Friday, 30 January 2009

Fire Alarm at 3:33 A.M.

:@ :@ :@ ... for the fourth time the reckless residents set the alarm off AND there was actually NO fire ... how you ask! by smoking (possibly weed) indoors ... they had returned (obviously dunk) from a party at 3:33 A.M. and walked into their flat smoking and ...
that set the fire alarm off at 3:33 A.M, have I mentioned it was at 3:33 in the morning? and have I mentioned it was the second night after my exams that I was actually gonna get a decent night sleep; and did I mention I WAS SLEEEEEEEEPING AT 3:33 A fudging M .......can you imagine anything more inconvenient? and it is not an alarm you can ignore; they make it so loud that you have to go outside (in the freezing COLD) or else you would get deaf inside

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Cinnamon-Bread House - the Pictures

I uploaded the pictures of the Cinnamon Bread House on my Picasa Web Album, they are on this URL:

Also, another special addition to Gassia:
How to make Cinnamon Rolls: (courtesy Sheena & Lindley)
go to this website:
and also to find the unit conversion guidelines
They are not as difficult as they seem. And they don't have to be as perfect as the ones described; the ones Sheena and Lindley made were really really good and I don't think they were that picky on details. Just know that you should divide the work into 1. preparing the dough 2. preparing the filling and 3. preparing the icing

I want to see pictures of you Gassia making AND enjoying Cinnamon Rolls :)

Later entry: Gassia Anoshig, Sheena has uploaded the pictures of the Cinnamon Rolls and Cinnamon Bread that she and Lindley made :) She named the album "Cinnamon Rolls and Cinnamon bread for Cinnamon Girl !". They are on this link:
Have I told you that Sheena also loves Cinnamon rolls and Cinnamon bread - and in fact she is nicknamed Cinnamon Rolls :) And I have of course told her about you and she likes you because you are THE Cinnamon girl! :D

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A special post for Gassia

Gassia, you commented "ages ago" that you want to see pictures of my cooking
And because you are the sweetest person ever, I can't not comply and I will show you pictures
But since I don't want to appear as a complete kitchen-idiot :P I have taken pictures of a successful meal and a not-so-successful meal :P
Without further ado

1. Loubyi B Zeit: (the not-so-successful meal *sigh)
Step 1: 2alli l basal

Step 2: actually step 0 :P nassli l loubyi w hressi l banadoura w de22i l toom, bas ana ma 3andi mda22et toom so barashton ;)

Step 3: double check the recipe Mom gave me LOL

Step 4: missing, tenseef l loubyi w hek ... bas haidi picture la Step 5 (or later?) lama sar kil shi bel tanjra

Step 'final': 7adan talab SHOURBET LOUBYI? hahahahahaha I think inno katartella mayy kter

2. Yakhnet Bazilla
(the successful one)
Step 1: 2alli l la7mi

Step 2: kamen actually Step 0 :P

Step 3: See above :P

Step 4: 2alli l basal b mar2et l la7mi

Step 5: missing LOL honi kenet 3am 7ott sauce banadoura

Step 'during the cooking': check on the tabkha

Step 'before last': taffi l nar ta7et l tabkha w ntebhi ino jawayti l deni :P

Step 'final': yummmi betshahhi .... alf sa77a

I hope you enjoyed
KISSES to you :)

Lots of Updates

Exams are over .......
so here are some updates of what has been going on since my last blog about Christmas dinner
Fleur came back on Friday Jan 2nd WITH A HAIRCUT lol her hair had grown and she waited till she went back home to have it cut
Sheena had her birthday party on Saturday Jan 3rd - I got her a neck key ring holder because she could never find her keys lol and also a cute pink bracelet ... I bought them off amazon before the Christmas vacation because I was afraid that they won't be delivered on time during the Christmas/New Year days off ... but I didn't have time (nor the wrapping paper) to wrap them properly :$ so I hand-made a wrapping package :D thank you Internet :P
Lindley left on Monday back to the US
I went back to uni on Monday 5th as well .... I wasn't that into going back because I had 3 weeks of vacation but also I had so much coursework to submit
Tuesday Jan 6th: I had a small quiz but it was worth 4% of a 20 credit module "Foundations of AI"- but it was about logic so it was easy and I got an A on it :)
Wednesday Jan 7th: I had to submit a program that is a 'medical expert'. It is worth 20% of a 10-credit module. We were supposed to acquire some medical knowledge and formulate it in rules and facts so that the program can deduce what disease a patient has given the symptoms. Of course I "elicited the knowledge" from my dad - which basically meant that I spent loads of money on International phone calls. I actually ran out of credit in the middle of a phone conversation so I emailed Tarek asking him to SMS dad and tell him to call me LOL. Also, every time I call home my dad asks about "his grade" and I keep telling that the grades are not out yet and that the knowledge is only worth 5% .....
Thursday Jan 8th: I had a group presentation which was worth also 4% of the Foundation of AI 20 credit course. We did better than the previous presentations but we still got a B ... Our group was so inefficient in all presentations, we were never able to produce any proper work and our meetings were very unproductive. Reminds me of one of my favourite quotes: "If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be "meetings”"
Friday Jan 9th: I had to submit a 2000 word essay on a topic I chose. It was worth 80% of a "Research Methods" module. I worked hard but kinda messed up the final part because I was sick of it. I chose Biometrics as a topic; something I was always interested in learning about but never had the time/bothered to actually do the reading. We had to use a 'professional' format so the final report was really cool, with an abstract, appendices, and a proper font! Made me feel like a true academic LOL :P
Monday Jan 11th: I had to submit a program and a report worth 25% of a 10 credit module. I worked on that a bit but the results produced were not as expected. I was very frustrated and sought the lecturer's help. We emailed each other a bit until he finally helped me sort things out and I was less frustrated. I submitted it but I wasn't very happy with it but I was glad it was over and done.
Tuesday Jan 12th (are you still reading? :P): I had to submit a report and a programming assignment worth 30% of the Foundation of AI 20-credit-module. That was the neglected coursework. I mean SERIOUSLY how can anyone cope to do all this. We had to do background research and write 1000 words about it then program something related to the research then do some reasoning about the topic. I worked on the background research and chose to code the simplest thing. But still, I didn't manage to finish it on Tuesday so I decided to submit it the next day even though I would be penalized 5%. I finished it and submitted it on Wednesday but I thought it wasn't that good. It is very clear that I rushed through it. Also, the 'reasoning' part was worth 35% of its grade and frankly I wasn't able to do any reasoning about the topic.

Oh well, done with the coursework ... on to the final examssssssssss

I had four final exams:
One on Wed Jan 21: was very long so there were some parts that I didn't manage to answer but was OK
One on Thurs Jan 22: was good, it was the easiest module so better results are obtained for less work :)
One on Tues Jan 28: was tricky, we were supposed to answer 2 out of 3 questions which I thought was soooo unfair given that we had to study 18 lectures!!!!! I was so pissed off the whole time I was studying it. Darko and I expected that we will get a Search question and a Probability question. I was 100% sure we will get a Search question and 90% sure we would get a Probability question. There were 5 lectures I decided not to study, two which I decided to read only, and the rest I studied but not that well. We did get Search but we DIDN'T get the Probability question!!! We got a Machine Learning question instead! But for me it was OK though it wasn't OK for Darko. He just told me that was the worst exam he ever sat for ... but I think he will survive :P.
The last final exam was on Wed Jan 29: That course was the hardest course. I was very very worried about that course since the first lecture. It was all about Maths. I was very good in Maths in high school but I kinda wasn't that interested in it in uni AND after four years of not taking any Math courses I had totally forgot EVERYTHING. So, I had to work double for that course, first refresh my high school Math knowledge and second try to understand the Chinese being spoken in class. But by the time I got to the exam most of the Chinese had turned into comprehensible English and there were only a few ideas which I didn't understand. I did OK on that exam. There were a few things which I didn't know. But, to my bad luck I noticed just about five minutes before the time was up that I copied a function from the test paper to my answer sheet incorrectly Oh NO! ... so instead of solving for a function I ended up solving for another function :( I hope not a lot of marks are deducted because of that !

What else?
Fleur's parents were here last week. They invited us over for dinner. Sheena and I couldn't stay long at Fleur's place because we had to study which was a shame because her parents are really nice and they are a great company. The food was good and the desert was GREAT :)
Speaking of desert, yours truly has gained A LOT of weight over Christmas and exam period :( :( :( All in all I have gained 5 kilos since I came to this country....SHSHSHSHS don't tell Mom and Dad!!! Dad would go crazy and Mom might end up crying. But, starting tomorrow NO MORE EXECUSES ... no exams and exam stress so no more binging on chocolate and loads of time to cook healthy and walk around for a bit ... keep your fingers crossed for me

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Robert Fisk: Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

So once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not bad for a night's work in Gaza by the army that believes in "purity of arms". But why should we be surprised?

Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?

What is amazing is that so many Western leaders, so many presidents and prime ministers and, I fear, so many editors and journalists, bought the old lie; that Israelis take such great care to avoid civilian casualties. "Israel makes every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties," yet another Israeli ambassador said only hours before the Gaza massacre. And every president and prime minister who repeated this mendacity as an excuse to avoid a ceasefire has the blood of last night's butchery on their hands. Had George Bush had the courage to demand an immediate ceasefire 48 hours earlier, those 40 civilians, the old and the women and children, would be alive.

What happened was not just shameful. It was a disgrace. Would war crime be too strong a description? For that is what we would call this atrocity if it had been committed by Hamas. So a war crime, I'm afraid, it was. After covering so many mass murders by the armies of the Middle East – by Syrian troops, by Iraqi troops, by Iranian troops, by Israeli troops – I suppose cynicism should be my reaction. But Israel claims it is fighting our war against "international terror". The Israelis claim they are fighting in Gaza for us, for our Western ideals, for our security, for our safety, by our standards. And so we are also complicit in the savagery now being visited upon Gaza.

I've reported the excuses the Israeli army has served up in the past for these outrages. Since they may well be reheated in the coming hours, here are some of them: that the Palestinians killed their own refugees, that the Palestinians dug up bodies from cemeteries and planted them in the ruins, that ultimately the Palestinians are to blame because they supported an armed faction, or because armed Palestinians deliberately used the innocent refugees as cover.

The Sabra and Chatila massacre was committed by Israel's right-wing Lebanese Phalangist allies while Israeli troops, as Israel's own commission of inquiry revealed, watched for 48 hours and did nothing. When Israel was blamed, Menachem Begin's government accused the world of a blood libel. After Israeli artillery had fired shells into the UN base at Qana in 1996, the Israelis claimed that Hizbollah gunmen were also sheltering in the base. It was a lie. The more than 1,000 dead of 2006 – a war started when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on the border – were simply dismissed as the responsibility of the Hizbollah. Israel claimed the bodies of children killed in a second Qana massacre may have been taken from a graveyard. It was another lie. The Marwahin massacre was never excused. The people of the village were ordered to flee, obeyed Israeli orders and were then attacked by an Israeli gunship. The refugees took their children and stood them around the truck in which they were travelling so that Israeli pilots would see they were innocents. Then the Israeli helicopter mowed them down at close range. Only two survived, by playing dead. Israel didn't even apologise.

Twelve years earlier, another Israeli helicopter attacked an ambulance carrying civilians from a neighbouring village – again after they were ordered to leave by Israel – and killed three children and two women. The Israelis claimed that a Hizbollah fighter was in the ambulance. It was untrue. I covered all these atrocities, I investigated them all, talked to the survivors. So did a number of my colleagues. Our fate, of course, was that most slanderous of libels: we were accused of being anti-Semitic.

And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we'll hear all these scandalous fabrications again. We'll have the Hamas-to-blame lie – heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime – and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we'll almost certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn't. Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians.

Yes, Israelis deserve security. Twenty Israelis dead in 10 years around Gaza is a grim figure indeed. But 600 Palestinians dead in just over a week, thousands over the years since 1948 – when the Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin helped to kick-start the flight of Palestinians from that part of Palestine that was to become Israel – is on a quite different scale. This recalls not a normal Middle East bloodletting but an atrocity on the level of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And of course, when an Arab bestirs himself with unrestrained fury and takes out his incendiary, blind anger on the West, we will say it has nothing to do with us. Why do they hate us, we will ask? But let us not say we do not know the answer.


Thursday, 1 January 2009

Robert Fisk: The self delusion that plagues both sides in this bloody conflict

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

During the second Palestinian "intifada", I was sitting in the offices of Hizbollah's Al-Manar television station in Beirut, watching news footage of a militiaman's funeral in Gaza. The television showed hordes of Hamas and PLO gunmen firing thousands of rounds of ammunition into the air to honour their latest "martyr"; and I noticed, just next to me, a Lebanese Hizbollah member – who had taken part in many attacks against the Israelis in what had been Israel's occupation zone in southern Lebanon – shaking his head.

What was he thinking, I asked? "Hamas try to stand up to the Israelis," he replied. "But..." And here he cast his eyes to the ceiling. "They waste bullets. They fire all these bullets into the sky. They should use them to shoot at Israelis."

His point, of course, was that Hamas lacked discipline, the kind of iron, ruthless discipline and security that Hizbollah forged in Lebanon and which the Israeli army was at last forced to acknowledge in southern Lebanon in 2006. Guns are weapons, not playthings for funerals. And Gaza is not southern Lebanon. It would be as well for both sides in this latest bloodbath in Gaza to remember this. Hamas is not Hizbollah. Jerusalem is not Beirut. And Israeli soldiers cannot take revenge for their 2006 defeat in Lebanon by attacking Hamas in Gaza – not even to help Ms Livni in the Israeli elections.

Not that Hizbollah won the "divine victory" it claimed two years ago. Driving the roads of southern Lebanon as the Israelis smashed the country's infrastructure, killed more than a thousand Lebanese – almost all of them civilians – and razed dozens of villages, it didn't feel like a Hizbollah "victory" to me, theological or otherwise. But the Israelis didn't win and the Hizbollah were able to deploy thousands of long-range rockets as well as a missile which set an Israeli warship on fire and almost sank it. Hamas have nothing to match that kind of armoury.

Nor do they have the self-discipline to fight like an army. Hizbollah in Lebanon has managed to purge its region of informers. Hamas – like all the other Palestinian outfits – is infected with spies, some working for the Palestinian Authority, others for the Israelis. Israel has successively murdered one Hamas leader after another – "targeted killing", of course, is their polite phrase – and they couldn't do that without, as the police would say, "inside help". Hizbollah's previous secretary general, Sayed Abbas Moussawi, was assassinated near Jibchit by a missile-firing Israeli helicopter more than a decade ago but the movement hasn't suffered a leader's murder in Lebanon since then. In the 34-day war of 2006, Hizbollah lost about 200 of its men. Hamas lost almost that many in the first day of Israel's air attacks in Gaza – which doesn't say much for Hamas' military precautions.

Israel, however – always swift to announce its imminent destruction of "terrorism" – has never won a war in a built-up city, be it Beirut or Gaza, since its capture of Jerusalem in 1967. And it's important to remember that the Israeli army, famous in song and legend for its supposed "purity of arms" and "elite" units, has proved itself to be a pretty third-rate army over recent years. Not since the 1973 Middle East conflict – 35 years ago – has it won a war. Its 1978 invasion of Lebanon was a failure, its 1982 invasion ended in disaster, propelling Arafat from Beirut but allowing its vicious Phalangist allies into the Sabra and Chatila camps where they committed mass murder. In neither the 1993 bombardment of Lebanon nor the 1996 bombardment of Lebanon – which fizzled out after the massacre of refugees at Qana – nor the 2006 war was its performance anything more than amateur. Indeed, if it wasn't for the fact Arab armies are even more of a rabble than the Israelis, the Israeli state would be genuinely under threat from its neighbours.

One common feature of Middle East wars is the ability of all the antagonists to suffer from massive self-delusion. Israel's promise to "root out terror" – be it of the PLO, Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iranian or any other kind – has always turned out to be false. "War to the bitter end," the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, has promised in Gaza. Nonsense. Just like the PLO's boast – and Hamas' boast and Hizbollah's boast – to "liberate" Jerusalem. Eyewash. But the Israelis have usually shown a dangerous propensity to believe their own propaganda. Calling up more than 6,000 reservists and sitting them round the Gaza fence is one thing; sending them into the hovels of Gaza will be quite another. In 2006, Israel claimed it was sending 30,000 troops into Lebanon. In reality, it sent about 3,000 – and the moment they crossed the border, they were faced down by the Hizbollah. In some cases, Israeli soldiers actually ran back to their own frontier.

These are realities. The chances of war, however, may be less easier to calculate. If Israel indefinitely continues its billion dollar blitz on Gaza – and we all know who is paying for that – there will, at some stage, be an individual massacre; a school will be hit, a hospital or a pre-natal clinic or just an apartment packed with civilians. In other words, another Qana. At which point, a familiar story will be told; that Hamas destroyed the school/hospital/pre-natal clinic, that the journalists who report on the slaughter are anti-Semitic, that Israel is under threat, etc. We may even get the same disingenuous parallel with a disastrous RAF raid in the Second World War which both Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanayahu have used over the past quarter century to justify the killing of civilians.

And Hamas – which never had the courage to admit it killed two Palestinian girls with one of its own rockets last week – will cynically make profit from the grief with announcements of war crimes and "genocide".

At which point, the deeply despised and lame old UN donkey will be clip-clopped onto the scene to rescue the Israeli army and Hamas from this disgusting little war. Of course, saner minds may call all this off before the inevitable disaster. But I doubt it.


Robert Fisk: Why bombing Ashkelon is the most tragic irony

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

How easy it is to snap off the history of the Palestinians, to delete the narrative of their tragedy, to avoid a grotesque irony about Gaza which – in any other conflict – journalists would be writing about in their first reports: that the original, legal owners of the Israeli land on which Hamas rockets are detonating live in Gaza.

That is why Gaza exists: because the Palestinians who lived in Ashkelon and the fields around it – Askalaan in Arabic – were dispossessed from their lands in 1948 when Israel was created and ended up on the beaches of Gaza. They – or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don't come from Gaza.

But watching the news shows, you'd think that history began yesterday, that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza – a rubbish dump of destitute people of no origin – and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel, only to meet with the righteous vengeance of the Israeli air force. The fact that the five sisters killed in Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death simply does not appear in the story.

Both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres said back in the 1990s that they wished Gaza would just go away, drop into the sea, and you can see why. The existence of Gaza is a permanent reminder of those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes to Israel, who fled or were driven out through fear or Israeli ethnic cleansing 60 years ago, when tidal waves of refugees had washed over Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and when a bunch of Arabs kicked out of their property didn't worry the world.

Well, the world should worry now. Crammed into the most overpopulated few square miles in the whole world are a dispossessed people who have been living in refuse and sewage and, for the past six months, in hunger and darkness, and who have been sanctioned by us, the West. Gaza was always an insurrectionary place. It took two years for Ariel Sharon's bloody "pacification", starting in 1971, to be completed, and Gaza is not going to be tamed now.

Alas for the Palestinians, their most powerful political voice – I'm talking about the late Edward Said, not the corrupt Yassir Arafat (and how the Israelis must miss him now) – is silent and their predicament largely unexplained by their deplorable, foolish spokesmen. "It's the most terrifying place I've ever been in," Said once said of Gaza. "It's a horrifyingly sad place because of the desperation and misery of the way people live. I was unprepared for camps that are much worse than anything I saw in South Africa."

Of course, it was left to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to admit that "sometimes also civilians pay the price," an argument she would not make, of course, if the fatality statistics were reversed. Indeed, it was instructive yesterday to hear a member of the American Enterprise Institute – faithfully parroting Israel's arguments – defending the outrageous Palestinian death toll by saying that it was "pointless to play the numbers game". Yet if more than 300 Israelis had been killed – against two dead Palestinians – be sure that the "numbers game" and the disproportionate violence would be all too relevant. The simple fact is that Palestinian deaths matter far less than Israeli deaths. True, we know that 180 of the dead were Hamas members. But what of the rest? If the UN's conservative figure of 57 civilian fatalities is correct, the death toll is still a disgrace.

To find both the US and Britain failing to condemn the Israeli onslaught while blaming Hamas is not surprising. US Middle East policy and Israeli policy are now indistinguishable and Gordon Brown is following the same dog-like devotion to the Bush administration as his predecessor.

As usual, the Arab satraps – largely paid and armed by the West – are silent, preposterously calling for an Arab summit on the crisis which will (if it even takes place), appoint an "action committee" to draw up a report which will never be written. For that is the way with the Arab world and its corrupt rulers. As for Hamas, they will, of course, enjoy the discomfiture of the Arab potentates while cynically waiting for Israel to talk to them. Which they will. Indeed, within a few months, we'll be hearing that Israel and Hamas have been having "secret talks" – just as we once did about Israel and the even more corrupt PLO. But by then, the dead will be long buried and we will be facing the next crisis since the last crisis.