Monday, October 31, 2005

فول نابت

It is now getting to feel like winter, or rather, late autumn time. People not used to cold feel it is like Siberia here, but that is just an exaggeration. One benefit of living in very cold places for a long time is that you know what really cold is like.
If this means one thing, it means the start of cold weather traditions, and most notably: "grown fava beans (GFB)", literal translation of فول نابت.
And today I had my go at it. Standing there at the side of a movable big cart, with a huge pot in the middle, slowly heating the GFB, and the steam entering my cold nose to change into liquid, and nose drips (I think that is the scientific reason behind the fact that whenever you eat GFB your nose drips, at least mine).
At the side of it a bowl is filled to the top with big and tasty (not McDonalds, but) brown broad big fava beans, topped with some cumin and lemon slices. Eating the inside of every single bean and trashing the peels just feels like an old ritual that never dies. I don't remember when was the last time I had it, but it brought back nice memories of cold days of old; a daily habit sometimes.
Around me are many young university male students chatting and cursing and getting expressing there anger. It is as if I am looking at myself the mirror of time machine. So long I have waited for things like this, and others. And I shall make a list of stuff I missed abroad from Home here (as you can guess, it is mainly a food list).

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Bird Flu انفونزا الطيور

I am not going to talk about that disease, others have already.
Just wanted to share that I attended a lecture about it yesterday, a rather nice lecture.
The presenter, an infectious disease specialist اختصاصي أمراض إنتانية, was giving basic information about infectious disease. So he said that infections are any illness that is caused by another creature... Thus I came to the conclusion that pregnancy is an infection, LOL
The following link may provide some information for those who are curious epi/htopics/Avian_Influenza.ppt

Friday, October 28, 2005

Why Men Can't Listen and Woman Can't Read Maps

This is the original title of a book I finished reading today. It is translated to Arabic; otherwise I couldn't finish it in 2 days. The title in Arabic is معارك قيس وليلى. And apparently is recently published.
The book is interesting, and if read some people would find that there is nothing new it that they didn't read about, or hear the other sex complain about it. It is funny and I found myself laughing silently, or openly sometimes, while reading it. And it is not describing thing out of this world, but basically tries to get to the basis of differences between men and women, and how there would never be "equality", and suggest hormone levels in the pregnant woman blood as a reason for why we are what we are. And that men and women different thinking is genetically coded in our DNA.
The book also addresses issues of sexuality and sex and blames it again on hormones during pregnancy.
Some of the main points raised are.
- Guys have more spatial orientation and reading map abilities, women don't
- They will never ask about directions, if someone is with them
- Women use all there senses extensively, and have a great side vision (like rabbits, I suppose) so they know what goes around without turning.
- They also interpret everything that happens around them differently form men
- Men like direct and simple questions (check Guys rules for examples)
- Men function serially: one task after another, seldom two at the same time
- Women function in a parallel way: they can cook, watch TV and wash the dishes and talk on the phone at the same time
- When women ask, they are not really asking an opinion, they are looking for the answer they want, or to trick men into answers they can use it to attack.
- Men have sex, while women make love
- Men, if it wasn't for Judaism and Christian faiths, are polygamous by nature
- Women can't parallel park well at all
- And so forth and so on
I think many of these points are not new. And there are many more. But it is interesting that after, or during, reading the book I started to get amused at things that otherwise would annoy me.
For example this conversation took place earlier this morning while I was reading.
Mother: "do you want me to put the winter cover on your bed"
Me: "no"
Mother: "but it is not right to leave the cover on the sofa"
Me: "then put it on"
Mother: "if you don't want that I won't put it"
Me (now beginning to smile and laugh inside): "no that's fine"
Mother: "you can uncover it at night if you want"
Me: "ok"
Same thing when my parents disagree on some opinion. Some people say that fighting (verbal of course) is good for marriage. After reading the book I say it is fate, and if there isn't any… then they are not married but rather more like roommates.

I was encouraged to write this after reading the book and reading the blog about Guys' Rules, it is a famous circulating email that is worth reading. And of course girls will have another opinion about them, they should otherwise they wouldn't be girls.

سؤال اليوم 9

ما هو الفرق بين النهوض، والقيام، والانتصاب (بلا معنى)، والوقوف؟؟؟
علي أن أحذر هنا أن الفروقات حسب المعجم قد لا تكون واضحة... لذا اقتضى التنبيه

الجواب: هذا ما جاء في القواميس، والعلم عند أهله
القيام: هو عكس الجلوس
الانتصاب: هو القيام رافعاً الرأس
الوقوف: عكس الجلوس
النهوض: هو القيام عن موقع وبراحه
أكيد حتى الآن في شوية confusion، لذا دورت على معنى جلوس
الجلوس: هو القعود
ولزيادة الحيطة بحثت عن معنى القعود
واتضح أن القعود هو....: عكس القيام!!!!!!!!!!

ودوري يا دوّارة دوري، LOL

Thursday, October 27, 2005

3 Months

By the way, today marks exactly 3 months since I returned to Syria.
I wonder how everyone thinks I am coping with that??
I would appreciate comments on this matter.

Nizar Kabbani – The Series

I have to write about this, even before it ends. As many know, and lots who don't know, the life of Nizar Kabbani (a deceased great Syrian poet) is made in to a TV drama biography. It is playing this Ramadan on Dubai and Syrian channel.
I will start, unusually, with the summary (which should be at the end). So… In Summary, this TV series is the most stupid boring unintelligent artistically flawed memorial that can be made for a great poet like him.
I don't even see a reason for his heir to raise their voice in the press and law-courts and ask for a million dollar check for using his story as a series. And the reason is that they should be ashamed to have anything to do (even if it was money) with this series. It is by the way the only one I am following right now because we have started watching it regularly from the beginning when ما كان معروف صالحه من طالحه. In addition, everyone else is watching it too. And despite missing few episodes here and there, nothing seemed to be missed.
So as usual, I will list my comments on the series now playing.
1. The series in summary is a long, in fact a very very long………….. cigarette commercial. The only thing missing is the general surgeon warning or the تحذير وزارة الصحة من مضا ر التدخين. This guy smokes in every seen he is in. he smokes more than Ra'fat Al-Hajjan رأفت الهجان. And it is likely that cigarettes were a big portion in the production of the series. I hope the actor was a smoker, because if he wasn't, he is now. In fact, I think he wasn't one, because he, even after 24 episodes, doesn't know how to hold a cigarette. So not only he became a smoker, but a bad one too.
2. The "young Nizar" actor, Teim Hassan تيم حسن, is still playing after 24 episodes. Salloum Haddad has not appeared yet. And he still has some like forty more years to live. I don't see how that will fit into 30 episodes (the usual for Ramadan) without exceeding it. Unless Salloum will act the final episode when he dies.
3. Because this series, if done well, should have been an epic of the life of a poet like Nizar, it should have been shot in wide screen format (at the time that every other insignificant series is doing so).
4. Pace of the events: snail-like. In fact it is so slow you can realize your self aging as you watch. I grew some thousand more grey hairs. Occasionally the pace is so slow I think it is going backward.
5. Acting: mediocre. Nothing excellent. Just reminds me of TV 15 years ago. I don't think it is the actors fault, but the bad scenario and directing.
6. So… Directing: is crap. Directing the actors is like shit. I can do better with one hundredth the knowledge Basel Al-Khateeb باسل الخطيب has (the series director), as well as anyone who is reading this (I am sure). There are periods of silence in the episodes and scenery watching that if cut with editing can make the series 15 less episodes. In fact it reminds me with a short series played long time ago called الخريف also acting Salloum Haddad but I can't remember who directed it (but highly suspect this one).
7. The use of coloring is not good. I think they are using old cameras. It is so brown and yellow and depressing. And if they want to say that this is to give and old time look, then they should have used black and white, or sepia.
8. Scenario: is bad, to say the least. The scenario is anything but normal speech, and is full of expressions and types of speech from other patriotic series like أبو كامل and أيام شامية or حمام القيشاني and so forth. 3/4 of the scenario is about flirting and sucking up to people, which I can do much better (and believe he did better in real life). I think the scenarist has never had an affair or a love story in her life, and is just imagining what would it be like if it was real… the answer is: out of this world (not in a good sense).
9. The general components of the series, or rather the episode, are the following. In each episode there is
A. 2 packs of cigarettes, at least
B. A new girl that he loves, or more sometime, and flirt with
C. With all these girls and affairs, there is no kissing, no kidding (I wonder when are they going to allow that in Arabic drama, while the real people are having affairs now in the open under the sun)
D. 2 poems
E. Travel to a different country
F. 1/2 hour (of 50 minutes or so) without speech
G. Finishing the episode as if nothing has really happened
10. At some point of time I felt as if the series is being made to exploit Israel and Jews and that the character of Nizar is just a cover up. Luckily that only was for a short period of the series (short as in, like, 10 episodes). What amazes me is that I haven't read about any Israeli or American condemnation of anti-Semitism yet, not that it really matters (as they cannot use that as a reason to pose sanctions or threats).

So to sum up again, I conclude that Nizar Kabbani was a doped Don Juan who traveled to different countries and wrote poems. LOL
And I dare anyone to come up with a different conclusion from the series.
At the end, I think someone with brain should remake the series in honor of Nizar's life and death too.

Cleaning Memories

How do we keep them, us Arabs (and maybe other nations)??? Surely in many ways, but one that stands out as uniform, I believe, is storing everything we ever got and keeping it in a place we won't remember after two months, adding by that to the constantly accumulation "precious garbage".
I have dealt with this when I was evacuating before I move back to Syria. I threw tons of stuff that were there just for no reason, donated loads of clothes to charity, gave away things to friends, and sometimes selling it. And it was easier than I thought. Some of these things were personal and would be considered "dear". But something worth remembering doesn't really need a material object, I think.
So what triggered writing about this was deciding to clean some drawers today. And gosh I found things that date back to primary school days, things that are no long usable, and things that are usable but do not fit the current age (both mine and the world). My dear brother likes to keep things for ever (sorry man :op). So it would be like, this is from that person on a certain event, this flower is something anniversary and this card was attached to a gift on my birthday, and so on….. LOL (with some exaggerations here). And when I got permission to "clean up" I couldn't guess what to throw or not. Basically I will clean as I wish… And cleaning is good because it brings out a memory, then you trash it. Past should be past us. And trivial things don't make it any more present.
Anyway cleaning after all was painful, not because it was difficult to part with some of things, but I currently ache because of the working out. And that was only with the lightest weights for one day. In fact it was so bad after the second lesson today that I had to ask my mom to take off my shirt, as I couldn't reach my hands beyond my head level. Taking a shower was not any easier. I had to interlock my fingers and then hardly get my hands on top of my head so they rest there and don't fall. The I would shampoo my hair like the Homsi by turning and moving my head.
I will have to stop writing here because it is getting even painful to write.
And I will expect a comment too form my bro opposing my opinion as usual and warning my against throwing anything that belongs to him…. LOL

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

سؤال اليوم 8

سؤال اليوم هو:
في اللغة العربية هناك مصدران (يعني فعلان) فاؤهما وعينهما ولامهما نفس الحرف!!!
هل يمكن أن يحزر أحدكم ما هما؟؟
(يعني بكون المصدر أو الفعل على الشكل التالي: ععع)

موجود في التعليقات comments

Old Town

This is another restaurant in Old Damascus, that is near the Maryamiyeh Church (headquarter of Antiochian Orthodox), also not far from the previous restaurant. Good appetizers, I didn't like my veal thin steak (with lemon and mushroom) very much. But the atmosphere was also nice.
I think I should post pictures of restaurants I visit here from now on. Because food and eating seem to be the only thing people do here apart from work. It is a good thing I started the fitness class (to counteract the food effect), but I am starting to get muscle aches already.

Just remember that by clicking the small picture you can see a higher resolution one.

The guitar الغيتار

I have been a couple of days ago to this nice restauratn near Bab Sharki. It has nice authentic, and authentic looking decorations inside it, the food was good. And that is what counts at the end, LOL.
To my amazement there was a lute player (I expected a guitar player), but maybe because it is Ramadan, the atmosphere had to be oriental.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Today I took the great step of subscribing to a fitness place to start tuning up my sloppy and shrinking muscles. It is a place near home, and I will start tomorrow.
I am not sure whether this will be a good step, not because working out is bad, but because my consistency and persistence in this matter is shameful.
My prior experience with this matter can be summarized in three things:
1- The first time I decided to work out, I and another friend: Ayham, agreed on going to Al-Faiha' (or was it Al-Jala'??) club and we used to go three days a week very early in the morning before classes at med school. We survived for a month and a fraction after which we gave up. Not because it was hard, but we probably lost energy and interest. I came across the club ID cards (for both me and him) just recently while I was cleaning some drawers (it is unbelievable what kind of junk we keep forever).
2- The next time I decided to bring the clun to me, and that was in USA, so I purchased a multifunction machine, it was great, just 6 months before I was supposed to move out to another state (and I knew about it). Anyway, I was doing good using that machine until my mom came and occupied the room there. That was like a good 2 months of working out. Eventually I sold it before I move.
3- Upon arrival to the new state, I made a yearly (can't do less) subscription to the local health club, a very nice one with indoor swimming pools. During the first two months I went to work out twice, in the third time my friend Hassan went with me and tutored me on setting a program for lifting and stuff. My arms were hurting after that for three weeks and I had to work like a cripple. I used the swimming pool three times. And that was it for the rest of the year. In summary money not very well spent. And
4- Now I begin this. I hope I don't give up on it.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

سؤال اليوم 7

لم أستطع أن أجدد هذا الباب ليومين أو أكثر بسبب السفر وبعدي عن مصادري
والآن إلى السؤال الجديد
ما الفرق بين عند، ولدى، ولدن؟؟؟

معقول يعني ما حدا عرف، أو جرب يعرف؟؟
ما في فرق بينهن، كل ماذكر يفيد معنى القرب لأبعد حد (تقريباً لحد الالتصاق) ولو أن لدى، بالنسبة لي، فيها من التملك أكثر من الباقي.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Big Family

Two days ago My aunt who came from Brazil invited all of her siblings and their children (those who were still here at least) to lunch. It was a great gathering and one of the rare occasions that only happens every now and then (usually in unhappy situations).
It is interesting to see all the cousins together (and those in the picture are only half of what is there). And also all the aunts/uncles at the same time (two are missing too).
After Seven years of not seeing any almost, or at least like in this gathering, it is interesting too to see how everyone has grown up. Those who were kids in school once, and who were deemed too young to have a usual interaction with, are now in a different age group, though not simialr, but closer at least. Personalities changed, ambitions changed, stories changed, and I feel I remained the same, and it is difficult sometimes to realize that they did, and still look at some with the same eye I did long ago.
One thing is certain, adults stay the same, most of the time, and so their stories. If one thing chagnes, it is their bellies, LOL.
I wonder whether there will ever be a reunion that joins all in one place, that will be a blast.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

سؤال اليوم 6

ما الفرق بين العطش والظمأ؟

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Auto Registration

I was assigned to the task of registering my dad's car today. And if any thought that I will be doing that myself, they were wrong. There are innumerable load of people around the Transport Administration whose job is to do the paper work for others. And that is was I was going to do. They have their fees too, and from the way it looks, it is worth it (not to go through the hassle).
The first thing was when examining the car. I thought they would check the exhaust and such stuff, like brakes and so forth. They were only interested in the engine number, which was so greased it took a lot to clean it. And the car color; and here is the disaster. For one reason or another, the car color in the registration book is listed as silver. Those who know our car know that the color is greenish عفني تقريباً. And this goes back to the first time the car was registered and they said in transportation this is how we call this color (so said my dad later to me). I am not sure what they call real silver colored cars, maybe hazelnut خرنوبي يعني. Anyhow, this year they were not convinced that the color is sliver (I think they finally assigned someone who doesn’t have color blindness) it took some money to bribe the person so thing could go through.
I was wondering how they were processing the papers so fast. Oh… I haven’t talked about the "office". The guys I used, based on the advice of a friend who knows-it-all, had an office. And this office was the storage space of a minivan. It has some stamps (one of my favorite things I have to deal with here) and a briefcase, and scattered papers here and there. So as I was saying, it turns out that the guys father is an employee in the administration, and have been there for a long time because the photo on his ID looks like anything but him. Surely they know there way around. And every time he comes with some processed papers (not so long after he leaves) he would say, in a nagging way, "The queue is like form here to that wall = الدور من هون لعند الحيط". And of course he didn't have to wait in line.
Mind you, I was there for three hours, almost, and I am not sure whether that was fast or not. But I can assure you that if I was doing it myself then it would have taken me until Christmas… LOL

سؤال اليوم 5

ما الفرق بين القول، والكلام، والحديث، والرواية، والنطق؟

القول: هو كل شيء نطق به الإنسان، ناقصاً أم كاملاً (ناقصاً يعني مثل ضرب زيدٌ [أشهر مثل عربي في الأخلاق] بدون ذكر المفعول به)، ويمكن للحيوان أن ينطق.
الكلام: هو أي جملة كاملة، ولا يستوجب أن يكون طويلاً.
الحديث: هو الخبر يأتي على القليل والكثير، وأظن أنه لغوياً يجب أن يكون جديداً.
الرواية: نقل الحديث عن، وتماثلها الحكاية (لم أذكرها في السؤال)
النطق: هو لفظ الكلام ويجوز استخدامه لغير الإنسان.

أما حش الحكي يا طارق فهو مصطلح سوقي، مثل يحشيك حشي انشالله
وإذا ما بلاقي محاولات جوابات على أسئلتي، على الأقل متل العالم والناس ببطل اسأل. (إذا فيكن تعتبروا هذا تهديد)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Today afternoon I took my aunts to Saidnaya, a holy convent outside the skirts of Damascus. Timing was a bit off, just before Iftar time (Ramadan breakfast), and you can imagine the crowded streets. I was told once by a friend that you can run naked after the Iftar in the streets and no soul would notice (I haven't seen any personally).
Anyway after escaping the traffic we reached the convent before it is too dark.
To my eyes nothing has changed about it, except that it was almost deserted. Usually when we went in the past there would always be people coming in and out. There was a small wedding at the time of our arrival: The bride, groom, maybe parents, and two photographers. I would like a wedding like that, not to bother with the hassle of saying thank you to every single living creature that entered the church that day.
I left my aunts to their holy mission and started wandering. It was a nice memory provocation exercise; being baptized, others being baptized, visiting the "Ma Mere" (the head sister), playing in the courtyard of the church, and weddings. At least the priest looked more like an orthodox one, stern looks and a big beard (but I thought could be longer).
I am attaching some of the pictures I took, and this is based on the request of Dr Phil before I came here.

I think by clicking on the picture it can be seen bigger.

A general view of the convent from below

One of the arched paths in the convent

The church

The bowl of baptizing (جرن العمادة)

سؤال اليوم 4

ما هو الفرق بين الكرة والطابة؟

هذا السؤال كان خدعة، يعني trick question
الكرة: هي كل شيء مستدير، وهي لفظ عربي، هي عرفتوها
الطابة: بمعناها المعروف ليست كلمة عربية بل أعجمية من أصل تركي. أما عربياً فالطابة تعني الخمر أو العصير

Monday, October 17, 2005

سؤال اليوم 3

سؤال اليوم اجتماعي
ما هو الفرق بين الرفس واللبط والركل؟؟
Roumi ممنوع من انك تجاوب حتى بكرا

الرفس: هو الضرب بالقدم على الصدر حصراً، يعني كالحمار والحصان يرفسان للخلف فتأتي الضربة على الصدر. لذا لا أعتقد أنه يمكن استخدامها للبشر (إلا إذا كانوا عم يلعبوا كاراتيه، ههههه)

اللبط: لا علاقة له بالمعنى المتداول، وهو يعني الطرح أرضاً. لبطته = طرحته أرضاً

الركل: هو الضرب بقدم واحدة، وهو ما يجب استخدامه مثل ركل الكرة، ركل أخاه، إلخ

Sunday, October 16, 2005


The name was stuck in my head, I don't know why or how I heard about it. It must be some radio ad or someone accidentally naming it. So today I was browsing the league of Arabic magazines that came to light since I left. So many are there you don't know what is good and what is not. Amazingly there is a magazine for everything, the ancient ones are still there, I can barely remember any magazine but Al-Shabakeh, Al-Maou'ed, Nadin, and a couple of political magazines. Now there is Mother & Baby, PR magazine, Top Gear, more political magazines… most share one thing: a picture of a pretty woman on the front page (nothing unusual). But at least I expected the Mother & Baby magazine to have a picture of a pregnant woman, a mother with her kid (something homey), etc. But instead there was a picture of a half naked woman coming out of the sea like a mermaid (fits Playboy very well, LOL).
Suddenly I remembered the name: Layalina, and decided to buy an issue. And a big magazine it was, quite heavy for a magazine. Anyway, the magazine contained like four interviews each is 2-3 pages. That is not enough to explain the bulk. Ads were quite frequent, relatively speaking.
And speaking of ads, as soon as I open the magazine here fell some detached ads. The one most notable is the following: "Allo Arghileh!" or in english "Hello, Hookah" (hubble bubble). My American friends don't like the hookah term as it may sound like something else. And to be honest I haven't called them, so I don't know if they offer that service too, LOL. The service, for those who haven't heard of it yet, delivers Hookahs (Arghilehs) to homes. I suggest to change the name to "Death at your door", or "الو، حفار القبور؟".
So the bulk of the magazine consists of:
1- Congratulations (ألف مبروك) a.k.a. طق موت ما كنت بعرسي. 2-3 pages full of pictures of people who attended weddings and happy celebrations (one page if the wedding is not in a "very classy" hotel or restaurant).
2- Society echoes (أصداء المجتمع) a.k.a. look at me I think I am pretty. Also pictures of people attending private dinners or occasions.
3- Layalina in town (ليالينا بالبلد) a.k.a. come see me I think I am cool. Again, pictures of people seen at restaurants around cities. And I think the selection criteria for the restaurant is based on price!!!
4- Spot light a.k.a. I have money and a new business. It includes pictures of people at some private businesses openings or anniversaries.
5- Shopping (تسوق): a separate section for ads.
What bothered me most is that despite tons of pictures I didn't recognize anyone… in fact that is not totally correct, I just saw a picture of a relative of mine who didn't have the chance to see me yet, so here you are. At least you may see your acquaintances.
I am not sure if some people buy this one regularly, but to me it looks more like one-hit-wonders. It is done once (and I am not calling it a wonder by the way), and never again.

I have to say that it is so much fun to whine and make fun of anything. That does not mean that I am mentally ill, I hope.

سؤال اليوم 2

بما أن أخي العزيز تململ من كون الأسئلة سهلة نوعاً ما، لذا سأحاول رفع مستوى الصعوبة. على فكرة هذه الأسئلة جهود شخصية وليست مستقاة من كتاب أو ما شابه
ما الفرق بين الساحر والمشعوذ؟؟

Saturday, October 15, 2005

سؤال اليوم

املأ الفراغ التالي: لم أره _____________
1- قط
2- أبداً
3- يجوز كلاهما

Ramadan Drama

It is Ramadan again, and that means one thing (not the only one though): TV and Drama. Things have changed with time, and with new production companies, and with new channels too. In the old days, there was no satellite, and even when there was there were few to mention. There would be one or two key TV drama, usually Egyptian, and everyone would watch them (such as Layali Al-Hilmiyeh ليالي الحلمية). Things are different now.
The Syrian TV invasion is on the rise, in fact it already rose enough (which means there may be a fall afterwards). You have to take the month as a vacation to at least attempt following most drama. All sort of things are now being made. Few years ago it was fantasia (lead by Najdat Anzoor) that dominated the scene. Now it is history, terrorism, biography, social, comedy, and so forth.
There is at least one Syrian drama playing on any channel (except Egyptian ones of course – mutual hatred) and in the cast of the Syrian channels, there is like seven or more; one after the other. You can barely find time to eat without watching TV, or a time to go out without missing an episode of something you are following. So what ends up happening is either you pick one drama to follow, or try to watch everything (in which case you will end up watching every other – or more – episode, not knowing what is going on). And speaking of the Syrian drama I have some remarks, as usual (I cannot comment on the Egyptian drama because not only I don't like, but being an extremist I hate it).
Fist of all: if you attempt watching most of the Syrian drama you will discover that the same actors are in everyone, almost. And the explanation is very simple. We have like forty actors (actually more), and thirty five works of drama. You do the math; if each drama needs five main characters and twenty extras… that's right, you got it. It is not a secret that some names are more popular than others and would sell like Christmas toys.
Secondly: because of what is mentioned above, I have noticed the casting of actors that have not been on the screen for a long time (نقص اليد العاملة أو الممثلة).
Thirdly: most Syrian drama is presented now in wide screen format, like the video clips, and movies. Don’t' get me wrong, they look nice, must be some new cameras that they got. But who on earth in Syria have wide screen TVs, they don't even do that abroad, at least to respect those who don't have it. You understand of course that this makes the picture smaller.
Fourthly: when on earth are they going to stop Ayman Zeidan from acting??

Friday, October 14, 2005

Learning The Language

Just recently, I was involved in translating some articles into Arabic (from English). Although the medical language is not as smooth as the common one, but I finished what I had to do (and I don't think I will do it again, soon at least). On the other hand I am taking on myself the task of translating an English story (no one asked me to, but just wanted to). I am not sure whether I will finish it or be successful, but I noticed few things with regard to translation:
First of all, all of us (or at least most) read in different languages. It is not uncommon that those of us who are strong in the language will come across some unfamiliar words, but on the other hand if the meaning is understood from the context none will bother to look it up (especially if it doesn't interfere with the flow of reading and comprehension). But, if you attempt to translate, then every word counts. And you will be surprised with the number of vocabulary that you may know in a foreign language but not in your mother tongue, and vice versa. You may also be surprised with number of words in the foreign language that you never bothered to look up. So translation is a very good way to learn both languages, even your mother tongue, because then you have to be grammatically correct and much more: something we don't give much attention in everyday life (at least in Arabic) except when listening to the news or hearing some announcements.
Secondly, translation is very hard. It is a challenge, a duty to respect the original authors and their writing spirit. I have read few books since coming to Syria in Arabic. Some were translated from English. Reading the story was not the only fun but also picking the mistakes of translators. Occasionally I had to back-translate a sentence to English to understand the meaning. Many fall in the mistake of translating almost word to word, forgetting the differences between the languages in sentence structures and grammar. And this, if it happens, I think, is undermining the original authors and not maintenance of their writing spirit.

Another good way of learning English, at least (definitely not Arabic), is solving crosswords. English crosswords are smart and full of weird vocabulary in addition to local culture topics. It was a habit of mine with the help of a certain someone to do some frequently. And I advise all to try the same.

والآن إلى سؤال اليوم: ما هو الفرق بين بضع وبعض؟؟
يمكن الجواب في صفحة التعليقات وفي حال عدم وجود أية إجابة أو أية إجابة صحيحة سأنشر الحل في اليوم التالي، ولا يوجد أي جوائز رمضانية عندي

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

كمان أخبار الشباب 2

من الغريب كيف، في بلد كبير مثل سوريا، تصطدف بأناس لم ترهم مذ سنين ولم يخطر ببالك أن تراهم. على كل هذه حفنة من أخبار بعض الشباب الذين صادفت هنا من أيام الجامعة
بشار العوض: رأيته صدفة مرتين، أنهى جراحة بولية والآن هو معيد في التشريح (طالب دراسات). لم يتزوج وهو يحاول الذهاب إلى أمريكا
جميلة سليمان: أنهت بورد أطفال ولها عيادة في دولة صافيتا المستقلة في الساحة الشرقية. تزوجت حديثاً
بركات حتويك: أنهى جراحة عظمية ويعمل الآن في المشفى الافرنسي بشكل مؤقت. تزوج حديثاً أيضاً
اكتشفت أن بدر سميد قد فتح عيادة عينية في مكان بين باب شرقي وباب مصلى
أخبار أخرى في الطريق ما أن ألتقي بأحد ما


I think it is starting to get into me. The long temper I am known for is getting sometimes short, now with taxi drivers, and tomorrow with I-don't-know-who.
Today I had a verbal fight with one of the taxi drivers at the destination place. As usual, especially now in Ramadan I noticed, few drivers have the counter on. And the reason is to bluff and try to take more than what it would normally show. But I know better, because even though I have a car with me, I don't use it all the time in Damascus when there is a low likelihood of finding a parking spot, or in times of traffic jams. The normal course of action is that you should notify the driver of the turned off counter and take it from there. I occasionally do, occasionally don't notice, and occasionally do not mention it on purpose so I turn them down at the end when they try to overprice. Price is not the issue. The difference is not going to be more than 5-10 SP (10-20 cents). But it is a matter of right and wrong, right and fairness.
The best way to do this is to have enough change so you can pay the price you have in your mind. And even better is to stop the taxi near a police officer to have him as a legal backup (turning off the counter is illegal).
Today was not what I liked it to be, but when I asked the driver for what I thought should be my change. He acted rudely, so I slammed the door and threw in few bad words (no tabooed ones). He got furious and started screaming from his car, and me back to him. Too bad my mom was with me, as she tried to stop me, and did to a certain extent. Her rationale was that taxi drivers are not the best one to have a fight with, and it wasn't worth it. It is true that I am "petit" and not into fighting beyond hit and run (الهريبة تلتين المراجل), and that five or ten SP were not a problem. But I considered that I had the right, and when someone is clearly trying to "rob" you then that little money is a problem (and for other people it is an absolute problem), and what's more… I was ready for a beat-up.
I finally said to my mom: "you want me to live here again right? I think this is the start".

Monday, October 10, 2005


This is an Arabic article I found today on Champress about universities and education in Syria. I thought it was interesting to see this a day after I wrote about research and private education. This article anyway is more systematic and extensive and worth reading. It is available on this link:
نحو جامعة متقدمة وديمقراطية
To support the story about the professors from Eastern European countries (previously communists) I will tell this story. It was told to me by one of my friends dad.
Briefly, a Romanian group was visiting the institution were this father worked. The language was a definite barrier but to his content there was a lawyer, who got a Masters in international laws from Romania, available. They asked him to help in communication with the group but he apologized for not knowing Romanian.
When asked about his Master (or PhD, I am not sure) he simply said I was taking threads, gold, and socks (or whatever) and used to sell them there, then he would come back to Syria and sell something else. By doing that he paid for his trips, expenses...... and his certificate.
So this is the type of people educating our growing young generation, how is this generation going to be different??
I am not sure whether I wrote this story before, but to add to it, it seems that we have NOW realized the amount of fraud professors and doctors (yes, medical doctors) here, and thankfully some licenses are being disqualified (I hope so) and stricter criteria are applied to those coming from places were, as the linked article says, "their education system was failing".
This is the saddest thing one can hear about. But is there a way to fix it?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Private Universities

Today I passed by the Ministry of higher education and asked about the list for private universities registered and functioning. To my surprise there was such a list available.
Up until two or three years ago there were only four universities: Damascus, Aleppo, Lattakia, and Homs. Now there are 8 more and still even more to come. Someone said recently that there are 16 private institutions functioning (all within the last 2 years almost) and 16 more are going to be agreed on… The shock is that the same source said that there are 360 applications awaiting reviews. Are we nuts?? There is not even such number in the United States, and Syria is not much bigger than one of its large states.
And here are the 8 I talked about:
1. Al-Kalamoon University جامعة القلمون الخاصة: located in Deir Attieh
2. Art and science Private University الجامعة الخاصة للعلوم والفنون: located in Aleppo
3. Ma'moun Private University for Science and Technology جامعة المأمون الخاصة للعلوم والتكنولوجيا: located in Qamishli
4. Unity Private University جامعة الاتحاد الخاصة: located in Manbej and Al-Raqqa
5. Al-Wadi Syian-German Private University جامعة الوادي السورية الالمانية الخاصة: located in Wadi Al-Nassara (officially Al-Nadara… stupid politicians stick their nose in everything)
6. Arabic-European Private University الجامعة العربية الأوروبية الخاصة: located in Gabageb عباغب in Dar'a (if any of you have heard of it before)
7. International Private Unviersity of Science and Technology الجامعة الدولية الخاصة للعلوم والتكنولوجيا: located in Umm Al-Koosur أم القصور in Dar'a
8. Syrian-International Private University الجامعة السورية الدولية الخاصة: in Al-Kessweh, Sihnaya
I am not sure what each of these teach, but most have some engineering branches, especially Architectural, in addition to computer sciences and languages, only Al-Kalamoon has Medicine.
Few notes have to be said about these universities. Firstly, none of these, as far as I know, have a completed university campus. Most are still undergoing building construction and servicing. For example Al-Wadi University is leasing a hotel or something like that awaiting completion of construction in the main land. Same thing applies to some parts of Al-Kalamoon. I don’t know about the others because I even don't know how to get there yet, not that I will. And anyway I doubt it is going to be different because there are like 4 or 5 universities that are opening this same year. And for those who don't know, construction in Syria takes forever (as long as stealing and postponing can be maintained).
The question that arises is: why should they start teaching if they don't have a proper place yet? And the answer is easy: Greed. This question in fact makes me want to comment on two things: money and teaching.
As far as money goes, there is lots of money going into these institutions. Costs are anything but affordable for the common people. Medicine in Al-Kalamoon is like 450,000 SP per year (~$9,000). Other specialties are not very much better, and there is almost nothing below 100,000 SP (~$2000) per year for "lower level" specialties. So imagine the elite-ness in these universities.
As far as teaching, with the sudden burst in private universities and institutions, more students means more teachers (with higher salaries). So it is not surprising to see teachers and professors giving up their duties in government public universities in search for better salaries, or even doing both. I am not sure how much are we equipped to handle all this all of a sudden and what curricula are they using!! But I hope at least it is not going to be in vain for all that money spent. I mean at least teaching should be of a higher scale than what we already have in our public universities. So if it is the same people giving lectures here and there what difference is achieved? And if it is someone new who have never given a lecture in his life is doing it (because even those who do rarely know how to give one), is it worth the risk of that spending?
Next, what is even worse is that those new universities are not recognized yet by the UNESCO and thus not globally recognized. Here comes the agony of trying to take the next step after graduation: all that money to stay in Syria? I think not, and I believe that those who enter have a higher ambition for themselves in the Gulf or some other place.
What is saddening is that grades needed to get into private universities are much lower than those for public ones (Medicine this year was 234/240… this is insane, they have to get tougher questions for 12th grade students). So in fact the only real qualification for you to get into private education is wealth. And this is the start of a new phenomenon of indirect discrimination in this country. It is a sad thing that they allow this to happen. There is not even an entry interview to assess suitability for the field requested because high grades and money do not make a good physician for example.

Now other sorts of education are the following:
1. Lateral education التعليم الموازي: or as my brother likes to call it "Legal bribing". Lateral education is the exact same education in public universities with the exception of registration fees (160,000 SP vs. 300 SP). Student numbers have remained stable, and the percentage of lateral education students is on the rise. So what this means in other words that those who barely made it to med school (for example) based on their grades are increasingly forced to pay more money (REALLY more money) to get into what they otherwise have gotten into without the money hassle. I am not sure what is the smart idea behind that, except to get more money into the pockets of I-don’t-know-who… and what is worse… I haven't seen much improvement in the education compared to 13 years ago when I started.
2. Virtual university الجامعة الافتراضية: I am not sure what goes in there. But I think it is learning through the internet. وقد يكون الموضوع أن تفترض وجود جامعة وتفترض أنك تدرس وثم تفترض أنك حصلت على شهادة.
3. Open education التعليم المفتوح: I am not sure again what they open here, but as far as I understand you attend one day a week in the university and then you get a degree in something from a foreign university.
4. Studying abroad: if cost is no problem, is probably the safest bet I would place (if it was up to me).

In short, it seems that our education system is moving towards being paid and expensive, as opposed to almost free and affordable. After ten years we will have a thousand educational institutions and a legion of students who are lost in what to do with their lives. Until we revolutionize education form grade one and orient people to what they can do and want to do, we will get nowhere.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Commenting is back again for non members, with added verification steps.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Graduation Thesis

I said in the last blog that I should write about scientific work in the faculty of medicine.
Every 6th year student has to present a graduation thesis before the end of the year, otherwise they cannot graduate. I believe the same applies to every university student. But in medicine there is a new trend in doing this. When I finished 7 years ago, almost everyone was translating something from English to Arabic, usually a textbook or a handbook or anything else. There is no creativity included, and there is no real supervision. As 23 year old students who have not dealt with English beyond reading some medical textbooks and language courses, we are not really equipped to do proper translation. Anyway, we did what we did and presented the thesis (a translation) and the reviewing doctor have not bothered himself surely to fix any errors (which I have no doubt they existed). What's more is that after 3 years when my brother was about to finish his medical school, he and a bunch of his friends took some parts of the things we translated and never saw light, and presented it as their thesis. I don't blame them or anyone else as it is useless to go through the same waste of time twice.
Anyway, being abroad and being involved in medical writings and research have opened my eyes. It doesn't take a lot to produce some good scientific work. We have numerous "professors" (or so they are called, sometimes with no right) as faculty. It only takes that each at least gets six students and asks them to answer a question within his specialty (e.g. effect of antibiotics on viral infections...) or case reports with a review. It doesn't have to be a new question, it doesn't have to be unpublished before, and it doesn't have to be of a basic or clinical research quality (because we don't have these abilities yet here).
Students should have to browse the WWW for articles and trials, they should look up medical references and have a constant interaction with there tutors. I am not sure how rich is our medical library right now (and I should make a visit), but with the ridiculous amount of money the university gets from lateral education (التعليم الموازي) they can have a splendid one with most new textbooks.
Eventually, work of publishable quality can be submitted to peer reviewed journals (whether in English or Arabic). Others can be published in a periodical sponsored by the university itself to make this work available to others and not be left dusty on the shelves of our "beloved" library.

PS. I was asked to translate some work into Arabic, and it is very hard to do that, in addition it doesn't sound right. The Arabic language of medicine is so weird to my ears now that I support a total change to English teaching of this field in our universities.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Internet In The University

During the last time I had to do some paper work at the university (faculty of medicine), which by the way went smoothly, one of my friends took me to show me the new internet section for the students.
So eventually there is internet for our student to conduct their research and prepare the graduation thesis....
That was a joke..
It is probably a good idea to have something like this available to students especially those who can't afford it at home, or those who came from outside Damascus to study here.
But this is how internet is used: there are like 20 stations. Every computer has the capability of being fully accessed by anyone and downloading, uninstalling, saving, playing and seeing every single thing you can think of. There are no restrictions on PC use which is bad.
Secondly, these are the topics for the 20 PCs in the section: Hotmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Yahoo messenger (with heart environment), some Turkish university site, ECFMG (that was my friend and me), Aljazeera, Hotmail, some free email, islam online (or something like that), Media player, Yahoo, another islam online site, some music site, Hotmail, another chat, some email site, download sites, and so on...
I wonder whether any use them for scientific purposes. That is a different discussion in itself, which I may write about sometime.
The good thing is that everyone is allowed only 30 minutes at the station.

The Best Joke Ever

This is not something that is unique to here, I am pretty sure. but when I was told about this, I almost flipped over from laughing. This is by far the funniest thing I heard over the last two months here.
When they started the cellphone services in Syria, customer service would get calls from people saying that "في شي غلط، بس نفتح السلفون ما في تووووووت" meaning that they think something is wrong becuase there is no dial tone when they try to use the cellphone.
Just thought it is so funny I should share it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Arabic Music...

… is on the rise. It is sufficient that anyone turns on his satellite receiver and start browsing. There are numerous channels from the Rotanas to Melody and MusicPlus, then Strike, and Nujoom, etc… Each has its own style, but the songs (video clips rather) don’t. They have one style only… CRAP
To start with, the female: male singer ratio is like 8:1 and the reason is very obvious: female singers are more seductive and pleasurable to watch (at least from an oriental masculine point of view). There is no more need for last names as there are numerous (known and unknown) female performers who use the first name only such as:
Yara, Dana, Rula, Haifa, Sabine, Rida, Najwa, Elissa, Dominique (unless the last name is included in this one already), Haneen, Gharam and so on. Some names have not been used yet like: Sabha, Fatma, Khadeejeh, and Nazeera…
Anyway, I am not going to talk about music because it varies, some are good and some are not. But to focus a little bit on the lyrics… we will never get anywhere beyond what has been created forty years ago. The same boring topics without any change are still being circulated. It is always about love or its absence. And there is always a problem (cheating, distance, jealousy, and blah-blah-blah). And as one American friend said once, there has to be a “Habibi” in the song. What is annoying is that lyricists call themselves poets!!! What poet would write a song named “Take that out of this: شيل ده من ده” and what is it that need to be taken out of what?? Or what poet would have the line “بص، بص، بص عليّا بص، بص بص بص” in a song???
Let’s talk about our great performers starting with males. The style now is to grow half a beard, and let a long hair and I assume that this will mean “sexy”. There has to be semi naked women in the clip otherwise the music wouldn’t sound good. One performer “Jad Choueiri” apparently thinks he is the Arabic Enrique, and in addition to singing he directs clips. Those by him have revolutionized a new level of degradation.
As far as female performers, voice is not a quality unless she is older than being able to produce one cup a minute of drooling per person. In order to be a successful singer the following is needed: a nose job, a cheek job, a lip job, a boob job (and probably a blow job, once too many, in the process of getting the first jobs). The success of a song (or rather a video clip) is proportional to the amount of skin (or meat) exposed, and to the level of seduction and flirtation. Examples are: mini skirts and tank tops, wet T-shirts, ass-go-round, boob-cleavage, bathtubs, flirting with anything that moves (like horses) or doesn’t (like yogurt ice cream cones, or cars).
The video clips are being made as short movies. Photography and occasionally directing are the best things about a clip usually. All clips are in widescreen format, and at the end something new is being done: they play the full credit of everyone from composers and directors to toilet cleaners (not that there is something wrong with that).
It is hard for me to imagine how low can they go in the future, but they have proved (especially the Lebanese) that they can always top themselves. If anyone has any prediction I will be more than happy to hear it.
PS: talking like this about the music and the clips doesn’t mean that I don’t watch them :o)


It has been a while since I criticized anything, something that I find great joy in. so today I am going to talk about satellite dishes.
Almost 10-12 years ago the craze of satellite channels started to rev in Syria. Similarly to anything new, they were illegal, pricy, and everyone wanted them. They almost became a matter of superiority (socially speaking). This doesn’t mean that everyone had them, but especially in Damascus none but the two local public government channels were available. And that wasn’t enough. So the idea of having more than a hundred channels was really stimulating. Many people got the old analogue dishes first. Building roofs transformed into dish harbors, and became very ugly. Many quarrels happened between owners and renters on the right to have a satellite mounted or not. Those who lived on the roof (at least one in every building) got it worst as every time someone wants to install, update, or fix a satellite they had to be bothered.
Even almost-fallen buildings or houses had satellites. Rich and poor alike had satellites (like cellphones now). The disease was transmitted to these areas that had better channel reception from Lebanon, Jordan, or Turkey.
What’s funny is that some channels (specifically Polish or Turkish) used to broadcast nude game shows, or playboy soft porn at night. And in a quiet night you can hear the dishes (all powered by engines that rotate them to face different satellites) turning at the same time to face the same direction. Instinct is powerful.
Nowadays (since my departure to the US), everyone has a digital satellite receiver. And subsequently thousands of channels of which the same old ones they used to watch on analogue are watched again. Definitely there are many new channels that are more specialized and oriented. And the digital receiver was a new groundbreaking machine in this neck of the wood. Even I love it.
But what is displayed on these channels (I shall by the way write about the music channels separately later)? I made a survey trying to classify the channels. And they can be classified into the following:
News, music, local channels (Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, etc…), and 99.99% of people watch these types. There is like 10 only-news channels (maybe more) but normally only 2 or 3 are regularly watched; 20 music channels at least (excluding music played on the local channels); numerous local channels (more than 40) of which only few (usually Lebanese) are watched.
There are, and I wasn’t expecting to see them, some educational channels. Others are religious, sports, and variety channels.
In summary, this has created a good exercise for the right thumbs (in rightists) or left thumbs (in leftists). The reason being that a lot would spend their day skipping channels. There is rarely a time when someone would stick to one channel and spend more than 5 seconds of watching. I know it is good to get as much knowledge (knowledge here used metaphorically) as possible but this is not the way to do it.
My brother doesn’t like TV or satellite very much; he says it deteriorates family ties. He may be right, so next time I will tie him to the family and let him enjoy his time.