June, 2010

Geekfest Dubai 5.0 & TEDxRamallah

Geekfest Dubai 5.0 & TEDxRamallah

Geekfest is a social networking event that takes place here in Dubai every couple of months, and has spread across the region to cover Cairo, Amman, Beirut and upcoming Damascus. There’s very little I could say to explain the event, really, as it is unorganized – an oxymoron right there for you – and is simply just a gathering of people with some talks, discussions, mingling, game corners and the art scene, all jumbled up together in the very homey package called The Shelter.

Though I’ve sent in my photos to showcase the last couple of events, this time things were a bit different as legendary Alexander McNabb (yes he paid me to write that) has given me a dedicated screen to showcase my work. I took that challenge to create 10 new photos for the event, which I will upload to my photo blog soon. In the meantime you can read more about the photography aspect here. <<< how’s that for linking the whole sentence? Let’s see you tell me “I didn’t know I have to click on the here

Anyhoo, one of the  highlights of the event was TEDxRamallah, dedicated to show inspiring stories of Palestine. For those not aware of TED Talks, they are basically conferences that are truly brilliant in nature that address almost anything you can think of, presented in a beautiful and intelligent way through speakers who know what they’re talking about. The best introduction to TED Talks is to go watch a conference yourself.

TEDxRamallah is an extraordinary effort that will defy odds by holding such a conference of the TED calibre in an occupied territory, the first of its kind. It’s being organized by Ramzi Jaber and the event will be taking place on the 9th of October of this year. If you know of speakers with inspiring stories residing within Palestine, please do not hesitate to contact them on their twitter account. You can also visit the homepage for more information. I personally would be on the lookout for this one as I am definite it will be an event unlike any other, one that would finally dissociate Palestine from destruction and show the brighter side of things, that of progress.

And now I will leave you with some photos from Geekfest!

Geekfest Dubai 5.0 - 07 Geekfest Dubai 5.0 - 06 Geekfest Dubai 5.0 - 05 Geekfest Dubai 5.0 - 04 Geekfest Dubai 5.0 - 03 Geekfest Dubai 5.0 - 02 Geekfest Dubai 5.0 - 01

Wishful Thinking

Wishful Thinking

I received an email as a form of a joke but it has the undeniable truth of how we prioritize the aspects of our lives incorrectly.

The joke narrative, in brief, describes a group of businessmen crossing paths with a small group of people living a very simple life, one very similar to Abufares’ Tartous he vividly reminisces. The businessmen ask the villagers how they spend their days, and the villagers explain how they simply fish and enjoy family and friends around. Businessmen respond by giving them more elaborate fishing ideas, expanding fishing boats to fleets and running a multimillion dollar business after many years of hard work. The villagers ask what’s the point. The businessmen reply saying they can then retire and spend times with their families.

Which is what the so called simpletons have been doing all along.

It’s interesting when you let it sink in. We spend time away from friends and family, planting seeds in other people’s gardens and harvesting very little. We are afraid to tend to our own garden – others’ are more expanse, presumably greener, and presumably have better soil. As the years pass, our own garden deteriorates even further, making it even more difficult to refocus and grow our own farm.

We hop around, till our garden dies away, the plants and the trees and the people we know and love but have never given them the time nor energy, all while we tend to others to “gain the experience” enough to remedy the ever deteriorating situation.

How sad is that.

Shouldn’t we give focus and energy to people and issues that really matter? How many opportunities do you come across in your life? And how many parents and grandparents and kids can you have in your life? Your health and happiness?

The opportunity of a lifetime? It’s hearing every story your parents have to tell. To be with family, with friends, and with loved ones. To experience life as it was really meant to be, and die knowing more about the people around you and their stories than the stagnant businesses and skills you’re told you need but never really do. To die knowing that you left more than an empty and readily replaceable chair at work – to pass on your own story and have your spirit linger around the recliner where you spent your final days.

“This is where your grandfather used to sit, and tell me stories of his grandmother’s siren phone and her great cooking.”

Wishful thinking.

The Brave & The Fool

The Brave & The Fool

“Countless were the occasions,” I wrote, many years ago, “where I set out to write these memoirs of mine, but a strange sentiment – mixture of terror and anguish – always stopped me from carrying through.”

I have written many memoirs since then, and looking back, I can only laugh at myself for the fool I have been. For putting work and career before everything else, and everything else before me. I don’t dwell on the past like I used to, and as they say in Arabic, اللي فات مات and it should be.

Today (probably literally, but mostly figuratively) I stand at a crossroads where many men have stood before, weighing options and outcomes of decisions with factors including personal preference, spiritual gain and happiness, family obligations, societal and life expectations, and financial metrics.

It’s not particularly challenging, mind you, if you only put the necessary factors in. And I am not exactly old enough to be worried too much about many of those metrics, but circumstances are there whether I wish it or not. However, before I start my family, I need to live in one.

Now what is making a difference is the little history of experiences I had previously regarding similar decisions. Of course I am expected by everyone to make the wisest decisions that would satisfy the majority of mankind but myself.

Looking back at all the shit I have written over the years, I think enough is enough. They’ve all been bad decisions, their only good outcome is providing me the wisdom to choose differently this time. I refuse to be “just another one”, because though I am not sure of where I belong, I know how to tell when I don’t belong.

Whether or not I have the guts, though, is a different matter. But what I can smell, and very strongly, is the sea and freedom. And it boils my blood for it to be so close and almost tangible that I am even considering otherwise. Fuck it, I’ve had enough.

On Being Superficial & Such

On Being Superficial & Such

To those of you I know who might be reading this, the post is not directed at you. It’s merely an observation of myself, nothing more nor less.

I never understood how someone can become superficial, but over the years I have transformed into someone who is, and, looking back, I am trying to understand how all of this happened.

It continually drives me insane when people remark on those less fortunate and judging them by their cars or clothes or the restaurants they go to, and associate that with their manners. Less fortunate people might be more predisposed to be “vulgar” but I am yet to find a proof that everyone who drives a 170,000+ dirham car is no less vulgar than the average or less than average Joe.

And the “mafia wars” of races and cultures is pathetic, and I am one of the biggest victims here. Jokes of Lebanese vs Syrians coupled with events in the recent years have engraved my brain with the notion that we are in a cultural war of dominance. Reinforcing that notion are a couple of bad apples from both sides – all while completely disregarding the fact that one of my best friends and one of my childhood friends and buddies are Lebanese, and I trust them with anything I have.

Having met the “good and regular” apples from the Lebanese basket I have come to realize how uneasy and paranoid I am around people, always thinking that there is a mental war brewing between us, when there isn’t. Over time it has diminished, and I make a conscious effort to keep that in mind; it is unfair to both of us to skew interpretations based on a narrow field of vision I have imposed on it.

The ironic part is that the Syrians I would consider friends can be counted with one hand while holding a fork.

So how has it come to this? It hit me when my ex said it bluntly in my face – I am the most superficial person she has ever met. Of all things we argued about this is the only thing I really wanted to look at because I know I was never like that. Prior to my exposure to human beings at the age of 17 I have been the most empathetic person I have come to know (not that there was someone to feel empathy for, but you know, books have people). During college, it persisted, but after that something went wrong.

Blaming Dubai for this won’t solve any issues. But the city and the environment you’re exposed to in that city will profile you no matter what – it’s merely a matter of how predisposed you are to being molded and stepped over that affects how much profiling it does. And in my case it has been a lot, I am ashamed to be, but not ashamed to admit. Back in the good green Levant it doesn’t even cross my mind. Most of my superficial “filters” are automatically switched off, amongst other things that make my brain work like clockwork. Back home I am a completely different person, and people who have seen both versions can attest to that.

Over the past year things have significantly improved yet it’s been difficult to pull this off alone. Telling people I am a racist bastard who needs help made me even more paranoid, but now that I’ve covered a good distance myself, I do feel that I need more social support to help me through.

I won’t blame you if you judge me. I’m doing my best to fix myself and I won’t let myself down. Most other things in my life have failed miserably in the past couple of years, but if there’s one thing I am going to put a 1500% to salvage from that wreck it is me.

Elevators

Suck.

One of the “greatest” inventions of mankind – the ability to project a boxed group of human beings vertically at high velocities – proves once again that it’s not usually the “stupid machine’s” fault but rather the stupid people who decide on how the blasted things operate.

Now here’s a simple scenario. In my previous job, and in the period where I worked in an actual office, it was sitting in a 40-something story tower. Now being Dubai, it’s quite an enormous tower in size and girth, though it had lots of faults, namely the impossibility to have anyone find a parking spot as well as questionable safety issues.

The main issue was that the building had ample elevators – I think 6 or 8 I forgot – but what wa not taken into account was the volume of people. The floor I worked in had at least 150 individuals. One floor of 40. Add to the problem is that companies like to show off by positioning themselves at the upper floors – inflated ego, more expensive rent, which leads to, yes, job cuts (duh). While I was there, most companies had offices on the upper floors. The elevators were divided, in typical fashion, to serve specific floors. But think of only our office and trying to get 150 people there are 9 AM.

Thankfully, in the latter part of my previous job, I didn’t have to deal with this issue, as I had to work in the elevator lobby of the basement parking.

Err…

Anyhow, it’s prevalent in many towers in Dubai, as I am sure it is in the rest of the world. My solution to the problem? Many people don’t really need to be in an office. Sure it’s a bit counter-productive to work from home, and it is important so socialize and network at work, but think about it. In the past few decades how many changes in the working world did we adapt to? Like what’s the point of wearing a suit really? It will make you look as posh when everyone else is wearing them, but if we don’t wear suits, is that the end of the world? Do you spend meetings talking to the person or feeling the textures of each others’ suits?

Do we spend more time on paper work or on computers? People send designs and documents all over the internet. Client meetings are face to face, mostly, sure, but when was the last four hour meeting in a corporate room as productive as a two hour meeting in a coffee shop?

So coming back to elevators. They suck. Period.

And yes, I “really had to go” and was stuck in an elevator this morning as every single person had to stop on a different floor. Sue me!