Sunday, August 31, 2008

War and Peace Vol.1

Mission accomplished. I have set a target to finish the first volume of this great novel by the end of the summer. What a joy it was. Definitely beyond expectations. I was expecting to struggle through it and not enjoy it so much. To the contrary it was challenging but in a mind stimulating way. I reflected on every page and enjoyed the writing, history, and philosophy all put together in a great work of art.

The first volume consists of three parts. Part one introduces the social scene among the Russian aristocracy in 1805. Part two introduces the war scene as the Russian and Austrian armies prepare to confront the French. Part three the two scenes get entangled and climaxes with the Battle of Austerlitz
which was a decisive victory for the French. More to follow.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Better Country Than This

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: in 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Obama speech - full text

Can we do the same? Can we set a clear goal to end our dependence on oil? In Kuwait and most Gulf countries oil is the source of our livelihood, so are we ready for the day when and if Obama's goal becomes reality?

In his nomination acceptance speech, Obama declared that "We are a better country than this." Despite the stark reality, he projected hope. He sent a clear message of "change" from "broken politics." Perhaps the US and Kuwait are entirely different countries with different realities, yet the challenges we face are not too different. While change appears to be underway in the US, let's keep the hope alive around here because we too are a better country than this.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seven Years

China did not build the magnificent $43 billion infrastructure for these games, or put on the unparalleled opening and closing ceremonies, simply by the dumb luck of discovering oil. No, it was the culmination of seven years of national investment, planning, concentrated state power, national mobilization and hard work.
Op-Ed Columnist - A Biblical Seven Years - Op-Ed -

Those were the words of New York Times writer Thomas Friedman on the spectacular success of the China Olympics. It is interesting that he should mention the dumb luck of discovering oil. As we contemplate the dismal state of everything -so it seems- in our country, despite the dumb luck of discovering oil, the Chinese Olympics offers few hints. A good start would be to reconsider the delegation that was sent to the Olympics that had more administrators than players and came back empty handed! How many years will it take us to get our act together?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sony Reader vs Amazon Kindle

I bought a Sony Reader Digital Book few years ago when it was first introduced. I used it back then as I was traveling, but did not use it again until lately. I did not feel I was ready to let go of the touch and feel of a physical book. I was forced to use the digital reader lately because the book I am reading is too hefty to carry around for travel. So it came in handy which made me more open to letting go of physical books.

Lately Sony released a new version of the Reader Digital Book which is even slimmer and more stylish. Even though Sony is the first comer in digital books, Amazon came up with Kindle which is gaining popularity and could become to books what ipod is to music. After some research about the two products I came to the following verdict:

– Sony Reader offers more stylish and slim design. The functionality is better. You can download books through Sony store similar to itunes store concept by connecting to your PC. It accepts documents of different formats such as word and pdf.

– Amazon Kindle offers better connectivity (wireless download in the US) and access to larger library of books. It has more tools such as dictionary and wikipedia directly through the web. Also you can highlight text and attach notes.

The main attraction of Amazon Kindle is more bells and whistles and larger library. Yet the hardware design and functionality are lacking. I am sticking to my Sony Reader for now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lowering Drinking Age

College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.

The Associated Press: College presidents seek debate on drinking age.

If the objective is to control excesses is it better to ban something all together or legalize it and control it? It seems prominent US colleges have discovered that it is better to legalize drinking at a lower age and control it, rather than the current situation where it is illegal under the age of 21 driving many to excessive drinking in the dark.

If we ever get over the strong religious sentiments and politics in Kuwait it is easy to see the logic of such argument even though this is debatable, in the US as well. Because alcohol is banned in Kuwait, those who wish to drink pay a high price which hurts them economically, or use low quality substances or even drugs that cause bigger damage. Lifting the ban on alcohol in Kuwait at this point is difficult at best. More practical why not the government turn a blind eye on those bringing moderate quantities with them from abroad.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Be Unhappy

There are two good reasons to appreciate emotions other than happiness. The first is that few of us are likely to live our lives in bliss. By making happiness holy, we dismiss the overwhelming majority of human experience as nothing more than an also-ran. The second is that dissatisfaction is the driver of human endeavour – and not just in the luxury goods industry. / Books / Essays - The up side of down.

It turns out unhappiness is not so bad after all. According to the article which reviews several books on the subject dissatisfaction is necessary. If we were satisfied with what we have there would be little reason for new products and services; hence little economic development.

Also discontent is the source of so much creativity in art and literature. Where would the works of Shakespeare be without tragedy? Or Turkish soap operas for that matter. To visualize this try thinking of a friend who always seems to be jolly and happy; doesn’t it get a little annoying? It’s OK not to be happy all the time, but try not to drift far off cause that is no fun either!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lucky Day

The Olympic opening ceremony here in Beijing will start on the 08.08.08 at 8:08:08 pm - that's quite a few eights! Eight has always been my personal lucky number. And eight is considered one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese tradition because of its unique pronunciation. So being here in China on this specific date and time, celebrating my birthday during such an amazing event... It is almost impossible to find the right words to describe this feeling.

Roger Federer - News Detail.

Happy birthday and may the force be with you!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

European History for You

My good friend Jacques noticed the book cover of War and Peace (above) shown on a previous post. Jacques, among his many skills, is a history expert, especially European being French. As I embarked on reading this great book I asked for Jacques' assistance and indispensable insight.

Jacques posses a challenge to readers: on the book cover, on top there is a one-headed eagle, below is a two-headed eagle. What does this mean? Notice the book is about Russia and the war with Napoleon led France. The first to get the answer is the winner. They can claim their prize from Jacques -or I will on their behalf in the form of dinner and hearing the full version of the answer straight from the expert.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Till The D Word Do Us Apart

A friend is going through a painful divorce -not sure if there is such thing as a pleasant one. I thought of few tips to comfort him coming from a person who knows a thing or two about the subject.

– You are not bad. Neither is she. It is not about good or bad. If that was the case and with the divorce rate the way it is -I don't have the statistics but it’s high– there would be a lot of bad people out there.

– Don’t blame yourself. Yes you made mistakes, and so did she. We all make mistakes. Assuming those mistakes are not major ones -such as throwing your mother in law out of the window or something– a mature relationship can work through them.

– Don’t get into the what if game. I am sure you wonder what if you have done things differently. You would probably end up with the same result so don’t go there! When you are in the ‘wrong’ relationship, anything you do would come out ‘wrong’.

– Meet God. In times of difficulty we tend to get closer to God. I always do in a plane -literally I guess! There is nothing wrong with becoming more religious in such times. But try to keep a balance and aim for a lasting transformation not just a temporary one followed by a sharp reversal -like hitting the bar the minute the plane lands!

– Learn to forgive. Hope to be forgiven. There is no point in carrying all that weight on your chest. Life is short. We don’t always get second or third chances. Take your time but ultimately put this behind you and move forward. After every ending, there is a new beginning..


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Qat for You

I had only been in the country a few minutes when I noticed a man with a gigantic growth bulging out of his cheek. The swelling was enormous, it was so bulbous it practically had its own heartbeat.

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | Kicking Yemen's qat habit.

Before you get the wrong idea, it is qat that is bulging out of the cheek! Qat is a plant very popular in Yemen. When chewed it acts as a mild stimulant. What is new is that the Yemeni government is trying to crack down on this habit.

The government claims that qat is bad for its people leading to health problems and loss of productivity. Critics respond that one in three Yemenis is unemployed anyway and qat is an important part of the economy. While the government in Yemen is attempting to curb qat, the government in Kuwait is cracking on internet ‘crime’. Both governments are walking a fine line and could use much wisdom to protect both personal freedom and the public good.