Monday, January 22, 2007

Exemptophobia II - The Syrian Nod

Editorial note: After the success of "Exemptophobia I", a big-budget sequel was quickly produced by the evil movie studios. The sequel, which was highly anticipated, explores some of the details that have been omitted from the original movie. Enjoy: Exemptophobia II - The Syrian Nod

*flash-back to a scene from Exemptophobia I:
I was very excited As I marched into the immigration booths of Syria's Aleppo airport at 2 am on a sticky summer night.....

*the camera, instead of continuing to follow Fesh as in the first part, suddenly turns to revel aku (pronounced a-ko) walking casually next to Fesh!

....yes.. I was not alone during my dreaded Syria experience. I tried to forget that aku was there with me and he saw everything. In Syria we -without our passports- accidentally stumbled upon the ancient art of Syrian Nodding. Make no mistake, for this ancient art is deadly. Many have tried to learn it, a handful passed the test and only ONE is still alive. We do not know his real name, we only know him as: The Jordanian Embassy in Damascus Guard Nodding Jedi Master (thereafter referred to :/ ).

We encountered :/ in front of the Jordanian Embassy in Damascus. We wanted to get in, however :/ didn't honour our request with an answer, instead :/ nodded. Confused, we went ahead to ask another question. Again :/ nodded. Frustrated, we tried to bypass :/ and enter the embassy. This time, :/ nodded.

Although :/ never spoke to us, we understood very well what :/ wanted to tell us.

We left the embassy that day without many answers, but with a firm belief that our brief encounter with the Syrian Nodding Jedi Master has changed our fate for years to come.


Saturday, January 20, 2007


E-xem-pto-pho-bi-a(noun): an abnormal fear of being exempted from anything.

Based on latest figures Exrmptophobia hits 1 in every 9 billion. Considering that the human population is around 6 billion, you have to admit I'm damn unlucky to be Exemptophobic. I developed a severe case of Exemptophobia a few years back. I was planning a trip to Syria so I went to the Embassy to check what I need to issue a visa and they told me: As an Egyptian you are EXEMPTED from a visa! Now, these words might seem familiar to you if you hold a US passport but believe me for Egyptians (and I can tell from my personal experience of visiting 35 different countries) you need to issue a visa for any country you want to visit!

I was very excited As I marched into the immigration booths of Syria's Aleppo airport at 2 am on a sticky summer night. The excitement of entering THE FIRST country that exempted me from a visa vanished in a few seconds as I was dragged to a 45 min interrogation and walked out there without my passport!!!!!!!!!

Yes, turns out alot of Egyptian students enter Syria and stay illegally there. And since I was "EXEMPTED" from a visa and the JOB field in my passport read: STUDENT I was a text-book example of the illegal alien. I was given the option to either wait in the airport and take next plane to Cairo (i.e. to be deported) or surrender my passport and take it as I leave Syria and off course I opted for the latter.

For the next 7 days I enjoyed Syria (Great country by the way! you must visit it) but the fact that I am in a foreign country (and let's not forget not ANY foreign country, it's Syria!) without my passport nurtured my growing Exemptophobia. Thankfully, after going to the administration building in downtown Damascus for 4 days in a row and bribing a couple of officials I was able to get my sweeeeeeet sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet passport back.

The interesting is that this all came back to me a few days ago as I was at the South African Embassy here in Warsaw getting my visa and the lady looked at me and said:

As an Exemptophobic, I felt the cold sweat break from my forehead and the early signs of a full scale seizure kicking in, luckily the lady completed by saying:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

MORE Hair! (think DHL's MORE Power campaign)

Yes it's official, I am growing MORE hair WOHO! Yes! I have been growing my hair for the last year and I was contemplating reducing the number of hairs. What I did is that I commissioned 2 of the voices in my head to conduct a study on the best strategy. The Hair Study Group came back with a long list of recommendations, however, I decided to stay the course and I recommended a surge of 20,000 more hairs to be grown immediately in my head under the commitment from myself that by November 2007 I'll be controlling most of my head.

As soon as this was announced, I welcomed the announcement and issued a statement clearly expressing my strong interest and commitment to the continual growth of my hair. That off course does NOT guarantee that I'll be growing my hair because I can decide to squeeze the budget I allocated for my Hair Gel and thus effectively cancelling my initial plans of growing more hair. I'm very complex.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The "Coal" Dealers

Ever since I read Crichton's State of Fear (and I dubbed it "The Da vinci code of Global Warming" in this earlier post) I started my own mini-obsession with Global Warming. Recently I read "The Weather Makers" and I must say I found the author extremely boring as he repeats himself towards the end of each and everyone of his 36 short-but-amazingly-boring chapters.

I however learned two very fun facts:
1. I was amazed by how far reaching COAL lobbyists are?! Yes I said coal lobbyists! For me, I understand when Governments are under the influence of big evil oil companies (*cough*Iraq invasion*cough*Cheney*cough*Halliburton) but Coal?! All those years I thought only the village people were into the coal business?!Turns out not only is there a Coal lobby, it's arguably the most powerful in resisting actions against Global Warming!

2. Turns out Global Warming is NOT caused by Big Evil Corporations, it's caused by YOU. The two biggest sources of CO2 emissions and therefore Global Warming are:
  • Transportation (cars, planes, ships ...etc)
  • Use of electricity (most electricity is generated from non-renewable sources like coal or oil)

So when you think of it that way, it becomes clear that if we ALL decide to have a more fuel economy car or a hybrid or maybe use public transportation more. Or if we decided to reduce our electricity bill per month by 10%-20% or a more drastic 50% by installing Solar panels (if that's an option where you live) then you are ACTIVELY fighting Global Warming.

Think about it, definitely your actions can help!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Behold ... a new Species!

The first species in the Homo (Latin for Man) genus (a genus is a grouping of similar species) first appeared over 2.5 million years ago in our archeological records. Over this span of time, we evolved from Homo Habilis (Handy Man) to Homo Ergaster (Working Man) to almost 10 more species of Homos (insert your preferred gay joke or remark here pls) before we hit Homo Sapiens (Man The Thinker).

Now, seeing how I behave in the office recently I believe I've mutated into Homo Corporatus (Man The Corporate Offices Dweller). Three key reasons drive me to believe that I AM the first of my species:

1. I have developed a phobia of feeling that even if I'm on mute while in a conference call everyone on the other end of the line can hear me. This phobia is magnified if I am on a VERY long call and I need to pee. I have to go through a cycle of muting and un-muting my phone 3-4 times to make SURE that not everyone in the call will hear me answering natural's call.

2. At the end of the call I summarize it, agree on next steps and thank my mother for her time.

3. I wait for my daily Dilbert comic strip to show up in inbox. I check it eagerly as soon as it comes in. At first I find them lame. Then, I find it ironic that I was in a similar situation at one point. Later I laugh. I then cry. Daily.

Read this:

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Christmas on 25th, then on 7th WOHO!

Wohooooooooooooo! I just celebrated Christmas ......uhm.....again! :D

Actually I've always celebrated Christmas on the 7th of Jan. Every single year I wanted to look-up why Orthodox and Copts (like myself) celebrate Christmas on 7th of Jan while Western Christians celebrate it on the 25th.

So I found the long answer and I'll posting the link at the bottom, the summary is:

  1. Early Church fathers tried to estimate Jesus' birthday, by second century AD dates like May 20, April 18, April 19, May 28, January 2, November 17, November 20, March 21 and March 25 were all candidates.
  2. Modern scholarship estimates the year of Jesus' birth to be between 7 to 4 BC.
  3. Although the Gospel narratives offer no indication as to the date, they do seem to indicate it was not in the winter.
  4. By 273 AD, Western Christians had decided on December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The December date for the holiday probably arose from a desire to provide an alternative to the Roman "birthday of the unconquered sun" which was celebrated on the 25th of Dec.
  5. Some Orthodox Churches (including the Coptic one I believe) still use the Julian calendar ("old calendar") for their religious calendar. The Julian calendar is the predecessor to the Gregorian calendar ("new calendar") that is now the civil calendar of the western world. The Julian calendar is 13 days different from the Gregorian, so December 25 on the Julian calendar occurs on January 7 on the Gregorian calendar

This was news to me! :) I always thought the the difference between the two dates was because of a certain fundamental disagreement between the Eastern and Western Christan Churches! Seems it's just a technicality depending on which calendar is in use!

For the full article it's here:

Friday, January 05, 2007

When FINALLY you'r understood...

I maintain more or LESS (more emphasis on the LESS rather than the more) the same blog inside my work's intranet. So in response to my astronomically-egocentric post "The FeshFactor" I got this comment from a friend of mine @ work:

"A most impressive analysis that not only ties your self-importance to the world around you but also demonstrates a solid example of narcissistic personality disorder ("

So simple and yet so true...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

...and for that I respect Saddam Hussein

Have you seen Saddam Hussein's "leaked" cell phone video of the execution? It's not for the light hearted as the video goes on to record scenes of Saddam's lifeless body, post the execution! The strange thing is right before Saddam is executed -as you have probably heard on the news- the people in the room start to taunt him. Saddam's reaction to this taunting surprised me, he was very calm and in a very low tone and a small grin on his face he said: Is that the bravery of the Arab people?

This really blows my mind, how can you be seconds away from your death and even when humiliated, you not only keep your cool, but even better to utter such a well-thought statement that coldly and bitterly insults those who taunt you?

This statement, specially that Saddam said it in classical Arabic, is amazing as Arabs -specially in the older times- usually were very proud and wrote poems about how brave a person is or how generous. Bravery specially is regraded as a key trait that is appreciated. So a statement like this -I'd think- clearly undermines the bravery of those who dared only to insult him when he's about to be hanged.

I despise Saddam for the dictator he was, yet I respect how he faced his humiliating death.