological book that studies the changes that took place in the Egyptian community during the las few decades. It's a very nice book, and I think I may read it once more later on.
  8. Tashreeh El Shakhseyya El Masreyya, by Ahmed Okasha. This one is a piece of crap, I didn't like it at all.
  9. Turkey, the US, and Iraq, by William Hale. This is a political book about Turkey and it's relation with the United States during the last century. I really don't know why I decided to by such book, but after I started reading it, I liked it so much. It's really interesting and I learned good historical informations - yeah I know that information in uncountable, but I like to write it that way - from it.
  10. Utopia, by Ahmed Khaled Tawfik. This is one of those books that I decided to finish them because I didn't want to look like quitters. But the truth is, I do not recommend it.
  11. Who moved my Cheese. Anothe piece of crap, and a good proof that books surrounded by marketing buzz are a piece of shit.
  12. Freud: A Very Short Introduction by Anthony Storr. As the title sais, it's a very short introduction but it was enough to introduce me to the Freudian influence on many aspects on our lives. It's a good read.
  13. Super Cruncers. This is one of those books where the author starts to repeat himself after few pages. I got bored of it, and wasn't able to continue reading it.
  14. Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe. Although it's somehow big compared to the knowledge in there, but it's not bad.
  15. Relevance by Tim Manners, A New Brand World by Scott Bedbury, and The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen. I really can't remember if I was able to finish any of them.
  16. Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky. I think I read this one more than a year ago, but it worth being mentioned here as it's one of the best.
  17. Blink and
    The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Those two books are interesting. I think they both worth being read.
  18. The Essential Chomsky by Noam Chomsky, and Mobilities by John Urry. You may call me a dumb, but I failed to understand a single word of those two books.
  19. How to Make Big Money in Your Own Small Business by Jeffrey J. Fox. Thumbs up, read it.
  20. Human Instinct by Robert Winston. Read few chapters of it, liked what I've read but got bored of it. Seems to be good one, but it's not you, it's me.
  21. Building Facebook Applications For Dummies by Richard Wagner. It's not bad for kindergarten students, but for me it was so trivial. I finished reading it by th way.
  22. Penetration Testing and Network Defense by Andrew Whitaker. Same as the above, for me it was so trivial, but it's really good for Security gurus wannabes. I also finished reading this book.
  23. Taxi by the Egyptian writer Khaled El Khamisy. I was about to forget mentioning this one, it's a combination of many short stories, or let's say short essays. It's really nice, and I liked reading it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two Thousand Twenty Four

Monday, February 5th 2024.

It's still raining since last night, but Winston Smith doesn't give a rat's arse about the rain. He has to hurry up as he has to be at the office before 8:00 AM. Winston saluted the doorman and climbed the stairs towards his office. There were cameras everywhere since it's Big Corporation's policy to keep an eye on each employee during his stay there. Big Corp or BC decided to replace the attendance system there with the Thought Monitoring System. It's a small gadget on each employee's desk and is connected to his brain via thin wires, it tracks what every employee is thinking of and send a daily report to the Thought Controller. Employees actual working hours are just those where their minds were engaged in business related thoughts. The mobile phone of each employee is monitored as BC's CEO believes that loose lips can sink corporations, so he has to monitor his employees conversations 24x7. He also has the ability to alter any part of those conversations, and edit it the way he wants before reaching the other party's ear. The internet is blocked in BC, and is replaced with BC's Intranet. Even Google is replaced with BC-Search where your search queries are monitored and only permitted results are displayed. Winston is a member of The BC-Search department. When an employee writes a search query in his browser, an new ticket is created on the system with the query details and is then sent to Winston's PC. Winston has to decide if the query is allowed or not, based on the employee's role in the organization, and the submitted keywords. He has a list of the allowed keywords for each employee. If the query is allowed he submits it to Google, and after receiving the results he has to inspect them one by one, and non-business results have to be removed, and business-related ones also has to be inspected in order to make sure that they do not contain any time wasting objects such as images, or multimedia files. Coffee and lunch breaks are something from the past. Employees are encouraged to take from one to two pills of DN17 everyday, which is enough to supply them with their daily nutritional requirements. Bathrooms are replaced with an advanced sanitation system connected to employees desk, so their bladders shouldn't distract them or let them waste any minute of their working hours.

O'Brien is another employee in BC, he is responsible for printing and distributing BC's Magna Carta. It's a daily document that includes BC's rules and policies, such as dress code, where to spend your weekends, and where not to spend it, who to befriend with and who to marry, etc. Winston was eager to talk with O'Brien. He wanted to know more about those daily rules, and how they are cooked and who inspired the CEO to put each specific rule. But due to the corporation's policies, employees aren't allowed to speak with each other. They are only allowed to communicated via emails and the emails has to contain business-related issues only.

P.S. This post is inspired by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four. And I've replaced Oceania and Big Brother with Big Corp. or BC as most of the businesses are on their way to become the next totalitarian régimes, and they are haunting their employees with policies and rules and it's possible that someday life in Oceania will be like heaven compared to their employees miserable lives in the future.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Swiss Identity

Can you imagine a cube of Swiss Cheese, without its eyes - the holes in it? Or a Swiss Knife without the compass or the screwdriver? This is exactly what the Swiss people want to do with mosques. A mosque will remain a mosques without its Minarets, and it will still function the way it is supposed to function without them. But it will then loose its architectural identity and beauty.

Oh, wait a moment, may be the Swiss people have problems with identities. Switzerland itself doesn't have enemies nor allies, it's just neutral. Switzerland doesn't even has its own language, people there speak three or four different languages. Yet, the people there are not French, German, Italian, Romanian, nor Swiss. In fact, this diversity makes the question of a national culture a recurring issue. It's just like water, colorless, odorless, and tasteless.

So, may be that's why they want everything to be just neutral and with no identity. Everything including the buildings there.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Suicidal Mood

Sometimes I get into a certain mood, and I like to call it suicidal mood. In fact, it has nothing to do with committing suicide, but it is a mood where I have enough courage - and sometimes carelessness - to do stuff I normally don't do in my other moods.

It's the suicidal mood that lets me get rid of stuff I used to store at home, although I never use them. It's also the mood that let's me say something to some girl that I'd never say in my other moods. It also lets me make crazy decisions and take uncalculated risks.

The suicidal mood is like courage pills, it makes me ready to fight dragons with my bare hands. And the good news here is that I never regret what I've done during that mood, on the contrary, I like the insane actions I do then, may be because I myself am insane.

Just remember that you have to fight fire with fire, and life itself is crazy, so you have to fight it every now and then with craziness.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's not a Football match for God's Sake

During the early days of the internet, the Egyptians were surprised to know that people living in Europe and the US believe that we live in tents and travel by camels. I am sure that the internet has helped western people now to be more reasonable and they only need few strokes on their keyboards to know that we started using cars more then one hundred years ago, and that we have multi-thousands years old buildings.

Now, I believe that the BBC reporters are internet illiterates. Let's face it, those guys may not have enough money to travel to Egypt. They also may not be that fluent in Arabic. Yet, they would have better used their keyboards to know more about the ongoing tension between Egypt and Algeria. Then they would have known that people here are not mad because we lost the match, as they said on their website. People here are mad because the Algerian fans attacked them with stones, knives, and bottles after the match, and many Egyptians were wounded then. They are also mad because the Algerians have attacked many Egyptian companies based in Algeria.

Now it's time for "The Internet 101, BBC Special Edition".
There is a website called Yes, there are some other search engines like Bing but let's postpone this to our advanced lessons.
Now you can use Google to search for some keywords like "Egypt", "Algeria", and "Football". You'll then be able to find many Egyptian blogs and other sites which will help you understand what I am talking about.
Now remember, you have to keep practicing how to use Google till our next lesson.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dear Google Blog Search ... You Suck

Every time I give Google Blog Search a try, I realize that it sucks more then the previous time. May be I am dumb or something, but the presence of the word "Blog" in the service, gave me the feeling that it is intended to let us search into blog posts, but the truth is that Google - which is by the way the owner of one of the most popular blog hosting services - can't differentiate between blogs and newspapers.

Today, I wanted to find what people are saying about the war taking place in Yemen, so I searched for the word "Houthi", and guess what, 8 out of the top 10 results I received there were from newspapers, news sites, and even forums.

So, it's either Google is not very familiar with the World Wide Web, and doesn't know what a blog is, or their Blog Search Algorithm is a piece of shit.

Friday, October 23, 2009

We All Love Graphics

We may agree or disagree with Mohamed Gaber's political views, but it's really hard not to agree that he is talented and like his Illustrations and Graphic Designs.

Mohamed Gaber - who's also known as Gaberism or Egyptian Leftist - started a project called G.A.S (Graphics Against the System), to agitate people against the capitalist systems every where on this planet. His work also attacks the Middle Eastern governaments and tyrants.

"G.A.S. or graphics against system is a project I started in working on it long time ago, exactly when I started to feel that I can do real designs that’s more powerful that million words, GAS goal is so simple making designs that have the beauty of the art & the power of swards in order to agitate the people against the capitalist systems every where on this planet.
I ask all the graphic designers (in Egypt as a start) to make more effort in making some awareness graphic designs that have the conditions of high quality & artistic content
", via Gaberism.

I know that today is Octobers 23rd, so obviosly it's not a "Ghayyar El Mahatta" day, but you know what, I believe "Ghayar El Mahatta" initiative is dead now, so I'll not stick to specific publishing dates, and I think Gaber's Eye-Candy designs worth being mentioned regardless of todays date.

You can see Gaber's art work here, and here

Thursday, September 24, 2009

iPhones Everywhere

iphone 1G
Originally uploaded by shapeshift
Do you know this device?
Yes, it's an iPhone.

But let me ask you, is the iPhone the new new synonym of mobile phones? Have a look on the ads you see in the newspapers or on the TV. When they want to put a photo of a mobile phone, they just use an iPhone. Same with websites and almost everywhere else.

This can be accepted somewhere else, but here in Egypt, the iPhones are not that common at all. So why are they only common in the media but not in people's hands?

All hail to you Mr. Jobs. You sure know how to create buzz, and let the media play for your sake.

Monday, February 2, 2009

White Desert

Last month I went to El Bahareia Oasis, where I realized that the desert can sometime be prettier and more interesting than beaches and green valleys.

The houses in the oasis - El Bawiti village - are simple yet beautiful and the streets are narrow yet friendly.






People there are friendly and wherever we go, they offer us Tea and Dates.



There are many hot springs there, where villagers like to swim and take baths.



We then went to a mountain called the "English Mountain", because the English army used to stay there during the World War II.



Then in the next day we went to the "Black Desert"


Which is called so because mountains there are made of volcanic rocks called Basalt which are black.



We then passed by the "Chrystal Mountain"



The Aqabat (Agabat)




And finally reached the "White Desert" to camp there








Note: This post is my second participation in the "Ghayyar El Mahatta" (Change the Channel) initiative. For more info about the initiative plese check this link.

Note: This post is my first participation in the "" () initiative. For more info about the initiative plese check this link.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Egyptian Generation Y

Generation Y is a term used to describe those who are born in the late 1970's, 1980's and 1990's. They are sometimes referred to as The Net Generation because they grew up immersed in a digital, and Internet driven world.

And since I belong to this generation, I know how the Internet, followed by the revolution of Social Media and Web 2.0 applications has affected us. And in fact, many people prefer to see the negative effect of the Internet on this generation, however I'd like here to focus on the positive effect of it on my generation and the paradigm shift accompanied those new technologies.

Blogging - Beyond Writing
Away from helping me making new friends from withing the Egyptian Blogosphere, the posts published in the blogosphere and the discussion following those posts helped in educating me, and I am really different from me 4 years ago, before being introduced to blogs. The blogs have raised our awareness of the different political and religious views here in Egypt, and I believe we are now more open to different ideas, we know how to disagree with others and are able to discuss our opposite opinions better.
One other effect of blogging, is that it helped many bloggers here in Egypt to take their writing to the next level. Some bloggers are journalist now, some other became writers and they had their own writings being published in books. I know it's hard to have a complete list of them here, but here are few names of those who have their own books being displayed in bookstores now: Rehab Bassam, Mina Girgis, Nermeen Idrees, Dina El Hawary, Ahmed Nagy.
The blogging effect did not stop at the individuals, but it was also able to affect the media here, they cannot hide information from people as they used to do ages ago. The blogs are driving the conventional media to be more transparent and dynamic.

GoodReads - Beyond Textbooks
Ok, let me admit that I am not, or let's say I wasn't, fond of reading. I rarely read books, except school and university textbooks, ages ago. And I believe many others are the same here. But now sites like Shelfary and Goodreads are radically changing this. I think Malcolm Gladwell's theory about "The Power of Context" from his book "The Tipping Point" has something to do with this. I found myself after creating an account on GoodReads, reading more books, now when I am staying at home and bored, TV is an option but not the only option anymore. Away from the paradigm shift here and how such sites are helping in spreading books reading, seeing what others read, and their comments on those books helps in introducing us to new good books. It also helps in promoting books written by Egyptian writers, see my previous paragraph about those bloggers who took their writing to the next lever and started writing their own books.

Books along with sites like Shelfari, GoodReads, et al, as well as blogs are playing a major role in shaping this generation's minds. You may have a look at the lever of knowledge of this generation compared to the previous ones in the different fields of life, may it be sociology, literature, religion, technology, politics, etc, and you will know what I am talking about here.

Flickr - I bought a new camera
I never though of having a digital camera, I used to think that the built-in camera in my mobile phone is more than enough. Later on when I created an account on Flickr, I started to see people doing magic with their cameras. I was convinced then that I have to get my self a semi-professional camera - Olympus E-400 - and start learning photography, especially that I am fond of drawing and illustration and I wanted to start drawing with the light.
I believe Flickr, and similar sites, affected many people and changed the way they see photography. One one hand, being able to share your photos with the whole world and receiving peoples comments on them encourages you to keep taking photos, trying new techniques, and reading more articles and books about this art . And on the other hand seeing others' photos inspires you and teaches you new concepts.
It also has its own groups and discussion forms, which helped me discovering brilliant Egyptian photographers and stunning photos for locations here in Egypt.
I believe the Flickr effect was successful in introducing many people here in Egypt to photography, exposing them to the whole world, and helping in improving their photography skills.

Facebook for Everyone
Facebook has got its own share in all this paradigm shift too. Musicians and Artists are now using it to promote their concerts, and gallery openings. Charity organizations are making use of it's networking power to reach more people who are willing to participate in their charity activities or fund them. Some people are using it to sell their goods and art-crafts.
Although some people who are fond of conspiracy theories may insist that Facebook is a part of a global imperial plan to collect as much information about us, but yet they cannot deny that it is having a positive cultural and economical effect on our society. It's helping people being introduced to new businesses, and opportunities. There are groups there for almost every singly hobby you can imagine, and hence it can help like minded people to get closer and share their ideas with each other.

Few other outlets
I believe other sites and applications like Twitter, YouTube, Odeo, etc, are having their effect too, but I am not an expert here. For sure YouTube for example is helping Egyptian artists to create and promote their short movies and animation films. Music players, singers can also reach new audience via Odeo and Voblogs.

Finally, I believe the Internet and the new technologies are reshaping our society and helping in creating new generations that can push our country further.

Note: This post is my first participation in the "" () initiative. For more info about the initiative plese check this link.