Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Beautiful Blogger Award

I haven’t written any thing for the past three weeks because of some disturbing news from back home. My father had difficulties in breathing, every now and then, that lasted about two months and therefore had to go through a Bypass surgery. Alhamdulilah he is doing well now. Also, the situation in Syria is getting very bad while the world is watching at their comfort on TV. My sister’s house in Syria was raided by the Syrian Armed Forces along with other houses in the neighborhood. Luckily, she left her house two months ago because of the situation there. The Syrian Armed Forces vandalized and broke every thing in the house claiming they were looking for arms. My sister was told by her neighbors that men found in the houses were beaten badly.

Anyway, last week I received an exciting comment from the American writer and blogger Jim Wright that I was nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award. Jim lives in Jordan and became accustomed to its desert, tradition and food. He has some very good Jordanian and Palestinian recipes as well. I highly recommend his Musakhan recipe.

Like all awards, this one comes with some “Obligatory Rules”. They are:

  • Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo and place it in your post,
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog,
  • Tell 7 things about yourself,
  • Nominate 7 other bloggers for their own Beautiful Blogger Award, and comment on their blogs to let them know.

So, here are 7 things about me:

  1. I like reading non-fiction books, trying food I haven’t eaten before and travel.
  2. I like talking about religion and culture with people from different faith and cultures.
  3. I like living in USA but hate being away from my family.
  4. I have a fantasy to live for at least one year in England.
  5. I did my first 11 years of school in Kuwait, I got a Bachelor degree from Jordan, I got a Master’s degree from Malaysia and currently working on my PhD dissertation in USA.
  6. I like living in a multicultural city.
  7. I am the only single person among my friends and it is very embarrassing.

Now, for the bloggers that I like to read there are many. Here are the ones that I read most with no particular order:

  1. This & That
  2. Chez Chiara
  3. WinterSamar’s Blog
  4. Ana Naddoush
  5. Things I Like To Whisper About (in Arabic)
  6. A Tale of Three Beans (She is back!)
  7. Kinzi. (She recently closed her blog but I am sure she will come back. I hope this award will give her some incentive to blog again)

I am very fortunate that I got people to read my blog and comment on my posts. What is more exciting is that there are actually some people who like my blog. Again, thanks to Jim for this award. I am honored!


ImageSaturday, August 25th was the deadliest day of fighting in Syria as over 300 deaths were reported. Yet the news cycle in the United States focused on the latest slander and pettiness from the US presidential election. Most all of the Sunday morning talk shows focused solely on the upcoming Presidential election – how hurricane Issac will impact the Republic Convention, whether Mitt Romney’s comment on his birth certificate (and subtle jab on Obama’s birth certificate allegations) were appropriate and what the latest polls indicated.

I wonder how many coffee table discussions and family debates centered on the latest US presidential election vs the atrocities in Syria? Did our schools’ current events sessions at all address events happening outside of the Presidential election? Democracy should indeed be celebrated. In one way, Americans should be analyzing the candidates and contemplating who is best positioned to lead the country. Many Syrians…

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Book: Start-up nation: The story of Israel’s economics miracle, Dan Senor and Saul Singer, 2009.

I have been waiting to read this book for a long time. Today, I checked it out from our public library. Here is what this book is about:

START-UP NATION addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel– a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources– produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?

… At the geopolitical level, Senor and Singer dig in deeper to show why Israel’s policies on immigration, R&D, and military service have been key factors in the country’s rise– providing insight into why Israel has more companies on NASDAQ than those from all of Europe, Korea, Japan, Singapore, China, and India combined.

Background: Unfortunately, not many people know what does it mean that Israel is 60 years old. They think that it means Jews used to live in that land but then suddenly they decided to call that land Israel. For these people I have to say this is not true. After WWII, Jews in Europe were promised a new land (known as Palestine) by the British. To accommodate as many Jews as possible in this new land Palestinians were displaced to neighboring countries. 60% of Jordan’s citizens (pop. 6 million.) are from Palestinian origin and there are millions of Palestinians all over the world as well.

Now, back to the book. I am very excited to read the book because I know that Israel is very good in R&D in Computer Science. I read many good research papers that were written by researchers at Israeli’s universities. Fifteen years ago I remember watching  on Israel TV a computer keyboard working underwater built by Israeli scientists. But this is nothing compared to saving Intel by designing the Core microarchitecture.

Couple of years ago, there was an email that went viral about Starbucks’ CEO funding settlers in Israel. Of course the email is just a hoax but many Arabs still prefer to boycott Starbucks. And there is no way to convince them other way. Couple of weeks ago, I was at Starbucks when an Arab friend called me wanted to see me. I told him to come over. So he came to Starbucks. I wanted to treat him for a cup of coffee but he said “No. I don’t buy anything from Starbucks.” I have no problem with people who have a different opinion than mine so I didn’t discuss the conspiracy theory. He has the right to have his own opinion. During our chat we talked about families back home and how nice it is possible these days to make international calls for free using “Viber.” I couldn’t stay quite so I had to ask “Do you know who built Viber?” His answer was “I don’t have a problem with Jews I have problem with Israel.”* I corrected him that it is actually built in Israel.

Many Arabs like to boycott. It happened couple of years ago when Arabs wanted to boycott everything that comes from Denmark after the Danish cartoon controversy. Of course economic boycott is a very effective and a peaceful way to show opposition. Indians did it and succeeded in ending the British Colony. But before Ghandi started his boycott he made sure there was an Indian alternative.

It is easy to boycott an American coffee or a Danish cheese but if Arabs really want their voice to be heard they need to provide the world with something other than just oil. We need to start building technologies instead of giving our money to foreigners to build us high towers. As far as I know we don’t have any technology or industry to export that we made or built.


* Unlike what many non-Arabs believe Arabs don’t hate Jews. Arabs problem is with the State of Israel. There are many Jews who live outside Israel and who are against Israel’s policy against Palestinians.

Enemy, triumph and freedom

One of the scariest moments in the mafia movie “The Godfather” was the horse’s head in bed. I doubt you haven’t watched the Godfather but here is the scene:

Luckily, my life is not even close to being that scary but last week I got a similar shocking experience when I saw a very scary creature in my bed.

I am not sure who was more terrified because we both jumped away from each others. Of course the weird looking creature’s jump was as fast as the lightning. Fortunately, with some top notch strategy and tactics I was able to capture my enemy by confining it under a drinking glass. I left it under the glass for two days to celebrate my triumph and hoping it will die without me having to kill it.

On the third day, I decided it is time to through this thing away but for some reason it was still alive. I felt very bad that I keep it confined for three days. So, instead of killing it I decided to let my enemy free. The good thing we both were happy. My enemy got its freedom and I didn’t have to kill it.

This made me think of men who kill other humans because they don’t like their race or their religion or because they have a different opinion. What these men are made of? Can Satan transform itself to look like a man?

Part III – I will not buy a Barbie for my daughter

Those who teach college students are noticing a surge in number of female students. In my current university in the US, there are 34,000 students 55% of these students are females. In 2000 and 2001, I taught in two public Jordanian universities. Each semester, I used to teach five sections each has 50%, more or less, female students. And I teach Computer Science a major that is used to be limited to male geeks and nerds. As always, US got some numbers of its own:

Women [in America] earn almost 60% of all college degrees. They make up 60% of master’s degrees, about 50% of law and medical degrees, and 42% of M.B.A.’s. And men are now more likely than women to have only a high school diploma. [source]

Last week in Jordan, among the 61 top students in the General Secondary Education Certificate Examination (Tawjihi), the exam that decides whether a student can be admitted to a university or not, 52 are females and only 9 are males [source]. One  sociologist explains this noticeable difference in results between male and female students:

AMMAN — Jordan’s young women made a strong showing in the General Secondary Education Certificate Examination (Tawjihi) summer session, with girls dominating the lists of top 10 students in the scientific, literary and IT streams, according to education ministry figures.

After the scores were released on Friday night, social media websites lit up with debates over why girls got more “impressive” scores than their male peers. Some said it was because girls are usually obligated to stay at home and therefore study more, but one sociologist said the reasons behind girls’ high achievement “go much deeper”.

“The societal perspective on women’s role has changed dramatically. Jordanian women are now seen as partners and no longer dependents,” sociologist Hussein Khozai told The Jordan Times.

“Most Jordanian families now believe in equality in education between men and women and this has paved the way for female students to recognize their potential,” noted Khozai, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Jordan. [Source]

About 25 years ago an acquaintance of my family insisted that her beautiful,  late teen, twin daughters not wear their prescription glasses. The mother out of sincere love wanted to make sure that her daughters would easily attract a potential husband. When I came to the USA in 2002 I noticed very few female students wear glasses. I thought Americans’ eyesight is much better than ours in Jordan but later I discovered it is because of contact lenses.

Luckily, recently a new trend started to appear among women. Some women started to show their true skin. They no longer care about wearing their prescription glasses. Of course I am using glasses here as a metaphor for intelligence. Although, wearing glasses among women is in the rise, maybe because of Sarah Palin and Tina Fey, but what I want to say is that some women started to realize that they no longer want to play the role of naive girls, like Jessica Simpson or one of the Kardashians. The blonde jokes are not funny any more. Have you heard one recently? I don’t think so. Even Miss America or Miss World is not a hit show as used to be. People used to know by name Miss World and where she is from.

Women were told that men don’t like smart women and that men are not attracted to women talking about politics, mathematics, or technology. Politics and engineering talk should be left to men, girls were told. Regardless of what men like in women, women are doing something they are not used to do; show their real smartness and what they are capable of. And the numbers above show it. It has nothing to do with men doing less.

Here are few female scientists who are not shy of their intelligence:

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer is an American business executive and the president and CEO of Yahoo!. Previously, she was a long-time executive and key spokesperson for Google. She is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Regina E. Dugan

Regina E. Dugan is an American inventor and businesswoman. She served as the 19th Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA). She was appointed to that position on July 20, 2009 and was the first female DARPA director. In March 2012, she left her position to take an executive role at Google.

Danica McKellar

Danica McKellar is an American actress, academic, and education advocate. She is best known for her role as Winnie Cooper in the television show The Wonder Years, and later as author of three popular non-fiction books: Math Doesn’t SuckKiss My Math, and Hot X: Algebra Exposed, which encourage middle-school girls to have confidence and succeed in mathematics.

Vi Hart

Vi Hart is a “Recreational Mathemusician”, and is most known for her mathematical videos on YouTube. Hart has collaborated with MIT computer science professor Erik Demaine. She is currently employed by Khan Academy. Watch her videos here.

Cara Santa Maria

Cara Santa Maria is an American neuroscientist and science educator. She is the senior science correspondent and host of the “Talk Nerdy to Me” series for the The Huffington Post. She has published research in computational neurophysiology, on neuronal cell culture techniques, and on the neuropsychology of blindness.

In both Jordan and USA girls are doing better than boys in high schools and colleges. So, the obvious question would be if number of women with college degrees continue to boost, what is next? I am sure the answer is going to be debatable so I am going to leave it for the experts. Meanwhile, I would love to see more Jordanian female scientists than seeing them wasting their time watching the Kardashians and the Bachelorette on TV. I know some women watch such stupid shows just for fun but I still think it is not a good impression on young girls.

For both boys and girls who worked very hard to pass their Tawjihi I say congratulations and welcome to a new era of your life in the university!

Part II – Cinderella did not complain about equal pay

Part I – Beautiful women are not made of silicone