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There WAS a Jordanian 80s pop band called “Hot Ice” and It’s as Awesome As You Think.

HAHA! Just discovered an 80s Jordanian pop band that sings in English and is called Hot Ice. Hani Jordan, one of the best youtube old video archivists brings us this gem from the 80s, taken from a French TV show, of a music clip for one of the band’s songs called you’ll never guess what, “Never After”! Even the video is shot in pretty old vintage Amman. AND IT ALL SOUNDS EXACTLY AS AWESOME AS YOU THINK! I WILL CHERISH THIS INTERNET GIFT FOREVER.

Know more about this band? Comment below!

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It’s Hopeless, Jordanian Censorship is Here to Stay

The day the incredibly repressive ban on online news outlets was implemented in Jordan, as I was driving back home, I was listening to a radio interview with the head of the Press and Publications department. A ridiculously asinine comment by him triggered a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I knew starting then that this law is here to stay. In the next couple of weeks I tried to dismiss this feeling as a single instance of pessimism, but an entire month, and two public debates later, I’m sure that this is the first time I have a fairly accurate assessment on the situation of freedoms in Jordan.  I’m no longer depressed, I’m angry, and I’m not going to be nice. If you’re looking for the kind of constructive debate, and indecisive pragmatism, you won’t find any here. This is purely a personal rant and should be treated as such.

This law is here to stay, and here’s why. The government is full of asinine and repressive officials. The head of the press and publications law is an example. They view freedom of speech as a personal freedom, something you do within your own personal sphere. They see no place for it in public discourse, and they still believe they can control that. For them, press should only have two point of views, one that carries the official government line, and one that carries the official government view of what opposition should say. Anything that deviates from these two poles is chaos. I have never seen another country that views press and journalists as a utility, comparing them to taxi drivers and doctors. Of course you need a government licence to operate as a journalist, otherwise everybody and their mother in law will start saying what they think about the country.

Then come the people who are responsible for ensuring such an infringement should never occur, our esteemed members of the Parliament. Lets not forget that they passed this law as part of their own personal vendetta against some of these websites, that continually attack them, when they deserve it and when they don’t. And since the parliament is really unpopular for many reasons, people tend to believe anything these websites say. Rather than work on gaining the trust of the people, by doing their jobs as elected officials, they would rather abuse their powers and repress the voices that come out against them. This is the parliament that couldn’t convene for the past two days and many more, because not enough parliamentarians bothered to attend. Counting on them to re-appeal the law is just equally foolish. Lets not forget that our current prime minister was one of the most vocal voices of opposition against this law when he was an MP, but he managed to do a flip worthy of an Olympic gold medal.

Which brings me to the community of people who are standing against this law, including myself. We’re stupid to believe the government when it said it won’t implement this law, or when it said it will implement it in good faith. I warned others but failed to take heed of my own warning when I said we should prepare for this ban. We were also stupid when we believed they wouldn’t censor blogs, but failed to realize that our government doesn’t know what blogs are. When I’m wearing my civil society hat or my Internet freedom activist hat, I tend to be as toothless as a new born. We’re few, and we’re outnumbered and we’re fighting an incredibly unpopular cause. Because other than a few respectable journalistic institutions that took a brave stand against this law, the rest of the ‘respectable’  institutions either capitulated to the government’s will, or are seedy yellow press that will never be popular for their dirty tactics. Let me be clear that my personal opinion on these websites doesn’t mean that they deserve any less freedom than anybody else, but it’s a really difficult cause to sell, because this country at large is incredibly good at justifying repression.

I’m really tired of continuing this charade of pretending that this law is a case of eroding freedoms. Freedom of the internet in Jordan was never a guaranteed thing, and the only reason it took 18 years for the government to finally censor the Internet is purely a byproduct of the fact that the repressive elements in our society and government are lazy, inefficient, and most of the times, stupid. The enemies of the free Internet in Jordan have finally showed their faces, and they are many, and they run this entire establishment. While I still believe in his majesty the King’s commitment towards reforming Jordan into a democracy, I sometimes wonder why these repressive elements continue to be sponsored and entrusted with a task that they are fundamentally against. I’ve honestly reached a point where I’m starting to question whether it’s all worth it to try and be part of this system, my commitment to Jordan isn’t a commitment to it’s sand or it stones, it stems from my believe in the values of our constitution, and if this constitution is reduced to just ink on paper, I am left with no choice but to seek another country that gives a damn about freedoms and democracy.

Oh, and if someone from the Press and Publications department is reading this, this is an example of a website that should be blocked under the law. But it isn’t, because you’re a bunch of inefficient and stupid censors.

"I can't access this website, must be an error with the system"
“I can’t access this website, must be an error with the system”

 

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Jordanian Hate Cleric Qourshah Goes Crazy After Show Canceled, Blames Christians and Zionists

Today Jordan’s private TV channel Ro’ya decided to cancel hate cleric Amjad Qourshah’s show that was scheduled this Ramadan, after overwhelming public pressure. People’s objections varied between being against his sectarian calls for violence, referring to Arab Idol fans for celebrating Mohammad Assaf’s victory as heretics, and because of his attacks against pro-regime loyalists, and what they perceive as attacks against the Kingdom’s army and security forces.  His recent public outbursts on his Facebook page all contributed to his fall out of popularity in the country, just a year ago he was being touted as a shining beacon of moderate Islam in the country, and his shows on TV and Youtube were very popular, especially among the youth segments.

It didn’t take long for Qourshah to respond, with another classic outburst on his Facebook page. He started off with congratulating the “Zionists” and  “Lucifer” for winning this round, conceding that he has lost a large segment of Arab youth to their evil schemes. He then went on on a longer rant, mostly about Arab Idol, claiming that Palestinians have sold 65 years of misery for one night of debauchery in celebrating Mohammad Assaf’s victory. He also said that this is the same kind of brainwashing Christians in Andalusia did, eventually leading to the slaughter of Muslims there like sheep. To further prove his point, he also highlighted the Ottoman annexation Constantinople, as an example of when we “broke the will of the enemy”. He finished his rant saying that God’s victory is coming, and that we have to be prepared when it happens, and the only way to be prepared is to read the Quran and for women to be pious.

I did my best to translate the rant while preserving the right amount of crazy in it. I’m not sure how well Christian Jordanians will take to being described as the enemy. I’m relieved that his TV show got cancelled, but this is a lecturer at Jordan’s biggest university, and he still has a lot of support in Jordan, as of this moment his rant amassed 3000 likes in less than 3 hours. I think we need to apply more public pressure so that a man like this can longer poison the minds of our youth with his hate speech.

Salafi with a Sword

Oh Look, Another Crazy Sexist Fatwa!

Stop it. Stop sharing those crazy sexist fatwas from crazy obscure skeikhs. It doesn’t make you a liberal, it doesn’t make you a feminist, if anything, you’re doing extremism a service. Conservatives need to listen to this as well, because we’re failing terribly at doing anything constructive together. I’m not going to be apologetic, I am a liberal, and we’re not a minority by any means in the Arab world, even if it does seem so. Conservatives form the other majority, most modern societies are split along those lines. Another fact is that most liberals and conservatives share many common values, and some common sense. I’m sure most of you have had friends that you “respect” despite their opinions.

But that doesn’t sell views. Why else would you have all of these Egyptian talk shows running a battle royale between some irrelevant actress and some obscure extremist. Those things sell, and it’s our fault. For every stupid issue these shows focus on, many women face millions of other problems that people don’t want to see being discussed. How many people would like to watch a debate on the gender salary gap between two reasonable people? That’s bad TV. So we give more airtime to anuses that have been trained to speak, and eventually they become spokespersons of their camps, and the silly issues they share become major points of contention and other issues that deserve just as much attention if not even more, get the back seat.

It’s not only a matter of issues. A big issue in Jordan is harassment, and I’m not saying it’s not a big issue, and it should be discussed. I just don’t want to discuss it with trolls like Amjad Qorshe, we need to discuss it with people that have a bit of common sense. The more attention we give to this trolls will only cause more polarization. These trolls can take any issue and turn it into a sensational cesspool of misinformation, and I’m sick of how counterproductive we are becoming. It’s all a crazy trick designed to make sure we never find middle ground, because all you see is the crazy on the other side, and you sure as hell are not going to agree with that shit, so you stick with your own people, and all your support goes to them in whatever political/charity/commercial endeavor they have.

Let’s face it, despite all the communication tools we have in this new age, our conversation is broken. Issues aren’t real issues, reactions and scaring others is what counts. A huge number of people are not informed and scared shitless, and the people we’ve allowed to become our spokespersons are idiotic trolls that spew madness and lies out of every single hole in their bodies, and we listen to them because it gives us more joy. It’s easy to diss the crazy person, and it’s hard to have a frank and real debate with facts and science with other reasonable people who have differing opinions to ours. Our only hope is if we all collectively start to identify trolls, start ignoring them, and begin glorifying honest and productive debate instead.

Gangam Style Steak Seared

Tarakiyee’s Gangam Style Steak Recipe

I’m not trying to cash in on the famous Psy song’s fame, I just needed an ironic name for my Korean cuisine inspired steak recipe. And even if I am, It’s an original way of cashing in on its fame. This recipe is perfect for a romantic dinner or a lonely night watching 30 Rock, pretending to be on a romantic dinner with Tina Fey (or Alec Baldwin. Or Tracy Morgan, I won’t judge. I mean, there’s bound to be someone with a crush on Pete).

Gangam Style Steak Marinated
This is how the steak looks after being well marinated.

So the recipe is pretty simple. I choose two Round Eye steaks, roughly around 500 grams together. For that I mixed 2 tablespoons of Sesame Oil with quarter a cup of sweet Soy sauce, a clove of crushed garlic, and one diced shallot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You need to rub the marinate on to the steak, and then leave it to marinate for up to 12 hours. I was in a hurry, so I poked the steak a little with a knife, and added some vinegar. Vinegar helps break the proteins in the steak and helps it marinate faster, and it can also add flavor to the steak, depending on what vinegar you use. I used balsamic, because I think it goes great with this marinate. I figured all of this helps cut down the marinating time to an hour, but the more you marinate, the more flavorful your steak is going to be.

Gangam Style Steak Seared
This is how the steak should look after being seared in a pan.

Now for the cooking process, I heated the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). While it was heating, I put a pan on medium fire, with olive oil in it. Seared each side of each steak for two minutes. Then I put the steaks in the oven. It takes around 20 minutes to get the meat to my liking, but it can take from 30 to 40 minutes for it to become well done. You can always poke the steak with your finger to see how well done it is.

Gangam Style Steak Ready - With Coleslaw
The final product after broiling in the oven, served with some coleslaw. Cooked it a little too much, but thanks to the searing it was surprisingly juicy.

 

 

How To Set Up Google Public DNS

Fix Your Internet Connection with Third Party DNS Servers

Changing your DNS server settings can be a quick and easy fix to lots of common Internet connection problems, especially if your ISP is unreliable or if your country likes to censor stuff. Here’s a quick and easy guide on how to do that. Living in Jordan, I face lots of problems with Jordanian ISPs. They are becoming way more unreliable than they usually are. For some reason, random websites suddenly become unavailable, and they become a bit slower to load. I have no clue if this has any relation to the proposed censorship laws in Jordan, and there’s no way I can confirm that, but most of the times it seems that they fail to serve random websites.

Also, they’ve been notoriously susceptible to hacking. One random ISP I will not name was famously hacked recently and kept serving Russian malware websites at random. Thankfully, there’s a fix, that can make your Internet experience more secure, and more reliable, and best of all, faster, and all you need to do is to start using an alternative DNS service than the one provided by the ISP.

There are two major services, the one I use is Google Public DNS which is very reliable, and incredibly easy to use. You just need to switch your DNS servers to 8.8.8.8, and 8.8.4.4. If this looks like Chinese to you, just go to their website and follow their easy instructions.

How To Set Up Google Public DNS Server
How To Set Up Google Public DNS Server

There’s also Open DNS which is also pretty popular, but you need to create an account. Here’s a hint to Open DNS, what you need if you’re a home user is what they call “Premium DNS”, which despite the name is meant to be  free. They also give Enterprise and Parental Control options, if you need those.

EDIT: jockerspalette says

Btw .. OpenDNS can be used without creating an account by simply using 208.67.222.222 or 208.67.220.220 just like Google DNS servers, and if you need a family-safe internet you can use 208.67.222.123 or 208.67.220.123, if you need their “premium” features, then you have to create an OpenDNS account.

PRO-TIP: If your router supports it, try to set the DNS on a router level, so that everybody who uses the router can benefit from it.

In summary, I recommend that every person stop using their ISP’s DNS servers, they tend to be unreliable, and gives your ISP way too much control over what they think you can see or cannot see.

libroswap

Libroswap at Startup Amman 2012 – Book Swapping as a Solution

I’m working right now on a startup project called Libroswap. The purpose of this project to facilitate the swapping of books between university and school students. Despite the many advances in technology these days, books remain an important source of knowledge. We simply cannot risk keeping this knowledge hidden in our closets and storage rooms while many need this knowledge to be freed.

Not to mention the fact that making more books requires trees, an ever more scarce commodity these days. We’re hoping that Libroswap can also have an ecological impact, as well as an economical impact in these times of economic struggle. Please help support our project at our FB page.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing – Baraka Band

I haven’t posted anything in a while, but I also haven’t found anything cool to post in a while. I JUST DID. And it’s beyond awesome. Now apparently, there’s this Egyptian band called  Baraka Band and they’ve been formed since 2007. They’ve been doing new covers for old Egyptian revolutionary folk songs, particularly those by the composer Sheikh Imam and vernacular poet Ahmad Fouad Negm, and I love their new modern takes on the classics.

This song is about Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, president of France’s visit to Egypt. The words of Ahmad Negm are just a brilliant pisstake at how his visit means splendor and prosperity for all Egyptians, so much that even poor people will afford to eat potatoes. Maryam Saleh’s delivery is just impeccable on this, she never misses a beat and did more than authentically translate Negm’s sarcasm into song. The song itself is cheerful circus music, which I find brilliantly illustrates the charade that surrounds these official visits.

Check it out, and share if you like. =D

What is Nessa’? Digitizing Arab Women Rights History

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to put the chaos of ideas that are into my brain into well-formed ideas, and words, but I just can’t keep up with my eagerness towards making this one project called Nessa’ succeed, so I decided to write this blog post to make sure the idea gets to as many people as it can. I believe that our society is inherently unjust, in so many ways, and towards so many groups of people, but the thing that irks me the most is how unjust we are to women, and that includes women being unjust with themselves. I’m not saying we’re bad people, or that we’re evil, there’s just lots of ignorance going around.

And ignorance is what I decided to tackle. Not all ignorance is intentional, sometimes you can be ignorant about something because you’ve never had the chance to learn about it, or because it’s an obscure science. Women’s rights isn’t quantum physics, and it shouldn’t be treated that way. I like to read, and I always feel surprised when I read about an Arab women’s right activist from the 1800s or so, or even the early 90s. The information you find online about them is scarce and often wrong, or biased. That has to change now, for the better, and with all what’s going on around us, people are finally starting to believe in the power of online activism.

It’s vital that we preserve their memory now before it’s too late. Whether by organizing wikipedia projects, scanning and transcribing old books, or by interviewing people, we will try to make each and every precious nugget of information available and reachable to everyone. It is, however, a big and ambitious project, and it needs volunteers and support if it’s going to work. I managed to convince a small group of commited people already, and we’re busy setting up some sort of structure to set things into motion. I urge you all to connect with the project page on Facebook until we have the website ready, and feel free to share your thoughts, here, or there, or on our email: equality@nessaa.org

far3i

Drought and Treachery by ElFar3i

Elfar3i, the brainchild of Tareq Abukwaik, has always been something special. He’s always never afraid to speak out his mind, with socially-conscious music that always leaves you thinking. He is by far my favorite lyrically in the Ammani music scene. Also, full disclosure, he’s my cousin, and that the fact that we share some genes just makes me prouder. =D

I leave you know with his latest song, Drought and Threachery. Jordan is one of the poorest countries in the world when it comes to water, and Elfar3i’s minimalist guitar line perfectly illustrates that. The song goes into a cheerful chorus, that is a perfect analogy to the callous attitude people have towards water conservation, as the lyrics make reference to the common belief people have that God will deliver them from whatever problem they have, without them actually doing something about it. Enjoy this song by your brother, Elfar3i, and my favorite cousin. =D

Openness, Freedom and the lol.