My days and thoughts....

Blog covering some selected happenings in my life.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Martyr Aaron Swartz and my biggest disappointment in 2012

I personally didn't meet Aaron Swartz. Of course I didn't, I haven't even heard of him before his much publicized death\suicide. Well not really, I have came across his simple but powerful web server. However, almost many people over the internet have came into contact with one of his other more popular contribution to our internet experience: the RSS protocol which he co-authored. Well, many non geeks will not know or appreciate what RSS is, but at least every single firefox user who has installs the browser for the first time would have the BBC live news update feed (Feed Location Site Location; If you know how can I make it so that you can be able to drag it to your address bar comment me). Also many websites have live news feed use it, Google Reader and Blog Aggregators like the ones this blog was subscribed to ( - These use the RSS protocol. Actually he was only 13 years old when he participated in that. He was a prodigy who haven't got to eat fava beans and have his IQ diminish as we say about smart kids in Egypt.

But this is not only his contribution. He also was an open access advocate for research. Personally, my biggest disappointment of 2012 (aside than the failure and setback to reform in Post Mubarak Egypt) was the fact that I learnt during a graduate seminar course that publishing academic peer reviewed papers cost money; not just any amount of money, but that can reach a hefty price of $5000 USD!!!! Already academic institutions pay a lot for accessing academic indexing and database services, individuals pay also for accessing single articles. Elsevier's Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, costs $20,930 USD as per this article in the Guardian. For example accessing a single article served by Springer costs $40. The American University in Cairo for example doesn't have access to groups like Elsevier and Nature Publishing Group. (Well technically I can order a paper using the document delivery system, the Illiad, but have to endure a 2-4 days wait at AUC). Publishing groups makes billions in dollars of profits out of our efforts, people working in academia and research. According to the previous link, Elseviers profit were more than 1 Billion USD in 2010!!! That's the real motive behind writing this blog post before the death of Aaron by a month.

Swartz allegedly downloaded 4 million papers from JSTOR archives through the MIT network. He did so to prove a point, and eventually assured JSTOR that he won't make them available. First he used his affiliation with Harvard to access the library system then he had his laptop physically connected to their network. He was eventually captured by the US Secret Service which is equivalent to a branch of the State Security in Egypt – Amn El Dawla. More on how it happened here: He was psychologically bullied by the US justice system through Carmin Ortez, a prospect candidate to govern Massachusetts . If he stole the hard disk he would have been charged with misdemeanour's and paid a fine, but they charged him with 13 felony counts carrying about 50 years in jail. They blackmailled him to jail him only 6 months instead of going for trial. Eventually out of frustration he committed suicide. JSTOR dropped the case as they posted on their website in 2011 and didn't even press with charges. It is the MIT and the DA who continued the process.

Well, this raises many ethical questions. Without science and research, there will be no civilization. Research requires a lot of funding (ask the tech guys or those working in pharmaceuticals). A decent end product, may it be a medication or a breakthrough image detection alternative reality gadget, has years of hard work of research (and investments) behind them. Shouldn't this knowledge, if it is life saving, be provided for free (the knowledge)? But what about the efforts of people behind it? Well what about those who want to take it a step ahead and improve the research by making their own? Those who want to share their results? Of course maintenance and running costs of servers that host these are high. Also part of the costs before the last decades went to the actual hard copy printing and ink. Although I had a professional stint of my career in research but I didn't get into much details regarding the grants and funding, but it seems publishing costs eats a lot of funding grants. I will check with some research professors and update that later on.

I do not necessarily accept the actions of late Aaron (may he RIP). Actually I have access to JSTOR account through my AUC library account. I would help friends by getting articles from it when in need. I personally ask my friends doing their graduate studies abroad to fetch me some articles for research. However, the means through which the justice system in the USA reacted towards him is questionable. May be he is hunted down for his activities against SOPA. Usually such brave moves that societies may disregard of bring true and real change. I am not sure if this can be said to be an ugly side of capitalism buts its definitely an abuse of authority, and power, and corruption.

As with the faltering revolutionary trend going on in Egypt since the Jan 25 uprising, usually deaths related in confrontations with the government or conspiracies are labelled martyrs. Hence, I declare Aaron Swartz as a martyr. I am not that of an activist to call for a sit-in at the US Embassy in protest of the actions of the District Attorneys. Anyways, its not safe due to ongoing clashes in Qasr Ainy street. So the least I can do is to share this petition to remove Carmen Ortiz from office. It had already passed the necessary threshold but a bigger number would cause a bigger impact. Only American citizens would be able to sign it though.
Some people have wrote this little script bookmarklet: the JSTOR Liberator to download articles from JSTOR. Well JSTOR hasn't pressed charges as previously stated! I think more effort and supporting and promoting open access journals should be made, actually from the writer and then from those who seek to cite sources. Impact factors (which is a not that fair systems of grading how credible journals are) would increase. May be also expressing solidarity and participating in Hactivists attempts in DDoSing and defacing websites related. Well I don't think I will ever be admitted or be accepted to MIT, so I fear nothing.

Read More Here

Know more About Aaron and his Cause here

Support Open Access Journals like PLOS here

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Friday, December 02, 2011

The Sarcasm of Destiny: My last post and Egypt

Almost a year has passed since my last post [link]. So much of unbelievable stuff has taken place. The result of the elections I was complaining of was a big joke. The NDP won with the worst kind ever of tampering, gaining more than 95%. Just less than two months later, people finally revolted against the regime, bringing down Mubarak, dissolving the parliament, removing some of the corrupt figures. However, they are replaced by by a ruling military junta which is so far trying to spread its wings. The regime is not brought down. People are refusing the change.

My argument still holds. Change can not come from within. Given the political nature of this blog there are zillions of things to talk about now. I don't have time to talk about everything given the low activity on writing. But my passion for writing is back. I hope its for real this time.

Oct 1st
Well not really. The upper part was written and drafted on the first of October. Now its the 2nd of December and I am still in draft. It seems I lost the passion for writing. Will not talk about the election in which I will vote after 10 days, nor that I will talk about the political scene in Egypt that has a murky outlook. There are zillions of things to reflect upon such as killings by the army in Maspiro and Tahrir, the fake million man marches, rising hypocrisy levels in Egyptians, the refusal of democracy, the manipulation of the masses through religion....etc.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Again, I am back

So it turns out I totally ignored my return. I refused the miracle of being brought back to life? My last post was more than 1 year and 8 months ago. I thought that I was alive again. I thought that changing jobs would mean a start of a new life. Yes, I started a new life with a new job. I vowed to change. I promised my self to improve. I laid out plans for the next coming couple of years of my life to progress. However, I didn't adapt to the changing circumstances. More pressure is building up. Looks like I am starting to give up. Either I implode and destroy myself or explode and wreck everybody.

I see myself as a reflection of what is going on with this country. Some people think I am in better shape, with a promising future waiting for me. Yes I am in a better position than many others. But I think I am sort of losing it. This is exactly how I see it with this country. I am giving up on change from within. All what Dr. Shabka told us 5 years ago is now bull shit. Change as usual has to come from abroad. How? No, not a military invasion or intervention of the US of A. I will leave that discussion for a later post.

The parliamentary elections is after 3 days. I don't think I will be able to make it to the polling station this time. I said that I am giving up on change from within, I know that the election results will be tampered with and this time, there is no real campaigning. I gave up after voting in the Shura council. I didn't even cared about the result. I know the MB are just the other face of the coin for the government. Afterall, they are corrupt and won't provide real change. They are god damn Egyptians after all. They always claim that they can mobilize the mass and get to overtake the country. Well, I still don't accept the presence of the bastards of the National Democratic Party. Its like all of Egypt are NDP members if they see a personal benefit of their own. Even if the give the Wafd Party some minority seats and replace the MB's 80 seats with stupid Wafd members, many of the Wafd candidates are "converts" from the NDP.

Next post I will publish one of the older draft comeback posts and I think I want to comment on the situation of the christians here. Yesterday, 2 christians were killed and like 50 or so were injured over clashes with the police forces about building a church/service hall. Last week, the police also killed one of the Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the pre elections campaigning.

Let's see how things will go. But here is how I see the results of the Parliamentary Elections of Egypt in 2010. NDP 80%, Wafd 10%, Independents(non NDP converts) 5% and others 5%. I hope they abolish this Women Quota (كوتة المرأة) thing.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Returning from the Dead. What next?

Well, it has been almost 4 years since I have started this blog. I don't know why have stopped writing in it. Obviously, by skimming through the dozen of posts I have written, most of my posts are about rants, criticizing, pathetic comparisons, some personal diaries and some technical posts. This would lead to the conclusion that I am not focused and this blog should be specialized. Well when I started this blog 4 years ago, it was first meant to be a bit political. Then I started 4 other blogs for technical and personal posts. Then I decided to let it all be in one. I was treating it as way to think out loudly or to log some diary entries but online.

Anyways, I lost my interest in writing later on after I graduated, so I ignored this blog. But many times I feel like I want to write down some thoughts. Back in time, at the the height of this blog, when I used to feel that I wanted to write, it was I had an urge to write just like the urge to pee and holding it for a long time in the cold. I would rush back home to and turn on my computer, and keep on writing and writing. I would format my text, add pictures and hyperlinks. Somehow I treated the post as if its a writing assignment that I like. I hated these stupid essays. Although I regret not paying attention to the writing courses, but the instructors and their topics were really boring and not appealing.

These days, however, I started feeling that I want to write again. I want to express some inner feelings and thoughts. Some of these thoughts are religious, other are philosophical. Hang on, what the heck is philosophical and why I am calling them so? May be this is what I call challenging dogmatic teachings..dogmatic? Basically, a lot of controversial thoughts has been going around in my head. I decided to let some of these escape to this hideout. Yes, I still call this place a hideout although I am aware some of the people I know have stumbled upon this blog because I stupidly used my nickname to sign these posts.

Well, giving myself more freedom in expressing myself, and given the fact this place has been quiet for some good time, allowing it disappear from google's first page when searched for with its title, I decided to change my pen name. I choose Lazarus. Why that name? Because as I said, I decided to revive this blog, bringing it out from the dead. Jesus Christ revived a guy called Lazarus and brought him back from the dead. I like the hebrew form of the name more, but Lazarus has a better sound in my head. I am not contradicting myself here. Sounding better in my head doesn't have to make me like it more. Actually, the name Satan has a better sound and its easier and more lighter for pronounciation than the word angel.

So what are my next steps or posts would be about? While browsing through the links in dashboard and refamiliarizing myself with the management settings of the blogs, I found a couple of draft posts. I think I should still post these. duuuh, I have spent more than an hour writing this post. That's enough for my return.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

I am back

It has been almost a year since I have last posted. Too bad I quit writing and I think I have lost all my writing skills. So most probably, I will be writting some crap till my style improves. But why have I suddenly remembered my blog? It is the holy month of Ramadan, almost 6am. I don't know. I am just a bit bored and I ran out of websites to checkout. So I hit and suddenly sitemeter was autocompleted as it appeared from my bookmarks in the new Google chrome browser.  I remember I was blogging about my expereince with firefox about 3 years ago for my first anniversary with it. Probably my next post would be about my browser experience. I don't have much to say now. I am not into political posts anymore. I don't even read blogs almost at all now, even technical ones.  I will look through drafted posts and post them accordingly.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma buddhist protests and Al Azhar!!

Burma is a former British colony that gained its independence in 1948. It is the country of the former Secretary of the United Nation who is very well known in Egypt for his compliance with Nasser in the 1967, U Thant. It has been under oppressive military rule since 1962 that is lasting till this day. It is currently ruled by a military junta similar to the one that was ruling Egypt after the 1952 coup. Right now, its brave buddhist monks are staging strong protests against the ruthless regime featuring more than 20'000 monks and nuns are leading the protests that are spanning large sections of the capital city's downtown, from the home of the in house arrested Pro Democracy Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is a fine lady educated in London prestigious universities and the daughter of a general who fought for Burma Independence from the British. The military regime using its forces killed people yesterday and cut internet access and mobile phone coverage to disconnect Burma from the rest of the world and start crushing the monks movement. My prayers goes to the Burmese nation.

My commentary: I don't know why but I am inclined to compare the current stand off between the Buddhist monks and the state of Al Azhar university after the 1952 revolution. Pre 1952, Al Azhar has always been the main source if not the only one of demonstrations against foreign occupation, whether during the time of the Napoleonic French Expedition or the Frazer coquest, appointment of Mohamed Ali untill recently anti british occupation in the 1940s. Some sporadic and weak anto government protests has taken place but not like those pre 1952. I am so sad for the deteriorating conditions of that once great entity of Egypt and Islam. Now Al Azhar institutions are under occupation from the Egyptian government reducing amounts of religious programmes in that religious non secular university and voiding it of its essence. Now Al Azhar are becoming a non patriotic, non religious body indulged in ignorant wars of silly fatwas.

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Comparison between the Monarch and Republic affairs.

I have been following this TV Series about King Farouq I, the overthrown monarch and the last ruling member of the royal family. Although nominaly King Ahmed Fouad II was the list king of Egypt, but he was 6 months old when he was a declared as a king and he was in Italy with his family till the declaration of the republic and abolishment of monarchy one year later. That particular part of history, the reign of king Farouq is a much contested part of our modern history. All what we learnt in school is that the monarchy was full of corruption, agency of the palace to the British, social injustice and lack of development. Unfortunately there aren't many "unbiased" sources about that period. Either the bull crap of the pro Nasserists idiots or the pro royalists who linger to their lost titles and lands. However, its possible to gather some bits pieces of information form some articles published here and there or some books (who mostly happen to be about other nations) that mentions Egypt during the 1940s. Historians are also very biased, not to mention Mohamed Hassanein Heikal. I think Dr. Younan Labib Rizk is not that biased but I haven't read much for him.

Hereby, I am writing about what I the opinion I am starting to formulate about that period. Unfortunately I have no academic or solid sources on the internet or current published books and it would take me sometime to state my references and distinguish that from my own analysis.

First of all, Egypt was governed by the 1923 constitution. This constitution gave more powers to the Prime Minister than the King and also to the parliament. I am not sure but I think the king had the right to remove or force the Prime Minister to resign which would result in new elections. I am trying to find the text of that constitution to read more about it. This constitution faced more challenges from the British occupation. At the onset of the World War II, the british Ambassador forced the palace backed prime minister who happened to the be the royal bureau chief to declare martial law. This setback to democracy was forced upon us by the brittons. Also I believe that martial law was declared once more during the 1948 war against the newly declared State of Israel. Also the constitution was replaced from 1930-1936 by the Sedqi Constitution which put more more into the hands of the King Ahmed Fuad I. So Basically, the 1923 constitution which was abolished in which lasted from 1924 till 1952 was actually in action for a maximum of 16 years. So we had a maximum of 16 years of true democracy. Now back to King Farouk's reign. He ascended to the thrown at the age of 16 and actually got power at the age of 17 in 1937. Actually his royal bureau were taking decision on his behalf most of the time and they were his advisers. He inherited them from his father, he didn't choose them. Right after he assumed powers he was faced by the British snobbishness. In 1942, a British tank brigade surrounded the Abdeen palace and confronted the king with a throne surrender or accept a ministry of Wafd. The British Ambassador was the actual ruler of the country not the prime minister who just administered the government or the king. Sir Miles Lampson is one of the people who caused setback to democracy in Egypt before Nasser.

The High Dam is one of the achievements that is attributed to the Nasser Regime which is the offspring of the military coup. According to one of the Wafd Party writers a couple of years ago, I think either Gamal Badawy, Abdel Rahman Fahmy or Abbas El Tarabily, the High Dam project was discussed by the Wafd Party before in the 1940s. Why didn't the Wafd party carry ahead with it. Just for the same reasons that faced the Military Regime of Nasser, the lack of funding. How did Nasser solve that problem? He expropriated the Suez Canal, 11 years before its official return to Egypt and engaged the country in a new war that led to the tri Anglo Franco Israeli aggression against Egypt!!! I believe if the Coup was delayed 3-4 years, we would have seen a lot of new investments in the country specially after the payments and british reimbursements to the Egyptian government after leasing and devastating the country in the World War II. All the industrial projects that took place after the revolution were inherited from pre 1952 governments such as the steel factory that was built in Helwan. The source of the next information is from a sociology book and partly supplemented by the sociology professor at university. That giant steel factory in Helwan was already planned to be at aswan near the iron mines pre 1952. But Nasser decided to ruin that ancient city that was a rehabiliatation resort more prominent during the era of the Umayyid Caliph Abdel Malek ibn Marwan, by placing the factory in it, causing the economy more costs in transportation and devastating the environment because he wanted to gather popular support for him at any time the need arises.

I will edit that post later.

I might get comments like why are you talking about a 50 years old issue and leaving the current unrest and uprising in Egypt like the recent 30'000 employee strike in Mahalla or the connection to the current sad affairs in the country. Well, I am trying to embark on showing a direct connection to the illegitimacy of the current Mubarak and his NDP gangsters rule.

PS. I have nothing against the British. I am just talking about history. I am an avid lover of the English football and of London and Oxford.

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Nothing to say

I felt I had a lot to say. I felt the need that I want to write a lot. I came here to write something like 5 different lengthy posts about 3 different topics, but suddenly, as soon as I went to the blog I became blank!! Don't know why. May be its 4.30 am. Hmm, anyways, I decided to revive this blog. I will come back soon in about a day or two.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

President Mubarak's cars!

I don't know why, but last night I started a new hobby which is keeping track of President Hosni Mubarak license plate numbers. Yeah, President Mubarak has to participate in the openings or inaugurations of several projects and structures that doesn't require a prime minister to attend such as 6 October Highway bridge, several farms at Toshka valley, a factory owned by one of his gang or close person or events such graduation of military faculties' classes of several branches of his army, national days like 6 October war celebrations, 23rd of July coup remembrance and many other events. He also "honoured" Cairo's Al Ahly Sports club centenary celebrations by attending the football match against FC Barcelona of Spain. I guess the military classes graduation follows a certain protocol which dictates the presence of the president. But also the final of the football's Egypt cup should be attended by the president as it has been always attended by the king but the president always delegates his head of guards

Anyways, back to my original scope. So president Mubarak yesterday attended the opening of real estate project at San Stefano in Alexandria. So let me return back to my new hobby, which is keeping track of his car's license plates, (btw, Mubarak's fleet has only Mercedes cars). To my surprise, his car had a private license, just like any personal or family owned car. This means it is not owned by the government, presidential guard, army or even a commercial institution. It was from Cairo. I don't know where i wrote down its number. In the last hour, and currently, he is attending the graduation of a new Air Defense class. He arrived in 124490 private license in Giza. Again, it was a private licensed car. What is strange is that its licensed in Giza and Mubarak doesn't live in Giza. So who own these cars? It has to be a single person since these cars have a private license. Is it Mubarak himself or any person of his family?

So from now on, whenever possible, I would keep track of President Hosni Mubarak's cars.
  • Mercedes 124490 Giza

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