Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 3rd, 2008

Reinventing the Wheel (1998)

It does not matter what you believe in.

Constantly, reinvent the wheel in what matters to you.

Forget not: Your goal in life is to reinvent yourself.

Forget not,

You were born to feel

How to love your life,

Even for a moment,

Before your rotten carcass befriends

The worms and the cool dirt.

Funny Bliss (1998)

      Twain is a funny guy.

He was frustrated, at fourteen, with his father’s ignorance.

At twenty, how dumb struck he felt

That his father could be such a quick learner.


I was thirteen and I wrote:

           “What do I know?”

My old French teacher loved it.

           He said the French essayist Montaigne used it.

At fifty, I said:

           “I feel I know nothing”.

My thirteen year old niece skewered her eyes and mumbled:

           “I am embarrassed, what a loser!”

 “What methods will I have to manipulate and start worrying about?” 

(April 9, 2005)


Once again you are asking a most interesting and to the point question.

Usually, my class is composed of all engineering disciplines and is basically a required course for industrial engineers in their third year.

Every time I ask the students: “Tell me, what 3 main methods you use in your discipline?”  I enjoy contemplating the glazed looks on their eyes.

For them, one method to using in a discipline is logically a reasonable supposition because somehow they must have been applying some sort of a method anyhow.

Hearing that there may be more than one methods that they have been applying explicitly without realizing it propelled my university students into a state of shock and disbelief.

 If I asked them how they solved their problems their immediate reaction is: “Well, we locate the appropriate equation, we input the necessary data then we whip the calculator and get the response.” 

Do they know before hand the magnitude and range of the reasonable answers? Do they ever double check whether the answer is within the acceptable range for the specific domain of the problem?  Do they make it a habit to at least attach a unit to their answer? Do they double check whether the algebraic manipulation of the dimensions of the independent variables in the equation matches the dimension of the dependent variable?  Do they solve algebraically the equation before inputting data only in the last phase of the transformation?

The average graduate student has no recollection that his training induced him to apply methodically this process for applying algebra, considering the dimensionality of an equation or the range and domain of the problems at hand. 

The average university student has barely been prompted to think about the taxonomy (classification scheme) of methods used in engineering and asked to locate the appropriate domain of methods that his course might require.

Every science is based on a set of taxonomies or classification schemes.

For example we are taught that mathematic is based on inductive and deductive reasoning, that it has several distinct branches like analytic, algebraic, numeric, geometric and not least probabilistic.

Every applied science has gone through the methodologies of experimenting, setting the protocol, collecting data, analyzing statistically the data and hopefully reaching a few practical results that the professionals in the disciplines could apply.

Fourth year engineering university graduates go through their final project with a set of inefficient experiments, each experiment being based on a unique independent variable or factor and probably a modicum of control variables, and they live happily ever after without knowing that there are courses that train you to design experiments in very efficient ways.  They graduate without being required to taking at least one course in designing cause and effect experiments were more than one factor and more than one dependent variable could be studied simultaneously for the more useful information on the interactions among the variables.

It does not matter how often I explain to them the various kind of variables through specific examples, the fact is their brain is not trained to look at problems from an experimental perspective.

“How Human Factors get involved in the Safety and Health of end users?” 

(April 7, 2005)


There is an issue that many in the Third World consumers are not aware of:  mainly the legal liability of manufacturer and system designers of any faulty designed product.

This product liability concept has evolved greatly since the first quarter of last century through court rulings of various complaints of plaintiffs due to either physical or mental injuries that users suffered in different aspects of product usage. 

Nowadays, in modern and developed States the burden of proof for defective products is on the manufacturers, distributors and deep pocket companies with financial strength and directly or indirectly related to any defective product reaching the consumers.

Another legal victory to consumers is that designers have the responsibility to foresee most operations not intended specifically for the product but a few consumers might operate the product for different usage and end up being injured. Although the product was well designed for its intended use most probably it was less than performing in safety and health for the other usage. 

A range-oven is intended for cooking but when the range door is left open and thus facilitating the curiosity of a toddler to step on the door, then the overturn of the range can lead to catastrophic consequences. Designers are thus asked to foresee this usage of the range door and design in a counter balance for that event or also designing in a preventing obstacle to a toddler inserting his hands inside the range to satisfy his unlimited curiosity.

When I was preparing my doctoral dissertation in the late 90’s there was a defensive attitude to affixing warning signs and warning pictorials on products and on instruction manuals.

The rational for this wave for displaying warning signs was because if companies failed in posting messages of functions that may cause injuries, then their successes in legal defenses were next to nil and compromises with plaintiffs outside the court system were less costly.

Posting warnings gave the companies a chance to defend their cases if their manufacturing processes are well documented and safety procedures are well managed.


There are well established consumer products like TV, dishwashers, washing machines, video recorders, cellular phones and so on.  If you consider the statistics of the actual injuries data in hospitals versus the expected frequencies of the injuries by common people you will be surprised of the high discrepancy and under valuation of the risks involved.

People think that the design of these well established products can be guessed by common sense that people acquire through experience. 

A few simple experiments can prove that common sense should be the last resort method to designing. 

The opinions and answers for specific design arrangements and best alternatives are as varied as users are, even among the expert designers of these products.

Gandhi’s non-violent resistance guidelines, (February 21, 2008)

Non-violent resistance methods (ahisma), and its extension of non-cooperative activities to unjust governments, are not synonymous with the concept of passive resistance adopted in the Western culture: simply, non-cooperation entails sacrifices, pain and suffering that the uninitiated cannot endure.

Even taking to the court for redress is considered by Gandhi as a form of violent method that should be avoided by the members of satyagraha.  Passive resistance is the method of the weak who does not believe in his internal strength facing violent forces and who eventually might use violent methods if afforded.

The members of satiyagraha adopt non-violent methods out of strength and confidence in the victory of truth by personal suffering. Thus, members of satiyagraha will never use violent means since the opposing person is not an enemy, but the unjust laws that rob the citizens of their dignity as human united in life.

Non violence or satiyaghara means to adhere to truth or God, who represents unity in every life.  Consequently, the initiated should be a true believer in God irrespective of which religion he belongs to.

According to Gandhi, finding truth is the responsibility of the individual and is what he believes is just and good and thus, since truth is relative, then non-violence methods should be adopted so that we don’t commit errors and crimes in forcing our positions by coercion lest we discover later on that we were mistaken.

The initiated should work toward “brahmacharya” or sexual chastity in thought, seeing and touching and also chastity for seeking fortune and celebrity. Once we manage to dominate our senses, even once in our practice, then we cannot lose that achievement. The initiated should discuss issues of a program at length until he is convinced but finally he has to ultimately follow faith.

Gandhi has developed the guidelines for non-cooperative movements against governments that broke their oaths and pledges to serving the people and are exercising cruelty, exploitation and oppression.  The program of non-cooperation is of four steps, each step is meant to reach a higher level of disobedience to the authority.

The first responsibility is to exposing, precisely, the project to the population at large through meetings and focused communication.

The next step is to convince the public servants to voluntarily abandon their titled positions and charges with the government and encouraging the lawyers and judges to stop serving the government.  No pressures should be exercised on the functionaries, especially if the movement is unable to provide for the bread winners. The private employees are excluded from the requirements of abandoning their services.

The third step would ask the army and security officers and soldiers to retreat from their duties.

The last step would amount to refusing paying taxes to the government.

In order to shorten the period of resistance with a successful outcome, the organization of the non-cooperative movement should cater to the weakest members in social status or economic needs.  The members of the movement should:

1.  stop taking loans from government funds;

2. conflicts among the members must be resolved through private arbitrage because lawyers should suspend the exercise of their official profession toward the government.

3. The members should start boycotting public schools; (in this request, I would include boycotting private schools so that no discrimination in economic status should be established).

4. The members should not attend any government reunions and meetings and ceremonies; they should refuse accepting any civil or military post.

5. In case of being under occupation, the members should rely solely on local and national products and manufactures “swadeshi” and thus, boycotting imported consumer’s products from the colonial powers.

On the first day of the non-cooperation the members should:

1.  spend the day in suspending work and focusing on prayer and fasting to clean the spirit of violent tendencies and exorcise anger and resentment because non-violent activities require serenity in thought, talk and action.

The strength of non-violent resistance is based on the pressures of the innocents on the tyrant’s behavior.

Gandhi had worked to instituting a non-armed security force, not carrying even batons, head gears or shields as a protection to the abuses of the mob.  This non-armed and non-violent security force of members adhering to satyagraha is meant to absorb the frustration and anger of the demonstrators at the expense of hurt and even death to the satyagrahis instead of returning violence with violent reactions.

Consequently, the members of this special security force would undergo serious training, physical, mental and emotional, that are meant to gain inner strength to facing the violent behaviors of fellow men.

This force would be highly disciplined even more than soldiers and obey orders to serving the people in dangerous situations and catastrophes.

One of the main duties of this non-violent security force is to communicate and come to aid to ever family in the locality in daily life so that the inhabitants recognize them and feel very familiar to them and thus preventing deterioration in acute situations.

Gandhi made a distinction between “hartal” or going on strike and civil disobedience:

Going on strike can be understood by children and didn’t entail serious punishment by government but is a potent method to disseminating the message to the population at large.

The civil disobedience is a dangerous endeavor that has grave consequences of reprisal by the power to be and only the initiated and well disciplined satyagrahis can sustain the punishment, privation and suffering.  He also distinguished the sit-ins with fasting for personal interest and those done for the general benefit of the public.

Many crooks learned to fast in front of private properties in order to extort money from the proprietors who did not wish publicity or humiliations and Gandhi viewed these non-violent private interest actions as violent in nature.

Gandhi also comprehends that the means used to an end reflect the consequences to the contemplated objective. Thus, if you steal a watch from a person then you are a thief; if you save money to purchase the watch then it belongs to you but if you beg the person to donate it then you are sending the message that you can be enslaved.

In that respect, people who revolt using violent means to obtain their rights end up not respecting the duties and responsibilities commensurate to their rights; however, if these same rights are snatched through non-violent methods then you are ready to assume your responsibilities and these rights do not turn out to be a burden to society in the long run.

Gandhi considers that the force of truth, using non-violent methods and attitudes, is the prime mover in our development.  History, understood as the recording of wars engaged by monarchs, is at best interruption in the natural course of peaceful endeavors by the normal people. Thus, it is the mostly non-violent activities of people that kept societies alive, functioning and developing.

Gandhi united with the Moslems of India during their “Caliphate” resistance movement against the British and maintained his alliance throughout all his movements of non-violence resistance.  There are several reasons for Gandhi’s relentless alliance with the Moslems in India: first, the British government had reneged on the pledge to maintaining the Caliphate institution after the WWI if the Moslems of India served in the British army.

At the time, the Sultan of Turkey was considered the Caliphate of the Sunni and the British eliminated that religious title for the Moslem Sunni of India.  Gandhi genius was:

First, to never undertake a non-violent resistance movement before allying to the Moslems of India and thus showing a united national front against the British colonial power and their countless unjust laws and atrocities of mass murders.

Second, Gandhi elevated the mere political alliance to protecting unity of a movement into another level of a united society regardless of creed or social status.

Third, Gandhi respected any religion that believed that the search for truth can be done by having faith in a unique God.

Fourth, Gandhi encouraged the majority in any Nation to capitulate completely to the minorities’ requests so that no suspicion or violent reactions may be generated within a society; the basic tenant of this concept is that the majority will always be the winner as long as no confrontations are activated.  It has been proven that when a majority violently attacks a minority then they end up loosing in the long run because history always catches up with cowardly endeavors.

The modern actualities are striking evidences as in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Israel.  Capitulation is also advisable when the problem is merely related to material belonging.  Resisting armed forces and defending honor is legitimate and necessary in his philosophy

Every government might have positive elements in its program but if it is unjust and does not preserve human dignity then the whole State system has to be pulled down.  It is not acceptable that a neutral State allows an invading army to cross its borders to attack another nation; Switzerland should have had at least the moral strength to prevent any resources to cross its borders toward Nazi Germany and never cooperate with this racist State.

 Anyone who refuses to do military service but accepts to cooperate with a military State is NOT a satyagrahi.  When you pay taxes and aid a military State to maintaining its hegemony then you are part and parcel of the unjust State. You cannot eat the food that the army is protecting you to produce and consume and then refuse military service; your alternative is to flee to the mountains and feed on what nature provides.  A soldier who shoots in the air to disperse the masses is doing violence and not doing his job and shouldn’t have joined the army or an armed security force.

When asked in 1940, whether an independent India would institute satyagraha to its armed forces to defend the homeland, Gandhi offered his own belief that India might be the first people that could show the way to peaceful entente with its neighboring nations.  He believed that letting conquerors capture the land without armed resistance is the shortest and direct method to evacuating them through non-violent resistance and non-cooperation; the numbers of martyrs would be far lower than the fallen soldiers and innocent civilians if a violent resistance is undertaken.

Any invading army that crosses over the cadavers of innocent people who resisted its incursion is not about to repeat this brutal act because of human nature.  Furthermore, the people would not be paying heavily for useless armaments and fortifications.

Gandhi declared that his allegiance to Hinduism is mainly pragmatic because it delineated clearly that the life struggle of an individual is to finding inner spiritual strength to linking with the truth of God and didn’t excite or scare believers into the notions of paradise and hell; Hinduism viewed the soul as indestructible and no clear distinction is made between spirit and body.

Gandhi struggled all his life to convince the Orthodox Hindu institution that casting the untouchable is wrong, and could not accept sermons of satyagrahi who practiced discrimination of the untouchables in their communities.

A Gentleman (continue 8)

Antoun met Yasmine on an April of Palm Sunday (Chaanine) accompanied by Noura as her chaperon.  Yasmine was 17 years old, pretty, shy and introverted. She talked little and Antoun barely heard what she was saying and did not pay much attention to her during the procession. Noura later told him that she was the official health provider for Yasmine’s family.  The family members were suffering not so much of any major physical illnesses but mainly from a kind of depression, sadness and isolation.

Boulos Bakhour, the father of Yasmine, was in earlier times a prosperous merchant who had wide connections with the merchants of the city of Venice. Boulos exported incense and spices to Venice and imported finished woolen cloth (usually imported by the Venice merchants from England through the port of Antwerp in Holland), stone marble, navigation accessories and mechanical wooden toys. Two of his sons had died; one from a ship wreck and another from the plague that devastated Italy on one of his trips. Boulos business went under shortly after and he had to sell his trading facilities at a loss.

Yasmine was highly educated in matters that were considered totally useless, especially for females:  She could write in Latin, speak fluent French and play an exotic musical instrument which resembled a “clavecin”. She also tried her hand at small aquarelle paintings of landscapes and flowers and had reserved a room for that hobby.

Yasmine could not believe Noura when she assured her that Antoun could procure her an updated clavecin, more Latin books and especially those exquisitely varnished mechanical wooden toys if she could afford the price. This information inflamed Yasmine and set her on a journey of conniving for Antoun’s heart and soul.

Noura became frantic and alarmed at Yasmine’s excitement; she was not thrilled with the development shaping out under her watch; her imprudence and pride prevented her from disrupting the unfolding intimate relationships between Yasmine and Antoun.  Noura was reduced to reason logically that, if they indeed might wed, which eventuality should not be a done deal, this wedding might provide a perfect cover up for Antoun’s dangerous activities. The old merchant Boulos knew about the illegal trading business of Antoun but hard times and the newly discovered excitement of Yasmine for life were irresistible.

Most often, love has devious ways of punishing the inattentive to its subtle signals, so that Noura reaped a few lame satisfactions imagining Antoun spending his spare time listening to the harpsichord, attending to Latin poem recitations and entertaining a stuffy entourage in endless boring parties.  Four months of studious courting resulted in Yasmine and Antoun getting married; his eldest sister Latifa represented the Fares family because his father could not make the trip while Antoun’s official situation with the Emir of the Metn was still unresolved.  The honeymoon was spent in Cyprus at the request of Yasmine who had never traveled overseas, a request that suited Antoun’s business transactions too.

The first act of change in class status was for Antoun to buy himself a black pure blood Arabian stallion and a fancy coach hitched to two long-legged bays to take Yasmine on tours of the city and for official invitations. New rich silk outfits for the couple were remarked with appreciation in town and many households had a hard time imitating the expenditure of the newly wealthy couple.  Yasmine nagged Antoun for clinging to his flat turban and assiduously urged him to change to a Venetian headdress and tight thigh molding pantaloons.  Antoun went along with Yasmine’s extravagances for a month until his closest friends started to shun him in the streets and then uncalled for innuendos flooded the neighborhood.

Three months in his new social status confirmed to Antoun that marriage is anathema to his cherished liberty and freedom but rather a very useful formal social contract to establish credibility as a reliable man and setting valid ground to acquire stable status among the prosperous merchant families. Antoun expanded his business by building carriages and subcontracted the mismanaged postal service in and around Beirut and later on to the Metn region.  The regular postal carriages were served by on board scribes who offered their services of reading delivered letters to the illiterate clients and immediately replying to the returned correspondences.  Abundant intelligence information was accumulated via that service along with immense prestige attached to a client friendly enterprise rarely emulated.

The first-born son was named Adhal (muscle) but, to the chagrin of many, Yasmine could only manage the sound of Adl (justice); and thus Antoun’s close friends and associates attributed to him the pseudonym of Abu Adl (father of justice), a name that he grew to like because he thought matched his temperament.  Yasmine hated the name Adhal and screamed recriminations and shed hysterical cries for she hoped her first son would have a French name of Augustin or Christoph as an alternate.

Gergis became a constant fixture at Yasmine study room; he hired her services under the pretense of learning Latin so that she would translate for him passages from the Roman codes of law and books that described how the Romans governed their vast multiracial Empire.  Somehow, Yasmine felt that Gergis made her repeat passages that were connected to Sicily.

Antoun had different code names among the civilian and the armed groups.  His code name for the civilian association was Abu Adl (father of justice) and for the armed group Abu Ghadab (father of anger). A propitious event offered Antoun the opportunity to expand and affirm his leadership.  The Emirs of the regions were summoned by the Viceroy of Damascus to raise their small private armies and advance to face a renegade Emir from the north around Aleppo.  Antoun was frustrated with the heavy demands levied on his business and the mass forced recruitment of the youth and able bodies.  He started by helping the young males from the Metn who refused to be enlisted in the army to flee into the outlawed areas and he prepared to resist any onslaught of the mercenaries of the Emir of Beirut

Neighborhood night watch groups were organized to forewarn against any sudden descend of the Emir’s troops. The sea was opened to evacuate distressed families. Many widowed women and orphans joined the insurgents for food and shelter because foodstuffs were seized and the black market prices were exorbitant. Gergis was spared the draft because he was deemed a valuable middleman to the rich Christian class.

At this junction, Antoun had no choice but to join the resistance movement hiding in the mountains. He took his son Adhal with him to visit his grandparents in the mountains. Yasmine, who was pregnant for the second time, stayed home in Beirut with her parents. The married gentleman Antoun was tolerated again in his hometown which was located at a cross-road between the Capital Mtein and Zahle in the Bekaa Valley.  He had bought a small cottage in the village of Mrouj, very close to his hometown, where his eldest sister Latifa was caretaker.




October 2008

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