My days and thoughts....

Blog covering some selected happenings in my life.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Death: A journey to the other side

Today, I participated in the funeral of a close relative of mine. She was old, not very old with today's standards. She is/was 80. Other than being kind and generous as those from the old generation, I really liked her stories. I miss hundreds of her stories about my relatives and other people close to us. I wanted to to write down these stories which most of them she told me in her last few years. She is a great loss with the amount of information that went with her. I will definitly remember her with her teachings and advises. She is my grandmother's sister. I think we will be sharing the same tomb. God bless your soul. God please reduce her suffering. Amen.

I know I have to follow her someday. Man's life in earth is a long difficult journey. Here religion takes place and dictate why we are here in this life and why will we die. We can say a lot of things but after all its god's will that we can not question. Whether a muslim, a jew or a christian, it doesn't matter that we all think because at the end we will all day. Its upto each person's own beliefs and choice to go in any direction. There are only two choices and rewards. Either its the good way which is rewarded by heaven and the companionship of the good, or its hell with the daemons, devils and all that suffering.

The choice is already known. However, its life that is tough. One tends to forget that death will take us away from life soon. Why do people hate death? Is it because they will lose those beloved ones? No way. We will forget them and continue our journey in this life. Its our fate. We know what choice we have to make, but it is hard to maintain that way. We die before fulfilling our main dream which is eternal peace and end up in the undesired side. Sin. Sin. Sin. Oh my God.

I dare not to talk about God. God is giving us a lot of chances. God has sent us a lot of messages. But we get lured away from the right path. This is a constant struggle. But Millions and millions of people have went though this struggle long before. The messengers and prophets of God warned us, guided us a lot. O life! But that's enough. Of course we know all of that. Then what is the solution? Oh boy, this is getting creepy. One won't be afraid of death when it is not coming by surprise while being in an unacceptable sinful situation. I pray to God to take my soul back when I am in a good position to go to heaven. The sky is not the limit in that case. Rabbena Yostorha we Yehdeena.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

No more need for 25 pt change: Cairo Underground Metro

Starting next saturday, July 1st, the Underground Metro ticket price will increase to 1 LE. This means I will have no need to keep these 25 piasters paper notes and not care anymore for them. I really hate these paper notes. In addition to the notorious 1 LE note that is now being taken out of circulation although I am yet to see the new coin that should be replacing it, the 25 piaster should have been replaced by that coin with the hole in the middle but surprisingly the paper note is the one in circulation. So I guess that the Egyptian pound note will still rule for a looong time and the coin will be withdrawn again.

Whatever. Concerning the new rise in the price, people will soon start to grumble and complain about it. Yeah, its a 33% rise. However, of the alleged 2 million commuters using each line everyday from 6.30 am to 1am, I guess that only half of them, If I am optimistic, actually pay for the ticket. The majority of people just jump over the gates or stick their bodies after those who are legtitmately passing. No one objects about being followed by a person who does that, although many will attribute it to the collectivist culture in Egypt, but I think its because of our passivity and unwillingness for change. Many of us still live by the backward mentality of Nasser and the socialist(communist) foes or the current corruption rampant regime of the "Mob-Arak" and the Gang.

The metro ticket price is strongly supported and subsidized by the government. 0.75 LE or 1 LE may be too much for the majority of Egyptians. Yeah, the rise is 4 cents from $0.13 to $0.17 USD and it is a lot for many of us. For an average employee using the metro, this will be a 0.50 LE increase per day, or 11 LE increase in a month.But, you pay 1 LE for a great system that worthes much more than that. You get a clean train and good seats (not as comfortable as those in the London Underground) but they are very good. You get an air conditioned underground station. I felt the difference in the past hot few days and in every summer. You get more than 90% of the time working escalators (depending on the station) and they are constantly being mantained. You get a fast service compared to the stagnant traffic on the surface( applies more to the second line). You are even watched and under surveillance by a somewhat extensively covered CCTV.

Not only that, the underground is a good spot to watch new songs. I knew about that Sa3d EL Soghayar from the underground. It is also a good place for socialization where you can even get to watch young teens and couples spending some quality romantic times together. I also get to see a lot of different people and some times have a quick chat with them.

I have tried undergrounds in many countries. And I can be at least be proud of the underground in Egypt (second line more). The London Underground is the best, yet the most expensive. There are a lot of prices depending on the zones of travel and period of ticket which is about 4 Sterlings for the Zone 1-2 ticket ( an astonishing $7.2 US and 40 LE) and even more than that for the whole zones which covers area more than 40 km away from downtown London. This is the other extreme. I guess the metro ticket should be priced higher at least for the second line. The first line simply sucks. Most of it is above the ground with no air conditions and poor train conditions and a lot of other problems that need another separate post. But bottom line, the Cairo Underground Metro is not bad compared to other countries. For example, the New York City subway where people get to do their business(no.1 and no.2) and it always smell of urine, not because of being drunken, but because of the normal habits of people that treat it as a public WC just like people do here under the bridges, according to friends.

My message to people that I wish NGOs could promote is to treat the Metro in a better way. It costs a lot to operate yet it gets a little. I wish we can show the 7'000 years of civilization because we seriously have a problem here. Its the only mean of transportation in Egypt that is somewhat up to international standards. We have to act like real civilized people who want to ask for their rights from the government. This is one kind of change that has to take place in us first. I believe that caring for the Metro and not avoiding paying the ticket is a real change. This is our right too. If a person who goes to a demonstration to shout against Mubarak without paying the ticket price then this person is ignorant and hypocrite.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New DSL prices in Egypt: July 2006

The Ministry of Communcations and Information Technology (MCIT) in cooperation with the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority have announced the new prices of the crappy DSL services in Egypt that will comply with the requests of people so that idiots like me don't complain of the shitty service that is provided at 3 times the price of neighbouring countries for 1/3rd the speeds and at a much lower quality.

As we know, in authoritarian regime controlled countries, its the government that sets the prices not the privately owned companies so the service providers have to abide by the set price else they will face legal actions as with what happened with the under performing linkdotnet 4 monthes ago when they reduced their prices in one of their promotion offers.

Anyways, let's go ahead with the new tarrif that introduced a capped bandwidth that is facing strong oppositions in most countries that apply them and they are on their way to extinction yet they are being introduced in Egypt and, of course, with improper calculation on the side of the ISP presumably.

256/64: Unlimited Bandwidth, 95LE/month (16.5 USD) down from 150LE.
512/128: Unlimited Bandwidth, 190LE/month (33 USD) down from 250LE.
1Mb: Unlimited Bandwidth 380LE/month (66 USD) down from 450LE.

The new capped bandwindth:

1 Mb: 10 GB/month for 150LE/month and each additional 1 GB for 8LE
2 Mb: 15 GB/Month for 200 LE/month and each additional 1GB for 8LE

No gurantee for real speed. Currently I am a 512Kbps user and my average speed is 15-25KB/sec, exactly to that of a 256 or even appraoching the ISDN speeds :S

As a last note, although Egypt has an estimate of 5 million users online, the actual number of connected phone lines whether through dial up or dsl is less than a million of the 10 million homes. This has been almost constant for the last year or more because the growth of internet usage in Egypt is now limited by the number of PCs.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

back in school

I don't know what brought this up to my mind. But earlier this afternoon while I was planning about next I went back 10-13 years in time to school time when I was in primary school years. There was this system of reward that they used with us. We had a chart with the names of students in our class and with about 100 boxes. I don't remember what this chart was called. This chart was like a scoreboard. Each box was to be filled with either a star or a black mark. If you do something wrong like missing homeworks, bullying, talking in class or whatever that irritates the teachers you get a black mark. If you something that is to be rewarded positively you get a star. The star was coloured with the colour of the subject. We had a specific colours for each subject, where copybooks used to be covered with that colour. Quite a neat system to avoid confusion between different subjects. These stars and blackmarks were reported in the school reports among the marks in subjects and teachers' comments. Doing a poster or a good drawing that to be hanged on the class wall was also rewarded. My drawings are awful and they are just the same since I was in KG2. However, I managed to get a couple of stars for different subjects using the help of my father and my child's craft encyclopedia which came in like 15 books.

The student with highest number of star may not be the student with the highest marks; quiet and polite students used to get a considerable number of stars for well behaving. But of course, the leading position was pursued by the class nerds. This reminds me with the football soccer leagues. Its always a couple or more teams chasing each other for the top positions and they are rewarded a number of points for each match win or draw.

Oh I miss these old good days. The days of innocence and peace. Life becomes tougher as one grows old, yet more interesting. In the past I, and other students were very reluctant to violate the rules and take blackmarks that we would feel bad about. Now i say what an idiot I was. It would have been fun to challenge these rules. I want to relive my old childhood with my current mentality.

I think this is the reason I like games like the Sims and the very old Alter Ego. Having more than one life where you get to live as a gangster, crook, nerd, cool person or even a jinxed unfortunate person is very tempting. I will talk about that latter.

Monday, June 12, 2006

How low does the stockmarket want to go?

The Egyptian stockmarket is continuing a somewhat sharp longterm correction movement. Today, Monday 12 June, the downward trend is getting sharper.
As of now 1.30 PM, the prices are as follows for main stocks

HRHO: Hermes Holding -6.8% @ 28.51
ETEL: Telecom Egypt -4.0% @ 12.94
ACGC: Arab Cotton Ginning -5.28 @ 8.08
ORTE: Orascom Telecom -2.74% @ 260.00
ESRS: Ezz Steel -5.16% @ 43.87

Mobinil are dropping at a lower pace. There is something wrong with the market. Yes, the stocks were over valued, but now I think they are being undervalued. What the heck is going on? Does the impact of amateur investors last so long?? They have been stinged by the effects long ago since last february. The untrustable government economic indicators show an assumable strong economic growth. This should reflect in a stronger market. The interest rates on the Egyptian pound are going down to 7%. This should give extra strenght to the market.

On another note, the NYSE is preparing for a similar correction movement. Let's see what will happen to the foes on the other side of the atlantic.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Change in Egypt part (2)

The problem is not only from the corrupted government. Its in the people. The real problem is with the people of Egypt. They are not asking for their rights for two reasons. The first one is they don't know what are they rights. The second is fear of the stronger force. For the time being, I believe that the first problem has to be solved and then the second will go away. Why don't people know their rights? The answer right away is poverty. I have to agree that the government is trying to do its best to provide them with their basic needs. No one can't deny that efforts being made in bringing electricity and drinking to under privileged areas. But the government. Most of these under privileged areas are at the out skirts of Cairo like Doweiqa, "kilo 4.5" at the Suez road and Manshayet Nasser. One of the solutions instead of establishing these areas and biting off agriculture lands is going to the desert. But first two important questions are raised. The first is why is that, they are moving on to agriculture land and the second is who can make a real decision by moving deep into the desert like 100 kilometres east or west of urban areas?

The answer to the first question is the booming population problem. Under privileged families have big size. The couples often have more than 6 kids. This is one of the things that have to be changed in people. A child or two are enough. The government campaign seems to be working in urban areas were underprivileged people are near to educated ones. But the message is not reaching the target audience. Its usually the illiterate couples who have more children. They have to be reached and taught how to plan a family. Hence, resources will be divided more evenly and fairly upon a smaller size. The guard in our building has 7 daughters and one son, who is the youngest. His wife kept bearing him children until the boy was born. He is illiterate, very poor and from a village near Aswan.

The second question returns us to the circle once more. The one behind the decision to move to the desert is the government. There is not any qualified person in the government who can well plan for a move to the desert. This is because the ignorants are there as it is all said. But with a more focused vision inside this matter under the theme that the government is one of us, a move to a desert for a 10'000 years old culture that thrived in the Nile valley is difficult. However, the worldly heaven for Egypt is in that desert. People have to be aware of that. People themselves have to believe that first before the government works on it. But how will an illiterate person understand that?

Poverty is strongly connected to illiteracy. India is one of the poorest nations in the world and compared to their slums our under privileged people would be considered living in humane conditions. India is booming of with education. It may be argued that they have a democratic and freely chosen government that is supporting all that. It could be the same here. The corruption, emergency laws and current state of affairs somehow limit the civil community in Egypt. I believe if the civil groups concentrate in sincerely helping the people with illiteracy and not nagging the government in politics, the government won't mind that. This will help prepare the next generation to fight off and ask for their rights. The next government then would be really from the people. People would be aware of their rights and can ask for them. Its only that time when Egypt can become a true democracy.

But its not the ability to read and write that people have to learn. People have to be aware of many things. They have to be aware of respect. An ordinary woman cannot object to her husband if he is forcing her to bear him children against her will with harming her. Women have to be aware of that. This is similar to people who can't say no to the government. How can't you say no to the government if you can't say it in your own home? Hence, I go back to my last post about the revolution that has to start at home. It is a hard process. But change has to come and from ourselves not from up. A real change.