Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Western 'Freedom'

In an article titled "Middle East 'Democracy'", Thomas Sowell makes the argument that the Arab Spring might have brought the early rituals of democracy in the Middle East, but this shouldn't be confused with freedom in the region. Sowell clearly delineates freedom and democracy, something that has eluded many in the Middle East. But, then he jumps to a conclusion that: "Democracy in the Middle East context means majority selection of which individuals get the power to oppress", for example, "Nazis were free to be Nazis under Hitler and Communists were free to be Communists under Stalin and Mao. But nobody else was free." Sowell's main point, I believe, is that freedom needs to come before democracy, the other way doesn't work.

Women rights in Western countries, is picked by Sowell, as an example of his argument, he says: "Most Western nations had freedom long before they had democracy. Women have been voting in the United States less than a century. But, even before women could vote in England or America, they had freedoms that women in many Middle Eastern countries can only dream about today." This struck me as a gross over-simplification of the long struggle of women for freedoms during the 19th and 20th century in America. At the time women didn't have many basic rights like education and property, some authors go to the extent of saying women at the time were treated as objects owned by men! Even spending a few minutes reviewing the history of Women's suffrage in the United States immediately puts in perspective how 'unfree' women were before participating in democracy in America.

Sowell further makes the point that in unfree democracies (i.e Nazi Germany, Mao's China and post-Arab Spring Middle East) the ruling majorities would use their position to oppress the unrepresented--something that wouldn't happen in free democracies. It's hard for me to buy into this argument. Sticking with women rights for a moment, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote in America. This amendment was submitted to the congress almost half a century before to an overwhelmingly male-dominated Congress and was shelved. This is not an ObamaCare-like piece of legislation with thousands of specifics that needs to be studied, this is literally a one-liner that reads: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." To me this is a stark example of men, much like Nazis, being free under the American democracy, to oppress women, who clearly weren't free.

Finally, as someone who grew-up under an authoritarian regime, I've heard this argument made before in many shapes and forms: we are not ready for democracy, we don't have the institutions for it, we have a high percentage of illiterate people who could be manipulated, etc, etc, etc. While I fully agree that having a democracy in a country, like Egypt, is far from ideal and comes with a wide array of problems, the reality is: there is no alternative. The moment we collectively agree that some countries are ready for democracy and others aren't, we are implicitly creating an incentive for a dictator to step in in those countries and keep them "not ready for democracy" for as long as possible. The military junta that carried out the 1952 coupe in Egypt has done exactly that for almost 60 years. I'll take democracy in an unfree country anyday over the promise of democracy-only-after-freedom. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Case for Leasing the Sphinx

I will try to convince you why the proposal (in Arabic) put together by a citizen is a great one that  we should actually implement. I read the proposal as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project, where the government hands over the administration of some tourist destinations to a private company and receives $200 billion over 5 years.

First, it's a sweet financial proposition. In the record year of 2010, Egypt received 14.5 million tourists and generated $12.5 billion. Current levels of revenue from tourism are, of course, way lower. So the $200 billion over five years, means a sweet $40 billion per year. I don't know about you, but any financial proposition that uses existing assets to generate ~4x the revenues (of Egypt's record year of revenues from tourism) AND requires no investment is usually a good one.

Second, clearly the argument that by doing that "we would be selling our heritage" is irrational. The government already does this for practically anything else: from leasing vast swaths of land in the desert for oil companies to excavate and search for oil to partnering up with private companies to build and operate everything from roads to power plants to hospitals. Any PPP project will always grant the government the right of oversight and ability to terminate the agreement in case of violation of terms. So in case you are worried someone will lease the Sphinx and then paint it red: don't worry.

Finally, the government clearly sucks at this. Spain a country of a similar size, similar weather and within the same geography got 60 million tourists in 2010 (4x the number for Egypt) and generated $80 billion (6x the number for Egypt). Granted that the lower number of tourists isn't exclusively the fault of the government, having personally visited both the Pyramids and AlHambra, I can attest that better management = happier tourists = more tourists.

So yeah, my vote is a strong yes to leasing the hell out of the Sphinx. I just hope that the operating company will allow me to bungee jump from the top of it wearing a shinny Google Glass

Sunday, November 18, 2012


On my drive up from Los Angeles to San Francisco, I picked a random city and a random Starbucks for my coffee break. Opened my laptop and started typing. As I drove I had this brilliant piece of writing that I was fine-tuning in my mind and just had to stop and write it. It was going to be my best blog post yet.

I sat down next to a well-dressed, middle-aged Indian lady who had a large suitcase and was reading the papers. We exchanged courteous similes and then I started typing away.

"Are you heading down to L.A.?"
"No, I'm actually heading up to San Fran"
"Ah, I'm actually looking for a ride down to L.A."
"Oh, wish I could help you but I'm heading the other direction"
"No worries, you see, I was here on a job interview. Been unemployed for a while now, sold my car, my stuff and now I manage it one day at a time. I was here on a job interview, they paid for my Amtrack ticket up and I have no money to go back"
*speechless* "uhm.."
"I'm sorry to bother you"
"No, no, errr, I'm very sorry to hear, uhm, is there anyway I can help?"
"Well I have no money and if I can't find a ride, I might need to spend the night at a 24-hour iHop, but will need to buy something"
*speechless* "You know, I only have a few bucks on me, can I maybe buy something here in Starbucks with the card?"
"No that's fine, thank you"
*speechless* "Are you sure??"
"Yes, sorry for interrupting"

She walks out to check something, leaves her large suitcase that basically has everything she owns. Comes back, we exchange some smilies again, this time, I can't stop thinking about how this very nice lady is basically with no options and I should help, but I'm not sure how. Should I just go withdraw some money from an ATM?

"Oh you have all your luggage here, are you stuck here?" Asked a heavy, middle-aged man as he sipped on his coffee while he waited for his wife to put sugar in her drink.
"Yes, I'm stuck here, looking for a ride to L.A."
"What happened?"
"I'm unemployed, came for an interview and I have no money to buy a bus ticket"
"Come on then, we're heading to Bakersfield" said the middle-aged man without a second's hesitation.
"Are you sure?"
"Off course, from their we'll put you on a bus to LAX"
"Oh thank you"
"Don't worry about the bus ticket, we'll cover it"
"Thank you, thank you"

Again I was speechless. It was heart-wrenching that this nice lady was with no job, no money and no home, yet this man randomly asked her if she was stuck here and didn't hesitate for second to offer her a ride and a bus ticket. I closed that blogpost I intended to write. Suddenly it didn't seem very impressive. And I wrote this one.

I was never a religious man, but this situation makes you wonder if someone out there does look after us when life is kicking us so hard like this nice, middle-aged lady.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Finally, My User Manual

When I took the MBTI assessment, I was amused by it, but it was no surprise. I always knew I was more introverted, more data-based, more big picture and more of a planner. What did blow me away was stumbling on the wiki article on my personality type (INTJ), the idea there is that the different dimensions of your personality inter-play. Reading the description of the INTJ personality was striking, I resonated with a lot of what was written there. So, yeah, in case you're interested in a breakdown of my personality, there you go. Statements in in italics are copied from the wiki article, stuff in parenthesis/link are my own:

  • INTJs apply (often ruthlessly) the criterion "Does it work?" to everything from their own research efforts to the prevailing social norms. (I agree)
  • Hallmarks of the INTJ include independence of thought and a desire for efficiency. (My Touchy-Feely Bill tackles desire for efficiency and disregard for social norms)
  • INTJs are known as the "Systems Builders" of the types, perhaps in part because they possess the unusual trait of combining imagination and reliability. (I FIFO my Fridge, so, yeah, Systems Builder)
  • This in turn produces an unusual independence of mind, freeing the INTJ from the constraints of authority, convention, or sentiment for its own sake. Whatever system an INTJ happens to be working on is for them the equivalent of a moral cause; both perfectionism and disregard for authority come into play. (Hence my professional nickname
  • They are often acutely aware of their own knowledge and abilities (see "I am awesome" tweet") —as well as their limitations and what they don't know. (see "Bounce, Fesh, Bounce" post and  "My Bouncer Complex" post)
  • They have a talent for analyzing and formulating complex theories. (see "Turned-on by data" tweet)
  • Personal relationships, particularly romantic ones, can be the INTJ's Achilles heel ... This happens in part because many INTJs do not readily grasp the social rituals (*cough* Yeah, that's kinda true, this tweet comes to mind.) 
  • The emotions of an INTJ are hard to read, and neither male nor female INTJs are apt to express emotional reactions. 
    They generally withhold strong emotion and do not like to waste time with what they consider irrational social rituals. (*ahm* True as well, when I told my ex I like her, I was so psyched, I had to tweet about it. Shut-up)
  • In social situations, INTJs may also be unresponsive and may neglect small rituals designed to put others at ease. For example, INTJs may communicate that idle dialogue such as small talk is a waste of time.  (Yeap, I do)

I love how the wiki article concludes with that: Perhaps the most fundamental problem, however, is that INTJs really want people to make sense. 

It's true, we INTJs are awesome, y'all are messed up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One Year Later

I'm always surprised with how my brain manages to retain many little details on an eventful day, details that otherwise I wouldn't remember. One such eventful day happened almost one year ago, the Maspero massacre happened, when a demonstration turned violent and suddenly--and surprisingly--the army started running protesters over, resulting in 28 deaths and more than 200 injuries.

I remember the exact project I was working on that day, many of the discussions I had at work. At the time I was a bloodsucking private equity shark. Well, technically not a shark, I was a glorified excel modeling monkey, but that's a few steps away from shark-status. The drive back. Cairo's traffic being the big game of Russian roulette that it is, I opted, for a route that took me thru the heart of Cairo, few hundred meters from where the massacre happened, as it happened. The confusion as the news broke. I remember scrolling thru my twitter feed in disbelief about what I'm reading. Army attacking. Shots fired. Molotov cocktails thrown. The weird feeling of reading about the news as it breaks and glancing up into the distance to see flames go up into the sky as the Molotov bottles hit--or missed--their targets. The realization that I've been completely desensitized. I had a doctor's appointment not far from where the events unfolded, and I was going to make it. The disbelief of how the state media covered the events. As I sat in my doctor's waiting room, I watched the state media report on the events in the most polarizing way, painting the events as Copts attacking the army. The silent, violent anger of hearing how others interpreted the events. "Why are they [ie Copts] doing this to us [ie Muslims]?" asked an older woman in the waiting room. The dialogue that played out in my head about every single thing that is wrong with what was happening that day in the country, how the media/government was portraying it and how it was landing on many Egyptians.

I even remember the nurse's name. I guess I don't have a crappy memory afterall?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Enter the 7-foot Dominatrix

In case you haven't heard, I'm famous now. With a sweet YouTube blogpost out and news coverage on wired, techcrunch, TNW, etc. I'm quoted in other languages too: German, Dutch, Chinese, HungarianPortuguese and Japanese. I guess I'm literally big in Japan now. 

But this post is not only about shameless self-promotion (phew: justify linking to 10 articles talking about myself, check!) It's also about my experience with a 7-foot dominatrix. This shouldn't come as a surprise, most of my stories usually feature a dominatrix. Let's run with that last bit as being a 'joke'. 

The YouTube blogpost was my first time collaborating on a piece of writing. I can't claim I'm a writer, but I've maintained an on-again, off-again blog for the last 6 years and I have a double-digit number of followers: it's 10. Side comment: 10 is the sweetest of all double-digit numbers, right? You get all the shock value with the least amount of work. But I digress. Point being, a decent blog, been published on an even number of continents: it's 2, again, the sweetest of all even numbers! I promise, last tangent, I think my main point is: working on that post was nothing like anything I wrote before.  

One night, I started punching out a draft. I had a completing message, a sweet narrative and the punchlines to go with it. When I was done with the post, it was love at first sight: the perfect post! Oh, I was so naive. Next came the creative love-making. Bunch of very smart, knowledgeable folks in the organization pitching in with thoughts and ideas to make the perfect post, even more perfect.... yeeessss. It's a slippery-slope though, a creative love-making session with a piece of writing can turn messy if each contributor, you know, has their way with the post. Yeap, at some-point it bordered on a creative-orgy. But don't get me wrong, I love a creative-orgy as much as the next person, but it was my first time so I was a bit shy. But just about when we were about to finish *giggle*, door swings wide-open and the 7-foot dominatrixes--aka the lawyers--walk in. 

Once again, I like a 7-foot dominatrix as much as the next person, but man leave it to lawyers to suck the color out of a piece of writing in exactly 3 mins. The domination was military-grade and very professional too: ie whenever someone yelled the safeword (it's "cat video"), they stopped. But like any good domination session, it was rough and thorough. Something I've never actually did to any of my previous pieces of writing. And I must say, I enjoyed it. 


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

That Tingly Sensation..

I'm pretty open about my nerdiness, hell, I take pride in it. I'll admit that being a systems analyst/product manager isn't the sexiest job out there (damn nuclear submarine captains ruining it for the rest of us), but on the eve of launching a product I feel like a rock star about to go on stage. Some of my fans will love what I'll launch, some will hate it and there's always the chance that I'll fall off the stage and make a complete fool out of myself.

Over the last ten years or so that I found myself in a place to launch something, I think I've had my fair share of those epic wins/fails. In my sophomore year in college, a friend recruited me to build a Stock Market Simulation system for a new conference that the Student Union was launching at school. So, take my basic programming skills, an open-source chatting program that I retrofitted to 'act' as a functional stock market terminal, a 100 or so eager conference participants and a bucketload of good luck and you have yourself one of those epic-win launches. My epic fail? That same conference the following year, I got greedy, had grand plans for many more features, didn't spend enough time with my team testing the system, the result? We were down for the first four hours of the first day of the conference: ah yes, the granddaddio of epic fails.

Today as I slaved at the office working on a major product feature that I am launching tomorrow, it struck me how this feeling never gets old or dull. It's definitely more intimidating that the number of my 'fans' this time around is an order (or two?) of magnitude(s) larger.

Oh boy, wouldn't that be a picturesque fail?
*clears throat*


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Moving Diaries

In the last six years I've lived in three different countries, as fun as that was/is, that entailed packing and unpacking my life exactly five times in those six years, that part was always a tad less fun.

My first time was exhilarating, confusing and over way too fast. Yeap, still talking about the move. I was fortunate enough to live in the same place all my life up to that point, so it was exciting to go thru the packing exercise: boxes, labels, excel sheets (nerd alert), etc. But it was also confusing because I had no clue what I should take with me and what should I leave behind? Seeing that I was heading to the Godforsaken Frozen Wastelands, I actually ended-up packing way too much irrelevant things. For starters I assumed my clothes are relevant in the Wastelands => false assumption, nothing you own in Egypt can protect your giblets from -20C. I also went overboard with comforters, blankets and covers, my assumption there was I'll be sleeping outdoors most nights, also false. Turns out cold countries have pretty sweet heating systems, so, that's that. Over too fast? Well, I ended-up shipping very few things, so instead of going out by sea, it went on a plane, so within few days of landing I had my stuff.

My second time was way cooler. I was in the zone, I've done that before, I knew what I'm doing. I have two words for you: two bags. I just quit my job and joined the ranks of the bums as a grad student.  It helped that I was moving into a fully-furnished dorm room, but I optimized the hell out of that move, hell I didn't even take a laptop or a phone, I got those when I arrived. Needless to say when you go with the 'bare necessities' move mentality you hit a few snags, the one I remember from that move was an interesting curveball: my credit card got blocked before I bought my phone/laptop, so yeah, it's the 21st century, my card is blocked and I need to call the bank back in Egypt, when was the last time you used a payphone for an international call and had to feed it ya-much coins? That was 2009 for me.

My most recent move was the most interesting, I have to say. Due to a minor snafu I packed my stuff almost three months before I moved, and then due to another snafu, my boxes weren't shipped until a month or so after I moved, and due to another snafu--if you can't see the trend at this point, I sure hope your day job doesn't require you to do, well, any kind of thinking really--my container was "bumped" (that's shipping lingo that I picked up being involved in the global hunt for my container) somewhere in Europe, stupid Dutchies, and so it missed it's cross-Atlantic connection. The multiple snafus meant I eventually got my stuff ~8 months after I parted with them and around ~4 months after I moved. It was interesting because who doesn't enjoy living 8 months out of a suitcase, right? In a strange way, it was. Whenever I realized I didn't have something on me, I either decided to wait for it and adapted to it not being there or ordered it off Amazon. When my things finally arrived (today!), it was interesting to realize that the things I missed most were my books, thinking chair and collection of mementos, everything else is optional.

Interestingly when I was unpacking my kitchenware, I realized that my mom packed for me 4 different bottle openers; I'm guessing that's her subtle way of telling me I have a drinking problem.

For my next move I'd like to do it blindfolded, upside-down in a glass container full of water, Houdini-stlyle.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Mediocracy of the Middle

Ah well, since every Egyptian is a political analyst nowadays

*Fesh throws his metaphorical hat into the ring and emerges, hooded and wearing the mandatory Egyptian flag-themed boxing short.

As happy as I am with all the dynamic politicking that's happening in Egypt, I'm very annoyed with almost all of the charters of the new parties being formed now. Almost all of these charters read like a Constitution would read: belief in human rights, equality of people without regard to religion, gender or race, etc. I get it, we are embracing democracy and those principles are ones we have longed for for a long period of time, but aren't they universal as well? Shouldn't these charters mention an Ideology that people can be for or against? Who wouldn't be for "equality among citizens of Egypt" or the "growth of Egypt" or "return Egypt to it's historic leadership position in the region"?

Interestingly enough, the only party that stands out now is the Muslim Brotherhood's party, the Freedom and Democracy Party, they clearly state that their ideologies are: Islamism, Conservatism and Islamic democracy. I respect that. The biggest party in the German Bundestag is the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Of course the difference being the way you implement your ideology. The CDU has no problems with electing non-Christians in the parliament or females, something that the Muslim Brotherhood's party still needs to vindicate itself on. But my point stands. The German CDU has a different set of ideologies than, say, Die Linke, the left-leaning German party that has a democratic-socialistic ideology.

The Mediocracy of the Middle is nowhere most apparent than on the economic ideology. Almost 100% of the charters that I read mention something along those lines: "The group supports free-market capitalism, but without manipulation or monopoly" or maybe add a line about social justice, which I guess is code for: we'll get the benefits of the US's capitalism AND all the benefits that Socialism has in Europe.....riiiiiight and I have a chicken that lays golden eggs as well.

Maybe this state of ideological mediocracy is my opportunity to launch Egypt's very own Pirate Party, Sweden-style? I will ponder this thought as I listen to some illegally downloaded MP3's.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

School Rivalry

So here I am chilling with my HBS peeps bitching about career, life, the universe and everything, and I hear one them has "dropped the H-bomb". Not familiar with the expression, my mind raced through a surprisingly long list of all profanities that yours truly is aware of. However, none of them that started with an 'H' made any sense, but then I realized the expression means telling someone that you go to HBS.

I like a couple of things about that expression. First, it's catchy. You say that and automatically your mind brings the picture of a mushroom cloud. Second, it captures the equity of Harvard, a very strong and powerful institution. Finally, you have to like the fact that the 'H' works nicely for both H-bomb and Harvard.

Now, we all know rivalry is strong here, so if they have an expression for telling people which business school they go to, we need ours and we need it fast. After much thinking, I have decided that our expression should be: passing the Cardinal doobie, hear me out on this one. First, think the image this expression brings to your mind, you and your friends chilling and passing a doobie, nice. Second, a doobie represents the mellow, laid-back GSB environment and the awesome state of California. Finally, this expression also refers to the Stanford Cardinals, because we kick effin ass.

So next time you tell someone you go to the GSB, you've just passed the Cardinal doobie, you pothead.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Ultimate Compliment

As I elbowed my way today through elCairo's epic traffic, I noticed the last thing you want to see when traffic is that bad: high-ranking police officers. Those, of course, only appear on the streets when one of them Party Members--yes, I'm going with a 'China metaphor'--is passing by. Before I knew it we came to a complete stop on my side of the road while the other side was becoming eerily empty for that time of the day... ah, yes, the armada approaches.

I truly enjoy watching those caravans pass by. The motorcycles whisking by, the uncomfortable big security dudes crammed in SUVs and the trucks with really big jamming antennas, really big, as in big enough to the extent even Freud would be uncomfortable around them. I wonder if the dudes driving these jamming trucks ever worry about sitting very close all the time to those antennas that blast high-intensity microwave radiation? Based on a very credible Southpark episode, I'd say those dudes should worry about ball cancer.

But I digress, I caught myself thinking how needing all of this security is really the ultimate compliment one could get. Probably an international award is a close second. Sure, people are thrilled to recieve the Nobel prize, but deep down they know that a bunch of bureaucrats went through a tedious screening and filtering process that ended up with an envelop with their name, ugh, it makes me sick. On the other hand, needing nine motorcycles with bigass dudes with Uzis as part of your flotilla tells you that you're so important/dangerous that people out there are actively planning attempts on your life and that is the ultimate compliment.

I'd enjoy being a Party Member, I know it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

On Offending Argentines

Well it's about time, I need to add another nation to my "must rip on" list and I think I got a head start on Argentina:
Overexcited Argentine: MAN! You have to try dulce de leche!
Fesh: uhm, what?
Overexcited Argentine: Dude, this is the REAL stuff a true Argentine desert which is AWESOME!
Fesh: Oh, wow, yeah I should try that!
Overexcited Argentine: Oh yeah, wait I'll order some for desert right now!
Fesh: Okay?
Three minutes later, waiter brings some ice cream, Fesh inhales it.
Overexcited Argentine: SO???
Fesh: What?
Overexcited Argentine: How do you like dulce de leche?!
Fesh: Do you mean this wasn't regular ice cream?
Unamused, but still overexcited Argentine: Not the ice cream! The sauce on it! That's the dulce de leche and legend has it that it was invented by mistake when an Argentine was mixing some milk and then something fell....
Fesh: Let me stop you here, wasn't that sauce caramel?
Visibly angry Argentine: NO IT'S NOT, it's dulce de leche, invented by an Argentine.
Fesh: Dude, even on the wiki page of dulce de leche it says it tastes like caramel, which means it wasn't invented by an Argentine, rather it was invented by a very hairy man, in his cave, right after he was finished with this new round thing he called The Wheel.

.....and that's how you trash a national desert. It's that simple.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Black Fesh 9.0

"I know why you're here, I've prepared everything. I've used rabid monkey blood, really old blue cheese and snake teeth grind", said the creepy old man as he pointed to his dark and evil creation:

"Uhm....", hesitated Fesh.
"What's wrong?", asked the COM.
"Nothing, but actually I'm doing my MBA now and I'm wondering if you're hiring?", said Fesh as he handed the COM his resume.
The COM checked Fesh's resume, "hmmmm, nice, nice.... any experience in strategy?".
"errr... well, I'm a very quick learner and I'd love to join your fine institution here and learn more about strategy", replied Fesh nervously.
"Ouuuu, that's unfortunate, we had a position in our corporate strategy group that we were looking into filling. Wish you the best of luck in your job search.", concluded the COM.

[Yes, the blog has been in hibernation for the last 4 months, b-school side effects, I'm still alive, planing to watch the match here with the proud North Californian crowd, woho!]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gender Roles

The topic of the day on the radio was traditional gender roles and what people think of them. The presenter gave the example of cooking, which traditionally falls under the duties of the wife, and asked listeners to weigh-in with their thoughts. As I listened, I plotted the answers in my mind. The X-axis started with the conservative camp and the farther you moved to right the more liberal you get, until we reach the answer a Swedish wife would give. That would be, of course, close to positive infinity. On the other hand, the Y-axis represents the number of opinions at each point of the X-axis.

Statisticians would tell you that you should expect a neat bell curve, which means there will be a sweetspot in the middle where we have the most opinions and then the farther you go away (either more liberal or more conservative) the less number of opinions you should get. But interestingly, the exact opposite happened. An insane amount of listeners were extreme in the their opinions from the uberConservative declaring it's God's will that wives cook for their families to the ultraLiberal who preached equality. The moderates were puny in numbers and opinions with one of them thinking that wives should cook, but they should be asked nicely by their husbands. Morons.

To me, this wasn't an easy question to answer. You see, the typical liberal answer that states that husbands and wives are equal and therefore anyone of them can cook is flawed for two reasons. First, we need to factor in who is more qualified to do the cooking. Though I don't have the numbers, I'm pretty sure that more girls learn how to cook as they grow up than straight guys do, at least in our culture. Which automatically makes wives more qualified for cooking. A second important input is who is more available. What if the wife is working 18 hour days, while the husband is a writer who works mostly from home and has more free time?

Which presents a problem, what if you are a fellow liberal, but you aren't that liberal to start cooking? I feel ya, here's what you could do:

1. Marry the fat nerd. Chances are she didn't have a social life and spent her teen years baking cakes and stuffing her face with them. Get a high-profile corporate job and ensure you get a hawt assistant. Do the assistant and go back home for a fine, fine dinner.

2. Not a career man? Ok, marry a 50-year-old corporate executive, who will be your suga mama. She'll barely come home between her busy schedule, which will give you a chance to do the hawt Asian chiquita you'll hire as a cook with your wife's money.

3. Not into adultery? Hmmm... consider switching teams. As a gay man chances are you wouldn't mind cooking in first place. And if you do, your partner probably won't.

Problem solved.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Social" Birthday Wishes

Calling people up on their birthday is so yesterday, get with the program granpa. Now we have Facebook, which neatly reminds you that today is your best friend's girlfriend's sister's hot friend's birthday. So you race to her Facebook wall to pay your tribute. Off course when you get there you find a billion birthday wishes already there. So you quickly scan them trying to see if you can offer something original. Usually, you'd lose interest quickly and just spew your cliche: Happy Birthday! Maybe add a few more exclamation marks if she is really hot.

But why stop there? I can see Facebook's next feature: Automatic Bday Wishes. It's very simple, while adding a friend to your list, you add him/her to a birthday list. Each birthday list has a template message, those can be a simple: Happy Birthday [Friend's Name]! or a tad more evil, like: Why don't you go fuck yourself on this special day? Can you imagine the productivity gain out of this? Now you do not need to scroll or click or even think of which cliche bday wish you'll go with! Wouldn't that make your life a lot easier as a birthday wisher?

The downside, however, is that on your birthday you'll be flooded with a million of those cold, heartless auto bday wishes. Of course, you can't ignore them, we're not animals. Enter the even cooler new Facebook feature: Bday Wishes Auto-responder. This feature will be a bit more complex. First, it would change your status to reflect how humbled you are with the torrent of cold, heartless auto bday wishes you got. Next, this feature will relentlessly pursue every shmuck who dared to send you an auto bday wish and spam them with wall posts and private messages "thanking" them. The degree of persecution of your targets will be adjustable from your account settings, but don't worry, even at its lowest level this feature will annoy the crap out of those who thought it would be wise to drop you an auto bday wish.

Now that is social networking I like.

P.S: The farewell party last week was legend--wait for it--ary.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Work, Life, The Universe and Everything

As today was my last day in office after six or so odd years of corporate whoredom, I thought it would be in order to dispense some pearls of wisdom that I have accumulated over the years:

1. Never shout any insults at another driver if he/she cuts you off. First, it's rude. Secondly, what are the chances that they'll actually hear you when it's so noisy outside and they are chilling inside enjoying the AC? Instead, carry some talking bubbles with words written on them, they should range form an innocent: HEY! All the way to: For doing that, I'll chop your head off and make sweet, sweet love to your mama. This way is much more effective to communicate your frustration to the asshole who cut you off, me thinks.

2. It is no longer kool that the standard answer for: What's your favorite movie? is: The Godfather. Oh and it's definitely not kool to answer: The Godfather, the first one, not the crappy second and third part. Here's the deal, The Godfather came out 30 years ago, it's a great movie and all, but don't you think it's time to move on?

3. Always make fun of the Frozen Wastelands, it's un-natural not to.

But on a serious note, I am happy/excited/thrilled to be moving on with my life. A while back someone shared with me this speech that Steve Jobs gave, and the one thing that stuck with me was the idea of 'connecting your dots'. At first, I thought maybe only a few of us are the lucky ones who do have interesting dots to connect, but now I firmly believe that we all have our own interesting dots. You just need to look back at your past and by connecting those dots, you'll take control of your future.

Isn't symbolic, warm and cuddly that this speech that inspired me so much was given at a Stanford commencement? ....I think I need a hug.

P.S: Check the uber kwel poster that aku put togther for my farwell partAy! Me likey!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Golden Rule

I am starting to see so many kids wearing horrible things. Which parent in their right state of mind wakes up in the morning and thinks: Yes! Today my kid should wear a sailor dress, ou, and a hat! Yes, a hat would go perfectly with that! Are those parents constantly stoned?

Here's a radical idea to all parents and would-be parents. Have you heard of the Golden Rule? Or Ethic of Reciprocity as the Wikipedia entry is called? It's simple, before you dress your kids, ask yourself: would I be comfortable wearing this fluffy orange jumpsuit? Now, the answer to that question would tell you a lot about yourself. If you say yes then--sidepoint: wow, you need help--you should consider putting your kid up for adoption. I'm sure your kid's foster parents would molest him many, many times, but at least they wont dress him like that. If the answer is no, then, we're kool for now. But I'm watching you.

Of course some parents take the Golden Rule too literally. This happens when a parent decides it would be 'cute' for him/her and their kid to wear the exact same outfit all the time. If you are one of those stupid parents then let me break it to you, do you think Mini-Me from the Austin Powers movies is 'cute' or creepy? I pray to God that the answer is creepy. I seriously do. But then again, you might have a thing for midgets. Same advice applies here: put your kid up for adoption.

Finally, don't put your two year olds into a denim jumpsuit, ever. Makes them look eerily like Chucky. And I'll level with you, if your denim-jumpsuit-wearing kid makes a sudden move around me, I will axe it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Day Shaking Ceased To Be Enough

Scene I: A dimly lite bathroom. Fesh is standing at a urinal with his back facing the camera. As Fesh is wrapping up, the bathroom attendant approaches the Fesh, something is in his hand. Fesh notices the attendant and tracks him with the corner of his eye to ensure he doesn't get within penis-viewing distance. The attendant gets uncomfortably close and hands something to Fesh.

The attendant: Etfadal ya basha. [Here you go]
Fesh: uhm...shoukran? [Thanks?]

Fesh zips-up and turns around, he's holding a piece of toilet paper. He quickly uses the toilet paper to wipe his hands before throwing it away. The attendant is not amused. Fesh washes his hands and exits.

Scene II: A lively, packed open air nightspot. Shisha smoke fills the air and everyone is enjoying this breezy summer night. Fesh appears from the far left, coming out of the bathroom. He makes his way to the table, with a few friends laughing.

Fesh: The weirdest thing just happened!
Freind #1: What?
Fesh: This dude at the bathroom approached me as I was peeing and handed me a piece of toilet paper! What the hell?
Friend #2: and..?
Fesh: Don't you guys find this weird! I was going to wash my hand eitherway! So what's the use of the toilet paper!
Friend #3: err... dude, the toiler paper is for you to wipe the tip after you're done!
Fesh: HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA... no seriously?
Friend #1, 2, 3....7: Yeap.
Fesh: Oh.

The above actually happened, so, what the hell? Was there a memo that I missed or something? My understanding was that shaking gets the trick done, now it's no longer the case? When did that happen!

But let's not dwell on the past, seeing that the word will soon be out that I aint a wiper, I need to do some damage control. What kind of faux pas are we talking here? Is it the small, tolerable, he-used-the-wrong-fork kind? Or the bigger ones like taking a huge dump on your girlfriend's mother's cat (don't ask.)? And do you think the society will accept me as an openly non-wiper or I will need to live in fear of prosecution and have to fake-wipe?

It's always a shock when something so personal, like peeing, changes. Ahhhh...the good old days when I was not judged by bathroom attendants for not wiping. Why did shaking cease to be enough?

Scene III: It's raining. Fesh falls to his knees, hands stretched towards the sky. Camera zooms out quickly.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Swim Boys, Swim!

I am going to go ahead and fully support this story.

I find it very flattering to our sperm pool. First off, you got to respect the fact that we have sperm floating in our pools, not pee and leaves like sissy countries. We're just too macho to keep our boys inside, so we spread the love all the time. Second, and most importantly, this story speaks to the commando-like abilities of the Egyptian sperm. While international sperm is used to swimming in warm, clean indoor 'pools' for just a few centimeters, our glorious sperm has no problem with fighting the elements, currents and treacherous waters of an outdoors pool. I love that fact! Hell, I would have wanted the story headline to read: Egyptian Sperm Defies Odds! Or: Egyptian Sperm Not affected by Chlorine.

But the complements to our commandos aside, how do you think they narrowed it down to getting pregnant from taking a dip in a pool? Aren't there a million other scenarios that range from actually sleeping with someone, to a heavy making-out session to even contracting a sperm from a toilet! All these seem much, much more probable then the pool-swimming sperm story!

But then again, this is the Frozen Wastelands, so yeah, I can buy that this weird theory made total sense to them.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Happy Feshday: 28

The world celebrates today the Feshday. Did you know that the United Communist Party of Armenia was founded on Feshday, 2003? Talk about those damn Armenians trying to steal the limelight form me. I hate them.

A lot has happened last year, from wrapping up my three years in the Frozen Wastelands and moving out to resigning from the Evil Corporation after 6 years of corporate whoredom. I'm also excited about inching closer to 30. To me, 30 is really me turning into an adult and I can't wait! :)

Now rejoice, it's the Feshday.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Fesh Diet

Why is it that all the good-tasting foods are always bad for your health? It is a pity that the human body was designed to appreciate fresh vegetables, fruits and cereals and not the glorious processed sugars and deep fried anything. We all know that a fatty diet is going to clog your arteries and makes it harder for your heart to do its thing. That is understandable. But why is it that the human body reacts this way to fats and not fruit fibers? Turns out that over thousands of years, the human body evolved based on the basic diet of fruits and vegetables. But processed sugars and deep fried foods are relatively new to our diet (maybe few hundred years old?) and therefore our bodies are not used to consuming them efficiently at those quantities.

So here's a thought. If we stick to our guns and keep eating sugar/fat-rich foods then it's only a matter of time before our bodies adapt to it, right? Sure, humanity will suffer a few millennia of obesity and billions will die out of diabetes and heart attacks, but that's not important. What's important here is that we keep our eyes on the ball. If we consistently eat enough junk for the next few thousands years, our bodies will eventually become efficient at digesting those delicious, delicious foods.

I'm totally getting turned-on by that idea.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Ideal Farewell Note

I've read a lot of farewell notes, mostly from people I barely know. Thing is, 99% of those were utterly lame. This can't be a coincidence, I'm sure the Catberts of the the evil corporate world have added 'Send lame farewell note' to the termination checklist. Maybe it's their way of getting one final rush by, yet again, crushing that poorman's soul. Which is kinda kool.

But for the argument's sake, let's assume that sending a lame farewell note was not dictated by the evil directors of human resources, why then are those notes usually superlame? Those notes are usually a length, ugly creation, littered with exaggerated displays of overjoy for the years of corporate whoredom. Not to mention the creepy lovey-dovey emotional outbursts. Oh, and 9 out of 10 close with the cliche comment: Those were happiest years of my life. Ugh. I cringe.

Having resigned today (yay!), this got me thinking about my farewell note which I'll be sending out in a few weeks. I don't want to go with a simple, boring one. To me, the ideal farewell note is the one Eric Cartman would write if he was offed the CEO role for a company that specializes in torturing Jews, Hippies and Gingers. Come to think of it, it would be awesome to wrap up your farewell note with: Screw you guys, I'm going home.

Oh, it's tempting.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Geography 101

Munqy, being the nerd he is, has been having wetdreams about watching Transformers 2 for the last two years. So when it came out he summoned the Carrot Dealers(tm) to watch what will probably be, according to him, the most orgasmic movie ever made. Since I am no Transformers groupie, I'll leave the detailed technical analysis to the inevitable uber-geeky post by Munqy and I'll focus on geography instead.

I would really, really like to know what kind of stuff was the director on when he decided to basically make the Red Sea, Petra (in Jordan) and the Pyramids all some 200 meters away from each other?! I get it is a sci-fi movie so they are supposed to get a little bit 'creative', but why then did they have to get out of their way to show us that the doomsday machine is inside the Giza Pyramids but first they have to walk the 200 meters to Petra to get the key?!

One possible answer is that they had this cute puzzle that was linked to the Red Sea and Petra and at the same time, the Pyramid made sense as a hiding place to the big-ass doomsday machine. Alright then, couldn't they have kept everything, but added a scene where they travel back across Egypt to the Pyramids? It could be one of those time-lapsed scenes which in 30 seconds they can show us that they have traveled the 9 hours or so from Petra to the Pyramids? With a movie that is 2.5 hours long, you'd think the director decided not to cut any corners to keep everything in. Except of course the 30 seconds that would have made the movie compatible with the geography of planet Earth. Dumbass.

Oh yeah, spoiler alert, don't read if you haven't watched the movie, yadda, yadda yadda.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Conformity on Casual Fridays

For the lucky souls that have never been part of Corporate Whoredom, casual Fridays is a lame attempt by our Corporate Overlords to make us feel a little less miserable on the last day of the workweek, by allowing us to come to work in jeans. I never fully understood the concept of people showing up to work in formal or semi-formal attire. I can buy that if you work in a client-facing industry or function, like Sales, or maybe if you have some important external meetings. But if you are an accountant showing up at 7am for 10 hours of number crunching, in a tiny cubicle infront of a 10-inch black-and-white screen, doesn't it really border on torture to have you also wear a tie?

But I digress. Back to casual Fridays, the funny thing is how everyone, really, everyone is wearing jeans and t-shirts on casual Fridays. Which makes you wonder really, if casual Fridays is a way of letting corporate slaves out of the conformity of b-wear (yes, I'm trying to coin my own Orwellian vocab), then isn't everyone wearing jeans and t-shirts kind of defeats the purpose? Because, technically, if casual Friday is about not looking like everyone else, then you should show up in a suit and tie. Definitely you'd be the only one dressed like that on a Friday, you rebel!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Timeless elCairo

Much has already been said about Obama's historic speech today to the Islamic world from, to borrow his words, the timeless city of elCairo. It all boils down to the fact that it was an extremely balanced speech, something that says alot about the man himself. Yet to an immature person like myself it was frustrating. A fifty-minute speech and I couldn't find one thing to crack a joke at? What the hell man? Didn't he ask himself what would Jesus do? Because I'm sure the answer to that would have been: stumble once or twice!

There was a close call with his closing line though, I felt he almost went with "God bless America". Could you imagine how funny that would have been! But he skillfully made it into "God...'s peace be upon you". Ugh, lucky bastard. And is it God's peace be upon you or just peace be upon you? Anyhoo, wi 3alikom ya khowya, nawart, mato3od teshrab 7aga?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Look Ma, We're Number One!

The Economist Intelligence Unit just released the business environment ranking for around 80 countries. This is a comprehensive study that takes into account over 90 indicators for each country, around half of them are purely quantitative (i.e. GDP, inflation,etc), while the rest are more relative indicators like the possibility of an armed conflict. The outcome of the study is that each country is assigned a number (on a scale of 1 to 10) for its performance over 2004-08 and forecasted another number for 2009-13.

The amazing thing is that Egypt sits comfortably on top of the list! I knew that Egypt's economy has been steaming on for the last few years, but it's great to see that this is forecasted to continue during the the upcoming 5 years. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that Egypt's progress from its current ranking to the its forecasted ranking in 2013 is much bigger than other developing giants such as China or India!

That said, there are two interesting points in the report:
1. For 2009-13, the indicator for the risk of armed conflict for Middle East & Africa is 3.4. That makes sense, we have a very turbulent area. For Latin America it's 4.0, again, makes sense, they have Chavez. But for Western Europe, it's 4.7! Of course that's better than 3.4, but technically that implies that modern-day Western Europe (one of the the most politically stable areas of the world) has a 50-50 chance of an armed conflict in 2013! That is scary shit.

2. The US's ranking for 2004-08 was 8.4, that's extremely interesting. So, even though the US had a president who could barely speak English and a total economic meltdown, it was rated around 20% more than what Egypt is forecasted to achieve by the end of the next 5 years. An economic meltdown is easy to arrange, I know people. But do you think we could convince W. to go on the ballot for Egypt's 2011 presidential elections?

Monday, May 18, 2009

The iBox

Having been a gaming junkie for the last few weeks, I think it's about time for Apple to introduce the iBox. A key hurdle for other gaming console manufacturers is price, Sony and Microsoft currently sell their consoles at or even below cost to get their consoles out there and recover some of the cost via licensing games. This shouldn't be a problem for Apple, the iBox will be manufactured in China for $200 and retail worldwide for $3000. This will enable Apple to aggressively support the iBox's expansion by one of those cute: "I'm a PS3, I'm an iBox" campaigns.

Apple will also sprinkle the iBox with those absolutely useless features that people love like a glowing fruit(tm Munqy)on the iBox's back or a sensor that will sense when your iBox is in freefall and stop your harddisk. The latter would be very popular with gamers, since when your $3000 console is freefalling you'd usually be worried sick about your saved games. People will not stop talking about those features and this will create even more word of mouth for the iBox.

Much like the initial iPhone missed some much-needed features (e.g. copy and paste), the first iBox will miss a few things, like a controller. Those marginal features will not prevent the iBox from becoming an instant success and eventually becoming the leading gaming console.

Stupid PS3, I want an iBox.

Note: A very interesting article about Apple's potential gaming console here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Watch Porn

A few days ago, a court ruled that porn sites should be banned in Egypt. Now, I love my porn collection as much as the next guy, but I think that was a very wise call from the government. It is still not clear if this will actually be implemented or it will be appealed. But I think it should be implemented, three key reasons:

1. As per Google's stats, Egypt is the second country worldwide that searches for porn. Although I am proud with the silver medal, if porn was banned, around 90% of the bandwidth will be freed! Can you imagine the productivity gain from not waiting for your mail to download or pages to load anymore? I have crunched a lot of data and I believe, on average, you'd be getting back 30 mins per day. That's a 6% productivity gain! So, banning porn would increase the productivity of our workforce <= exhibit A.

2. Egypt is facing a sexual harassment epidemic. So, with 98% of foreign women and 83% of Egyptian women reporting that they were sexually harassed, do we really need folks to be getting more ideas by checking out porn sites? Banning porn sites will make people visit other sites, like In doing so, a lot of people will start to think about other matters and therefore become less inclined to harass anything with nipples. So, banning porn would decrease sexual harassment in Egypt, making the country more civilized <= exhibit B.

3. Finally, we're not alone in this. We have other countries who have pioneered this revolutionary approach before us. Saudi, a leading authority on censoring the Internet, tried this and with astounding results. According to this article 70% of all material on the phones of teens in Saudi was of pornographic nature. Why is that good? Well, it's encouraging consumers to spend more by sending all of those multimedia messages to each other! It's a dire economic situation and we need people to keep spending and with no porn available online, all of Egypt will start MMSing! That's big money! There you have it, banning porn will help Egypt survive the global recession <= exhibit C.

So, all of you who thought this whole thing was as step back for freedom of speech and another push by the regime to censor the Internet, you're all fools.

Note: Munqy, for the hundredth time, I don't think they'll shutdown the bestiality sites that you love so much and visit on a daily basis. Stop asking me that!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Great Skydiving Debate

I can see why skydiving can be super exciting for some, I am sure it's exhilarating to freefall like that. However, I find the fact that almost all skydivers now carry a secondary chute, as a spare, a very interesting piece of information. I am almost certain that the secondary chute wasn't part of the sport when it started, but rather was added later on.

I'd resell my soul to the devil to have witnessed the debate that went on when the spare chute was introduced, seriously. I can see it going like this, a young skydiver comes up with the idea and is passionately trying to convince his fellow 17 century adventurers that too many folks hit the ground like a bullet when their main chute malfunctions and they need to put an end to it. Then comes the visual aids, a 17th century pie chart that explains that in the last year chutes have malfunctioned 20% of the time, which after a lot of data crunching means that the sport yields a 20% fatality rate. He then tries to quickly preempt their first objection by saying: Now, I know that 20% isn't at all a bad fatality rate compared with our other, more challenging problems (i.e. the Black Plague), but still, let's call it statistically significant. The really interesting part comes next, the community quickly is divided around the idea. The first camp, the pro-life camp, advocate the secondary chute. The other camp, pro-choice camp, doesn't.

The pro-life camp will explain that this is a much needed reform to ready the growing sport for the 18th century, the pro-choice camp will dismiss this change since it contradicts the basic values of the sport. The pro-choice camp will seek the endorsement of key skydivers to ensure that a secondary chute is not introduced. Pro-life, on the other hand, wont be able to enlist any ex-skydivers who were fused with the pavement due to chute malfunctions, this will hurt the pro-life campaign significantly.

The debate will not only wage between skydivers, Big Chute, the evil blood-sucking chute corporations, will also weight-in on the debate. For Big Chute, it's a thin line they have to walk. If they come out in support of the pro-life camp, this will automatically mean that the sport is so dangerous that you require a secondary chute, which will decrease their target market. On the other hand, if a secondary chute becomes mainstream, this is means Big Chute will be entering a new lucrative market and introducing new products with higher margins. Big Chute treads carefully.

When I imagine myself as part of this debate, I see myself as a pro-choice campaigner.There is something so deliciously evil about trying to convince people that: a. They need to skydive b. They don't need a spare chute and c. Yes, 1 out of 5 will die skydiving. I'd seriously get a rush from doing this.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Financial Crisis & Traffic

Here's my theory, if the global financial institutions studied traffic in elCairo, the current financial crises could, nay, would have been averted. It's a complicated theory, but bear with me. First, we have two astounding similarities between Western economies and elCairo's traffic:

1. Competition. Drivers in elCairo compete all the time with other drivers. This can be as simple as cutting you off since your lane has a few free, precious meters, or my all-time favorite: the self-regulating intersections; Those are intersection with no lights and no traffic officers and the idea is that you try to beat the other person to crossing. I love it, it's as close as I'll ever get to playing Russian Roulette. Equally fierce competition is the trademark of Western economies, in theory, this competition makes the markets more efficient.

2. Creativity. Lack of strict regulation in the Western economies inspired a lot of 'creative' financial products. First, credit was given to people who can't afford it and then this credit was cut-down, repackaged and sold to investors at the other end of the globe. Same for traffic here in elCairo, I get the feeling that drivers are constantly trying to think of new and even more creative (read: dangerous) ways of driving. All-time favorite? The genius driving on a highway, at night, with no lights on, on the right and at 45Km/hr. He's really begging for it.

Competition and lack of regulation were really working for the financial institutions. Between 2002 and 2007 the Western financial world was partying like a cheap ho, in a cheap NY club on New Year's Eve, 1999. But that wasn't true of elCairo's traffic, but the world wasn't interested.

You see, elCairo's traffic predicted the shortcomings of the system. It showed us that the system will eventually overheat and crash. elCairo's traffic even showed us how a ponzi scheme would rise in such a system. The Mastermind of such a scheme would zap beside 500 cars queueing to get on a bridge and right before the entrance cuts into the bridge's ramp. He promises excellent returns for very little investment i.e. you don't have to queue AND you get on the bridge in a fraction of the time! Of course, the scheme only works if a few followed him, but what happens when 10,000 drivers try that? Everyone is stuck. Something we face in elCairo everyday.

Interestingly, a much more strict traffic law was passed in elCairo last year as the financial crises kicked in. The financial world, having learned the lesson the hard way, quickly followed elCairo's lead with various new proposals on stricter global financial regulation.

You know what's the scary part? Even after the new law, traffic aint getting any better here in elCairo.