A Day For This & A Day For That

A quick random thought…

When the weather is beautiful and all spring-like; everyone says this is a perfect day to be out and about, not to be wasted in-doors.

When the weather is cold and gloomy; everyone says this day is best spent snuggled up in front of the TV drinking something hot.

When the weather is hot and stuffy; everyone says this day is best spent at the beach or the pool, and sipping on some iced drinks.

I’ve never heard anyone say, the weather is so and so, this is a perfect day for work, not a minute should be wasted.

What does this say about us?

And is there a perfect weather to be in the office working?

Failure: The Ultimate Arab Taboo

[Cue show’s title music]
The silhouettes of a group of overweight people walking towards you appear on the screen.
The silhouettes start becoming clearer and we see the group of contestants.
The name of the show flashes on the screen.
“The Biggest Loser”
(A show where a group of overweight people are challenged to lose weight, and where the person who loses the most weight, hence the title “The Biggest Loser”, at the end of the show is the winner of a hefty cash prize.)

[Fast forward to the Arab world]
As with a bunch of other reality tv shows or game shows that find some level of success elsewhere in the world, some Arab channel secures the rights to introduce that show in the Arab world.
In the case of this show, it is MBC that introduces the show in the region, but here’s the twist, the name of the show is changed, it becomes:
“The Biggest Winner”

Now, this might be quite a subtle change, but I think it’s just a tiny example, a telling sign of a bigger problem we have in the Arab world: the fear of losing, the taboo of being associated with failure in any way.

In this case, even though the person who would get the title of “The Biggest Loser” would actually be the winner of the show, and would walk away with a really nice cash prize, MBC judged, and maybe rightfully so, that using the word “Loser” in the title would turn people off from being part of the show (even though the same TV station aired the original show too with its original title before producing the local version).

This fear of failure is ingrained in our Arab culture; Failure is regarded as the end; a burning mark, a label that will be associated with the person for the rest of his life. The society looks differently at people who have failed, it looks down on them in some way; even people whose accomplishments in life never amounted to much think they are better than people who have failed.

Yes, in our culture, whether we like to admit it or not, it’s regarded as better to sit around doing nothing, never try and never officially fail than to actually go out, take on a challenge, try and fail.

This is a fear that is imprinted in the back of most people’s minds, holding them back from going out there, trying new things, experimenting with new projects, overcoming boundaries, and fulfilling their full potential along the way.

No, everyone wants to be a winner, and they want to win from the first time; it’s either they have that, or they’d rather play it safe, and just hover around in life not taking any risks, letting their great ideas and ambitions wither and die, and not really accomplishing any of the things they really want to and can if they just tried.

But obviously, things don’t work that way, not everyone can win from the first time, not everything will work from the first time, we know it by nature, and we’ve witnessed it in events big and small throughout our lives. Count the numbers of times we stumbled before we could walk, the number of times we fell before we could ride our bikes, the number of mistakes we made that we regretted and swore we’d never do again …etc. It’s in our nature to make mistakes, to have these little failures here and there, in order to learn, get better and build up to our bigger wins.

It’s just that at some point in our lives, we were taught, against our instincts, that it was very very bad for us to fail; that no matter what happens, we should make sure we never fail; that people who fail are losers and will always be losers.

But that’s so wrong; we have to stop looking at failure as just the end; it is an end of something that didn’t work, there’s no doubt about it; but it’s also the start of what comes after it, the start of something new where you can apply all the lessons you’ve learned from previous experiences, and build towards something better and bigger, and eventually succeed.

A great quote by Irish writer Samuel Beckett about this is:
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

And that’s pretty much how things go, we try, we fail, we try again, and we keep going, getting better, until we succeed and win; and then all those little failures along the way amount to nothing but part of a bigger success story.

Google Chrome Grows Up A Bit More

Google ChromeI’ve been a loyal user of Google’s Chrome browser ever since the first day of its release, when I tried it and wrote about it here over a year ago. It just worked for me, it’s a very light, simple and fast browser; and the move from Firefox to it felt as sweet as my move from the bulkier Mozilla browser to Firefox a few years earlier, in a sense that they’re both very good browsers, but one is just lighter and faster.

It quickly became my default browser on all Windows machines I used, and luckily enough a pre-release developer version of it was released for Linux just around the time I was making my official switch to using Linux as my main OS earlier this year.

On Linux, over the past months, I’ve been using both Google Chrome and Chromium (the open source version of it), switching between the two depending on which is more stable at that specific point in time.

Last night, another important milestone was reached in the life of Chrome; the official beta versions were released for both Mac and Linux machines; and extensions were officially released for all versions of the browser.

I know a lot of people who were holding back from moving to Chrome because it didn’t have extensions, and this should get them re-considering now. As for people who were waiting for a stable release on Mac or Linux, then this is it, although I have to say I’ve been happy with the latest builds of the pre-release version for quite a while now.

Developing extensions for Chrome is quite easy too, so people who are even a bit tech savvy, and know some html and javascript, should be able to play around with creating some little extensions of their own.

So, if you’re not already a Chrome user, you might as well go ahead and try it out now, it’s still as light and fast, and is now also more mature as a product.

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (Paul Torday)

I’ve been reading a lot of books about business, entrepreneurship, marketing and other stuff along those lines recently; and as good as those get, I just missed going through a really nice novel and letting my imagination run wild with it, so a few days ago, I just picked up the book “Salmon Fishing In The Yemen” by Paul Torday, which seemed like quite an interesting and fun read.

After going through the book in just over a couple of days, I can confirm it was quite worth the read, and that it lived up to my expectations. I really enjoyed reading it.

The story revolves around a fisheries scientist, Dr Alfred Jones, who finds himself (against his will) in the middle of a project to introduce salmon to the Yemen, a scheme which appears doomed to failure, but that he starts believing more and more in as the events of the story progress, and as he learns more about faith, overcoming obstacles, and love.

All this happens amidst a swirl of relationship problems he’s having with his wife, hidden political agendas by high-up politicians, an ongoing war, terrorist plots and more.

The story is told very interestingly in a series of emails, diary entries, and interview transcripts; covering the story from different angles and adding a very nice and realistic touch to it all.

The book is a really light and fun read, yet touches upon some really interesting and important topics.

If you’re looking for something quite light, fun and quick to read, then I recommend this book.

Tunisia To Get New TV Channel Called Elyssa TV? Again With The Historic Names!

I just read that the Tunisian production company Cactus Prod has gone on as expected and filed to get the rights to launch a new television channel in Tunisia under the name: Elyssa TV.

If all goes as planned, broadcast tests for this new channel could start as early as this coming December 2009, with an official launch following early on in 2010.

Now, this is all great, after all I think it’s good to see more players enter the audiovisual market in Tunisia, maybe push the envelope a bit further, give viewers more options, and enrich the scene in one way or another.

What bugs me though is the name!
I went on a similar rant around 5 years ago when the name for Hannibal TV was announced, and here I am again, five years later, thinking the same thoughts.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as proud a Tunisian as you’ll ever find, and our history is one that is very dear to me, it runs in our blood and defines a big part of who we are as a people, but I’m seriously fed up of every other business in Tunisia, from the neighborhood coffee shop, to travel agents, to the country’s first MVNO, to our TV channels to everything being named after Hannibal and Elyssa.

Come on, we can be more creative that that! Let’s stop living in the past!

Hannibal and Elyssa were great, they are a part of Tunisian history that will always shine throughout the ages, but we’ve overused their legacy; let them rest in their graves, and let us live in the present, let us create for the future.

It’s the same all around the Arab world too, not just in Tunisia, it’s as if we’re a nation clinging to the past, because it holds the only shiny points in our history that we can think of, instead of actually doing something to change the miserable state our nation is in, and building a better future.

Death & Numbers… People aren’t statistics!

This is something I’ve had bothering me for a while now, and that I’ve been wanting to write about for some time.

On the news, in newspapers, in conversations, everywhere; whenever there is an incident, war or whatever with deaths involved; numbers are pulled out… X number of people died here, Y number of people died there, more people died on this side than that, less people were lost than in some other incident… and they go on and on and on.
The bigger the numbers, the more tragic they display it to be, and the more they talk about it.

But what they’re actually doing with all this is just cheapening down human life to a set of meaningless numbers.

People aren’t statistics!

Every single death means that a person who was once a parent, a sibling, a child, a spouse, a lover has left this world, and left a group of people aching with broken hearts. To those people, it feels as though the whole world was lost, as if everyone is gone. To those people, in that moment, they don’t care how many other people died, or how their loss compares to someone elses, all they care about is that someone very dear to them is gone.

Some might think that sounds selfish for them to only think of their loss and not that of others, but whether we like it or not, that is basic human nature and totally understandable, when in a moment of grievance such as the death of a loved one, no one is in a spot where they can afford the luxury of selfless thinking. At moments like those, they hurt more than if all of humanity was lost because of some tremendous tragic disaster.

In the end what I guess I’m trying to say is that death is death; one death, one hundred deaths, thousands or even millions of deaths, all amount to the same thing: a tremendous amount of pain, a huge loss, and that to at least someone, somewhere, it feels as if the whole world came crashing down and took everything with it.

So instead of insensitively counting numbers and turning lost loved ones into just another numeral on a piece of paper, that we use to compare and evaluate loss, maybe we should accept death as an absolute constant value, and react to it as something that we should do everything we can to stop it from happening in vain.

RIP Michael Jackson, Legendary Musical Genius And King Of Pop

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson, the legendary musical genius and king of pop has passed away at the age of 50 after suffering a fatal heart attack.

I learned the news this morning by accident while I was on IMDB looking for a review about a movie. While the site was redirecting me to the search results page, I saw the news on the right hand column, and I froze. I couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t be possible. Michael Jackson can’t just die like that!

Of course he’s not going to live forever and neither is any one of us; but he can’t just die like that!

Michael Jackson isn’t just anybody, he is a music legend by all standards, his songs were the soundtrack for a whole generation’s best moments growing up, his sound is as enjoyable and awesome today as it ever was.

I can’t remember one childhood or teenage memory of mine without a Michael Jackson song dominating the charts and breaking new ground with its musical style and its video going steps further than anyone else.

We went out for a drive a bit earlier and we played The Essential Michael Jackson album that was released a few years ago with some of his greatest hits, and a flood of memories came back to my wife and I, and it struck us how songs he wrote a decade or two ago still sound amazing, fresher and more creative than any song out there.

There never was, is or will be anyone like him; a perfect performer, entertainer and musical genius.

Everybody knew Michael Jackson, from all generations, in every little corner of the world. He was the ultimate celebrity.

Michael Jackson the man might have died, but Michael Jackson the legend will live forever through his music that will continue to entertain for generations, and will continue to be as fresh and exciting as it was the day it was released. He will live forever through the memories of a whole generation of people who grew up with his music, trying to moonwalk just like him, buying jackets and gloves like his, watching in endless admiration whenever he performed.

I was a fan, through his great days when everyone was crazy about him, and through the hard times when it felt like everyone turned against him and started calling him a freak. I am still a fan, and always will be. I enjoyed and still enjoy every single album he released. Michael Jackson and his music will always hold a special place in my heart and in my household.

To this day, it’s still eating me up from inside that I wasn’t able to attend his concert in Tunisia, that happened just days after I moved to Jordan in 1996. Now, I’ll never get the chance to ever see the King of Pop live, an experience of a lifetime.

Rest in peace Michael Jackson; We love you; you’ll always be remembered and missed.
The world has lost an irreplaceable King.

We Should Choose The Right Path, Not Just The Easy Path

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.

Barack Obama, ‘A New Beginning‘ Speech in Cairo

Companies And Their Bureaucracies

Most companies build their bureaucratic rules to manage the small percentage of wrong people on the bus, which in turn drives awaythe right people on the bus, which increases the need for more bureaucracy to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, which then further drives the right people away, and so forth.

Jim CollinsGood To Great

On Motivation…

Spending time and energy to “motivate” people is a waste of effort. The real question is not “How do we motivate people?” If you have the right people, they will be self-motivated.
The key is to not de-motivate them.

Jim Collins, Good To Great