Book Launch/ Book Signing Event

Dear Blog Readers,

It brings me great pleasure to announce that my book will finally be on shelves, please join us for the official launch event.

Meet the people behind the book, chat up the publisher, get your copy signed and grace us with your presence.

Time and Date: Monday the 9th of August at 7 pm.

Location: Sherouk’s Mohandseen Outlet

Address: 21 Mohamed Kamel Morsi Street, off Batal Ahmed Abdel Aziz Street (that’s the right right after Mobil while heading towards 6 October bridge).

Can’t wait to see you all!

Juka

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Macondo

Now that the crisis is coming to an end, does anyone else find it very intriguing that the name of the BP well reeking all the havoc is “Macondo”. I couldn’t help but notice how ironically Márquez it was. All I can conjure was mental images of the rivers of blood flowing down the streets of the literary Macondo. Death and destruction seem linked to the name.

Indoor Jaws?

Ok, so you’ve probably already heard (read) it on twitter or seen photos on Zenoubia‘s blog, but I can’t help but blog about it, I’m cracking up in my seat.

I am fresh back from a 3 month stint in Dubai, where I was given a detailed and diligent tour of the whole first, biggest, tallest, largest, fastest, bla bla bla extravaganza.

Among the sites is the notorious Dubai mall with the indoor aquarium featuring sharks and what not. They make a killing selling tickets for you to walk through that tunnel or scuba dive with the fishes.

Today, there was a crack in the aquarium walls and water came spurting out the seams, the leak causing authorities to evacuate the mall, lest God forbid, the sharks get loose or something.

Yet for real, can you envision it, an indoor Jaws production. Sounds like some second grade teen horror/action flick. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Hollywood ends up shooting some “Scary Movie” type production in that mall soon.

The Dubai Mall – Where not all the screams are happy ones!

How the mighty have fallen

I’d write, but they’ve done a splendid job of it, a MUST read!

“FINANCE houses set out to be monuments of stone and steel. In the widening gyre the greatest of them have splintered into matchwood. Ten short days saw the nationalisation, failure or rescue of what was once the world’s biggest insurer, with assets of $1 trillion, two of the world’s biggest investment banks, with combined assets of another $1.5 trillion, and two giants of America’s mortgage markets, with assets of $1.8 trillion. The government of the world’s leading capitalist nation has been sucked deep into the maelstrom of its most capitalist industry. And it looks overwhelmed.”

I’m shocked and saddened by the unravelling saga.

Entertainment from South Africa

A friend of ours living in South Africa is here for the summer holidays. We caught up over coffee tonight. When asked about safety and crimes in their city she had the following story to tell which I found hilarious and amusing.

Thieves broke into the president’s house (while he was in it); climbed up President Thabo Mbeki’s roof and stole the embedded aluminum meant to protect the residence from lightning strikes. The 10mm aluminium wire, which had been installed in the roof over the past three weeks, formed part of a network of the house’s electronic fittings, including closed-circuit television cameras and computer systems, that was designed to protect the house against lightning.

Anger Management

I was never one to follow the news. To some of you that is a sin worthy of being in the seven deadly sins. To the rest of you such blasphemy sounds normal, day-to-day, and mundane. Those would agree with me that the news is hardly ever NEW; rather the same things keep happening over and over. Fresh names, fresh faces, but the same tired headlines.

That is of course until you ARE the news!

Last week the top news story was the collapse of an Alexandria building killing all of its tenants, save a few sole survivors. So far pretty normal; sad, tragic and distant. Until that survivor shows up on channel 5 and you discover she’s your aunt! Let’s just say I’ve stumbled upon newfound understanding of the word vertigo.

Picture this, a small Egyptian family living the American dream; residents of the wild NYC, here for Christmas break, to see family and friends. Picture perfect, no? Seconds later you are lying under heaps of cement and dirt barely able to breathe. You can hear the voices of the rescuers above you and of your flat mates – your mom and your 22 year old daughter – to your left and below you. The pain and shock are mind numbing as the adrenaline coursing through your veins forces your tired brain to get up to speed. The building has collapsed! You’re badly injured! But for the time being… you’re ALIVE!

How I want to divert from the script. How I wish I could tell you that my grandma and cousin were also rescued. How I long to put a happy spin on the tragic tale, but while I may be the omnipotent narrarator, this story has a life of its own.

At this point I would find nothing easier than to digress, to draw you into our personal tragedy, to share our loss, to ramble on about the whole event of finding and recognizing the bodies, of telling all relevant parties and of sitting there in the funeral home clad in black and restraining tears; yet THAT would be emotional blackmail.

Instead I want to tell you a little about Amira; not because I have to but cause I want to. She deserves to have light shed on her. It’s amazing how all those who die young seem to go with such peace and serenity. The Lord chooses his followers. Some he creates too good for this earth… for this life…. We are unworthy of them and he calls them back. Amira was one such person. She has got to be the most immaterialistic person I know. She had zero interests in life and all its temptations. None of the normal hungriness for money, power, success, love or any such worldly addiction. She is now gone, to a better place, to the world she’s always lived in, at least in spirit.

Only after the tears are shed and the shock absorbed I’m left with the ugly aftertaste, bitterness at the back of my throat as a result of all the swallowed tears and sniffles; and anger beyond containment. Yes I’m angry! Not at God, even I know better than to be angry at God. I’m a firm believer in destiny (I’ve already been quite vocal on my explanation of destiny and have been seriously scorned for it, yet sticking steadfast to my view). I realize that this is part of the grand scheme of things. Yet I’m still angry. I’m angry at how the event happened, at how it progressed and at how I know it will end. The carelessness and the corruption that came together to conspire against the tenants and apartment owners. The sheer amount of violations that were overlooked due to kick-backs or nepotism. I am angry and I need something to channel this anger at. I need vengeance. I need retribution.

I am angry at the fact that this woman (the owner of the building) could be that careless, that devoid of emotion, of guilt. To be that cold hearted must be quite liberating. Forget her heartless guiltless self. How come she wasn’t monitored? How come reckless endangerment was overlooked by the state? How has there been government announcements to the effect that there are 600 other buildings around Egypt liable to collapse at any minute for the same causes. Still angry. More so because I’ve seen it all before, I’ve read the writings on the wall, I know what will happen. We will all stand cross-armed as history repeats itself. There will be the usual media circus. Some engineer will take the fall. There will be a lot of cosmetic decisions on behalf of the government to improve their stance with the public. Finally the file will be stowed away to collect dust until the next building collapse. Meanwhile our heartless greedy murderer will get the chance to build another multi-story mega structure on her piece of land and sell off apartments to fresh unsuspecting home seekers. Business as usual in Egypt.

Very tempting to take up an alternative persona, don a mask and start seeking retribution armed with a sabre and the gift of words. Yet passing for now; opting instead to write this and send it out, in the hope of creating something that will outlive me. Corny as it may be, forced to quote:
“We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I’ve witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I’ve seen people kill in the name of them, and die defending them…”

Stunned!

Amazing isn’t it? How numb the collective conscious of the Egyptian public has become. Accuse me of generalizing won’t you! Yet kindly remember that if you are reading this, chances are we know each other in person and I’m quite selective regarding those I associate with. I pride myself on knowing all those worth knowing in this country. Yet fact remains… despite the overwhelming signs that this country is heading towards an era of increased religiousness and prudence… I regret to inform you that like in all matters we Egyptians have abandoned the soul (essence) of things and are settling for the bare outlines.

I’m rambling almost randomly. I’m grieving so bear with me.. or don’t… life’s too short to waste anyways.

Herald Tribune Article

I know I’m not much of a technical blogger, but every now and then I read something that tickles my fancy as an economist. So sharing with you guys. Fepsians reading this, you’ll remember the author, we studied his book for a year 🙂

The financial gods that failed

By Paul A. Samuelson Tribune Media Services

Published: August 21, 2007

And why not? Central bankers everywhere, finally given their “independence,” were raising and lowering their official short-term interest rates to stabilize capitalism’s old-time business cycles.

“Inflation targeting” was their mantra: Price level inflation of 1 to 2 percent per year was their tolerated and targeted band.

With stabilized price levels and worldwide free trade, economics seemed no longer to be “the dismal science.” Only geopolitical terrorism, environmental conservation, sociological drug abuse and unsafe sex cluttered our worry lists.

Since July, the skies have darkened markedly. Falling house prices had earlier been rising wildly under the pressure of over-easy lending and extreme leveraged borrowing. Lovely!

But once the real estate bubble bursts and house prices plummet downward, excessive past leveraging began to generate bankruptcies and loss of homes through bank foreclosures.

In a Shakespearean play, once an armed hero arrives to save the day, the tide of battle turns. So it was when the European Central Bank announced that it was pumping hundreds of billions of euros into the credit markets to prevent a credit bust.

Shame on Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, to be left behind. Still, better late than never. Rising bankruptcies and defaults mandated similar open-market infusions of billions of dollars into the credit markets by the Bank of Japan. The Bank of Canada joined in such rescue operations.

The late Milton Friedman must be rotating in his grave. He had counseled firmly: Never, never bail out foolish people who have made grave, self-harming mistakes.

And not long ago, Governor Alwyn King of the Bank of England trumpeted: “Interest rates aren’t a policy instrument to protect lenders from the consequences of their unwise decisions.”

He may rue those words if the crisis deepens.

Whatever the causes of new macro swings in Main Street fundamentals, interest rates are indeed a policy instrument – the policy instrument – to try to stabilize the Ship of State.

Andrew Mellon, multimillionaire secretary of the Treasury for President Herbert Hoover, proclaimed after the Wall Street Crash in October 1929: “Liquidate! Liquidate! Liquidate!” – words that have gone down into the records of infamy. Evidence-based policy decisions can surely do a lot better than that.

When Rome is burning, Emperor Nero must not benignly stand by fiddling, lest those careless with fire be encouraged toward future indiscretions.

First things first. Teach lessons later. Later correct the bad regulating that encouraged and permitted excessively leveraged loans.

Speaking about lessons to be learned, what is the global financial turmoil teaching us about our wonderful new hedge funds, numbering already in the thousands? Like the wheel, the alphabet and the fermentation of wine, hedge funds sprung out of the brows of us academics.

They would reduce volatility of our nest eggs and, at the same time, boost our short-term and long-term risk-corrected returns. Never mind that their sage managers collected up to hundreds of millions of dollars in fees during good years, and in bad years still receive tens of millions of dollars. The good laborer is worthy of his hire, it says in biblical scriptures.

This is the summer of discontent for hedge fund managers so far. How come?

They employ new instruments of financial engineering – puts and calls and other such options, complicated swaps, etc.

Let’s look at the new “securitized mortgages.” No longer does a bank lend me my home mortgage money. Instead, just like good and bad cheeses, it packages debts into safe, risky and more risky packages. It sells off to almost anonymous others different packages: highest promised returns for the riskiest junk stuff; lower yields for the safest stuff. Hail this better way of calibrating riskiness and spreading it efficiently onto many different shoulders.

However, at the same time these new instruments for risk-sharing definitely encourage and tempt us to elevate our pyramid of leveraging twofold, fourfold . . . and maybe even 99-fold. My granddaughter can balance a small baseball bat on a windless day. But Hercules, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein combined cannot balance a bat as tall as the Empire State Building. The dramatic 1998 failure of Long Term Capital Management taught us that hard lesson.

My phone rings around the clock as foreign journalists ask, what is going to happen in the coming years for America and the globe after the recent volatility indexes’ recent explosion?

My one answer is: No one can be sure. At best there is a one-third probability that (as Alan Greenspan earlier thought) there will be at least a mild recession by 2008.

Also there is a one-third probability that enough central bank infusions of cash will restore stability and restore those earlier optimistic outlooks for global growth.

That leaves still one-third probability that markets will be ricocheting up and down while inflation stays above the growth rates that central banks hanker for.

More than one reporter, receiving these Delphic wisdoms, goes on to ask: Professor Samuelson, which of those one-thirds do you like best?

My answer follows Gertrude Stein’s formula that “A rose is still a rose.”

I say one one-third is no worse than any other one-third. At your risk, take your choice.

Paul A. Samuelson, long-time professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1970. Distributed by Tribune Media Services.

Alooo!! Akallem Masr!

Unless you are a GSM junkie you must’ve noticed by now that all landlines in Cairo have been changed. All your previously memorized phone numbers have had a 2 added to them at the beginning. While I think increasing the number of digits in our Cairo phone numbers is inevitable. I think they way they chose to do it is absurd.

For one, its very confusing when dialing a number long distance, instead of +202 XXXX now it’s +202 2 XXX. I’ll be damned if I ever remember to add that extra 2. Also for us locals, one usually dials from memory, now I’m forced to pause and remember to insert a 2 prior to dialling away. Not to mention changes that must be made to my entire phone-book on my cell.

The alternative I would have opted for, since they must add a digit, would have been to add a zero to the end. FAR less confusion. You can dial all your peeve numbers from memory then add a zero (reminded to do so by the absence of dial tone upon completion). Voila!! Would it have killed them to do it this way??!!!

Back!

Hey all,

Sincere apologies for the disappearance act. Life was pretty messy. I know I’ve been bad to the few individuals that follow the blog, and have risked a chance that they’ve been reduced to little or none.

To those of you who have smsed, msned or e-mailed. Your concern is sweet and appreciated. Just going through tough times and an insane schedule. My cold (since doctor isn’t sure what else it could be), is much better thanks. Yesterday was my boss’ last day on the job. I’m hoping to god that during that chaotic handover month I was able to grasp everything. ISA kheir. Commercial bank management midterm this Wednesday, good luck wishes as well as recommended memory improvement techniques welcome.

Hope all is well at your end.

Cheers.

Breast Cancer

pink.jpg

The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman.

It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on “donating a mammogram” for free (pink window in the middle).

This doesn’t cost you a thing.

Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate mammogram in exchange for advertising.

Here’s the web site! Pass it along to people you know.

http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/

Song of the day: Khaled ~ Didi (don’t ask!!)

An Egyptian is shot… business as usual

Waleed Mohamed Shaalan
Hometown: Blacksburg, Virginia (originally from Egypt)
Ph.D. student, Civil Engineering
Student since fall 2006

For those of you living on another planet there was an “incident” at Virginia Tech. A student shot 32 fellow students before taking his own life. One of those victims happens to be an Egyptian PhD engineering student.

In a videotaped message mailed to NBC, Cho (the assailant) said Monday’s massacre could have been avoided.

“You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option,” he said.

You could read all about this on CNN or wherever, you could even watch videos of the murderer talking about how they forced him etc..

Just thinking how different headlines would have been, had it been our young engineer caught with the gun in his hand. Willing to bet the word “terrorism” would be splattered all over the news headlines. Any takers?

Finally, could you all kindly say a prayer for all those who died. Say the prayer to whatever God you believe in, in whatever language you pray in, but please light a candle or whisper a prayer. Thanks.

Today is the day

This isn’t a “Just say No” speech. Rather an invitation to find your voice. The amendments are not a secret, and the voting procedures were posted in the widest selling newspaper. This is one of the few chances where we get a say in anything. Moreover, the outcomes of this referendum would impact our lives and any potential political changes. So please, go vote. Vote yes, vote no. Just vote.

Shakira

Ahem… can somebody please shed some light on this:

shakiraliveconcertad_01.jpg

Doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. Shakira is coming to Cairo baby!!

According to posters on Cairo streets concert is on the 28th (a Wednesday) meanwhile nobody knows anything. I called people at MobiNil and Orascom. I wanna go!!!!!!! AND I want VIP invites cause I don’t intend to get run over by the stampede that is going to be there.

Does anybody know anything???

Song of the day: Hips don’t lie 🙂

49th

Yeah yeah.. it’s become a bit of an obessession and I need to get a life… 😀

BUT nevertheless I am happy to report that this humble blog came in at # 49 on the top 100 growing blogs for the 4th of February.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the regular readers and anybody who happened to stumble onto my little piece of insanity on the fourth of February.

God Bless.

Juka

Ma3adi dwellers beware

I’m sure most of you have already heard of Cairo’s own Jack the Ripper; but for all you out there who are reading this for the first time.. pray take heed.. be careful.

There is a serial killer located in Maadi, he targets women randomly and he is using a sword or a knife to attack his victims. He has been attacking women frequently and many accidents happened. Yesterday (not sure yesterday of what day exactly), he murdered three females regardless of their age, their profile or how they dress (why is that relevant??). For example, a ten-years-old girl and a pregnant woman were attacked.Policemen claim that the criminal is insane (typical!!), however, they were not able to arrest him until now. Policemen had given a very vague and general discription of the criminal; they say that the criminal has black hair sent to his back, is a little bit fat and of average height.Policemen gave out two numbers to contact in case of emergencies or in case anyone suspects any person:
Naqib Ahmed Hamdy: 010-123-1777
Mr. Farouk Fahmy: 012-139-0434

I think it’s nice that they are actually listening to the public.

Song of the day: Smooth criminal 🙂

2006 #1s

Looking back at 2006 in a different light.

Best Arabic movie: Aw2at Faragh

Best English movie: Crash

Newcomer of the year: Jannat

Album of the year: Elissa (although not as good as her last).

Most played song: Rob Thomas – Lonely No More

Best clip: Nancy Ajram – Ehsas gedeed

Books read and loved: Harry Potter (all the parts), Kafka’s Metamorphosis, A Brave New World (I know it starts out really boring, but it picks up), Mr. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Quran, Bein Elkasrein, Timeline (Micheal Crichton), Dan Brown (all his other books 🙂  ), I’m sure there are a bunch of others but these are the ones that come to mind. 

Best outing: Casper and Gambinis terrace

Soccer mania: Italy won the World Cup (GO CANNAVARO); Ahly kicked ass in Japan and Tunisia, Egypt won the African Cup of Nations, and Chelsea is on fire. Its been a great year for my teams begad.

Things I’d never done before:

  • Visited Brussels
  • Sat in a stadium and screamed my lungs out
  • Started blogging
  • Owned an Ipod
  • Had so7our (in Ramadan) at a cafe with friends
  • Became good friends with complete strangers compliments of the blogging world
  • Planned weddings and engagement parties and failed to show up to the actual event
  • Read Harry Potter (so to make up for lost time read them back to back)
  • Got published
  • Taught a class (she aced her exam 😉 )
  • Chosen as Time Magazine’s person of the year 😛 (couldn’t help myself)

On the political arena there’s been so much going on I can’t pinpoint an event that was more important than all others. We’ve had a very unsetteling year in the region. We’ve had local elections, Hizbollah in Lebanon, mass killings in Palestine and Iraq and the year capped off with the execution of Saddam.

Overall its been interesting. Seeing that this was so much fun, if you’ve gotten this far in the post (good for you) you’ve just been tagged. 😀

Ciao people, have an AMAZING 2007. May your 2006 #1s pale in comparison to your 2007 #1s.

100 things we didn’t know last year.

BBC’s Magazine Monitor has been tracking unexpected and interesting facts from the news. They have compiled a top 100 list of their favourite ones. You can access the whole list here. I’ve picked out some of my faves.

1. Pele has always hated his nickname, which he says sounds like “baby-talk in Portuguese”. 
 3. Urban birds have developed a short, fast “rap style” of singing, different from their rural counterparts.
12. The Pope’s been known to wear red Prada shoes.
31. The Mona Lisa used to hang on the wall of Napoleon’s bedroom.
39. The world’s fastest supercomputer will have its speed measured in “petaflops”, which represent 1,000 trillion calculations per second.
40. The medical name for the part of the brain associated with teenage sulking is “superior temporal sulcus”.
57. The word “time” is the most common noun in the English language, according to the latest Oxford dictionary.
62. Thirty-four percent of the UK has a surname that is ranked as “posher” than the Royal Family’s given name, Windsor.
72. Modern teenagers are better behaved than their counterparts of 20 years ago, showing “less problematic behaviour” involving sex, drugs and drink.
98. A “lost world” exists in the Indonesian jungle that is home to dozens of hitherto unknown animal and plant species.
100. In the 1960s, the CIA used to watch Mission Impossible to get ideas about spying.

LOL. Theme of Mission Impossible playing in the background. 😀