Friday, April 30, 2010

Floppies are obsolete

As I was reading the google news last night, I was disheartened to find out that floppy diskettes are officialy out! Not that I actually own any, or even know anyone with a floppy drive , but still :(

"Prince of Persia" ,"King Quest", even the first encyclopedia I ever owned was on diskettes.

This signals an end of an era; there is a certain bitterness in things you used and enjoyed as a kid becoming obsolete. You feel antiquated yourself. But I guess with the technology nowadays nothing should be taken personal; mobile and cell phones become obsolete within a year.

It is not a world for sentimental technology fools!

Technorati verification

Ummm, I have no idea how to do this but I'll just post the code here U4QBTNSJ46KA and hope one day I make their top 100!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Olfactory memory

So I was back in Kasr alAini med school for some business; I was walking down the sidewalk by the anatomy 'mashraha' --the morgue-- when I was suddenly hit with the unbearable stench of badly-ventilated, partially decomposed, formalin-soaked bodies.

But instead of eliciting a powerful gag reflex, which it most rightfully should, the smell just transported me years back : to my first day of medical school.

I could, literally, feel 18 again! The black pants I was wearing that first day, the mauve taupe silk blouse I wore--and of course had to throw out because of the stench that wouldn't get out-- flashed back in my memory, uncalled and uninvited but most certainly welcomed.

The excitement and the rush of being a doctor, with my brand-new white coat dangling on my arm, was so refreshing. The premise that I might change the world, or at least the medical practice in Egypt, and the dreams that I will be saving lives each and every step of the way all came back to me.
What was strange is the happiness and sheer bliss that I felt. I was not disillusioned. I was not sad that none of that had happened. It was as if I was transported back in time, to that moment, and I was that hopeful, idealistic girl again. It was magical!

Before, I had never been a firm believer that olfactory memories can be so vivid, but let me tell you this belief is long gone...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Girl Vs. President

Standing up against a sea of troubles is never easy. But how many people have the courage to do what this young woman here did?

I am not about to discuss the political aspects of the picture, because this is not what struck about it. My first impression, like many of you, was 'WOW! This girl has guts!!'

Not too many people have the courage to stand up against their oppressors; the beaten woman, the abused child, the underpaid employee usually end up just taking it laying down.

We always need little inspirational tidbits, be it a quote, an article, or a picture. I think this is as moving as the 'Shoe' journalist who tossed at G. W. Bush what he deserved.

The imagery of it is beautiful too. Look at the girl, veiled, so small, and standing up against a huge crowd, a big car, and the one of the most oppressive b political forces in the world: the Iranian president. Ahmadinejad is looking as pretentious as ever, arrogant, and surrounded by bodyguards who could not protect him from this woman's courage.

I received this in an email titled "woman of the year". Well said.

This girl SERIOUSLY got game!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Water Politics and What Citizens Should do

I like what Helmy Sharawy wrote in Shorouk newspaper about the water geopolitics being far from a 'football match' where Egytians will just go about the streets ranting and raving and the government will let steam blow over. This is a serious matter that needs serious interventions; nothing is more ridiculous, in my opinion, than the whole israel-is-behind-this-all sharade.
Conspiracy theories aside--although I myself am a HUGE fan-- our fellow African neighbours are pissed! And if we were in their shoes, we would be pissed too. They think the Nile is theirs, and they want to capitalize on it. We think the Nile is our God-given right; hey, just because Herodotus thinks so doesn't mean the whole world has to agree!!
Compromise is in order here, and real negotiations on our part.
It is imperative to re-educate citizens on the vital importance of reducing wasted water ; there were many campaigns in the past, which I vaguely remember from my childhood,  that unfortunately stopped, for some unknown reason. We tend to view the Nile as infinite, well, it is not!
Stop taking the Nile for granted!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shoot Em Down : MPs in Egypt

As a sort of a twisted come back at the esteemed MPs suggesting that Egytian protestors should be shot down, I will argue that these members of the so-called Egyptian 'parliment' should be hanged in public display. Why you ? Well I have a whole bunch of reasons:

  • 1. Legal grounds:  Since we have the death penatly in Egypt, it should be applied here in this case, with no reluctance or regerts because the above mentioned MPs have caused political apoplexy in Egypt for the past 3 decades or so.

  • 2.Religious:  "al ifsad fi al ard" which translates to 'spreading mischief/corruption in the land', what corruption is worse than killing a bunch of innocent protestors??

  • 3.Added bonus: there will be many more 'treatment at the expense of the state' decisions available for other MPs to fiddle around with!
So, what do you all think?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Herd Theory: When to Follow and When to Lead

My bestfriend and I used to spend countless happy hours at the water fountain on campus contemplating what we thought was our 'herd theory.' We marvelled at the seemingly endless capacity of our fellow medical colleagues to  just follow the herd and stick with the crowd.

There is a total reliance among university students on word of mouth. They follow in the footsteps of those who came before them: which 'notes' to study from, which private lessons to take, whether to skip class and not give a damn or attempt to bribe to bribe the person in charge of attendance. Do you know why they do it? They are not necessarily dumb or uncreative. They do it because they know it works.
There is no room for textbook reading, note-taking, or even deducing facts from information. There is no room to try to be different, or approach things differently. If you want success, you have to follow the herd.

This is by no means applicable only to medical students. This scenario is the basis for our whole 'higher' education system. And, of course, it goes beyond education. You are also expected to follow the herd as you move on with your life. If you want to be accepted by society, you have to live as they do, marry whom they approve of, and follow the career path laid out in front of you.

Don't believe me? Just look at anyone who wants to get married to someone out of the norm. It is considered ok for Egyptian men to marry 'foreigners' as long as of course they are white. What if one decides to marry a far Easten/Asian, or a black woman? What about Egyptian gals?  Marriage Herd theories here allow them only to marry younger Egyptian men: marrying a guy from another culture--even if Muslim-- is generally not acceptable, neither is marrying a younger guy.

I am not claiming this phenomenon to be purely Egyptian, au contraire. It is charateristic of the human condition: straying away from the pack is dangerous for the pack, therefore, it is frowned upon.

But honestly, who cares about the pack??? Following the herd sure is a lot easier than exploring the undiscovered paths out there in life. But you know what? It's a lot less fun; and less rewarding. Happiness and achievements stem from putting yourself in challenging situations and conquering that challenge, and ,again, conquering INACTION.

So next time you want to stray away from the herd (make a wild career leap or  try out something new) by all means do so. The world is a better place because of those who innovate, not those who copy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Recap on Racism and The Khawaga Complex

By definition, if you are discriminated against because of your race: that's racism.
Does it happen in Egypt?
Just read one of the replies to my first post  about racism , a reply by a foreigner living in Egypt,  and you will get the picture.

What I find striking is the fact that we agree that there is prejudice, yet we disagree on who the Egyptians discriminate against. People from the Far East? Yep. Black? Definitely...

But when it comes to Europeans and 'white' North Americans I beg to differ. Being white IS considered superior in Egypt. The locals here think themselves inferior to the white 'master'. Being blonde can get you a job as a teacher--even if you make spelling mistakes writing in your own native tongue. While a highly qualified African-American college graduate gets repeated rejections!

The 'khawaga complex' (khawaga: is a term slightly similar to 'agnaby .ie. foreigner' but carries a positive connotation, and is usually reserved for whites) is an inferiority complex, no doubt about that. Does that make the Khawaga happy?  Definitely not. I am not suggesting that; I understand that no one wants to be labeled, and treated on the basis of their skin color.
And this is really the essence of a tolerant, modern society. A society that does not discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, race, or color.
But we are a long way from that whether in Egypt, or in the even-less-tolerant Arab world!

More Reasons to boycott meat in Egypt

Al masry al youm in today's issue has uncovered yet  another health scandal in Egypt.

The ink used for meat inspection stamps used in most slaughter houses in Egypt is internationally banned!!
Instead of a food-grade vegetable dye, we are getting a lovely carcinogenic methanol-containing dye.

You wouldn't scrub your toilet with it, so would you eat???

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Meat Boycott Update

It's officialy THE hip-and-happening thing to boycott meat now in Egypt....
The Egyptian Consumer Protection agency,
the Giza Governorate ,
even the minister of agriculture are urging Egyptians to boycott meat.

Cattle breeders, farmers, and traders--along with butchers of course-- will have to do something about the prices if nobody buys meat from them, wouldn't they?

Meanwhile, what other creative culinary options are out there?

  • The un-creative options are fish and chicken--don't just give in to the urge to rely on these only, or their prices might soar!
  • Have Koshary once a week-- we'll call that 'Authentic Egyptian' day. 
  • Mac'n'Cheese will also provide a hefty serving of proteins (Macaroni and cheese is quite simple --and utterly delicious!)
  • Mexican-inspired day: cook some rice and eat it with a side of red kidney beans and salsa (chopped tomates, spring onions, green peppers). 
  • Sauteed mushrooms with pasta ('al funghi'), or served with potatoes and green beans. 
  • Lima beans with tomato sauce and rice. 
  • Yellow lentils cooked with spinach and rice. 
  • A nice warm Cheese souffle (also very elegant to serve).
  • Shakshouka -- if anyone needs to know what that is let me know, I'll give you my grandma's recipe!
  • fattet-hummus. Cook regular fatta but instead of meat on top, you add a scrumptuous mixture of hummus cooked with onions, cut-up tomatoes and tomato juice. Serve it with a side of tabouleh .
  • Mushroom and onion quiche with a large mixed salad.
You should take this opportunity to tantalize your taste buds with an array of dishes  from all over the world...

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Meat Boycott in Egypt: A call to Action

Several Facebook groups, television programs, and journalists have issued a call to action. Opposing soaring red meat prices in Egypt is now definitely a necessity. Meat prices have increased 25% in the past month!!! And of course, this is expected to continue if the vicious cycle is not broken somewhere. Our precious Minister of Agriculture came up with the ingenious idea of importing more 'frozen' meat, and some more 'live' cattle (hope they don't turn out diseases like the batch we got last year!!) In my humble opinion, the government-has-to-solve-everything mentality has to be challenged here.

There is truly a chance for the citizen sector to be mobilized into doing something that will be VERY effective. For the skeptics, I invite you to  let market mechanics , i.e. supply and demand , regulate the price. If no one's buying, prices WILL go down.

Boycotting meat goes beyond market mechanics. It sends a message to the butchers/cattle raisers/whoever-is-responsible that we, the Egyptian people, are NOT going to take anymore of their crap. They can't live withour us buying meat, but we can live without eating meat, This message is EXTREMELY crucial.  We , the consumers, are going to stand up for our rights.

I found this great link on the boycott meat Facebook group. It tells the story of a triumphal  meat boycott in Amman. It was organized by the Consumer Protection Society and they achieved what they were set out to do: meat prices went down.

So, in a nutshell, what's the deal......

  • GOAL:  1.Reduce Meat prices.
                  2.Show them who's the boss (the consumers).
  • HOW:    Boycott fresh and frozen meat.
  • BEST CASE SCENARIO: meat prices will go down.
  • WORST CASE SCENARIO:  meat prices will stay the same, but you will be much healthier without all the red meat you usually eat!!!! After all, 3 oz (85 gm)of beef  gives you around 300 calories vs. 120 for a much healthier (lower in cholestrol) chicken breast.

See, it's all good!
So why don't you hop on the meat boycott wagon in Egypt?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Racism and Prejudice in Egypt

There is nothing in the world I hate more than racist bigots, and unfortunately most Egyptians are both. Being a racist is one thing, but NOT admitting that you are one takes the issue to a whole different level.

Some prejudice is expected, because of cultural/religious norms, such the prejudice against homosexuals, atheists, and other people who do not abide to the norms. Yet, some other forms of prejudice are just mind boggling: like the 'color' prejudice in Egypt. Yes, it is a color prejudice. If you are not a certain hue of white, you are inferior by Egyptian standards—God forbid that you might actually be black!!

The irony of it all is that Egyptians are not Nordic Aryan descendants of Vikings. We are Africans, among of course a wonderful and exotic mix of races that our DNA has picked up through thousands of years of foreign invasions of the land of the Nile. I suppose that therein lies the problem, foreign invasions! Through hundreds of years of Turks ruling Egypt (who have fairer skin than the native population), fair skin became associated with superiority and dark skin with the working slaves! And hence was born the infamous 'khawaga complex'. No matter how pathetic this may seem, it is true. The Egyptians identified more with the oppressors, instead of wanting to break the cycle, they were eager to mate with the invaders so that they would have 'whiter' kids. To this day, having 'Turkish blood' is supposed to be a sign of superiority!! Heck, come to think all of the invaders were white: Romans, the Brits (C'mon, you can't count the French-they didn't stay long enough!)

This might just seem like a lesson in pseudo-history (or at least my interpretation of history); when in fact this little tale has modern day repercussions. Kids at 'International' schools, with highly educated parents, play 'who-is-whiter' games. The 'fairest of them all' gets to be Cinderella or, appropriately, Snow White. And the darkest? Well, one of the evil step-sisters or a maid in the palace of the princess. This is , albeit psychologically damaging, small-scale discrimination.

The true victims of overt racism here are the Nubians. The quite, peace-loving, people down South who have been screwed over and over again for years. Their villages were drowned; their heritage sunk to the bottom of Lake Nasser, and the whole of Egypt just celebrated the building of the high dam. They are taunted on the streets. Their kids are made fun of, if dare to live up North. Even when a half-Nubian president, Anwar El Sadat, came to power, the word on the street was that he was 'too brown.' Zahy Hawwas came out a few years ago assuring Egyptians that Tutankhamon was Not BLACK! Being black is grounds to get you harassed on a Subway .

I still do believe that the problem goes beyond that. It is a problem of self-acceptance, of wanting all-things European, and turning away from who we truly are as a people. Parents, inadvertently, through all their subtle little comments and messages teach little 'brown' kids that they are somehow defective and inferior, that they should feel bad in their own skin—literally!

When my daughter came to me with the story I wrote earlier in the post, I told her that next time some kid talks about that in front of her she should say :'mommy says, we are not supposed about skin color. It is haram. And God doesn't like people who do it.' And then I showed her pictures of very beautiful black women, as pretty as Cinderella, to prove to her that beauty has nothing to do with skin color.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Top Ten Things to Do While Pulling a Baby-All-Nighter

The first three months of babyhood 'or more for those unlucky few' revolve around  staying up all night fighting sleep, and finding things to do when all you really want is sleep!
Hope this list helps.......

10. Watch muted Television.

This is by and large my favourite. You just have to make sure you are not watching something that "flashes" a lot, or you risk to hyperstimulated an already sleepless little soul.
You need , of course, to choose something with subtitles-- or learn how to lip-read!

9. Practice mental math.

Not fun, I admit. But if you stick to it you can turn yourself into an everyday mathematical whizz in no time.
Start simple: add and subtract, review your multiplication tables, then on to more complex operations--like figuring out how fast you need to lose weight to be able to get back into shape before summer (then decide of course which summer you're talking about.... the summer your baby turns 1, or 2, or goes to college!!)

8. Meditate/Pray.

If the idea of turning into Al khwarizmi does not appeal to you, maybe you fit more in the Ghandi category. Meditation is quite successful at these unholy hours when everyone is asleep.
You can also Pray , or repeat daily Azkar. Being with a baby is a nice opportunity to count your blessings, and thank God for them.
7. Use Visualization techniques.

You know these nasty habits you've been trying to kick? Try and use visualization techniques to conquer them. Or better yet, try and ease your stress through relaxing mental scenery.... your baby sleeping soundly and cuddling up in your arms on a Hammack in the Maldives.

6. Make a mental list of your chores for the next day.

Less relaxing, but definitely more productive.

5. Listen to your iPod.

Who says a sleep-deprived mama can't enjoy her tunes?

4. Recite/Rehearse

Have you been dreaming to memorize something? Poetry, Soliloquies, Quran? No better time than now. Just wait until the little one is quite enough for you to focus and concentrate.

3. Think of ways to make it up to your hubby.

No doubt that your morning grouchiness, combined with your late-night tiredness, has taken its toll on your marriage. Try to think of all the nice little ways you can be nice to your husband. Telling him that you miss your old self is sometimes enough!

2.Open Up a Facebook account.

This could keep you entertained for hours. Cooped up in a room with baby on your lap, Facebook gives you a window to the outside world where you can safely envy all those who have a life while you water your crops and feed you Farmville cows!

1. Doze off.

Ahhhhhh... the least glamorous but most desired! Assume a position that's safe for the baby (ie. that won't make him roll off your lap), rest your head on your shoulder, or back on a headrest, and get some shut-eye. You may find that even 10 minutes might invigorate you.

And remember, this is just a phase and it won't last forever! Think of all the blessings of motherhood. Not easy. But truely puts things in perspective. Think of all the happy-squealing months you have ahead of you, and all the 'I luv you mum' cards you will be getting, and the little hugs and kisses and you might just feel a little better.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

International Universities In The 6 Of October

According to  Al Masry Alyom,  residents of the sixth of october city might finally be able to compete with our 'New Cairo' rivals!!

It's true that the American University in Cairo has moved far far away from us, but there maybe branches of The Sorbonne, Nottingham University, and even Georgetown University in our neighborhood sometime in the future.

Needless to say, these are not the educational institutes themselves, they will operate under affiliations. Unlike other flimsy 'affiliations' that did not offer much to attending students in profit-making private universities, this is supposed to be different. They will be affiliated with various faculties of Cairo University.

Currently, I have not been able to find out whether this has anything to do with the land Cairo University owns next, and is building upon, next to Hyper One market.

Does this translate into a glimmer of hope for Egyptian Higher education?

I believe so. Let's not forget that the Sorbonne-Faculty of Law affiliation in Cairo University (what is known as 'Faculty of Law, French division') was quite fruitful to Egyptian graduates.

My only concern is: will they recruit a teaching staff up to the job?

I guess we shall see....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chinese Geely Buys Volvo: or how China will rule the world

In Egypt, our story with Chinese products goes back a long way.

It all started back in the late eighties and early nineties. Egyptians, who happened to work in the Gulf or go there for pilgrimage purposes, used to scout the markets for gifts to bring back home. People used to search far and wide for products 'made in the U.S.', or U.K, or France, or even India for that matter.

What did they avoid like the plague?? Yep, you guessed it! Made in China. Now that was just THE ultimate insult: getting your in-laws made in China gifts was just another way of telling them that you think they are worthless and deserve no better than cheap, tasteless, scraps of merchandise.

As time went by, it was getting more and more difficult to find these no-made-in-China items. In fact, now it is next to impossible. Want to know why? It is because of YOU. Yes, you! If we had cared about quality as much as we do about price, or about the condition of the workers that make all our little gadgets, or even the environment, none of this would have happened.

China will rule the world through a very simple premise: sell cheap, you sell a lot. When you sell a lot, you make money. And when you make enough money, you can drive your competitors out of the market—and then you will be free to do whatever pleases you. It will be all you, and no one to answer to.

Let's take a look at the case at hand: Geely vs. Volvo. Geely, originally a refrigerators parts supplier, was literally born yesterday. It started making cars back in 1997. Yet, in 2010, it sealed a deal to take over the Swedish giant trade name: Volvo.
 What started as operation building bon-bon colored flimsy cars, now has its eyes on Opel.
Some people might just disregard this as a David and Goliath story, but it is far from it. The implications are quite dim.

What do you think will happen if a country with an atrocious human rights record , and isn't too keen on the environment , continues to replace the more regulated manufacturers?

Well, so much for green living! We will have to welcome living a la Chinese instead!
Not so pretty huh?