Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blogging Clients; an update…

That does it. My search into the world of blogging clients did not yield much. Of the free  software I tried – although it pains me to say it – Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer is the best of what’s available. It has a bundle of useful options, a clean and nice user interface, a very simple and intuitive setup procedure, a good WYSIWIG and photo editor, and some very useful plug-ins that can be added.

In Summa, it works, it is efficient, it is easy, and it is free.

Although the best advice I got might have been Rita’s who advised me to migrate away from blogger; I think I’m going to stick around for a while to see how it goes…

Monday, March 29, 2010

How to Silence a Moral Wanker?

When you encounter a moral wanker of the male variety in public lecturing about the vice that is homosexuality and gloating about his own moral self-righteousness just pose the following inquiry: "Care to explain to us, O self-righteous one, about how wide and varied a Porn collection of females in action you own?". Just watch them squirm afterward as they go into tilt mode; it works every time as it appears many male Homo Sapiens just cannot get it that Lesbians are homosexuals too!

St. Maron in the Vatican?

A few days ago while watching the daily news on MTV I saw a lengthy report of joy and jubilation with the news that the Pope had granted a special holy corner in St. Paul’s Basilica where a 5 meter statue of St. Maron shall be erected. As always, the cynical in me swallows everything the Lebanese media regurgitates with a pinch of salt. So, I ran a Google News search on the subject today to confirm the story. Lo and behold, Google and all its might could only find two references for the search string “Vatican, Maron, statue” (I even tried different spellings of Maron just in case Google wasn’t getting it). The first is a link to a L’Orient Le Jour article I could not access; the second is a story referencing a press release from the Maronite Church - excerpt below - that can be found here.

This is a momentous event for the Lebanese Maronite Church and indeed for whole of the Catholic Church and will be celebrated in a big ceremony on the 31st of October 2010 by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
I’m at a loss here; how can such a momentous event for the Lebanese Maronite Church and indeed for the whole of the Catholic Church be treated with such indifference by the world media?

Possible theories:

  1. The story is bogus and fabricated by the Lebanese Maronite Church
  2. The event is hardly momentous but part of a routine re-decoration and house-cleaning exercise of the Basilica
  3. St. Maron’s statue is an allegory; he will be present in spirit not in stone
  4. Google’s search engine does not index the divine word
  5. St. Maron’s name in Vatican jargon is not Maron but something else
Can someone resolve the mystery? 

PS: Running a general Google search for the same words landed me on the Youtube video of the MTV news bit on the subject; it can be accessed here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Phoenicians speak… Turkish; What gives?

May Chidiac
 “Merhaba” – Hello in Turkish – was May Chidiac’s opening line today at the 16th commemoration of the dismantlement of the Lebanese Forces. And I thought Lebanese Nationalists – or more precisely Christian supremacists of May’s genre – were intent on reviving the Syriac language, or was it Aramaic?

Carlos Slim; The Reality (or Illusion) of the Lebanese Dream…

As’ad does it again. Excellent article about the annoying and repulsive cultural traits of Lebanon and the Lebanese. Full article can be found here.

 

ما النائبان إيلي كيروز وستريدا جعجع فقد أوردا إنجازاتهما النيابيّة في رسالة إلى «الأخبار» وفيها: «وطالما أن السيد كارلوس سليم يزور لبنان، فمن المفيد التذكير بأن النائبين جعجع وكيروز قصدا المكسيك خصيصاً، حيث اجتمعا به طويلاً، وطرحا عليه صراحةً المساهمة في دعم المشاريع الإنمائية والسياحية في منطقة بشري». أي إن محاولة «الشحادة» من كارلوس سليم أصبحت ترد في السير الذاتيّة لنواب مسخ الوطن. وذكرت بعض الصحف أن زيارة سليم كانت بمبادرة من البطريرك الماروني الذي أراد أن يُقنعه (على ما قرأنا) بإمكان شراء أراضي المسيحيّين حتى لا تقع في أيدي المسلمين (لا أستطيع الجزم بصحّة الخبر مع أن توجّهاته لا تختلف عن أفكار من دعا في 2005 إلى حصر تصويت المسلمين بالمرشحين المسلمين وحصر تصويت المسيحيّين بالمرشحين المسيحيّين). لكن سليم خيّب آمالهم إلى الآن. جاء الرجل من أجل كأس من العرق وليعرّف أحفاده على قبر جدّهم فظنّت ستريدا أن فرج القوّات آت، وظنّ أمين الجميّل أن مال سليم سيعيد مجد الكتائب اللبنانيّة (التي لم تكن يوماً في خدمة لبنان مع أنها أدت خدمات جليّة لإسرائيل)، وظنّ البطريرك أن سليم سيشتري مجداً إضافيّاً للبنان.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blogging clients…

I’ve been trying to find a usable desktop blogging client as blogger’s interface really annoys the hell out of me. I’ve had the Scribefire extension installed ever since I made the switch to Firefox a few years ago – it was called Performancing at the time – yet don’t really like it.

Does anybody have any suggestions?

This post is being reluctantly written using Microsoft’s Live Writer while waiting for the download of Thingamablog to complete.

Help! Anyone?

Edit: This is why you should read instructions first; Thingamablog is a standalone application and does not work with blogger!

I'm sure this is the last we'll hear about this story...

Saudi prince arrested in Lebanon over drugs...

The 51-year-old prince, identified only by his initials Y.B.A.A., was carrying an estimated about 16.3 grams of  cocaine; worth about USD 1,600. He was about to leave Lebanon for France, Beirut-based a-l Akbar daily reported on Thursday.

The social media clown queen...

I thought I'd never live to watch a character more annoying and repuslive than May Chidiac parading on TVs; I was wrong. Queen Rania of Jordan is in fact a little more repulsive but much more annoying. I mean, seriously, can you just go raise your future princes and leave us the fuck alone! Yes, I know, you want to induce change by leveraging the power of interactive social media and what not, don't you? Well, go change some diapers and ask your hubby to free some of the journalists locked away behind bars in his merry kingdom.


You can listen to her here blabbering about education...


In the scorching sun...



Why are people always under the impression that they are giving you a favor by doing their jobs? Do they seriously expect additional compensation just for doing what they're supposed to do? I'm here all alone with a bunch of Expats who don't have a choice but to be here trying to get the wheel rolling again on a day off. The disappointment really is with the supervisors and managers who somehow seem to think that a machine breakdown is not a problem of theirs. But it is. And I don't give a damn if it's your day off and that you'd rather spend it jerking off or sleeping it off. I expect you to be here on the ground leading your men. But alas, you are not! It is in moments like these that one can differentiate between the good and the bad. It is moments like these that ultimately decide who grows and who stagnates. It is moments like these that separate the mediocre from the outstanding. But worry not. You will get your dues and exactly that which you deserve.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Priests, choir boys, and apologies...

The Catholic church is under assault for all the wrong reasons. It is being condemned for the unscrupulous rotten institution that it is with its horde of sex depraved nut-heads posturing as moral yardsticks and running its profit centers. I am unconvinced. Don't get me wrong, Pedophilia is a hideous crime and deserves all condemnation - although I am very cynical about cases of abuse that get reported half a century after the fact. However, as always, the bigger picture is lost on most. Sex abuses, molestation, pedophilia, and cover up accounts are an infinitesimally insignificant side-story in the history of an institution plagued with a long list of crimes carried over two Millenniums.

I mean, sure, a few boys and girls got emotionally scarred from having had to suffer sexual abuse by the chaste men of the lord's altar. This - hideous as it is - definitely pales in comparison to the grand feats of the inquisition and the multiple genocides supported and perpetrated by this crime syndicate called "The Church". But even the ugliest chapters of this institution's history are not that significant when compared to its biggest crime against humanity; Subduing man's will and reason, shackling them over centuries, thereby turning him into a sick resentful guilty sinner who renounced this world, himself, and his role of creator to the imagination of psychotic Saints and Priests. There lies the true genocide perpetrated by the church and its army of moral wankers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Organic scam; Lebanon's water...

Jimmy, whose own World can be accessed here, was kind enough to provide some facts about the current water situation in Lebanon quoted below in full:

hey dionysos, without going into too much detail, a few quick facts about potable/irrigation water in lebanon:-

  • the main water source supplying the majority of beirut and mount lebanon with potable water is located in an area which is being dangerously polluted by leaking petrol station tanks which are impacting the aquifer
  • raw sewage is used for irrigation is many agricultural areas (i am personally aware of certain areas in the bekaa)
  • nitrate values in agricultural production (such as potatoes) in lebanon is so high that the producers are being banned from exporting these to OECD countries
  • industrial chemicals (i have personally witnessed arsenic, mercury and lead) are being disposed of inside irrigation water channels by small industries (such a leather treating and dieing industries, etc) in many villages in lebanon. the same water is directly being channeled to agricultural lands and used for irrigation
  • don't get me started on insecticides/herbicides!

it would be interesting to know whether organic production farms in lebanon are using biologically and chemically clean water for irrigation/preparation


To further corroborate Jimmy's facts I conducted a Google search that landed me on an ESCWA study about the water situation in Lebanon. Below is a short excerpt:

Water Resources Quality

As described earlier, water quality is affected by anthropogenic activities.  Major sources of pollution are related to raw sewage discharge, industrial wastewater, uncontrolled solid waste disposal, leaching of chemicals from dump sites and agricultural land  and salt water intrusion are the major source of water quality degradation. Seventy percent of all sampled water sources in Lebanon are affected by bacterial contamination. The discharge of domestic and industrial affluent into wells polluted major groundwater aquifers in the country.
    
Domestic Sector
  • Quality of distributed water usually deteriorates during distribution as a result of cross contamination from unsafe piping, rusting conduits and other defects in the network.
  • No operational waste water treatment facilities are developed in the country.
  • Waste water networks are either damaged or  undersized sewer over flow and discharge into rivers and streams is a common occurrence and has led to the contamination of drinking water sources 
  • Widespread pollution is significant in the major coastal country zones
    
Agriculture Sector
  • Excessive use of fertilizers and unregulated application of pesticides leads to contamination of both surface and ground waters
  • Untreated waste water is frequently used in irrigation in the Bekaa and as a result a number of out breaks of waterborne diseases have been reported.
    
Industrial Sector
  • Industries produce approximately 100 500 tons of solid waste and about 35 MCM of wastewater effluents with an estimated BOD load of 5000 tons each year.
  • These wastes are discharged into various water courses without any prior treatment and seep through the highly fractured bedrock into the ground water.

To use one of Bill Hicks' famous lines to the non-smokers of the world: "Guess what!? You're going to die too... Hahahah"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

And here we go again...

Another flight; a more familiar destination. I'm heading home - like my permanent expat residence - after 2 weeks of being on the run. Ah, I hate living off of a suitcase.

Ciao...

Friday, March 19, 2010

I called...

Indeed engraved the number was. The conversation was kinda awkward - especially explaining how I figured out her number part. Moreover at one point she called me Sir and I really hate being called Sir. Won't pursue it any further but will rather wait until I bump into her next time.

That's all folks...

Verocious Voice...

A friend of mine who grew all envious of the huge fan base I have garnered with this blog - Cheers to you my lonely follower ;) - has decided to startup a blog of her own.

She is Voila, the charming and dazzling beauty with a knack for expensive fashion-wear and a passion for my favorite spirits.

Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado I would like to present to you the Vicious, Ferocious, and Thundering Verocious Voice...

The beauty at the bar...

There I was, on a night out all by myself. I left home at about 1:00 am in a shitty mood and thought that a few drinks will cheer me up. I did not bother calling any friends for I was tired and not thrilled about having any company. The bouncers opened the way without asking me to pay the compulsory entrance fee. If you spread some dough around and tip handsomely doors open up automatically. I had a whiskey bottle waiting for me at the bar; it was from the night before. I took my regular whiskey on the rocks and took off roaming around aimlessly with my trademark grim look on the face. I do have the ability to look serious and uninviting when I put on a frowning look; it's a great advantage when I need to exhibit my disinterestedness and keep people away. I laid my back by the side of a wall and set about examining the scenery. The place was rowdy and loud. The live band had the crowd jumping and dancing. Drinks were flowing everywhere. In such situations I like to sit back and watch the human mating ritual. Inviting girls who have gone through all the trouble in order to make themselves appealing for the other sex. They stand or dance around together while the males ogle them. Then one of the guys makes a move. It is interesting to see how each approach differs. There are those who just dance on their own roaming around the dance floor with the hopes of enticing a girl to dance with them. There are those who stand with their buddies on the side discussing the merits of each potential mate and encouraging each other to make a move. There are those too shy to make a move who stand on the side hoping that a girl will approach them. And there is me, with my bad mood and frowning face, scaring off the poor girl who wanted to settle her drink on the table behind me. I have to admit, watching the human mating ritual and general interactions is a mood changer. The guy who got snubbed on the dance floor because he was being annoyingly touchy. The girl who almost got slapped by the guy standing next to her because she spilled her drink all over his shirt. The crazy guy dancing around with his arms up in the air clearly suffering from a bad BO day from the looks of those around him. I got tired from standing so I opted to move across to the bar and sit down.

I continued my watching exercise from the comfort of the bar and was too taken by trying to guess what the couple across of me were arguing about to notice the beauty that had just settled next to me. But my inattentiveness did not last long. It was her perfume that initially grabbed my attention and excited all my senses. I turned around. To my left she was standing ordering a shot of tequila from the bartender. Her shoulder was slightly rubbing against mine. Her profile was a work of art with proportions of mind blowing precision. The bartender handed her the bill and asked her to write something. Her soft elongated fingers found the pen and she began writing with fascinating grace. She wrote a phone number and signed off; probably because of a discount scheme she was using. I have the memory of a fish when it comes to remembering numbers but the scene of her writing is so vividly inscribed that I have formed a visual memory of the number she wrote. All of a sudden, my olfactory receptors went haywire when with a purposeful and precise motion of the hand she whiffed her light black hair off of her face while slowly turning towards me  causing a gust of air laden with her perfume to hit me directly in the face. I was barely able to recover when my eyes locked with hers. It took a conscious effort to unlock from her gaze in order to admire her beauty in full. I was mesmerized. Her skin was dazzling white and exuded a softness and flawlessness in its texture I was unaware possible. Then she smiled; the last nail in my coffin. I smiled back. It took me a moment to get the nervous impulses flowing all over my body under control to be able to talk to her. She is Thai and works as an air hostess in the national airline. She has been in the country for a bit over a month. Before I could know more a friend of hers took her by the arm and dragged her towards the exist; she clumsily managed to waive me goodbye while being pulled away. I realized that I did not ask her her number. I settled my bill and rushed outside. From a distance I saw her going into the car. Our eyes locked again form a distance. She smiled at me while the car sped away. Now I'm at a loss. Although the number is still engraved in my memory I have not yet dialed it.

PS: The girl in the picture is Tarja Turunen formerly the lead female vocalist from the group Nightwish. She has a fascinating angelic voice. The reason I used her picture is that the beauty at the bar from last night - although more beautiful than Tarja - shares a close resemblance with Tarja's best features.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You're fired!

True, no one uses these exact words in real life, but this is the reality in the corporate world; people get fired often and it is an unpleasant experience for both those being fired and those doing the firing. I have not yet been fired so I do not know what it truly feels like on the receiving end but I did have to fire people on multiple occasions and for different reasons. I fired people who slacked at their jobs. I mass-fired a group of people who refused to perform their jobs - actually, they were given  a choice to perform their job or resign and half of them chose the latter. I fired a person for having taken a bribe and another for being a nutcase.  The firing of the person who accepted money was the most distressing and the most revealing of how cruel people can be and how much power one wields over the lives of other men.

That poor Sri-Lankan Tamil who could not return to his country for political reasons just had to accept that stupid USD 15 from a garbage collector to turn a blind eye at the few steel bars the collector was smuggling on that day out of the site. He was even kind enough to share it with his three subordinates giving them USD 3 each so that they go buy some refreshments. These are the facts; and he admitted them. I had hired him 8 months earlier myself on an impulse - I am a good judge of character - at the company reception where I overheard him chatting with the HR recruiter; his demeanor was that of a hard worker eager to perform. I hired him on the spot after having asked him a couple of questions. It was the right decision although he had no shred of experience. He worked his ass off for 8 months and performed incredibly well in the dreadful job he had accepted where he was given a critical supervisory role over a staff of 3 workers/laborers. I had awarded his performance and 1 month before the incident I gave him a pay raise of 40%. What disgusted me in this particular case was how militant people can become to prey on the weak in order to further their standing. I was traveling when the issue blew up and by the time I came back it had exploded beyond proportions. His staff were made to testify against him and sign a document alleging that he had taken money on multiple occasions. These poor workers knew no English and were probably threatened with their jobs to rat on him. To my amazement everyone became a Sherlock Holmes trying to reconstruct an intricate plot by this one guy at the lowest end of the food-chain.

But he broke down. He confessed accepting a bribe. And he did change his story several times to his disadvantage. I interviewed him when I came back and decided to let him go as his story was not consistent; he was compromised and he fucked up. I did give him 2 months pay, allowed him to stay for 30 days on the job to use the time to seek another employment and avoid visa cancellation, approved he cashes in his yearly ticket and unused annual leaves, and gave him a letter of recommendation. I do not regret having hired him and I do not regret having fired him. Last time I saw him, he had found employment in another company and came by to get his papers cleared. I wished him good luck and he left.

This incident made me think a lot about the power one wields over the lives of others. I changed his life's direction at a strike of a pen when I hired him and changed it again at a strike of a pen when I fired him. On both occasions I could have taken a different decision and his life would have taken a different direction. The same goes for the other lives I changed in the last year and a half and those I'm about to change in the coming months.

The reason I'm writing this now - although it happened a few months ago - is that I am in the process of hiring a person to take on most of the responsibilities for the division I created and the team I built. This means I will be relinquishing my power over the lives of the people I went to battle with and bled alongside with for the last one and a half years to someone else. I ended up in a position where I control the direction of the lives of dozens of people by a combination of luck, necessity, and maneuvering. In order to achieve what I was tasked to do I had to take control over the struggling areas that were not my responsibility but affected my ability to deliver. Through strategic maneuvering/politics, poaching of talent, juggling of people, and sound decision making the team grew in steps from a one man show to a fully flawlessly functioning machine of a hundred. I created a team that could operate by necessity; what I now need is a team that can operate efficiently by design. Another strike of the pen and the lives of those I empowered and those who have carried the burden of the last year and a half will all hang in the balance. He is ruthless and purposefully chosen as such. A no-nonsense guy with a mission to structure and optimize the lean and flat organization I built. I will definitely wield my veto when necessary but will have to release the new person's hand in order to deliver on what he's been tasked to do. It is a difficult decision as I would have loved to lead the optimization drive myself but I'm burdened with other targets/objectives and in addition to being a huge distraction that role greatly affects my mobility. It is for the best of the company as it is for the best of my health and sanity. I just hope it turns out alright to all the people whose lives' direction will be decided by that strike of a pen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Home sweet home...


Finally back... I took a real physical beating from all this jumping around. Paradoxically, returning to my daily stressful routine is quite relieving.

Conclusions:

1. Pack only that which is necessary

2. Buy a carry on bag to avoid checking in luggage

3. Avoid non-smoking airports like a plague

4. Make use of those annoying Euro coins to avoid carrying back half a kg worth of nickel

5. Always make sure you're booked in a hotel with smoking rooms

6. Check the weather forecast instead of following your gut feeling

7. Buy a decent multi-plug adapter

8. Blog less and answer your emails instead

9. Make a taxi reservation when passing through Geneva as they are extremely scarce after midnight

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dionysos' world: The first review...

A lot of bloggers claim to be writing not for others but for themselves. Yeah right. You're just so generous you decided to share your writings with the whole world even though you do not care, right!? Hypocrites! Writing is an ego-boosting activity especially when one receives positive feedback - and that is unrelated to the type of writing one is engaged with. Anyway, the organic food loving friend was kind enough to give me her opinion about this blog. This kind of feedback is important to me as I'm still experimenting with different things and honestly do not know a thing about writing. If anyone has some tips that could help in some way please do share.

To summarize, apparently all my posts are of "similar style" and lack "climaxes and conclusions". They are like "a bunch of complaints" and do not "offer any alternatives". Her recommendation for me is to "diversify my writing portfolio" and "stop swearing at religion". The positive note was that "the ideas are great".

Style-wise, I'm working on it. I'm used to political bickering over the net and business communication which is why my style is a bit dry and offensive. Also, I have language deficiencies and a vocabulary gap that I need to bridge especially when it comes to descriptive bits; I cannot describe a scene visually enough even if my life depended on it. Also, is there a list of "style" standards? I know that poetry has its rules; does the same apply to prose?

Climaxes and conclusions: Well, I only know of climaxes in the context of sexual intercourse. Not too sure what it means in the context of writing. Would appreciate some guidance here. I disagree about the conclusion bit; most posts have conclusions - well, I do consider "thou shalt stuff your codes up your arses" a clearly laid out conclusion that may very well generate a climax - of the sexual variation - if followed literally!

Complaints/alternatives: This is true. I am uninterested in figuring out alternatives let alone preaching them; I hate preachers, remember? Other people can do that. Criticism for the sake of criticism is what I do. I'm like Schtroumph grognon if you wish; only more talkative, more eloquent, more intelligent, and much more handsome.

Swearing at religion: I do not swear at religion. I criticize it like everything else. I do not give it any special privileges just because people take it personal or are easily offended. This is unlikely going to subside especially since religion is like an octopus spreading its tentacles and affecting every facet of our lives.

Diversify writing portfolio: Not sure how. I propose you give me an assignment so that I can get the idea.



The organic scam... A follow up...

I received the first official review of my blog via Blackberry messenger today (more on that in the next post) - I hate Blackberry messenger by the way.  It is from a friend I had asked to review the blog and give me her opinion since she has studied journalism and should know a thing or two about writing; a friend who also conveniently happens to be the reason behind the organic scam post. I was visiting Dubai a couple of weeks back and met with the friend in question over a nice cup of coffee. While walking around the mall, she pointed towards what she called "the place where I do all my grocery shopping"; yes, you guessed it, it's an all organic shop. I obviously told her what I thought about this whole organic crap and she did not like it. I'm wondering why she bothered writing all that via blackberry! Afraid of being put under the spotlight maybe!?

I'm going to quote some bits from her message (I'm quoting verbatim):

Lol... U deceived me! It wasn't coherent. How did u link extra borojo et che pas koi avec organic food? Kel rapport?

There is no direct link. I was just pointing out how lax the Lebanese government is with regulating swindlers and charlatans. These charlatans make daily fallacious claims about their products even though in their case, their claims could lead to severe medical complications if viewers listen to their advice instead of visiting a professional.

About is organic food in lebanon certified or not... check coz there's a bunch of criteria that producers should match in order to promote as organic (gotta friend currently going through the process for that type of business). Believe it or not it's very regulated in leb.

I've never heard of a regulating body; do you have any articles/links/resources about it? But even if it existed, my point is that in Lebanon nothing gets enforced anyway; which makes the argument of there being a regulatory agency moot for its existence does not imply enforceability.

the water contamination leb suffers from is a universal environmental concern all over the planet. I expected you to try proving that regular food is as nutritious as organic food and not harmful (neither for the body nor the environment)...

Yes, the water contamination is a global concern. The point I was making in bringing up the water issue is the following: Claiming that something is grown organically is an oxymoron when the water used in irrigation is loaded with industrial waste; maybe Jimmy can interject with some of his data about the chemical/mineral/organic contamination of the water in Lebanon. As for the argument you expected, well, you expected wrongly. I cannot make claims about the nutritious value of food as I'm no expert in the matter. Besides, the point I'm making is not about the benefits - or lack thereof - of organic food but about the scam industry that lies underneath.

Ils sont fous ces Belges!!!

So I arrived to Belgium, the last leg of my straining trip across four European countries in a week's span. A taxi was supposed to pick me up so upon exiting the airport I started looking for my name on those little placards held up by the drivers. It was nowhere to be found. I went outside for a smoke, called the taxi company and gave them my location - good thing the guy who arranged for my trip had the presence of mind to email me the number of the taxi company. A few minutes later the driver shows up with the placard; actually it was not a placard but a regular A4 paper with the name of the company I'm visiting written on it with a ballpoint pen. Seriously, why would I be looking for the company's name on a placard!?

Anyhow, the driver is fluent in English and started blabbering while I punched on my Blackberry trying to signal my lack of interest. At one point the conversation went something like:

Me: So, how long is the drive?
Taxi Driver: Close to one hour
Me: Is the Town we're going to like a small town or does it have any attractions?
TD: It has a bustling nightlife and the hotel is situated 100 m away from the city center so you will enjoy it
Me: Any Belgian specialties you recommend I taste?
TD: French Fries!!!
Me: Huh!?

Apparently the Belgians are famous for their French Fries. Talk about efficient advertising; can't they at least call them something else!?

I arrived to the hotel lobby. Well, it's not really a lobby but more like a cramped up little welcome desk. It was manned (womanned?) by a nice lady whose accent sounded British. She has a tendency to giggle excessively and I'd like to think that it was my handsomeness and charm that caused it - or more likely some neurosis she suffers from.

Woman: (giggling) I did not expect you now
Me: Huh!? Why not? I'm just 15 minutes early (where I come from anything within the range of +/- 30 minutes is spot on time!)
Woman: (giggling) Yes, but I was expecting you at 9:00 pm
Me: Okay, so is there a problem?
Woman: (giggling) No, it's fine; I'll check you in. Do you have a business card?
Me: Yes, but it's hard to reach. I'll get it to you tomorrow. Can you please put me in a smoking room?
Woman: (giggling) Sorry Sir - I hate being called Sir - but this hotel is strictly non-smoking.

She pulls out a key-chain from which two keys were dangling

Woman: (giggling) This is why you have two keys. The small one is for your room. The bigger one is for the night entrance.
Me: Night entrance!?
Woman: (giggling) Yes, let me show you.

She drags me to the back door and shows me the "Night Entrance". Apparently, the front desk is only manned (womanned?) until 10 pm. To get around that constraint, every guest is given the key of the backdoor. I took the keys and carried the bags up two stories in a narrow staircase to my room. My room is called "Triumph" if anyone cares to know and it's located right next to "Victory" - actually it's not "Victory" but I'm too lazy to go back outside to check it. I put my luggage down and took out my suits out to hang them. Lo and behold, for whatever reason the closet is equipped with a motion activated light; pretty useless gadgetry and quite ironic to find in a hotel with no porter to carry luggage, no elevator, a front desk that closes at 10 pm, and no WIFI connection (I forgot to mention that bit but I got issued a cable to plug into the network). I immediately headed back out to check out the bustling nightlife the taxi driver talked about. Heading out I found out that I was mistaken; there is an elevator only it's hard to spot.

I took a stroll down the street towards the city center. There was no soul in sight. Half a cigarette later - yes, I sometimes measure time by cigarette consumption; half a cigarette is about 3 minutes - I arrived to the center of the town. It's a wide plaza with a few pubs/restaurants and a Church. It reminded me of my ghost hometown in Lebanon - the only resemblance actually is in them both becoming ghost towns after 9 pm. The restaurants had 3 - 4 guests each; quite bustling nightlife I must say. Anyway, I picked one that had a nice outside terrace in order to enjoy a hot meal without having to be displaced for the smoke. I ordered a steak - with the famous French Fries that did not turn out to be so special after all - and a coffee to finish off. What is it with Belgian excessive friendliness? While enjoying my meal 4 different guests walked by me while going into the restaurant at different times and every
one of them addressed me in Flemish. I assume they were either saying hello or bon apetit or something; I just smiled and did not bother answering back. It felt a bit awkward.

Okay, off for a smoke... Grrr... I hate Europe and its stupid anti-smoking activism! Why can't they just lay off our backs and let us smoke ourselves to death in peace!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Eyes wide shut...

After having spent about 8 hours in the train on a quick trip to Rome and back I was exhausted. I took a cab from the train station to the hotel, renewed my 24 hours internet subscription, checked out my emails, and was ready to go to sleep. However, at the last minute I decided to defy the urge to sleep and instead head out to explore the city's night life. I took a quick shower, put on some clothes, and off I went. I took directions from the hotel concierge who was nice enough to order me a taxi and give me the number of the taxi company in case I needed it on the way back.

Having arrived at my destination, I took a walk just looking around unable to decide where to go. A neatly dressed guy with a shitload of gel on his hair stopped me to hand out a flyer. He was promoting a club "Eyes Wide Shut" and the flyer featured the portrait of a woman wearing a mask reading on the back "Elegant and Mysterious night". The guy jumbled some incomprehensible italian gibberish and clearly understood from my clueless reaction that I was not about to answer back. "English? French? Spanish?" he offered. For some unknown reason I answered back "French" although I haven't spoken French in the last 10 years and under normal circumstances always prefer to converse in English. He explained to me where the place was situated and I told him I'll check it out later as I wanted to explore more before I decide on where to go. As I was heading out he fires a question "Vous etes d'ou Monsieur?" - by the way, I hate being called Monsieur or Sir; it makes me feel pretty darn old - to which I answered of course "Je suis Libanais". Then the conversation shifts to Arabic. The guy, Salim as I came to know later, is Tunisian and has been living in Italy for the last 10 years. Salim was a talker. He went on and on - unsolicited of course - explaining how he ended up in Italy, how he had considered going to Lebanon in 82 to help out in the war against the Israelis, how important it is for an Arab country to be in possession of the A bomb if there is ever going to be peace in the region, how much he likes the Lebanese, how he hates the lazy Egyptians, and some other geopolitical theories of his. In the end I had to interrupt him to shut him up so I asked "I'm here only for a night, so where do you recommend I go?". Salim, forgetting about his job promoting Eyes Wide Shut, recommended a couple of places and gave me directions to an apparently Lebanese club in another part of the city. Not being a big fan of anything Lebanese I decided against that and went out ahead to check out the places he recommended.

Among the places Salim recommended was "Talk Ville" which turned out to be "Toqueville" the club just around the corner. There was a huge queue and some mean looking bouncers turning people away. I hate queues and I hate being turned away so I went straight to the pile of muscles at the other end of the entrance. He looked at me and blurted out something in Italian which from his looks sounded like "go and wait in the queue what are you doing here?". I answered back in English saying something to the effect that I want to go in. Big pile of muscles speaks English and asks "how many people?". Duh! I'm standing alone with no apparent company, what kind of question is that? So he explains to me that only people with table reservations are allowed in. For a moment I considered blurting some random italian name and telling him I was invited to Paolo's table or something of the sort. Before I could speak, bigger pile of muscles - bouncer boss - approaches and asks the guy what's happening to which he probably answered that I wanted to get in but had no reservation. Bigger pile of muscles looks at me and waves me in. Bye bye queue and fuck you rule and order abiding lamoes. I bought my ticket form the counter and rushed in straight to the bar. I haven't drank in a while - well I had a couple of drinks the night before, but a couple of drinks don't count - and was in dire need of whiskey. What I like about Italians - and Lebanese; yes, there are a few things I like about them and will start keeping track now that I'm blogging just to figure out how many exactly - is that they pour the whiskey all the way up until it overflows unlike those cheap GCC joints employing Filipinos that use meters to ensure that the 1.5 ounces you ordered is the only 1.5 ounces you'll get; in the GCC you have to order a quadruple whiskey on the rocks if you are to enjoy a real full glass. There was a nice looking DJ - an Uma Thurman lookalike; and I do love Uma - dancing to the beat of the songs she was playing. The place was fun and had a nice ambiance so I decided to stay despite it being strictly non-smoking. First whiskey downed. I went out for a smoke. Second whiskey downed. I met a group of Spanish ladies who were dancing around next to me. It made for an interesting discussion and was a fun social exercise. I would say something in English that would trigger an initially bewildered look then a nod and a smile intended to fake understanding. She would say something in broken English mixed with Spanish to which I would nod and smile to fake understanding as well. Third whiskey downed. There was no need to go out again for smokes. I saw a few people lighting up inside and decided to apply my "everyone else is doing it" rule and the Spanish went along. Fourth whiskey downed. Magically, I can now understand Spanish and speak it fluently. Had loads of laughs from what I can remember. Fifth whiskey downed along with a couple of tequilas. What happened next is anyone's guess as I for sure don't recall a thing. Well, I do, I can recall some scenes - more like snapshots without voice nor movement and wide apart which makes it difficult to connect into a comprehensible story line. However, it is enough to conclude that I had a really enjoyable night. Mi corazón, if you ever read this, thank you for the wonderful time.

Salud, Dinero, Y Amor...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bend over and beg thy neighbor...


As is obvious to all by now, a lot of things piss me off in general but nothing more than the Lebanese psychological complexes. Have you noticed their jubilation at the mere mention of their name in one of the white man publications? Have you seen the exaltation whenever they are given a number in any of the white man ranking books?

The Lebanese went crazy when they got featured in the Guiness book of records for having made the largest Hummos dish; the largest hummos dish for fuck's sake! Do you remember how they went all berserk when CNN aired a report about Beirut being designated the best tourist destination of the world!? The Lebanese went on a sharing rampage all over the net! It was like Christ's second coming; digital coming - and this is no play on words to allude to any indiscretions he might have had with Mary Magdalene. There were links on facebook to the original report, links to the Lebanese TV stations' websites that carried the story and editorialized their news with it, links to blogs, links to newsites, and even links to links linking to the report or a news bite about it, But it did not end here. Facebook fan pages were created Become a fan of Beirut, the tourist capital of the world they read.

Ah, finally, acknowledged and validated by the white man.

Oh shut the fuck up, will you? Beirut is no tourist capital of the world. If anything, it's a badly run whorehouse on the verge of bankruptcy. I'd like to ask the proud Phoenicians - more on the Phoenician theme in a later post - how they feel when chaps from that vastly inferior culture of "Ayyyyrabs" - as Bush would say - are going through their women by the dozen. How does it feel when you go beg them Ayyyyrabs for financial and economic support? Do you still feel superior to them Ayyyyyyrabs you hypocrites?

The organic scam...

The latest craze about organic food is really getting on my nerves. Come to think of it everything that gains popularity gets on my nerves. Seriously, what's all the fuss about? Lady, and guy although I know it's mrs calling the shots on this, just because they stick an "organic" label on food does not mean it is.

So, What is "organic food"? Organic food generally means agricultural or livestock produce that is grown/reared organically; i.e. with minimal (everyone has a different meaning of minimal) use or no use of pesticide, herbicide, growth hormones, antibiotics, etc...

Let me clarify, I'm not talking here about European or US markets where governments regulate the market and have labeling standards according to which produce can be labeled organic or not. I am talking about the charlatans of the middle east and their marketing gimmicks that unfortunately shape consumer decision making. In Lebanon, and most if not all of the middle east, there is no oversight by any government agencies on marketing claims made by producers or distributors. This is why scams such as the Borojo scam by Amana Care, the Lifelong scam by Dr. (ha!) Imaz, and the Zein el Atat scam - You know, the three stooges marketing miracle creams that make you thinner, grow your hair, cure your cancer, improve your circulation, relieve you of the need to have dialysis, sculpt your muscles, eliminates your hemorrhoids, etc - that air on all TV networks uninhibited.

Some eye openers:
  • Meat (beaf): Mostly imported by shady traders. In the case of beef the worry should be radioactive contamination rather than non-organic feed regimes as Ukraine is one of the major sources of the beef coming into Lebanon. On a few occasions apparently dead/rotting cadavers made it to the Lebanese market.
  • Chicken: The chicken life-cycle is around 40 days (from the egg to the guillotine). At that age the chicken is not sexually mature yet; you thought you were eating chicken!? You're not, you're eating cock (sic). Chicken are put on a course of vaccines and other medication - normally antibiotics are not used as the life-cycle is too short and antibiotics are expensive. So, you're most probably eating a sick dead chicken or cock rather than an antibiotic treated one.
  • Animal derivatives (yogurt, milk, eggs): Animals get sick just like humans and need to be treated to keep producing. So, yes, antibiotics and vaccines are used multiple times over the course of their productive lives. Not only that, most of their output is rigged to decrease the costs. Fresh milk is mixed with water. Other derivatives are made by a mixture of fresh milk and powdered milk imported in bulk. Omega 3 eggs or baladi eggs are regular farm eggs bought from regular farmers but packaged in neat baskets and sold to gullible consumers.
  • Vegetables/fruits: herbicides and insecticide abound. Not only that, the water used in irrigation is a mixture of spring water, human refuse, and industrial waste. Yes ladies and gentlemen, all Lebanon's human and industrial waste is dumped into the same rivers that irrigate your vegetables and fruits. This is the ingenious recycling technique; you eat it, process it, shit it, eat it again with an added dose of chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides.
  • Water: And you thought you were safe drinking spring water didn't you? Well you are not. Yes, the great Lebanese bottlers use spring water when the springs' output is enough to cover their demand. During the summer period, when the output from springs drops, bottlers typically buy water from the market; water pumped out of wells and treated to regulate its mineral content. Go buy a Nestle bottle and tell me why the sodium content is not noted on the bottle as opposed to other bottlers?
It's the profit motive ladies and gentlemen. Why grow organic food at a higher cost when you can just label regular food organic and command thrice the price?!
Ultimately, you need worry not. You are eating shit anyway. When it comes to organic, you are still eating shit; or organic shit if you wish; i.e. Shit that is more expensive and nicely packaged with a neat tidy organic label. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lent... Ti's the season...

Lent is the period of fasting - normally 40 days but no one seems to agree on how many days 40 days really is - in preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. Fasting is abstaining from consuming some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. It is a practice shared by most religions and seems to be one of the necessary ingredients for founding religions. Well, the ingredients for founding a religion are pretty much standard all that is needed is:
  1. A founding figure
  2. A book
  3. A moral code
  4. A or many prophets
  5. A or many prophecies
  6. Rituals (prayers, fasting, abstinence, sexual orgies, animal/human sacrifices, etc...)
  7. Priesthood
  8. Adherents
Each religion - nay, each denomination within each religion - has its own set of rules and regulations governing fasting  - each funnier than the other yet every single one rationally justified along with its wacky exceptions. Adherents follow the prescriptions of their faith but seldom do they stop and ask themselves "Why?". Why does abstaining from gratifying oneself with the bare necessities of survival - food, drink, sex - is something that pleases God or gods or whatever? Of course, reasons are easy to come by especially the kind of quaky justifications that are normally blurted by believers. Humans amaze me really. I mean they went to such great lengths in their hallucinating endeavor of inventing gods, couldn't they have devised one that is a bit more mature, less insecure, and somewhat less self-centered. Couldn't they have imagined a god that is uninterested in and unconcerned with the boring details - food habits, sex habits, drink habits, etc... - of their petty lives?

But it is not surprising really for religions are notorious for demanding that humans abstain from certain activities. One must not forget that abstaining from using one's mental, critical, and rational faculties and suspending one's reason are prerequisites of a fulfilling religious life.

For those poor fasting souls I say: Good luck torturing yourselves to please your quaky deities...

As for I, well, I'll just show you the tongue, give you the finger, and head straight out to drowse my senses with all the pleasures life has to offer....

Monday, March 08, 2010

When the Witch-doctors triumphed....

Look at them flocking, head to head, crotch to butt, shoulder to shoulder, to kneel in front of their creation. Aimless, purposeless, powerless creatures bowing in front of the altars of their imagination. Awful sight. shameful existence. Wasteful activity. Rather than basking in all their deserved glory as creators they bow in humiliation as mere creations of their own imagined deities. What befell man to engage in such self-flagellation? To what cabals did man bestow his will? To what charlatans did man renounce his wisdom? Witch-doctors, saints, priests, men of faith, men of wisdom, men of the book, preachers of the right; damn you all. You have bewitched men with your truths. You have enchanted them with your fables. You have destroyed them with your fictitious causalities. You have ensnared them with your myths. Look at them, all dressed up for the occasion. Those sacrificial lambs consciously submitting themselves on the altars of your truths wishing to perish by the daggers of your wickedness. Hear them chant in unison. Hear them pray. Hear them worship. That mindless exercise in synchronized nothingness. Numb zombie-like bodies moving to the beat of running lips regurgitating the empty contents of their stuffed memories. Subdued, abased, and degraded they kneel together, hand in hand, leading each other down the path of self-denunciation. Man reduced to a shadow. Being reduced to nothingness. Individuals reduced to an intellect-less collective. Values turned upside down. The greatness of the singular denounced; the mediocrity of the whole venerated. Is there a sight more loathsome? Is there a view more pitiful? Is there an existence more shameful than one of self-renunciation, self-denunciation, and self-flagellation?

Friday, March 05, 2010

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Moral relativism...

Socks: check
Underwear: check
Clothes: check
Toiletries: check
Passport: check
Ticket: check
Books: ???

Ah, I hate my professional life. It has taken time from everything I like doing. Reading used to be a daily activity that is no more. Now it is confined to my private moments of meditation in the bathroom and my somewhat frequent business trips which is why I have become more of a book collector rather than a reader. Anyhow, preparing for last week's trip I stumbled upon a book I picked up when I last visited Beirut: "Moral Relativism" by a certain Steven Lukes. This was quite convenient since not long ago I stirred some emotional outbursts with my anti-absolutist ideas without necessarily understanding the underpinnings of my own stances. I have to say that most of my dispositions are natural inclinations that have been shaped by understanding what I am not rather than what I am.

So, what is "Moral Relativism"?

"Moral relativism is the idea that the authority of moral norms is relative to time and place"

"Norms are rules that indicate which actions are required, prohibited, permitted, discouraged, and encouraged"

"Moral norms cover matters of importance in peoples' lives, where they are faced with distinguishing right from wrong. Moral norms are directed at promoting good and avoiding evil, at encouraging virtue and discouraging vice, at avoiding harm to others and promoting their wellbeing or welfare."

Having laid out the basic definitions, let us look at the relativist argument:

The starting point is a factual assessment of reality that there exists a diversity of morals and that moral norms differ from one society or culture or group to another. Not only are moral norms different but they are irreconcilable and sometimes in total opposition. They conclude from their observation of the existence of diverse and irreconcilable moralities that "there is no single viewpoint from which moral norms are rationally compelling and universally binding."

This sums up the position beautifully. Now, what are the practical implications of moral relativism? Abstention. Abstention from making judgment. All moral norms are equally valid. There is no conditionality attached.

What is the opposite contention? The absolutists claim that their moral codes are universal. They seldom provide evidence apart from their own conviction in it being so. Activist Absolutists employ the sword in an attempt to make it so. Absolutists rarely agree about each others' absolutes which renders the debate between them rather hilarious. Have you ever witnessed a Christian criticizing the moral imperatives of Islam or vice versa? Picture this. A person who believes a invisible deity revealed to humanity his moral codes inscribed on stone tablets and through the life of his son - who is also himself - debating with a person who believes that the same invisible deity - why would the same invisible deity feel the need to reveal somewhat similar yet at times very different (but in the eyes of their adherents always absolute and universal) codes more than once is anyone's guess - revealed to humanity his moral codes by way of nice arabic poetry spoken through the mouth of an illiterate prophet.

This is why I look down at moral crusaders of all dispositions with the same sarcastic and contemptuous look. These petty foot-soldiers of values with a code in one hand and a sword in the other trigger nothing but a gagging reflex followed by hysterical laughter. Your values might gain precedence just as they will wither away. They might prevail for a short span but will never endure. They might change the reality of a few but only for so much. The islamist is no different than the female rights activist except in maybe dress code. Both seek to impose their moral codes and categorical imperatives upon others with the same repulsive indignant self-righteousness

"Thou shalt not do thus and thus" proclaim all moral crusaders. "Thou shalt fuck off and shove your codes up your arses" answer the cynical few...