Friday, September 29, 2006

"I'd love to live in.."

Did that ever happen to you? You land in a country, spend a couple of days and as you're leaving it you're thinking to yourself "Man... I must come back & live in this country!". Well, so far I've been to almost 40 countries and out of all of those only a handful (I really mean it .. Less than 5) of those intrigued me that much. The last one of those so far was Turkey, when I first arrived in Istanbul back in 2005 I knew I'd be back again to that amazing city. I was lucky enough to go back to my mystic city in less than one year. As I munched my way through sojok (oriental sausages), baklava (oriental deserts) and Turkish coffee (Turkish coffee :D) I tried to understand why am I so hooked on Turkey..... I couldn't figure out .. so I decided to take it to the next level .. so yet again I took my WiFi enabled laptop to the "porcelain throne" and their I had my *ding* moment.

I guess the first thing that drew me to Turkey is the cultural overlap, The Ottoman empire occupied Egypt for hundreds of years and therefore not only is Turkish and Arabic very similar as languages, cuisine is similar, the look and feel of the streets, shops and basically all the aspects are the same. Even tawola (backgammon) is the way to pass time on a cafe! The second thing that I really like is that unlike almost all other Arab/Muslim countries religion (Islam) is not involved into every single aspect of life. In general I am against mixing religion and state either it's Christian or Muslim, becuase I feel it's unfair to minorities (having been part of the Christian minority in Egypt). Third, I believe that's a common attribute to "Mediterranean" countries, people are more warm .. I don't know how to explain this, but being from the same region, I felt it .. ppl are outgoing, they eat late, stay out late, get quickly to know each other and become friends and buddies ... It's amazing.

Finally, the heritage ... I wont lie to you and tell you I'm into artsy fartsy stuff, but I love to be in a place that has a smell of different centuries and Turkey offers this starting from the Biblical civilizations that lived in east Turkey .. where you have Mt. Ararat (arguably where Noah's ark landed) all thru Greek, Roman ... till Ottoman.

I have no doubt I'll go back to Turkey soon, because now it's on the list ;)

For now I'll enjoy the Turkish coffee

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Largest Contiguous Empire in Human History

Editorial note: Hey guess what I am writing this post from my WC! Yes I am a proud WiFi owner woho! .....but I guess Munqy was right in his post Survival of the Shittest Humanity's best moments were linked to the "Porcelain thrown" in a way or another. So prepare for the ultimate post, the post that makes all other posts nothing, it is simply the post. (Okay seriously don't have your hopes up, the fact that I am THAT bored that I have my laptop with me in the WC kinda gives an indication of what terrible post this is).

Okay so I am reading in my new favorite book "What If", it's a book about fictional scenarios like: what if Alexander The Great was killed in battle when he was 20 years old before he conquered most of the known world and earned "the Great" title? How would our world be now. It's very interesting book if you are into History, because it aint a fiction it's more of Historical contra factual essays written by Historians.

So I come upon a piece of very disturbing info, do you know that the
Mongol Empire which strived in 13th/14th century and considered one of the most barbaric and devastating empires to be formed was THE LARGEST CONTIGUOUS EMPIRE IN HUMAN HISTORY?! You can't imagine my shock really. I read the article and I was in shock they annihilated cities, they didn't sack them, The Greeks or the Romans sacked cities, which means they conquered the city, looted it and put a governor and a tax. But Mongols had a natural hatred towards metropolitan cities because of them being nomads and they initially destroyed cities and leveled them. Not only this they killed most of the population, I read some numbers that are scary, some cities lost 1.7 million people!

Can you imagine this? Arguably one of the most barbaric empires the world has witnessed and it lives and prospers to become the world biggest.

Tells you something about us Humans right? Think about it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Arbeit Macht Frei

Last weekend, on Saturday I visited the notorious Auschwitz. For those of you who haven't heard of it it's the most preserved Nazi concentration camp in the world. The "final solution" for around 1.5 million Jews was performed on those very same grounds. If you happen to be in Poland I would recommend the visit, it's total experience, starting with entering the camp from the main gates that bear the infamous words "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work makes you Free) all the way to the monument in Auschwitz II dedicated to the memory of all of those who were mercilessly slaughtered there.

I wouldn't bore you with the horrible things there, I would actually pick on a very unusual side of the camp, German Discipline. German Discipline is clear in every inch of the camp, our guide explained that the barracks of the prisoners were actually stables for the horses, so when those stables arrived from Germany, they were constructed according to procedures. And according to procedures in each of the 52 horse-cabins there was a metallic ring to which the horse was to be tight too. After more than 60 years and thousands of prisoners who manned those barracks, the horse rings are still there ... never used though.

An even more surprising example is the Gestapo barracks. The whole camp was under the supervision of the SS. However, one of barracks inside it belonged to the Gestapo and according to procedures: all Gestapo buildings' windows should be enforced by steel bars. It is worth mentioning that the Gestapo barracks is actually INSIDE one of the biggest concentration camps and is basically surrounded by thousands of soldiers, tanks, electric fences and mine fields. Yet, the steel bars were transported from Germany and are still seen today on Barracks 11.

That’s how I found myself drifting during the tour into my own thoughts and mixed feelings about the Nazi’s brutality from one side and their discipline to adhere to procedures word by word, even if they were losing the battle to the Allies already.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Microsft just Google-Earthed your pics!

I stumbled yesterday on this new tool Microsoft is building called: Photosynth. This is really amazing .. I guess this is the next bog thing after Google Earth really. This tool basically crunches all your digital pictures and puts in place three dimensional models of it. The basic idea is the same as in Google Earth, you take satellite pictures and plaster them onto a 3D "Earth" .. it's the same concept.
However, when you think of it, the implications of this one is far more interesting. With millions of digital pictures being taken currently and uploaded somewhere on the internet. If this tool really worked, it would be crawling the web -just like Google does for it's normal search- to add more pictures to it's 3D models. One exciting possibility that is shared on the tools website (the URL is below) is basically in the future having the capability to point your camera-enabled phone and snapping a picture of something. Then sending this picture to Photosynth web service and get a reply for what this actually is... amazing?!
I can't wait to put my hands on this tool, for some weird reason I was SURPRISED that this tool came from Microsoft?! For the last like 5 years those kool ideas came either from Google or from a small start-up while Microsoft was busy catching up on Windows, Hotmail, IE, Media player, Office and Search set backs? Is that signaling somehow a change in MS execs strategy? they are done with fighting in well established domains and they are putting their "Google" hat on?Whether that's happening or not .. in the time being I AM DYING to get my hands onto this Photosynth tool to make it crunch my 9GB photo library!

Check Photosynth's website!