Adonis Diaries

Notes and tidbits posted on FB and Twitter. Part 170

Note: I take notes of books I read and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pa attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory.

La survie est une affaire personnelle. Les grandes souffrances et douleurs ne resserrent pas necessairement les liens dans une famille. On souffre pour l’illusion d’un amour a venir.
Mike Pence the idiot (Vice my ass) is a “Christian” Fundamentalist who believe the next coming will arrive as Jerusalem is converted to Judaism
Artificial intelligence is helping police combat gang violence in London. By applying predictive analytics in collaboration with Accenture, London police were able to turn raw data into risk scores that guide safety efforts and resource allocation.
Bolstered further by drones and bio-metrics, smart policing programs are growing worldwide—from San Francisco to Singapore—and have become a proving point for institutions and companies looking to invest in intelligent innovation.
Christine Lagarde (IMF chief) quoted Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything and that is how the light gets in.” referring to women rights. She then asked each panelist to identify the cracks they see, to an engrossed audience.
“Whoever controls the data, controls the world.” Everyone from Modi to bankers to law enforcement officials at cyber-security events kept repeating that phrase at Davos 2018
The village of Souwayri in central Bekaa3, close to the border with Syria, is daily experiencing dozen of frozen dead Syrian refugees trying to flee  into Lebanon. The extremist factions in south-west Syria, close to the Lebanese border, have been vanquished and no food supply is reaching the people from Israel, as during the past 4 years. 

According to a global survey of more than 30,000 people, government officials are now less credible than journalists, for goodness’ sakes.

Alfo lejnat lel nazar fi ma3ayeer moukata3at Israel, kabel ma al siyassiyeen yedlo bi mawakefhom
Nifayaat 3ala shate2 Sami ejet min nifayaat Beit Chabab, Cornet al Hamra wa Mazra3at Yachou3. Hal baladiyyat bit kebb nifayatouha 3ala majra Nahr al Kalb wa al shetteh al ghazeer  bit jamme3a bil nahr



Google finds STEM skills aren’t the most important skills

  • Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

A Washington Post column on research done by Google on the skills that matter most to its employees success. Big surprise: it wasn’t STEM. The Post writes:

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded their company on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology. Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities.

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998.

Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the 8 most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.

The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Those traits sound more like what one gains as an English or theater major than as a programmer.

Could it be that top Google employees were succeeding despite their technical training, not because of it?  After bringing in anthropologists and ethnographers to dive even deeper into the data, the company enlarged its previous hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists, and even the MBAs that, initially, Brin and Page viewed with disdain.

This is consistent with the findings of the employer-led Partnership for 21st Century Learning who describe the foundation skills for worker success as the 4Cs: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.

And the book Becoming Brilliant which adds to those four content and confidence for the 6Cs.

And consistent with the work on the value of a liberal arts degree of journalist George Anders laid out in his book You Can Do Anything and in a Forbes article entitled That Useless Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket.

It’s far past time that Michigan policymakers and business leaders stop telling our kids if they don’t get a STEM related degree they are better off not getting a four-year degree. It simply is not accurate.

(Not to mention that many of their kids are getting non-STEM related four-year degrees.)

And instead begin to tell all kids what is accurate that the foundation skills––as Google found out––are Not narrow occupation-specific skills, but rather are broad skills related to the ability to work with others, think critically and be a lifelong learner.

The kind of skills that are best built with a broad liberal arts education.

The Post concludes:

No student should be prevented from majoring in an area they love based on a false idea of what they need to succeed. Broad learning skills are the key to long-term, satisfying, productive careers. What helps you thrive in a changing world isn’t rocket science. It may just well be social science, and, yes, even the humanities and the arts that contribute to making you not just workforce ready but world ready.

Note: About time students takes seriously the importance of general knowledge in everything they undertake. Most important of all is to learn designing experiments, developing the experimental mind that does Not come naturally, but with training.


Money talks: Hollywood’s new obsession with the Getty empire

In the last few months, fascination with the twisted tales of the billionaire oil baron J Paul Getty, and his grandson Paul’s maybe-staged kidnapping, has reached a fever pitch thanks to two high-profile dramas.

First, Ridley Scott’s Oscar-nominated film All the Money in the World and, now, the 10-part series Trust, the first three episodes of which are helmed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle.

There are substantial differences between the two projects: chiefly, one’s a two-hour movie, the other a 10-hour TV series.

Moreover, where Scott’s film pushes the narrative that Paul’s kidnapping wasn’t planned, Trust frames it as an orchestrated scheme to extort money from his grandfather to pay back debts to drug dealers.

Nevertheless, both All the Money in the World and Trust are in thrall to the Getty family’s troubles, none of which appear to have been eased by the fact that, at one point, its patriarch was estimated to be the richest man in the world.

Bigwigs like Getty have always been catnip for film and TV producers. The relentless avarice of There Will be Blood’s Daniel Plainview and the psychological dissolution of Howard Hughes in The Aviator proved fascinating to both audiences and the Academy and like the recent one-two punch of Getty-centric projects, Bernie Madoff’s fall from grace inspired a miniseries and a film in the span of less than a year.

Something about the rags to riches (and sometimes back to rags) stories, the ambition and the greed, combines the indulgence of a good hate-watch with the vicarious pleasures of viewing lives so far from our own.


The Getty attraction, though, is a bit different.

Both projects that have taken the oil magnate as their subject have largely avoided spending much time recounting the accumulation of his enormous wealth and, since Getty died about as rich as he lived, nor do they depict him squandering it.

After all, the man was notoriously stingy, going so far as to install a coin-operated payphone for guests in his Sutton Place McMansion.

Instead, both Trust and All the Money in the World appear more taken by a kind of palace intrigue, using Getty’s grandson’s disappearance as a lens through which we’re meant to learn something fundamental about the man himself. That he refused to pay his grandson’s ransom, which equaled about a single day’s profit at Getty Oil, signifies more than just cheapness or gross self-regard but also the fraught interplay between money and family.

In the new series, for instance, which was created and written by Simon Beaufoy (a frequent Boyle collaborator who also penned last year’s Battle of the Sexes), the hour-long pilot takes place almost entirely within the Gettys’ gothic London estate, an elaborate, darkly lit fortress where visitors dote on and curry favor with Mr Getty.

The camera zeroes in on the lavish particularities of his life: the multiple girlfriends, the expensive art, the strained family ties, and the butlers, one of whom quite literally dresses Getty from underwear to suit and brushes his teeth for him.

Hilary Swank as Gail Getty in Trust, and Michelle Williams as Gail Getty in All the Money in the World.
 Hilary Swank as Gail Getty in Trust, and Michelle Williams as Gail Getty in All the Money in the World. Composite: FX/AP

Played by Donald Sutherland, Getty is both more menacing and more vulnerable in Trust than he was made to be by Christopher Plummer, who replaced Kevin Spacey in Scott’s film just a month before its release and nabbed an Oscar nomination.

Both portrayals, though, suggest a distant man so paranoid of his own wealth and power that he can hardly put either to good use (“When a man becomes wealthy,” says Plummer’s Getty, as though he’s reciting scripture, “he has to deal with the problem of freedom”).

Where those qualities are most conspicuous is in the kidnapping incident, which remains one of the most peculiar, made-for-TV stories of the 20th century, a veritable checklist of intrigue.

The story includes, of course, a mega-rich oilman and his scions, but also Italian mobs, English manors, a severed ear, family infighting, and an emotional anchor, Gail Getty, played by Hilary Swank in Trust and Michelle Williams in All the Money in the World.

Paul Getty eventually did come home safely, only after the ransom payment was reduced from $17m to $3m. But he was traumatized so deeply by it that he turned, like other members of the Getty family, to drugs and alcohol, suffering a stroke in 1981 brought on by a cocktail of valium, methadone and alcohol that left him quadriplegic.

It remains to be seen whether Trust will make a big splash at FX, especially since a movie with the same subject and plot was released just three months ago to middling box office (it made $25m in the US).

Since Trust proceeds as a slow series of character studies where Money is something of a breakneck thriller, the two may be different enough to stave off Getty fatigue. After all, the American viewing public has not been known to tire of stories like these.

Top U.S. General makes three stunning admissions about the Middle East

Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The head of the U.S. military’s Central Command made some stunning admissions about the present geo-political situation in the Middle East, during a Congressional testimony, that will go largely unnoticed in much of the mainstream media.

  • Assad has won
  • Iran deal should stand
  • Saudi Arabia uses American weapons without accountability in Yemen

The top U.S. general in the Middle East testified before Congress on Tuesday and dropped several bombshells: from signaled support for the Iran nuclear deal, admitting the U.S. does not know what Saudi Arabia does with its bombs in Yemen and that Assad has won the Syrian Civil War.

U.S. Army General Joseph Votel said the Iran agreement, which President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from, has played an important role in addressing Iran’s nuclear program.

“The JCPOA addresses one of the principle threats that we deal with from Iran, so if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” said U.S. Army General Joseph Votel.

JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the formal name of the accord reached with Iran in July 2015 in Vienna.

Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from the accord between Tehran and six world powers unless Congress and European allies help “fix” it with a follow-up pact. Trump does not like the deal’s limited duration, among other things. (Is Trump used to colonial deals of 100 years?)

Votel is head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia, including Iran.

He was speaking to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the same day that Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after a series of public rifts over policy, including Iran.

Tillerson had joined Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in pressing a skeptical Trump to stick with the agreement with Iran.

“There would be some concern (in the region), I think, about how we intended to address that particular threat if it was not being addressed through the JCPOA. … Right now, I think it is in our interest” to stay in the deal, Votel said.

When a lawmaker asked whether he agreed with Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford’s position on the deal,Votel said: “Yes, I share their position.”

Mattis said late last year that the United States should consider staying in the Iran nuclear deal unless it was proven Tehran was not complying or that the agreement was not in the U.S. national interest.

A collapse of the Iran nuclear deal would be a “great loss,” the United Nations atomic watchdog’s chief warned Trump recently, giving a wide-ranging defense of the accord.

Iran has stayed within the deal’s restrictions since Trump took office but has fired diplomatic warning shots at Washington in recent weeks. It said on Monday that it could rapidly enrich uranium to a higher degree of purity if the deal collapsed.


Votel also discussed the situation in Syria at the hearing.

During the Syrian army’s offensive in eastern Ghouta, more than 1,100 civilians have died. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, say they are targeting “terrorist” groups shelling the capital. (No other parties backed the Syrian army in liberating Al Ghouta)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned on Monday that Washington “remains prepared to act if we must,” if the U.N. Security Council failed to act on Syria. (Just empty threats, as usual)

Votel said the best way to deter Russia, which backs Assad, was through political and diplomatic channels.

“Certainly if there are other things that are considered, you know, we will do what we are told. … (But) I don’t recommend that at this particular point,” Votel said, in an apparent to reference to military options.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked whether it was too strong to say that with Russia and Iran’s help, Assad had “won” the civil war in Syria.

“I do not think that is too strong of a statement,” Votel said.

Graham also asked if the United States’ policy on Syria was still to seek the removal of Assad from power.

“I don’t know that that’s our particular policy at this particular point. Our focus remains on the defeat of ISIS,” Votel said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia

In a stunning exchange with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, Votel admitted that Centcom doesn’t know when U.S. fuel and munitions are used in Yemen.

“General Votel, does CENTCOM track the purpose of the missions it is refueling? In other words, where a U.S.-refueled aircraft is going, what targets it strikes, and the result of the mission?” Warren asked.

“Senator, we do not,” Votel replied.

The Senator followed up, citing reports that U.S. munitions have been used against civilians in Yemen, she asked, “General Votel, when you receive reports like this from credible media organizations or outside observers, is CENTCOM able to tell if U.S. fuel or U.S. munitions were used in that strike?”

“No, senator, I don’t believe we are,” he replied.

Showing surprise at the general’s response, Warren concluded, “We need to be clear about this: Saudi Arabia’s the one receiving American weapons and American support. And that means we bear some responsibility here. And that means we need to hold our partners and our allies accountable for how those resources are used,” she said.



Being a mum is the equivalent of 2.5 FULL-TIME jobs, according to new research

We’ve often heard the saying “being a mum is a full-time job”; but, according to research, it’s actually closer to being two-and-a-half full-time jobs!

A new American study has found that the average mum works an astonishing 98 hours per week – over twice the average working week of 39 hours.

Researchers examined the schedules of 2000 working mums, with children aged five to 12. They found that the average work day of a mum starts at 6.23am and ends at 8.31pm.

They found that even on their “free time”, mums tended to fill their time with tasks; and, of course, the weekends were just as busy as the week days!

Most mums reported having just one hour and seven minutes of “me time” daily. We spend most of our “me time” in the bathroom trying to get a quick shower unaccompanied…

40 percent of mums surveyed said their lives felt like a series of never-ending tasks, while 70% reported feeling pressure to provide a healthy diet for their children.

“The results of the survey highlight just how demanding the role of mum can be and the non-stop barrage of tasks it consists of,” said Casey Lewis, Health and Nutrition Lead at Welch’s, the juice company that commissioned the survey, told Yahoo.

The survey also examined what “life-savers” mums relied upon when trying to do it all became too tough.

The extensive list includes wine (us too), grandparents or a reliable babysitter to step in from time to time, Netflix (for the kids or the parents), wet wipes, drive-through meals, healthy snacks and juices, toys and iPads.

Coffee, napping when possible, and the ability to put on an “angry” voice as required were also on the list of top 20 mum-approved lifesavers.

We can definitely testify to the power of all of the above in a stressful situation – particularly coffee in the mornings, or a glass of wine after a very long day.

What do you think, mums? Does this sound like a typical week in your life?

We would love to know what you use as a life-saver when things get difficult. Leave us a comment and let us know.

Heaven Without People (Ghada’a El Eid)


(2017) Drama (MC Distributors) Samira Sarkis, Farah Shaer, Nadim Abou Samra, Laeticia Semaan, Hussein Hijazi, Ghassan Chemali, Wissam Boutros, Toni Habib, Jenny Gebara, Jean Paul Hage,  Mohamed Abbass, Etafar Aweke, Nancy Karam, Ivy Helou, Ziad Majdara, Maria Ziad Jabra. Directed by Lucien Bourjeily

Everyone loves a family gathering – in theory. What could be better than seeing all your loved ones in one place at the same time? Plenty, as it turns out.

Josephine (Sarkis) is the matriarch of a Lebanese Orthodox Christian family. Getting her family together is like pulling teeth; they haven’t been in the same room for a meal for more than two years.

It’s Easter Sunday and she has prepared a feast for her children and their spouses (and two grandchildren, one too young to do anything but sleep).

The children are in various stages of functionalily; Serge (Samra) seems to be the most level-headed but he has been dating his girlfriend Rita (Shaer) for three years without any sign of commitment; she is concerned that she might be pregnant which Serge is very much against.

Leila (Semaan) is a strident political firebrand who is very critical about the government for which her father (Boutros) was once employed with.

Christine (Karam) is closest to Josephine but is having big problems with her teenage son Sami (Habib). Elias (Hage) is married to Noha (Gebara) and is more than a little bit of a bully; the family treats him with contempt most of the time. Josephine’s maid (Helou) tries to be in the background but she is treated with love by the family.

The conversation turns from politics to religion and tension soon begins to make things a little bit frayed at the table.

Josephine then discovers that a large sum of money is missing, money that she and her husband – who despite his apparent vigor is actually in a fragile state of health – desperately need.

There’s no way to know who took it other than that it is someone at the dining table. By the end of the meal all of the skeletons will come out of the closet and the things bubbling under the surface will grow into a full-on boil

I liked this movie very much. I believe the great Gene Siskel would have too; movies that are a slice of life, particularly in other cultures, were essentially his favorite kind of films.

I love learning about different cultures – the foods they eat, the traditions they hold to, the rituals that a meal brings with it I also enjoy the dynamics of a family (which generally speaking are pretty much the same everywhere) particularly when there is discord.

Few families love each other universally all the time. There are always squabbles.

The performances are pretty natural. I don’t know whether the performers are professional actors or amateurs; either way the dynamics in this family are very believable and none of the performers seem to be wooden or stiff; they’re all comfortable in front of the camera which can be a big deal in movies like this one.

The one thing that I had real problems with was the camera movement.

Cinematographer Ahmad Al Trabolsi utilizes a hand-held camera and circles the table constantly; while it does add an air of tension to the story it also serves to be distracting and downright annoying.

Some fixed camera angles would have benefited the film and relieved the constant camera movement. I will say that both cinematographer and director did a good job despite the confined and somewhat claustrophobic set (nearly all the movie takes place inside the small apartment of Josephine and her husband).

Sometimes directors and cinematographers will make a film look more like a stage play in these kinds of conditions but that didn’t happen here.

The film moves at  slow but steady pace, the tension increasing as the meal progresses and eventually the situation of the missing money is revealed to the rest of the family.

The climax is handled very nicely and left me wondering how the family would survive what happened; a great film will leave you concerned for the welfare of its characters and that’s precisely what happened here.

The build-up may be a little too long for attention-challenged viewers but those with the patience to stick with the film will be richly rewarded – the final few scenes are truly amazing.

Bourjeily is certainly someone to keep an eye on. If you’re heading down to Miami to catch this festival, this is one you should put on your list. Tickets can be ordered here.

REASONS TO GO: It’s a slow build to a fast boil. A lovely slice of life with a little bit of rot below the surface.
REASONS TO STAY: The handheld camera becomes quite annoying after awhile.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, some violence and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Bourjeily, who got his MFA in film from Loyola Marymount University (my alma mater), is making his feature film debut.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/10/18: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
 Call Me By Your Name

Melania Trump says she is ‘well aware people are skeptical’ about her cyber bullying campaign

She is married to Donald Trump “the Prime bully”

Opening a meeting to discuss how technology affects young people, First Lady Melania Trump acknowledged the incredulous reactions when she announced she would highlight cyber bullying.

“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing the topic”, Ms Trump said during a White House meeting with technology executives.

Given her husband’s fondness for publicly belittling foes and doling out derisive nicknames, Ms Trump’s decision to focus on combating bullying raised ample eyebrows.

She has spotlighted online abuse in particular, saying young people are especially vulnerable when they log into their social media accounts.

“In my role as first lady, I receive many letters from children who have been bullied or feel threatened on social media,” she said.

Critics have suggested her campaign could start with addressing Donald Trump’s propensity for blistering tweets, often issued in the early morning hours, in which he savages everyone from Democrats to professional football players to members of his own administration.

But Ms Trump said she would not let the detractors deter her.

“I have been criticised for my commitment to tackling this issue and I know that will continue, but it will not stop me from doing what I know is right. I am here with one goal: helping children and our next generation,” said FLOTUS.

The First Lady brought together a meeting of technology industry executives representing heavyweight companies like Twitter, Amazon and Facebook.

Among the initiatives they floated were efforts to teach online literacy and use artificial intelligence to disseminate information on bullying.




March 2018
« Feb    

Blog Stats

  • 1,092,891 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 552 other followers

%d bloggers like this: