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.