Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Final Nail

I haven't been writing for god knows when, but I was busy with my personal stuff, and not much was going on. After 2 years most things would be deja vus and one has to focus more and concentrate in order to come up with stuff that goes along the theme of the blog.

But this is the final nail in this blog's coffin.

In two days I am here no more, and will be back to USA. I don't think I will be doing a Bassam in USA blog, life is going to be so busy there.

I hope that after five or six years, I would visit my blog again and have a good laugh at what happened then. And at the same time, see what things have become, what changes have been made, whether it was in the city of Damascus, the government, myself, or anything that I ever noticed. And if anything was going in the direction I wished for, I will give myself a credit... at least for whining about it.

I will not be responding to comments on previous entries. But any from those who ever frequented this site will be welcomed.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gone Voting

Today is voting day. I left home enthusiastic and eager to practice my rights as a citizen :-) The neighborhood looked like a ghost town, barely any movement here or there. I didn’t know if this is because of elections or because it is Sunday. I looked around and started thinking where should I go, because no one told me where voting takes place; but who asks finds answers. So I went to the nearest place.
There were like 50 candidate representatives standing at the door, most of them are doing nothing but taking shelter from the sun, which wasn’t hot yet. And over all there were more representatives than voters. Barely anyone noticed my existence as I directed myself to the voting room.
There, I handed my electoral card and I was given a ballot to mark the names on, in addition to a self adhesive brown envelope. The ballot contained the names of members of the National Progressive Front (whom I already mentioned are winning no matter what) and blanks for the names of my choice. That’s bad practice number one: forced voting. Of course I could ask for a blank ballot, or scratch the names, but I didn’t care this time.
I entered the “voting secret room” and wrote down a couple of names, put the ballot in the envelope, removed the protecting strip and sealed the envelope. As I come out I handed the enveloped to the officers who scolded me for sealing the envelope!!! Bad practice number two. So what do they want to do? Check the names I wrote?? Make sure I didn’t write some insults, or scratched the names of the untouchables? They didn’t make a fuss about it and I took my card back.
Now, many have heard about the new addition to the election process: secret ink. Which is put on the index finger, and it stay for about 48 hours so you can be recognized if you thought of double voting. The ink is very secret as the picture of my index shows. Now I feel tagged, but personally I would have preferred French manicure; at least they could paint all the nails with the same color. And I think the purpose to keep the mark until a new nail grows. And then, they already stamped the electoral card, so why to paint my nail too?? Bad practice number three.
The bottom line, I practiced my rights but the experience wasn’t fulfilling, anyone surprised???

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Election Countdown

I have drafted an essay on the elections, but I don't seem to find it, so I will start from the beginning now there is one day to election of our new parliament.

I think I mentioned before that it isn't my intent to write here about politics, but as this is an internal affair that affects me, at least indirectly, and directly if I go vote, then I will write about it as a part of the experience.

A background is necessary at first. I don't know what our parliament does, or who the candidates are. And here are the facts: I have been here two years now, almost, and I only saw the parliament once, and that is when they all stood up to insult and attack Abdul Halim Khaddam (former vice president) after his betrayal to the government and Syrian leadership. And despite the fact that I don't mind that (am not a big fan of the latter), but I don't want the only thing I know about my parliament, or my representatives, to be that. Or just to say yes and nod to every regulation presented to them.

Now, I know only four parliament members for the following reason. The first I met in a gathering and he is a representative of my town. The second I know about because he is a doctor previously representing a once not-so-welcomed party (by the government) but now is a part of the Progressive National Front (NPF). The third is the only parliament member who have ever been on TV, and probably the only one who can intelligently speak in front of it without using the same phrases we learned at school in the subject of Qawmiyeh (I have no foreign equivalent for that). And by the way, it's not local TV where I see this guy. The forth and the last, is the parliament president, and I know who he is because by mistake I and a friend of mine sat on 'his table' at a certain bar restaurant. Needless to say, we had to move our asses to a more convenient table.

So with all this introduction, I feel that my true parliament representatives are the Lebanese March 8 group (who I know almost all there members).

Now, at the beginning of this electoral period candidates had to advertise and sell themselves. And to mention a couple of things first, no candidate enters a debate with another, simply because they are not like the US for example where every district has no more than 3 candidates (independent, democrat, and republican) but they are against virtually all the others. And the second thing, you can hardly know what is the electoral program for each candidate, it there is any. And when you can get to it and read it, it is usually about headlines (without details or the how and where and when), or it is about the same ideas in the school book I talked about, many of which are far reached and almost incoherent in a Utopian way. So it seems that people nominate themselves for one of three reasons: they want to be a parliament member for the sake of it (or its benefits, if any), they were told to do so, or they want a part of the 3 million they are entitled to (for advertising) free of interest for 10 years or so (at least this is what I heard).

The candidates are in two groups. A and B, in addition to independent and NPF. The latter is going to win by default, so they spend very little on advertising, and they don't need an electoral program, it is that of the government. At the beginning of the fever of advertising the city was transformed into something like a carnival place. Each candidate had his color, and banner would be over head in a way that affects driving definitely. Someone realized that it was against the law to do so, so all banners where moved sideways. Now it doesn't look like a carnival anymore, it looks like a bad mess. The only thing you can get from a banner is "I am nominated, vote for me". Then came the pictures phase, so there is "Men in Black" aka "قائمة الفيحاء" who definitely have, all six combined, spent more than there allocations as they have rented almost every single street ad place in Damascus. Now it almost looks like they are the only one. But to be fair, the quality of there ads is superb. But I am not voting for them for few reasons. First they have glue-posted an ad on the entrance of our building (which if I have the time, I can sue them according to item 51 of the electoral law, and they can face a week to a month in jail for that), and secondly, they have no women in the group and they give the impression that they are close to being religiously fundamental, and lastly these guys are like whales, financially which I don't like.

Then there is a candidate R.H with a big zit or something like it on the face, and above her picture it says بكرا أحلى "prettier tomorrow", I looked the next day and she wasn't any better, maybe a little worse. Another, M.S.M, have forgotten his clown nose and face colors and in one of the emails he was depicted (rightfully hilarious) as a singer in a third rated restaurant. And not far from being mixed with a singer in another restaurant is the journalist H.M. A famous director, K.M, must have found his lost childhood and started to use one color for each letter in his name. I am not sure why he did that, I think he couldn't find anything else to do to look different. And the list goes on. In some places candidates pictures get glued over each other, and in an attempt to remove all of them you get a mosaic picture for a couple or more of them.

You could tell who is serious about this election from those who aren't. and that is by the time their ads started to show on the streets. When by the end of the countdown you discover numerous names you haven't heard of or seen before, you're definitely in front of a loan seeker. The other are probably taking the matter more seriously.

I am not sure whether I will vote this year. I have never voted for anything before (except online), but I think I'll go, not because I am a good citizen, or my vote may make a difference (because despite everything, no one here believes that their vote counts, but that everything is preset). I'll go for the sake of the experience, and I probably know who I'll not vote for.

Addendum: Oh, and I forgot, there is the "true promise group الوعد الصادق", and I think there program is the free Shibaa Farms and the Lebanese prisoners.... I thoguht Nasrallah trademarked that slogan.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Recently I decided to try paperless reading. I know about the concept from before, but there is no way I will be able to do that for recent publications free of charge. So, I revisited a favorite site of mine... Project Guntenberg.

For those of you who don't know, there is a vast amount of literature out there that is not copyright protected in USA, and it is legal. The sort of things that are not copyrighted are the best in the literature. Think, Tolstoy, Dickens, Shakespeare, Swift, Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, and hundreds of others. Many of there works is available in a webpage or text format, and... some are available in audio format (I don't know what quality as I never tried it).

The other thing I haven't used for a long time except for looking up drugs is my Sony Clie. It's 5 years old, but still functioning despite so many horrid things it endured. A program called iSilo can convert webpages and text documents to a palm readable form. With some searching and looking I was able to acquire a full version.

Now all I have to do is select a book, download it, convert it, and read it on my palm.

Now the next best thing is that I found a free palm dictionary called Noah Pro (122,000 words) that can be ran in a resident mode (meaning use the dictionary while the other program is running) which is super cool.

I have read a novel called: Friday the 13th (a tragic Wall Street broker story) by Thomas Lawson. Now I have downloaded all Edgar Alan Poe's works, and planning to read them.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Further Reading

The internet is driving me crazy these days. I can't get a page without refreshing it a thousand times. I have to check most of my emails on my cellphone with is the most convenient and the quickest way to do it. I barely see any other blogs, I read the comments as they arrive to my email, and am having a hard time commenting on my website. It's all the fault of internet assholes in the Itisalat.
Any way, most recently I finished two books (rather eight if all were summed up together)
The first Statistical Evidence in Medical Trials: What Do the Data Really Tell Us? This is, I think, a must read for everyone who will come across medical trials, whether reading or designing them, in order to understand what those statisticians are talking about. The book is very smoothly written, loaded with examples, and funny. It comes in around 190 pages and can be finished in a good two days. It is written by Stephen D. Simon.
The other book (seven books) is The Chronicles of Narnia. It took me about 3 weeks or so to finish the whole seven adventures, but it was well worth it. I can't see myself in a position that allows me to criticize it, as there is much to write about, but I'll just say it has many meanings, mostly related to christianity. Once you start reading an adventure you'd want to finish it sooner than later. They are written for children but as an adult, some say am not yet, I liked them a lot.
In fact now I have read and watched both the Lord of the Rings, and Narnia. I am getting more fond of fantasy writings. I think my next reading project will be Harry Potter. In the meantime I would value any other input about excellent series of fantasy worlds.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Arrival at the Airport

Mother is coming today from London where she has spent a month at my newlywed brother’s. I got a call yesterday from them saying that the flight going from Damascus will be late, and subsequently the departing flight from London, and they wanted to know what time should she be at the airport.
It is a weekend in UK so the Syrian Airline office is closed. Thankfully they had a back up emergency phone number that no one ever answers. Thus, forget London. No one here was able to figure out what is going to happen either and they all referred me to London!!
Today, here is what happened:
10:15 Airport information: the flight is scheduled to arrive 15:30 (regular arrival time)
10:30 Brother called: Mom has checked in, she’s in the airport
11:15 Airport information: the flight may arrive at 2:30 (AM) after midnight
12:45 Checking Heathrow airport website: plane is being taxied (meaning on the runway)
12:50 A friend of Dad’s calls: They sent a telegram from Madrid!!! The flight will arrive at 17:00
12:55 Checking Heathrow airport website: plane is airborne (meaning it’s in the air)
13:05 Dad calling airport information: when is the flight arriving?
- At 15:30
- Are you sure we were told it may be later?
- (after a pause) Oh, we don’t know, we haven’t received the telegram yet
15:00 Checking Heathrow airport website: flight is not found (never been, never will be for today)!!!
15:10 Airport information: the flight may arrive at midnight or 1:00 AM, call after 20:00 to check
15:25 My fiancée asked airport information: the flight will arrive at 23:30
17:12 Mom calls from Damascus airport. No one is there to meet her. She got a taxi and came home
17:40 Mom is home
17:50 Airport information: the flight will arrive at 20:00
18:52 Airport information (I am speaking now): the flight arrived at 17:00
- (me screaming) what kind of behavior is this, first you say at 23:30 and now you say it arrived. It’s not right, I have people arriving at the airport and nobody there to welcome them!!
- (not knowing how to apologize) we’re really sorry... bla bla bla...
- Who is your boss, who is the superior guy?
- The civil airlines general manager
- How can I get to him?
- I don’t have the number, why?
- I wanna complain to him; don’t you guys receive telegrams for the flights?
- (now explaining their tragedy) we don’t have the machine anymore!!
- So how do you know when the flight is coming?
- We ask the companies, and from what this and that say. We have information as much as any normal citizen.
- When did they take it away?
- Almost a month ago
- Why? Did they wanna use it somewhere else?
- No, the civil airlines طيران مدني is not paying the SETA (I hope this is the right spelling) money, so they stopped the telegram line. It’s only $400 a year (20,000 SP). Please if you are able to convey the message to the manager (I have his name) do, because the machine is all what we have for work.
- I’ll try my best
So if you know me well, the story must have a sequel. I in fact called Al-Thawra newspaper and talked to one of the editors or reporters with the story. How much influence my phone call will have I don’t know, but one has to hope. In the meantime, if any reader (doubtfully) can convince the طيران مدني to give up 20,000 SP for such a simple thing (it’s barely a phone bill) then do.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Following some suggestion of getting the voice a bit louder, I called today the ministry of foreign affairs to complain about the “queue jumpers” and the problem of getting the stamps in one place and the certification in another. So I was put through with the vice counselor affairs manager.
In my conversation with him he mentioned two points:
1- That they are being strict about the معقبين or “queue jumpers”, and that there is police and criminal security أمن جنائي outside the ministry to suppress this phenomenon. I have to admit that this phenomenon is way less than before, but still exist.
2- As per the stamp thing, and this is something very strange, he said that the stamp money goes to the ministry of finance وزارة المالية. So the two processes are separate and will remain separate until judgment day.
So in summary, raising a voice will only guide us to the excuses available for our inconveniences. Meanwhile we can still dream of a better situation in our blogs.