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Outliers. How Success is a Community Sport

Outliers. How Success is a Community Sport

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is an interesting read. It provides a different interpretation on the reasons for success and emphasises the fact of how wrong the adage “self made man/woman” is.

Gladwell argues that success is never overnight but is deeply dependent on several factors from culture, society, education, and even the year of birth and then the preceding hard and dedicated work of some 10,000 hours required to achieve mastery. Then and only then having the presence of recognising and tenaciously gripping opportunities to make them stressful.

He outlines several fundamental research to support his theories and observations, the most eye-opening for me was how there are essentially only two ways children are raised, in this context, of that how poor families tend to raise their children and hour to the rich did and how those affected the psyche and ultimately the opportunities that become available for either in their lives.

There are so many lessons and thoughts to evaluate and gain from in this book. I very much recommend it.

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Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

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Tom Hanks doesn’t much act in his movies and is not type-cast. He is just a naturally good human being! That’s the simple fact, and his writing completely confirms this too.

As I read his stories in Uncommon Type, I was almost urging him to put in some drama at this point, or do a plot twist there, to no avail though, as the stories are just “nice”, and some would say rather bland.

We’re trained to expect and demand drama in fiction and that’s what’s dished out to us. However, reading beyond that expectation in the first two or three stories, I find myself accepting that yes, the world indeed has more good than bad, and people are naturally kind. By then, I was cringing whenever I came across a cuss word – sparingly used through his text as they are – I actually felt that he was compelled to use them to show some form or “badness”. I’m happy to say that even with those, he can’t be, not with his kind and trusting nature.

Later on by the fifth or sixth story, the pace was picking up, and my realization that no earth-shattering drama is about to happen, made me relax even more. That relaxation led to sinking even deeper in my seat as I continued reading this nice book. Even his attempts at injecting a twist on the story, almost always at the very end with the last sentence, didn’t shake that sense of goodness in the world.

Uncommon Type is light reading that doesn’t tax one’s brain much, and some of its stories would certainly benefit from better plot twists and drama to make them even more enjoyable.

What you get with this book, I guess, is the calming influence one might expect from Xanax.

Thank you Mr Hanks.

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Timely Serendipity, the Book of Joy

Timely Serendipity, the Book of Joy

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The Book of Joy is a life changing book.

Do you believe in serendipity? I certainly do after picking up this book. It was like the universe was aligning just at the right time, and presenting me with this book because I needed its teachings most. This book was bought by my lovely wife while we were on a recent trip to Nepal. From a Tibetan bookshop too!

At a time when more things were going wrong than right. At a time of change in my life. This book provided a global perspective that I was slowly missing. Focusing on my own problem rather than putting them in context. Focusing inward than outward. This book and its authors; two heroes of mine, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have re-centered me and got me to focus on things larger than me. Through their shared wisdom, they are guiding me to find joy. Joy that was illusive over the past score years. And their wisdom and experiences offer a verifiable guide on how one might attain lasting joy and all the peace and tranquility that it brings.

I highly recommend this book and am eternally grateful to its authors for bringing it to us. I’m also very grateful to my wife who picked it up and allowed me to read, and now benefit from it.

Blessings to you all. I wish you joy and happiness.

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Congratulations! #DurazSiege is One Year Old.

Congratulations! #DurazSiege is One Year Old.

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Yep. One year. A full city of over twenty thousand souls has been under siege for one full year, since 20 June 2016. How about that? It must qualify for a world record of some kind and I know that this is the reason it is really in place, to pin yet another browny point on Bahrain’s incredible levels of advancement in this modern age.

So, bear witness, I am rather thankful for the siege. There are so many benefits that I would want it to continue ad infinitum and encourage other villages, towns and cities not only in my beloved Bahrain to tread this path, but everywhere else in the world too.

Here are just a few things that the #DurazSiege provides as benefits (in no particular order), please feel free to add your own in the comments, let’s show our gratitude:

  1. No pesky visitors to drop in on you unannounced
  2. Experience the life of an expat in your own country
  3. Be in your PJ’s immediately you get to your home with nary a worry to consider
  4. Test the canniness of food delivery guys to get to your home
  5. Food delivery guys get double-tips if they get to your home; thus, solidifying their employment
  6. The quiet, especially now that the helicopter is no longer buzzing 24/7 overhead for the last month, give or take
  7. Actually getting friendly with the check-point Bobbies.
  8. Knowing the check-point policemen by first name. For some, we’re getting to know and ask after their families too.
  9. The excitement coming from the randomness of checking one’s ID.
  10. Taking fun bets with your family in your car or home as to what style of chicane to be expected at the check points on any particular day
  11. The fun to have with noob policemen at checkpoints (you can spot whether the guy is a noob at the point by the length of the patiently queueing cars)
  12. Studies in patience.
  13. The effectiveness of a car’s A/C
  14. Vastly improved sign language skills; us residents have become experts at hand gestures that convey whole sentences between patiently queueing cars transmitted through the rear-windshield or even the rear-view mirrors (latter only to the über experts in the field)
  15. Above also applies to eye-rolling techniques as methods of communication with one’s neighbour as to a current situation
  16. Expertise at predicting travel times through checkpoints and chicanes.
  17. Deep breathing techniques to quiet the mind and achieve Zen while waiting to get to your home; we can confidently teach yogis our techniques that even with a lifelong study they can’t achieve. Talk to us. We have mastered this.
  18. Expertise at navigating the Internet on mobile phones
  19. Expertise at saving mobile phones battery lives with ease
  20. Becoming adept hummers and singers
  21. Unchallenged expertise at air guitar
  22. Killer seated dancing moves

What about you? Please contribute your special findings and / or developed skills while gaining access to the Kingdom of Duraz.

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The efficacy of late warnings and other governmental machinations to get at citizens’ pockets

The efficacy of late warnings and other governmental machinations to get at citizens’ pockets

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In Bahrain, the citizen seems to be the unquenchable fount of money. Funds which most here are in desperate need of, are dragged out of our pockets by unremitting fines, fees and other government charges and levies.

Last month, the Traffic Dept had its fun by sending us speeding fines that were more than a year old! Proving that what they’re interested in is the meagre contents of our pockets rathe than serve as a warning to reduce speed and follow the rules of the road. Honestly, what good does a late warning serve? It’s like shouting “look out” after the pedestrian’s been knocked out by a car. Some would say that regardless of the timeliness of the fine, it does serve a purpose to deter people from abusing the system and toe the line of the law. Yes, that’s true, but its purpose is moot. A warning should be delivered immediately in order to correct a wrong faster, rather than in retrospect.

This week, it seems that the municipalities are at it by serving warning notices to many houses in Isa Town (as a start?) to apparently warning them to remove the tiny beautiful gardens, or planting patches really, which grace the front of many homes in Bahrain. They have been summoned to appear at the municipality where many think that they will be fined, or told to remove those planting patches, some of which are decades old.

Look, I understand that these patches sometimes take over pavements or walkways. If they are indeed restrictive to people’s movements, then by all means, get them removed. But my suggestion is to be consistent in applying the law. That should also go for people who’ve put up car port shades, built illegal annexes to their properties etc. Go for it. But don’t single out homeowners because they wanted to beautify their neighbourhoods. I’d rather create a competition and reward innovative plantings than penalise them.

What I think will happen now, is that the municipalities won’t care about these factors, what they will do is try to fill the void that financial restrictions might have eaten a chunk off their budgets, but levying fees and fines whenever they like and for whichever infraction they can conjure up. The citizen ultimately will be the loser.

The attached video provides ample proof of how the average Bahraini citizen feels about these situations.

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The fallacy of the “Pure Race”

The fallacy of the “Pure Race”

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Being of a “pure race” is a myth. A fallacy. Something that is imprinted in us; however, to perpetuate our mistaken sense of superiority. What that did – and still does – is just make us prejudiced and antagonistic toward each other. Being humble and inclusive is more important than living that fallacy.

Watch this video. It’ll open your eyes and hopefully make you think a little kinder to all those around you. After all, there is a good probability that you share an ancestor or two with them.

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The USA is no longer a destination of choice

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On 21st March the TSA and Homeland Security are expected to announce their banning of electronic devices larger than a mobile phone on some flights to and from the USA. This ban will be in effect on certain airlines and countries. There appears to be ten airports from eight Muslim countries affected, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and Egypt.

On first read, I feel that this is a funny joke of the day. Yet another brainfart of a failing administration.

The serious stuff; to me at least, is that the USA is no longer on my destinations of choice list. If at all I can avoid going there for business or pleasure, I shall do so. There are more destinations – welcoming destinations – all over the world that I will endeavour to visit and enjoy instead.

The US can stay for Trump, Inc. for all I care.

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Learning to be a bit deaf…

Learning to be a bit deaf…

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s advice for success in marriage, the Supreme Court, and everything in between is based on two wisdoms she received from her in-laws. Here she is at Stanford Rathbun Lecture 2017 delivering those wisdoms:

Man do I need this advice, especially the first part.

I sometimes have ugly anger management issues that flare up for (what I subsequently realise) the most mundane and insignificant things. I always end up hating myself for those anger bursts which could have been negated had I just breathed, become a bit deaf and just simply walked away.

But no. I have to have the last word, and even if my intentions are good in that I want to inform, teach or impart wisdom, of course, all of that is flushed away because the delivery was in anger. And who would listen to advice shouted at them?

Ginsburg said: “Collegiality is crucial to the success of our mission,” Ginsburg said. “We could not do the job the Constitution assigns to us if we didn’t—to use one of Justice Scalia’s favorite expressions—‘get over it.’”

Amen!

Goodness. I do need to get over it. Get over myself. And just get on with life.

I just turned 55 a few days ago, and rather than enjoying that moment of happiness, I chose to lose my temper on yet another insignificant situation which I wrongly determined then as a slight on my character.

Now, a week later, and listening to Ginsberg’s address, I am yet again disgusted with myself.

Yes, I know I was right. However, rather than retaliating with anger, I would have served the issue better by just turning momentarily deaf, walking away, and then much later, trying to convey my point of view calmly. That, I feel now, would have delivered even a life lesson much better than shouting and stomping off in a temper.

Never again.

Does anyone have an experience with a good therapist I can borrow for a few weeks?

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Reel Bad Arabs. The propagation of discrimination

Reel Bad Arabs. The propagation of discrimination

Reel Bad Arabs book by Jack ShaheenMy son Arif’s Christmas gift to me was the book “Reel Bad Arabs, how Hollywood vilifies a people” by Jack Shaheen (it was made into a film as well – vimeo). It is a fascinating reference which took the author more than two decades to compile. In it, he reviewed over 1,000 Hollywood films which have denigrated Arabs, our culture and traditions, religion and way of life. The films reviewed were from the start of the age of cinema through to the present day. The amount of hate carried through these films – sometimes un-intentioned – is mind-boggling.

The book poses many important questions and premises which are worthy of consideration. The author’s considerable work was primarily to challenge stereotypes propagated by Hollywood because this challenge is extremely important. Left unchallenged, these stereotypes can devolve into violence against a whole people whose numbers exceed 300 million and the vast majority of which are “normal” human beings who want a “normal” life and who abhor violence. The vast majority are peace loving and peaceful and do not deserve to be singled out discriminated against.

He proposes that lobbying is necessary to correct this situation, just as others have successfully done like African Americans, Jews and other minorities who stood up to Hollywood’s vilification.

The author notes that:

Damaging portraits, notably those presenting Arabs as America’s enemy, affect all people, influencing world public opinion and policy. Given the pervasive stereotype, it comes as not surprise that some of us – and the US State Department – find it difficult to accept Egyptians, Moroccans, Palestinians, and other Arabs as friends.

Not only do these violence news images of extremists reinforce and exacerbate already prevalent stereotypes, but they serve as both a source and excuse for continued Arab-bashing by those filmmakers eager to exploit the issue. In particular, the news programs are used by some producers and directors to deny they are actually engaged in stereotyping. “We’re not stereotyping,” they object. “Just look at your television set. Those are real Arabs.”

Such responses are disingenuous and dishonest. As we know, news reports by their very nature cover extraordinary events. We should not expect reporters to inundate the airwaves with lives of ordinary Arabs. But filmmakers have a moral obligation not to advance the news media’s sins of omission and commission, not to tar an entire group of people on the basis of the crimes and the alleged crimes of a few.

Taken together, news and movie images wrench the truth out of shape to influence billions of people. Regrettably, gross misrepresentation abound and continue to plaster on movie screens those distorted “pictures in our heads” that Walter Lippmann bemoaned some 70 years ago.

I agree with this assessment. I have come across this prejudice in this very blog across many threads. My intention right from when I started blogging was to try to address this issue and to show that we Arabs are just regular folks. We have the good and the bad. We have the same aspirations and dreams. And we have the same basic human needs. No more and no less.

I’ve tried to provide a platform to bring our cultures together on the same platform so that people from both camps can come to this conclusion. I’ll leave it to you to decide wether I have succeeded. In fact, success is not really relevant as the issue is immense. What I would be happy with is if I had engendered conversations that allowed people to see the other’s point of view and accept them as human beings and view them as they too could be seen as possible friends.

I highly recommend reading the book and going through some of its observations in the film reference section. You will soon realise how big this vilification problem is to this day in Hollywood and other productions against Arabs.

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Self help. Regurgitated. 

Self help. Regurgitated. 


After reading so many self help or development books, I think I’m veering toward the the idea that they’re mostly unimaginative and uncreative regurgitaions. And that I would be better served – and entertained – by reading fiction.

Any you would recommend?

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