Answering de Mistura’s Call

1 02 2016

A couple of days ago, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura recorded a message to the women, men and children of Syria, ahead of the Intra-Syrian Talks at UN Geneva. And I answered his call on Facebook with the following message:

I appreciate your call Mr. Staffan, and being a Syrian citizen myself, I am more than happy to respond with my wishes for the new Syria from my point of view:
1. I want a secular Syria where all citizens are treated equally and fairly by law, where no person will be judged or tried based on their religion or beliefs.
2. I want an independent country that doesn’t become a US puppet or a NATO slave, with a firm foreign policy that works actively on getting the occupied Golan heights back from Israel (something that the UN has failed to resolve since 1967 with the security council resolution 242), and that stands side by side with the Palestinians to establish their own independent country.
3. I want a democracy that is based on merit, not on religion. Democracy that grows from the inside by the Syrians themselves, not the US-enforced model of democracy in Iraq or Libya, nor the KSA-sponsored Lebanese model that splits the government based on the country’s religious sects! So no, a Sunni president is not an acceptable solution just because they represent the major religious sect, nor is any other president chosen solely based on their religion.

And now, I will tell you why these 3 seemingly basic points will never come true, no matter how much we say “khalas” or “kefaya”:
1. How can the so-called “Syrian representatives” in Geneva agree on secularism when the opposition members were basically elected by Saudi Arabia, the notoriously religious kingdom? And where Erdogan, the self-proclaimed Ottoman emperor (in power for 13 years and counting) with a shameful record of tyranny and oppression is also the number one sponsor of some of the extremist rebel group, and actively supports them with the aid of the Turkish army?
2. How can Syria ever be independent and get back its occupied territories when the primary sponsor of the current “representatives” and negotiations is the United States (Israel’s bodyguards)? When did anything good ever come from a US sponsored solution anyway?!
3. How can we ever have a proper democracy when the so-called “revolutionists” and “moderate rebels” are fighting based on a religious agenda supported and armed by countries such as the KSA, Qatar, and Turkey? And they even have “representatives” speaking on their behalf in Geneva!

So, you see sir, we’re not the solution, and we’ll never become the solution as long as Syria is being played by a bunch of hypocrite politicians, warlords, and arm dealers who seek nothing but profit and political gains. So my suggestion for you is to turn to those people instead and tell them to quit their hypocrisy and fix their own countries before trying to fix Syria, and get their filthy hands out of it. They’re the ones fueling the war and they’re the ones with the power to end it, not us.
Best of luck in your impossible mission.
(Hint: Do as Kofi Annan did and save face before it’s too late. The UN is incapacitated beyond repair at this point)

A comment on recent incidents at refugee centers in Sweden

28 01 2016

It saddens me to hear about these events in Sweden. I believe those crimes should be punishable by law, and yes, being a refugee or a “traumatized” person doesn’t give you the right to violate the law.
Just like any other human society, I expect that there will always be a certain percentage of criminals or violent people. And as long as they are treated fairly according to the law, their existence doesn’t surprise me. A crime is a crime, whether it was committed by a “refugee” or a “Swede”, so please don’t blame it on the wrong reasons.

And that’s why I want to talk about this, because I’m reading a lot of controversial comments on news articles blaming multiculturalism, society, or the government, and I just want to put my opinion out there because this subject concerns me as a Syrian living in Sweden.

I do understand why people get angry and frustrated, because yes, basically the taxpayers are the hosts -and supporters- of those refugees, and it definitely hurts to be treated badly by someone you just helped rescue.
What I can’t understand however is blaming multiculturalism, and I can relate to this from personal experience. Had we adopted this kind of ideology in Syria we wouldn’t have gone as far as fighting each other, regardless of how dire the circumstances were. We gradually lost our cultural variety (due to multiple reasons that I won’t go into) and thus our tolerance and understanding toward each other, and I would argue that this was one of the reasons we got into a civil war.

I believe there are lessons to be learned from a multicultural society, one of them is learning to respect and treat people as humans rather than skin color, gender, religion, or country of origin. I’m using the word “learning” here because this is a very long process that will never be achieved at 100%, and although the concept sounds too ideal, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for.
We used to brag a lot about how culturally diverse our society was, but we failed to support it. It was a slippery slope, as we slowly start distrusting your co-workers, neighbors, or even friends or family, and now we reached a point where we can’t even tolerate a difference in opinion, much less anything else! So where would you draw the line here? You start with present-time refugees, then move on to 1st generation Swedes? 2nd generation? 3rd? And then what?

And hence this is my plea for Sweden, don’t abandon what you have slowly built all these years. I believe “The People’s Home” is a concept well worth nurturing, especially at this advanced stage. To lose diversity (cultural or otherwise) I believe would be a social regression that might create much bigger problems in the future. And again, I’m only saying this because I have experienced living in a mono-cultured society, and I can tell you it’s much worse than you might think.

نظرة إلى مستقبل الحواسيب الخاصة

23 02 2009

برأيي المدخل للتنبؤ بمستقبل الحواسيب هو الرجوع للماضي. ما هو الحاسب؟ وما هو المطلوب منه بشكل أساسي؟ هذان السؤالان هما المسؤولان عن تحديد المطلوب من المنتج بصورة عامة، وبالتالي هما العامل الأساسي الذي يحدد الاتجاه العام الذي تتجه اليه الحواسيب في المستقبل. أما الموديلات والتقنيات المتوفرة حالياً ما هي الا أشكال مرحلية بتاريخ الحاسوب تلبي حاجات المستخدمين في المرحلة الحالية.

بما أن الحاسب حتى الآن لم يستطع الوصول الى جميع شرائح المجتمع فهو لم يحقق المطلوب منه حتى الآن، وجميع شركات الحاسب على علم بهذه الحقيقة، وما زال البحث مستمراً عن النظام الذي سيحقق التوازن المثالي بين القدرة (الأداء) وسهولة الاستخدام (أو ما يسمى بـUsability). وعلى الرغم من أن العتاد يتجه أكثر فأكثر الى التعقيد ورفع الأداء (ومؤخراً التوفير بالاستهلاك بالوقت نفسه) فإن تجربة المستخدم ما تزال بنفس المستوى تقريباً، وهي تتجه نحو مزيد من السهولة، ولكن ليس بنسبة تطور العتاد نفسها.

أما ما اتوقعه من الحاسب للمستقبل فيقسم إلى قسمين منفصلين: العتاد، وواجهة الاستخدام (نظام التشغيل). وذلك لأن كل محاولات التطوير التي حصلت في العقد الماضي (في مجال الحواسيب بشكل خاص) كانت تسري باتجاه التقارب بين العتاد والبرامج بحيث يصبح كلاهما أسهل للاستخدام والتعامل، ولكن معظم هذه المحاولات لم تساهم كثيراً في تحقيق هذا التقارب، وأكبر دليل على ذلك أن معظم المستخدمين حتى الآن لا يستطيعون التعامل مع العتاد بشكل مباشر (كتركيب قطع جديدة، أو حل بعض المشاكل البسيطة)، ليس لأنهم لا يستطيعون فهم أو استيعاب هذه الآلية، بل لأنهم غير ملزمين بمعرفة تفاصيل العتاد وتعلم التعامل معه! فكل ما يحتاجه المستخدم (المستخدم العادي على الأقل) من الحاسب هو أداء مهمة معينة ومحددة (كإرسال رسالة بريدية). وهذا ما لم ينجح به المطورون والباحثون حتى الآن.

بالنسبة للعتاد، أتخيل أن المستقبل يتجه أكثر نحو العمومية، فقطع العتاد تتجه أكثر نحو الاندماج فيما بينها، والمثال على ذلك هو التغاء الحاجة -تدريجياً- لبطاقات الصوت الإضافية، بطاقات الشبكة السلكية أو اللاسلكية، وحتى بطاقات الإظهار. ولعل أكبر مثال حالي على هذا التقدم هو ظهور ما يسمى بالنظم المدمجة على شريحة (Systems On a Chip SOC) مثل المنصات الداعمة لمعالجات Intel Atom الحالية أو مثلاً منصة nVidia Tegra، وهي جميعها لا تحتاج سوى التوصيل إلى أجهزة العرض!
هذا الدمج بين المكونات يدعو بالضرورة إلى تصميم شرائح جديدة تستطيع أداء مهمة جميع البطاقات والشرائح الأخرى، وهذه هي أساساً مهمة المعالجات متعددة الأنوية بجميع أشكالها (Intel Core i7، Creative Zii، STI Cell، AMD Phenom 2، وغيرها). وهذا يعني أن المستقبل سيحمل لنا شريحةً واحدة قادرة على أداء جميع المهام في الحاسب دفعةً واحدة، ذات حجم صغير، وذات استهلاك منطقي للطاقة.

أما واجهة المستخدم (أو البرامج بشكل عام) فهي تتجه نحو تبسيط الاستخدام قدر الإمكان، وتتجه نظم التشغيل نحو ضم المزيد من الأدوات والتسهيلات للمستخدم بحيث يحتاج إلى عدد أقل من الخطوات لتنفيذ مهامه وللتعامل مع العتاد. ولكن الخطوة الأكبر تتجه نحو استضافة البرامج على شبكة الانترنت، وهي خطوة منطقية نظراً لازدياد عرض الحزمة والسرعات المتاحة للمستخدمين. وبذلك تنتهي مشاكل التنصيب والتوافقية مع العتاد، وتسهّل من عملية الصيانة والتحديث وكشف الأخطاء، وبالتالي فهي أيضاً توفر من كلفة انتاج البرامج وصيانتها، وبالتالي تتركز قدرات المطورين أكثر على إمكانيات البرنامج وقدراته وتحسين أدائه.
وتفيد هذه الفكرة أيضاً في تخفيض كلفة الاستخدام بالنسبة للمستخدم، فبدلاً عن الحاجة إلى دفع ثمن برنامج كامل لمجرد أنه يحتاج لتعديل فقرة معينة مثلاً، يقوم المستخدم بالدفع وفق حاجته فقط، كما أنها توفر عليه كلفة تطوير الحاسب ليتمكن من تشغيل البرنامج على جهازه الخاص. وعلى الرغم من أن هذه النقلة تعتبر نوعية وضخمة بكافة المقاييس إلا أنها تعتبر المصير المحتوم لمعظم البرامج التي نستخدمها يومياً، وهذه الفكرة مطبقة حالياً ومستخدمة، ومنها Google Docs، والبرامج التي تعتمد على منصة Adobe AIR.

أما التصور النهائي للحاسب في المستقبل بشكل عام فأعتقد أن التقنية الحالية المسماة (Cloud Computing) تعبر عن الفكرة العامة للحاسوب. فكل ما يحتاجه المستخدم في النهاية هو وسيلة العرض، وشريحة مدمجة مصغرة وبسيطة تتحكم بالمهام البدائية للحاسب (أو ما سيسمى الـInterface)، بالإضافة إلى اتصال سريع بالانترنت. وهذا سيكفي لآداء جميع المهام التي يحتاجها المستخدم العادي.
تعتمد هذه الفكرة بشكل عام على اللامركزية. مثلاً نقل مركز معالجة البيانات من المنزل إلى “مكان ما” على الشبكة، ونقل مركز التخزين إلى المساحة المخصصة لكل مستخدم في “مكان ما” على الشبكة. وهذه الخدمات مدفوعة حسب الحاجة، ويمكن توسيعها أو تضييقها حسب الحاجة الشخصية لكل مستخدم على حدة. فإذا تم نقل مهام المعالجة، ومركز تخزين المعطيات إلى الشبكة لن يحتاج المستخدم في منزله (أو بالأحرى في جيبه) إلى أكثر من شريحة بسيطة ووسيلة إظهار لأداء جميع مهامه.
طبعاً الفكرة أشمل وأوسع وتحتاج إلى موضوع خاص، ولكنها ذكية ومنطقية بشكل كافٍ لتكون في مقدمة التقنيات التي يتم تطويرها حالياً.

هل يعني هذا أن الحاسب المكتبي (أو المحمول) بشكله الحالي في سبيله إلى الانقراض؟ برأيي سيبقى النموذج الحالي معتمداً لدى الكثيرين حتى فترة طويلة، لأن الحاجة إلى المركزية ستبقى موجودة في بعض الحالات الخاصة، وسيبقى هناك المستخدمين المشككين الذين يختارون الابتعاد عن التقنيات الحديثة (لسبب أو لآخر)، وهناك دوماً العديد من المستخدمين “النمقين” الذين لن يملوا من شراء ولمس وتركيب الدارات الالكترونية بأيديهم واصابعهم…

(Note: This post was originally intended to appear in a public forum, so it’s not specifically written for a blog)

So, What About Dance?!

25 11 2008

The reason why I always enjoy watching the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” is the great attention to details, and the apparent interest in the act of dancing itself, rather than just splattering incoherent critiques like all the other shows.

What makes this show as unique as it is, is the seriousness of the judges. You always get the feeling that these people are not in it for the money. They’re in it to really find a talent, and work on it. They’re obviously devoted to this task, especially the show’s executive producer (Nigel Lythgoe), who’s not willing in any way, shape, or form, to betray his job by not saying the truth, even if it hurts, and he’s always right. With an incredible eye for details, Nigel not only makes the show interesting to watch, but also gives it that special glow, putting the show amongst my all-time favorite TV shows.

The other thing about “SYTYCD” is the dancing routines themselves. Top contributing choreographers, like the awesome Mia Michaels, and Wade Robson, plus many many others, bring out some really astonishing routines. Those of Mia’s design are IMHO the most captivating of them all; always humane, emotional, and sophisticated, with a blend of wonderful & unique moves and flicks that will definitely kick you off your seat.

Also, it is important to mention the diversity of the dancing styles presented on the show. It’s amazing how many dance styles there are in the world, each and every one of them has its own unique flavor. And that elevates the show to a higher level of artistic expression, because you’re always watching & learning something new. It’s almost like meeting a new person from a new country every day, which is actually the very essence if the cultural experience the show is trying to sell.

To keep it simple, “So You Think You Can Dance” is a wonderful creation, and is definitely one of the most respected TV shows I have ever seen. So yes, I am ready to watch an hour of TV ads just to get through the show. Even though it saddens me that a show like this could never go on without the ads and the votes, but if that’s the way the game is played, I’m joining every minute of it.

A bow of respect to Nigel Lythgoe for a fantastic show, and for keeping the art of dance alive.

KSA, Supercomputers, and Science!

21 10 2008

Well, here’s an interesting news to open up the blog after a month of total absence: Sixth most powerful supercomputer coming to Saudi Arabia

It really shocked me to hear about that. Not only because I never thought an Arabian country would ever get a supercomputer, let alone the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but also because I never read an article putting the words “Science” and “KSA” in the same sentence!!

I mean, it’s a great move for them, and the KAUST project looks so damn promising to the point of disbelief! A university for both sexes is a first for the KSA, a supercomputer in a university is a first in the whole Arab world. But having a “…huge, nearly unlimited resources for research work…” is a shocker!!

So, congratulations to the KSA, and hats-off to you guys for diverting all that money from the skyscraper business to the educational sector. I only hope they will not use it to calculate prayer times in the entire solar system for the next 10 centuries!!… No, that was a joke, so, chill..

Seriously, I hope they put it to good use, maybe something that would benefit the entire region, or their fellow Arabs as a whole.

Anyway, as with ‘most’ of my posts, this one has a purpose. The purpose of this post is to remind the Syrians that, to this moment, we STILL don’t have any kind of scientific research in our universities. Which is a VERY, VERY disturbing fact, considering that research is a major role-player in a country’s cultural and scientific state.

Just as an FYI, I’m not implying that we need supercomputers, or unlimited resources, or any of that fancy stuff. Because I know we don’t have that kind of advantage. But, I think I can prove that we COULD do some kind of research with what we have. Let’s just do some research. Nothing fancy, I’m not talking AI or bioengineering, I’m talking simple stuff. We can do it theoretically, we can at least look at our options taking into account our limited resources. I’m quite confident it could be done.

You have to forgive me for being so pushy about this thing, it just saddens me to go through the whole 5 years of engineering school without doing any kind of valuable work. I know many others of my colleagues who are just as enthusiastic as I am. The only thing we need is projects and support (maybe spiritual support), both of which are in the hands of our college professors. So, obviously the whole system has to be reconstructed to account for all the variables. So it is not an easy story. But change is always hard. The most important thing we need to do is take the first move toward that goal.

And, as long as we don’t see any sign of a first move, one thing will remain certain: we’re not moving forward. The KSA has taken a HUGE step forward, in a massive scale too. I know it looks shiny and makes for a great news headline, but we don’t need all that. All that matters is: usage, and outcome. Everything else is just paparazzi stuff..

The Thin Red Line Between Faith, And Fiction!

11 09 2008

Before continuing with this post, I urge you to read some of the comments posted in the following page:

The Top 10 Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths)

The interesting thing here, is the never ending battle between science and faith. This battle has been raging ever since people started talking to each other.

In my opinion, faith equals fiction. In a general, grand scope of things, it’s as simple as that. But allow me to elaborate a bit.

Mankind’s most valuable instinct is the desire to explore, to ask and look for answers. Of course, one wouldn’t be more happier to exist on planet earth. Where questions are virtually unlimited.

At the same time, mankind enjoys a more important basic instinct; the instinct of survival. Some would call it the fight or flight effect. Basically, this instinct helps us with our most desperate situations (fighting a wild bear, or maybe staring at a pistol’s barrel pointed right at your forehead), it helps us to decide whether to fight the situation, i.e. physically struggle for survival, or fly, i.e. run away from the situation as fast as one could run.

So, going back in time to pre-fire ages, mankind is faced by a natural-born fire in the woods nearby, and it’s heading right at him. This being a desperate situation, the fight or flight kicks in, and one chooses to run away from the fire.

Mankind survives the threat of fire, but now comes the other instinct: “What the hell was that?!??!”, one would ask. The fire was -at that time- unexplainable by conventional methods. And here comes the myth of the mighty God of Fire.

I know the example is a bit childish and TOO simplified to be true, but it makes a sense in one way or another. Fire represents the fictional element. Which, eventually, turned into a matter of gods and myths, the essence of faith.

A while later, fire is explained, and suddenly, the gods perished from existence. And skipping some thousands years later, here comes another mystery: “Who created the stars, the galaxy, the planets??”, and once again, gods come again to provide the simplest answer to the most sophisticated questions; “everthing around us simply exists to show off the gods’ ability to create and manipulate stuff at their comfort!” And that’s all you need to know, now get out and pray for forgiveness!

Read the rest of this entry »

Geek Contraception!

14 07 2008

Geek Contraception!!

What a wonderful term..

“The Scottish Government is investigating a cunning plan to use computer games to stop teenage girls becoming pregnant.”

That was the headline of a news article found at Fudzilla.

The news itself is best described as a joke. But the interesting part is the sub-title: “Geek Contraception”. At first, you get a good laugh at that term, but in the end, it does ring a bell of some sorts.

The term Geek is spread wide in the 21st century, almost internationally, as part of the global pop culture scene.

It is also globally agreed that Geeks are identified as “socially interactive nerds”. If you don’t know what a nerd is, imagine your classmate who was getting all the straight A’s with those thick eye glasses, and the momma’s boy uniform. All while having almost no social skills of any kind.

So, back to the geek stuff. According to Wikipedia, a geek is

“a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, gaming, etc…”

I have to mention other very important facts and definitions about geeks (also from Wikipedia):

  • A person who is interested in technology, especially computing and new media. Geeks are adept with computers, and treat the term hacker as a term of respect, but not all are hackers themselves.
  • A person who relates academic subjects to the real world outside of academic studies; for example, using multivariate calculus to determine how they should correctly optimize the dimensions of a pan to bake a cake.
  • A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who passionately pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance.
  • A person with a devotion to something in a way that places him or her outside the mainstream. This could be due to the intensity, depth, or subject of their interest. This definition is very broad but because many of these interests have mainstream endorsement and acceptance, the inclusion of some genres as “geeky” is heavily debated.

I find the 3rd definition to be the one closest to how I think about geeks. In fact, it’s the reason why I respect geeks, in contrary to the commonly used geek-rejection social behavior.

I know I’m a geek too (been called once by a former employer), & I fit perfectly into all the mentioned definitions. So, I’m aware that my opinion may be a bit biased. However, I feel it’s necessary to clear a few points out.

The most important fact that people usually tend to forget about, is the relativity between a geek and a certain society or culture. It is mentioned above (point 3) that geeks are put out of the “mainstream social acceptance”. It’s necessary for us to ask about the real definition of the term “mainstream social acceptance”, and how it affects the socially-common point of view towards geeks. If you ask about the other point of view here, you’ll find that geeks see other people also as “out of the social acceptance of the geek culture”, even if they -geeks- form a social minority. So, who’s right, and who’s wrong?! Does being counted as a mainstream person means that you’re exhibiting the right social behavior? Or is it because you’re a minority you think that you are definitely superior?!?

People also forget about the mutual relationship between these 2 social groups. When applying the definition of a geek to pre-popculture history you’d find that all the scientists, mathematicians, and physicists of the past are identified as geeks. So, it’s quite obvious that it’s mutual. Society NEEDS geeky people, and those geeks are left useless without the society they live in.

But imagine what happens when we try to merge both together! What would happen if geeks are put back into the “mainstream social acceptance”?? Wouldn’t that bring bigger benefits for both sides?? Wouldn’t it wipe the term geek from existence??

Let’s take into consideration that families usually panic when they find a family member exhibiting some of the geek behaviors. Most of those families try to change that member’s behavior in order to bring him/her away from a “disaster”. Only because geeks are not socially accepted!? Isn’t that a bit silly?!?

I think we should encourage the geek behavior, AND also work harder to eliminate the cement wall between geeks and society. That way, we can get a lot more benefit from geeks, AND most importantly, we’d also give geeks their social lives back, eliminating the imaginary geek disease.

So, going back to that article by Fudzilla, I’d say that the so called “geek contraception” is working well right now.. But it’s no laughing matter. I’d rather find ways to resolve this issue rather than crack jokes about it.

It requires a solution because you can’t make people love science and technology if you’re constantly reminding them of the “geek disease”. And that will hold us all back.

Oh, and girls, if you’re reading this please don’t get it wrong! I’m a nice man, give me a chance to prove myself! I’m not so geeky after all!! ;p