The New Tunisian 10 Dinar Coin

It seems we’ll be getting a new 10 Dinar coin in Tunisia, instead of the paper version we have now… as if money doesn’t already evaporate quickly enough out of our pockets, it should become even easier now.

Tunisian 10 Dinar Coin

[Photos found on Facebook]

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins…

Today was my last day at work, bringing an end to another chapter in my professional life, turning a new page for me to pen some new experiences on, launching a new adventure for me, a new quest.

The last day at a job is a very emotional one for me, especially when you’ve made so many great friends there, bonded with so many people, shared countless unforgettable moments, and became part of a really warm family.

I hate goodbyes, and today I had to say goodbye to a number of people I’ve truly come to love over the past years, people I used to see every single day, and spend a big part of my life with.

The decision to leave was no easy one, in fact far from that, especially because of all the great people, but nothing lasts forever I guess, and I just reached a point where I had to move on professionally, take on new challenges, learn new things, and build another layer of experience to get me closer to my final goal.

To all my friends and team-mates, I’d truly like to thank you all for the beautiful moments we shared, for the good times we had, the bad times we pulled through together, for every single thing you did for me, for being awesome, for being such an important part of my life.
I’ll never forget you, and will always cherish the memories we’ve created together.

Well, what next for me? The next step for me is quite a big one. On top of leaving a job, I’ll also be leaving my country Tunisia, jumping aboard a plane to a new destination, putting up my weathered nomad’s tent in yet another country, where I’ll be taking on a new exciting adventure, meeting new people, making new friends and writing another chapter of my life, full of hope it’ll be a rich and fulfilling one. Next week I move to Dubai.

I’ll be writing more about that on here as it happens, documenting the move, my exploration of Dubai, and sharing my thoughts and experiences.

Until then, I’ll count on you for a little wish of good luck, I’ll be needing it.

Fate, Our Old Bittersweet Mysterious Friend

Last night, I sent a little tweet on twitter asking: “What do you do when even fate is having trouble deciding what do with you?”

It was a question that occured to me and that I thought was quite funny, after a little surprise I found waiting for me in the evening, that reminded me how sarcastic our old friend fate can be, and how it sometimes chooses to mess around with your mind for fun.

The message on twitter got replicated on my facebook wall, on friendfeed and elsewhere; and it got a number of interesting replies, one of which was by my friend Amine Kochlef, that got me thinking more about life, fate and its inner workings.

Amine’s take was: “We decide for ourselves, fate is just a mirage built upon our cultural background.
Very beautifully said, but I don’t totally agree, yet I don’t disagree either.

That view eliminates fate altogether, implying that everything is in our own hands, we decide for ourselves, we build our own lives, make our own choices, and go wherever we want to go.

The problem with that view, as much as we’d like to believe in it, is that it only works in a world where we’re alone, with no exterior influence, only affected by our own actions, with a direct and clear cause and effect relationship for everything.

The thing is we’re not in such a world, and people’s actions are complexly intertwined in a way that a little action by someone could have a direct or indirect effect on someone right next to them or someone else halfway across the world; now multiply that by several several times. 
All these actions are things that a person has no control over, but are all factors that come into play in their life, and affect the outcome of their own  decisions and  actions.

This plethora of actions taking place around us, sometimes fall into place to work in our favor, and in other times against us; and some of the words we have created to describe all this are: luck, coincidence, jinx, …etc.

One of the definitions of fate is: “An event (or a course of events) that will inevitably happen in the future; Your overall circumstances or condition in life (including everything that happens to you)“.

This view eliminates our role in determining what happens to us, putting it fully in the hands of this so-called fate, which basically means that whatever we do, the results will be the same as it’s all pre-determined no matter what we do. That of course cannot be true, because it goes against basic logic and truth.

Like most things in life, I think the truth falls somewhere in the middle; we don’t live in a strictly direct action/effect world, and neither do we live in a world where only the effect exists no matter the action taken. I think it’s more like a bunch of  actions/reactions/effects combinations.

These combinations of actions, reactions, effects, coincidences, lucky strikes, jinxes and what not are what I think fate really is; a living ever-changing sequence of intertwined acts that touches every single one of us, plays games with us, gives us a break at times, blocks a road some other times, puts us at a crossroads every once in a while, and creates the circumstances around us that we operate and move in, take our own decisions in, only to further grow it, injecting more life into it.

Tunisia Blog Awards 2008: Why Is It Up In Flames?

Before I even start this post, I’ll have to admit that I haven’t been as active as I once was in the Tunisian blogging scene, even though I try to always follow what’s going on.

It’s not that I don’t feel like I’m a part of it anymore, neither is it because I think it’s gotten mixed up or anything, in fact quite the opposite, I’m very happy with where we’ve all gotten to. Just a few years ago, Tunisian bloggers could be counted on the fingers of one hand; now we have hundreds of active bloggers who are writing about everything, and voicing their opinions and thoughts about any issue that comes to mind. Day after day, the Tunisian blogosphere is representing the Tunisian society more and more, but in a more open and free way, and that can only be great, and I can only be proud that I’ve been there to witness it all from the beginning.

Anyway back to the topic of this post, the big hot story of today in the Tunisian blogosphere, the Tunisia Blog Awards 2008. It seems these awards are going up in flames, with many blogs joining the anti-TBA campaign, strongly condemning how the organizers have been filtering blog submissions and not accepting certain blogs, that are actually very popular ones, and who would certainly end up winning if left to join.

I’m personally not too hot for awards thingies of this kind at a stage like we’re at, and haven’t even checked who has been nominated and accepted, all I know is who hasn’t, and I think some of them are among the best Tunisian bloggers we have, and that it is unacceptable to ban them from joining because of what they write.

Some of these blogs were even nominated and won in the last Tunisia Blog Awards, so what has changed since then?

Well it seems it’s because the organizers are trying to make a bigger deal out of this one, bringing sponsors on board, thereby making it commercial, and because of it having to run a “clean”, “friendly” and well, let’s just say it as it is, censored event.
Yep, yep, it seems money brought its old friend censorship to the party again! 

And that’s totally wrong, the blogosphere is a whole, it’s not a selection of friendly neutral blogs, as great as those might be, it’s everything, it’s a mirror of the Tunisian society, and should be taken as such.

This should be understood by the organizers and explained to the sponsors. It’s either you organize and sponsor a true Tunisia Blog Awards, or you just don’t do it. There is no compromise. Done otherwise, it can be called anything but the Tunisia Blog Awards, because it wouldn’t be representative of the Tunisian blogosphere, or the Tunisian society, and that would make it meaningless.

Of course, there should be rules, that should be clear from the beginning, and that should be logical, not for censorship purposes. These should be communicated on, explained and held on to. And everyone should stick to them and just them.

Another point my friend Houssein made is that on top of everything, this crisis was very badly managed by the organizers, with them staying silent while the fire grew bigger, not admitting they’re wrong, not taking part in the conversation, and actually trying to stop it by closing the group’s wall on Facebook. That last point is unexplainable to me, I mean what were they thinking? These are bloggers you’re dealing with, and you’re shutting down a group wall? They’ll just run to their blogs and open fire on you!
If anything it shows ignorance to what bloggers and blogging is all about: freedom, expression, conversations and opinions. 

Nothing personal against the organizers, whom I’ve met, and who are a very sweet and cool bunch, but they just did everything wrong with this.
I’d really hate to be in their place right now.

Subzero Blue Gets A New Design

As you can see, Subzero Blue has gotten a new design. Finally.

The old design, which I’m still very fond of, has been around for years now, and I thought it was about time to change.

As I’ll be announcing here soon, a number of big changes in my life are starting to take place now, and as Subzero Blue has been my personal presence online over the years, I thought it only natural for it to get a facelift as well to reflect the changes happening in my life.

One of the biggest points in this new design is the rebranding of Subzero Blue; the distinguished blue ice cube box, that Subzero Blue has become famous for, has been dropped from this design. It was a hard decision for me, but it reflects another hard decision I had to take in my life, letting go of what feels comfortable and safe, to move on to other territories.

One of the things I like the most about this new design is the photo section directly under the header section, which randomly displays one of my photos, in an attempt to give more room for my amateur photographer side.

I’ve tried to organize other sections and details a bit more, and put a fresh coat of paint on them.

This design is pretty much still a work in progress that I’ll be tweaking over the coming days and weeks. If you notice anything wrong here or there, please do let me know though.

I hope you like it. Please do share your thoughts and ideas about it with me.

Tunisia Launches RFP For Fixed-line, Mobile License

After hearing about this on and off over the past years, the Tunisian Telecoms Ministry finally launched an RFP yesterday for a license to provide fixed-line and mobile telephone services.

“In order to open up the telecoms sector, Tunisia’s telecoms ministry has decided to award, via an international auction, a license to install and exploit a public telecoms network and provide fixed-line phone and 2G and 3G mobile phone services,” the ministry said in a statement.

Interested bidders willing to pre-qualify for the tender were invited to show their interest alone or as part of a consortium, and submit their offers no later than May 5, 2009; with the government expected to reward the license in the second quarter of next year, according to the ministry.

State-controlled Tunisie Telcom (with a 35% stake held by Dubai’s Tecom) still holds a monopoly in fixed-line services and controls around 70% of the mobile market in Tunisia.

The only existing competition is in the mobile services area, in the form of Tunisiana, a joint venture of Kuwait’s Wataniya and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, which was awarded a mobile license in 2002.

This move has long been awaited by Tunisians who’re fed up of Tunisie Telecom’s monopoly on fixed-line telephony and who hope competition will enhance the quality of provided services and drive down prices, just like the entry of Tunisiana into the mobile area did over the past years.

Having a third competitor in the mobile services area should also break the current balance the two current operators are reaching, and get the market moving again towards offering more for the client at better prices.

Subzero Blue Migrated To WordPress

After over five years of running Subzero Blue on version 2.661 of Movable Type, which is a great blogging platform, I decided to switch it over to WordPress, which is the software all my other blogs run on, in order to better organize things and harmonize them for me.

The main challenge was to try and not break permalinks with the migration, so that all incoming links from other websites or from search engines would still work fine, and through some research and a few acrobacies, I was able to keep the same urls for all the old posts, just like they were created in Movable Type.

Another important point was to keep the same design for the time being, and considering the really short time I’ve put into this, I think I’ve managed to keep the design pretty similar to the one I used on Movable Type, I’d say 85% similar or a bit more, with just a few details that are different.
But that’s not all that important really, it’s just temporary, as I’m planning to rethink the blog and redesign it very very soon.

The blog is now running on WordPress 2.7 RC1, which should be updated to the final 2.7 version once it’s released.

Please do let me know if you encounter anything that is broken, and I’ll do my best to get it back to normal as quickly as possible.

Middlesex, Oranges, Mockingbirds And A Thousand Suns

It’s been a while since I last wrote about books that I read and liked, even thought I’ve been reading a lot of books as usual.

So, I thought I’d just do a round-up of the most interesting novels I’ve read recently, that I recommend to everyone (in no particular order).

Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”
Those are the opening lines for this great book, and just reading them I was hooked. It tells the story of of Cal Stephanides, and how this 41-year-old hermaphrodite was raised as a girl called Calliope. Very worth the read.

The Orange Girl (Jostein Gaarder)
A lovely read, very interestingly written, and a bit philosophical in nature.
It tells the story of a deceased father through a letter he left his son, and that was discovered 11 years after his death. It’s a romantic and humorous story, that also tackles some deeper thoughts, concluding with a very interesting question the father, knowing he was about to die, asked himself, and is in turn asking his son to consider.

To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
A classic I only got to read recently, and now I understand why it has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, served as the basis of an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century.
A gripping coming-of-age tale in the American South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father — a crusading local lawyer — risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
A great follow-up to his debut “The Kite Runner”, this book is yet another epic describing the turmoil in Afghanistan.
The story covers three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban tyranny through the lives of two women.
A really great and touching read.

Stop Kissing Children Who Aren’t Yours!

What is it with people who give themselves the right to kiss other people’s children without their permission?

It’s very common here in Tunisia, and I don’t know what screwed up logic these people are following that says they can kiss a child without even asking their parents first?

They just lean down on the child, or pick them up, kiss them straight on the cheek, if not on the mouth sometimes, and then go on normally with their lives as if nothing ever happened!

It’s just so normal to them, it’s as if that’s the natural way to react when there’s a baby/child around.
And it sometimes even feels like you’re wrong for being annoyed by it.

But it seriously pisses me off. I swear I feel like punching their head in each time.

It’s impolite, very rude and totally unacceptable!

Do they ever think about the parents and if they’re comfortable with some stranger coming up to their child and kissing them?
Do they ever put themselves in the parents’ shoes? How would they feel about it?
Don’t they think the parents would rather not have some stranger kissing their child?
Don’t they think the parents would rather not have some sick stranger passing on whatever viruses and germs they have to their child?

I’ve been seeing this for ages, even before having a child of my own, and it always annoyed me, and I saw how uncomfortable it made parents.
And now that I have a child of my own and go through this whenever we’re out and about, the last time being today at the park, it annoys me so much more.

I just needed to get this off my chest. But so help me god, the next person who’s even going to try it is going to get one hell of a tell-off by me.

Invest In Yourself, Your Knowledge & Experience

The end of the year is approaching, and with it comes the whole end of year evaluations frenzy. As a manager and a friend, I’ve had a number of people coming up to me, from my team and other ones, to talk to me about the coming evaluations, trying to get a sense of what to expect, and asking for advice on their careers.

And after having repeated the same idea in different words so many times, I thought it would be interesting to just put it in words on my blog, and share it with everyone.

I think a lot of people have their priorities all wrong when it comes to their career lives; they’re starting out thinking about positions and money, when instead of that they should be thinking of themselves, their knowledge and experience.

Building a career is just like being in investment, you can’t expect big gains without investing big and investing right, and in your career life that big investment is in yourself, through the knowledge and experience you acquire, through the serious work that you do, and the great reputation you build for yourself. Positions and money will follow automatically from there, as a direct result.

Your motivation should be how great a profile you can build for yourself and how many interesting things you’ll be able to work on; not what position you can get to or how much you can earn.

Working with the sole objective of getting a certain position or more money means that you’ll be losing focus of the most important thing that will justly get you there, your work and how much it matters.

I’m not saying a person shouldn’t have professional objectives to grow in their career lives and take on more responsibilities, of course they have to, but they have to understand that the only way they’ll get there is by putting their work first, building their profile to a point that will entitle them to the position they’re going after.

Another problem that is caused by people having the wrong priorities and losing focus, is that they can also end up taking the wrong career choices, choosing to change companies solely based on salary or position, neglecting the most important point which is how beneficial the new company will be for their experience, how will it build on to what they’ve acquired up to that point, and how will it get them closer to their overall professional goal?

I see many people quitting a certain company, throwing away all the experience they’ve acquired and all their accomplishments there, to start a new job somewhere else where they start over, not making use of most of their knowledge, and not getting anywhere near what they want to accomplish in their lives.

This can also be because of a lack of vision; I think it’s very important for everyone, to take some time out with themselves, and think really seriously about what it is they want in life, where do they want to get to professionally, and not let go until they have a clear picture in their heads.

That vision, that goal, will serve as a guideline for their career lives, and help them in their career decisions, making sure that they only take a step that will move them forward, in the direction of making their dream come true.

I could go on for hours, I guess, but I think I’ll just end this here, having talked about the main points I had in mind, and will leave the rest to another future post.

Good luck to everyone getting to your destination in life.