Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 8th, 2008

I learned (2002)

1.   I learned from Life that

Assuming is but the intention to work less.

You know the drill:  

No work, no sweat, no gain.

 

2.   I learned from Life that

Expecting but not acting on a plan

Is a day dreaming wish.

You know the drill:  No work, no sweat, and no gain.

 

3.   I learned from Life that

Acting but not expecting success is

A long journey

      To sweatshop misery.

 

4.   I learned from Life

The best drill of all:

Plan, act and expect success.

Success is on hand, and more.

 

I learned from life that

Success is good:

Success comes in drove,

In different shapes and forms.

Got No Choice (2002)

Youth makes haste to get married.

Middle age leisurely regrets.

Old age sleepily awaits the next crops

Grandchildren.

I think that I can break that cycle:

A child of mine is born.

He is grand already.

May 20, 2007

The International Tribunal for Lebanon

 

            It is becoming urgent to express my opinion on the International Tribunal for Lebanon.  Stavros’ caricature in Al Balad of May 20 is about a team of Lebanese officials spreading the red carpet leading to the UN for anticipation on the agreement of the UN council on the International Tribunal for Lebanon under chapter seven.  The immediate response in Lebanon was a dangerous outbreak of mayhem in the Palestinian camps of Nahr El-Bared close to Tripoli; so far by 10 a.m. there are over 10 dead and dozens of injured; the army lost seven soldiers and the security forces 3 men and many killed from the Fateh Al-Islam and many civilians.  This outbreak has been spreading in the north outside of the camps.

            The daily Al Diyar caricature, a few days ago, shows Seniora’s PM returning the key of the UN Tribunal to George W. Bush saying: “My mission is done” and then the daily Al Nahar showing Seniora singing “New York, my way” which I interpreted as seeking a post at the UN in New York after he is out of a public job in Lebanon.

            All the political parties in Lebanon, including the opposition, had asked and agreed on an International Tribunal after the assassination of Rafic Hariri.  Seniora’s government and allies were interested to file it under chapter seven so that the court would be outside the control of our governments and would have the responsibilities to prosecute, in addition to Rafic Hariri, the other 15 assassinations of our personalities since the martyr of Hariri.  Seniora and his allies made sure not to offer the ministers of Hezbollah the opportunity to discuss and modify the articles of the draft resolution to the International Tribunal claiming that the opposition is not serious about this resolution and is intending to delay its ratification.  The ministers of the Shiaa sect of Hezbollah and Nabih Berry resigned from the government and Lebanon has been in limbo ever since. 

Seniora has taken advantage of this confusing situation of constitutional illegitimacy or illegal decrees to press on with the alternative of filing the International Tribunal under chapter seven on ground that the government in Lebanon is too weak and the political standstill is too divisive to carry on the Tribunal resolutions on its own, which was the main purpose for this long delayed standstill.  We have to recall that the Red Khmer slaughtered one third of the Cambodian population but the new government refused to allow more than one foreign judge in the International Tribunal and retained its full rights as an independent Nation; the same is true with Rwanda, an African Nation, with more than a million killed in a racial genocide within three weeks period.

            I have written an article in March 31, 2005 with the conjecture that the assassination of Rafic Hariri was the mastermind of the US, France, and Israel that had interest in getting done with Hariri for specific reasons and I provided the rationales and circumstantial evidences.  I stated that the USA, France and Israel were the sole culprits in this assassination and 1559 UN resolution that was sponsored by the USA and France was the tip of the iceberg of the package deal between these two powerful States and among the little secret agreement between them was to contract out Israel to eliminate Hariri with utmost prejudice.  Israel was overjoyed that the opportunity finally came to erase her enemy number one off her black list. Hariri not only attempted several times to undermine Israel plans in Lebanon and in the region but succeeded hands down in all his political counter offensives against Israel and was still capable of doing Israel great political damage.

Chirac was relieved from an overbearing friend who kept reminding him of what were the right things to do toward Lebanon.  Chirac knew better that doing the right things is not necessarily the right political decisions at this crucial time of his political career.  Chirac was paying dearly from his prestige and France political positions by opposing the persistent pressures from the European Union and the USA to list Hezbollah as one of the terrorist organizations.  Unperturbed, Hariri kept showing at the Elysee door and taking photos with Chirac that said “My dearest friend Chirac” as the Egyptian President Sadat used to say of Kissinger, the USA Secretary of State during Nixon, “My dear friend Henry”.

The USA and France had already agreed on plans for the Greater Middle East after an initial reluctance from Chirac for the Iraqi invasion; time was of the essence for the execution of this project.  These plans could not succeed for certain and on time with Hariri still alive and active. France, for now, is winning big: it managed to reaffirm her protectorate rights over Syria and Lebanon like during the colonial times, secured her oil rights in Iraq and removed the American veto to selling military hardware to China.

Israel managed to put the squeeze on Hezbollah and to diligently attempt again to circumvent the rights for the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland with secret deals with, hopefully, the enfeebled new Lebanese governments after the election.  The USA is succeeding in destabilizing Syria and weakening any resolve that Syria might still have to counter the plans in the Greater Middle East.

             The timing was masterful in executing resolution 1559 which would have been delayed far beyond the intended schedule if Hariri was alive.  Hariri was in constant communications with Hezbollah and its General Secretary Hassan Nasr Allah, he had excellent connections and business enterprises with the Assad clan in Syria, had wide connections with many leaders in many countries and could delay the execution of resolution of 1559 under duress.

It is by now clear that the investigator Bramertz, even after extending his mandate several times, could not find any incriminating evidences on the Syrian leadership that could be presented to an International Court, and the real culprits refused to cooperate as Syria did.  The US and France are not interested in finding the real criminals, just need to put the squeeze on the Syrian leadership or any Iranian connections.  The US and France will focus on the assassinations of the 15 Lebanese personalities because they might have a better leverage to accusing Syria and harassing this Baathist regime for many years to come.  This Syrian regime might be behind many of the bombing in several quarters in Lebanon after the March 14 mass demonstration as a reaction to the betrayal of most of its former allies backing the US and French initiatives in Lebanon but I doubt that the assassinations of Samir Kassir, Jubran Tuweini and George 7awi were the doing of Syria.

            These three personalities were credible in their positions, not sectarians in their ideas and programs, not attached or affiliated with any sectarian and isolationist organizations and had their supporters among the youth, the intellectuals and the University students. These personalities were a serious threat to the sectarian and feudal political leaders that gathered under the umbrella of the March 14 movement, also labeled the Cedar movement.  They had to be silenced and used as scapegoats for the Syrian disenchantment with the new turning of affairs.

            It would be great that the US/Iranian negotiations by the end of this month be fruitful and eliminate this threat of chapter seven, or one major superpower with veto rights turn down the latest draft so that the Lebanese would not have to face another hot, hot summer and the eradication of hope for a stable Lebanon.

            It would be great to have a unity government for the sole purpose of having a new Parliamentary election and a decent Presidential transition.  We want so much but we are content of the bare minimum for the time being.

Health counselor

 Noura Nabatat, another early coastal city insurgent, had extensive practice in herbal remedies and acquired medical knowledge from her father who was the prime health attendant to a powerful warlord.   She counseled Antoun to have hospitals installed in the mansions and great houses of the former Emirs and powerful landlords of the defunct feudal system with the double intentions of precluding any recovery of these properties because of the taboos attached to sick people staying in their homes and also as a grand symbol that the best in the kingdom were for the sick, the poor and down trodden. 

Noura managed by this achievement to circumvent the tendency of the new insurgency leaders who contemplated to get installed in comfortable dwellings recuperated from the noblemen.  She was apprehensive that any requisition of expensive properties for personal use might have raised many eye brows from the citizens; this decision prevented the spread of rumors that status of lordships had been traded and replaced by others less worthy traditionally for leadership and confidence.  

To each major official hospital was attached a reserved spacious room or salon for receiving the families of the sick persons coming from distant places to be near their loved ones and several small dwelling rooms for overnight stay.  The spacious room could be transformed into a wake facility on demand for receiving condolences when a dear one had died.  These civil annexes replaced the inadequate homes of the bereaved families for receiving condolences and thus, only the very rich residencies could match or outdo these large, well maintained and clean annexes

Noura set in motion the idea of dispatching teams of two medicine men accompanied by three soldiers for their safety to visit districts and hold meetings for the neighboring health practitioners. These meetings could last three days with the objectives of collecting data on the recurrence of certain diseases and sharing procedures and cures among their colleagues.  It is doubtful that the rate of mortality decreased substantially but the stubbornness of Noura to proceed with her idea and her initiative to closely monitor the results eventually led to the institution of the first medical school established in the town of Beit-Chabab about 15 kilometers from the seashore.  Although Noura was an herbalist she had extensive knowledge in Arabic medicine and surgical instruments; she brought medical books from renowned Arabic scholars, collected, bought, and transferred from libraries dispersed in the Arab World what was useful.  In the town of Beit-Chabab she instituted an ophthalmology center that attracted people from as far as the Arabic Peninsula, Iran and Egypt.  One of her medical achievement was to secure the Levant with the capability to fabricate state of the art surgical instruments which drawings were mined from ancient manuscripts because the Arabs were the leading surgeons and could perform almost any precision surgery that did not require the use of microscopes not yet invented.

These gatherings of medical men resulted in a list of well qualified professionals who shouldered many administrative duties in the ministry of health. Within seven years, there were about three well managed and funded medical institutions which attracted medical students from all corners of the Arabic world and many visitors came to Mount Lebanon for medical cure, especially the rich and noblemen who turned to be valuable assets in promoting the policies and spirit emanating from this new kingdom.

Noura and Mariam quickly became role models for the new generation of girls because of their successes that exceeded expectation.  The new spirit that grew in the new generations of women engendered many tribulations in society that resulted in gradually offering the female group greater equality with men in matters of rights and opportunities. Needless to say that the female counselors suffered immensely from the animosity of their fellow male counselors and from the ruling class and had to fight their ways courageously.  This hard fight against a patriarchal tradition could not but promote many educated females to come to the rescue and support the projects of Mariam and Noura.  The administrations in the ministries of education and health experienced a high rate of female employees compared to the other ministries.


Census

Not by intention but necessity Antoun formed a reduced cabinet of six official counselors:  ministers for defense, internal security, foreign affairs, agriculture and construction, education, and health and social services.  A census of the kingdom’s resources in manpower and treasures was of paramount importance and scores of educated people who could write were dispatched to communities to collect the necessary data and information. A preliminary census that was not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination provided a rough estimate of the population.  The county was subdivided into 8 rough districts and census committees were dispatched to meet with the notables of the towns and villages and collect information from available records and recollection on the number of families and average sizes of families and main resources for subsistence.  There were in the Metn County ten thousand families in the average of six persons per family, four major towns of more than 3,000 inhabitants, ten towns of more than 1,500 inhabitants. The concentration was heavier below the altitude of 700 meters with agriculture, cattle, goat and poultry raising and textile the main sources of wealth.

Chapter 7:  Consolidation of the kingdom; (continue 11)

Antoun had a few rudimentary ideas concerning the organization of the social fabric but he lacked reprieves for consolidating his hold on power. Fortunately, the new leader had good qualities of listening carefully to suggestions and delegating authorities to matters considered not to affect directly his grip on power.

Mariam Najjar was an excellent counselor and was motivated to enlarge her knowledge and participate in the decision units.  She suggested that one priority was to establishing elementary schools in every town and argued that without a learned youth the future of the regime would be totally dependent on foreign experts who would deplete the treasury.  She advanced the concept that relying on the know-how of other nations was the main reason why so many dynasties had died out or been replaced by dynasties elevated from mercenaries who did not care for the well-being and stability of the societies they governed.  

However, there was the realization, experienced by most families living in high altitude of over 1000 meters above sea level, of the high mortality rate in extended families during the winter season that lasted five months. Many died from suffocation, pulmonary diseases, and contagious illnesses.  Psychological disorders lead to brutal physical behaviors from close contact in unfit environmental conditions. At the time, and for long time afterwards, homes were simply of  one room;  the door was the only opening to fresh air.  Around ten people on average crowded that cloistered unique room for the duration of winter.  

As was the custom, large families usually dedicated their second or third sons to the clergy’s institutions to become priests and a few daughters to turning nuns; thus, avoiding feeding extra mouths and making more space for the other members of the family; many kids were lent to work for free in return for shelter and food and some education during the harsh season.

To return the favor for the outlawed citizens, it was decided that intern or boarding schools be erected for girls and boys separately where children of ages ranging from nine to thirteen would dwell in for 5 months from mid November to mid April.

 

Boarding schools

The first intern or boarding school was established in Baskinta and demonstrated in its first year that mortality was drastically reduced in winter when the number of family members was cut in half within their reduced dwellings.  Consequently, this facility provided during the winter season education and healthier quarters for children and lent longevity to the extended family members. Nuns and monks would run these schools in the beginning until a new generation of trained and learned lay administrators and educators took over gradually. 

The teaching was traditional the first two years until tighter administration and teaching procedures were enacted; a single instructor perched on a cushioned flat stone faced half circles of students sitting on the ground and was responsible for all the beginners in the reading class ,regardless of the students’ age and gender.  The master’s long reaching stick would not discriminate inattentive heads; heavy physical punishments were the lot of free spirits who dared stand for their rights or argued boldly. A few families would even worry if their kids were not physically disciplined as signs of careless and apathetic behavior on the instructor’s part in guiding their kids’ progress in learning.   

Families would rather go and visit their children at school on Christmas vacation and stay with them for a couple of days benefiting from warmer lodging in barns and healthier food varieties.  Christmas was a happy period for everyone in the school where children would get busy building mock-up houses, trees, animals and figurines for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi kings and presenting homemade gifts to their parents in return for assorted delicacies.

A typical day at intern schools started at 6 a.m. followed by house cleaning, chicken feeding, cow milking, kitchen food preparation, and carrying necessary supplies for the day; then, at 7:30 mass and breakfast.  Classes for reading and writing in both Arabic an Aramaic languages and basic arithmetic would begin at 8:30 and end at 12:30 for lunch.  A short recess ,then off to working in the artisanal shops of carpentry, pottery, glass painting, iron forging, cloth making, glass blowing and farm tending until 4 p.m.  The children would then head to the supervised study lounge until dusk, followed by diner and Vesper prayer.  

By seven everybody was already in bed in order to save on candles and oil consumption.  Children less than eleven years of age would sleep ten in a room on hay stacks with spreads of goat skin; the older ones would sleep seven in a room.  It was not the sleeping quarters that mattered for the kids but a larger freedom to move around and be outside during the day with three fulfilling meals.

Meat was scarce but the kids were frequently fed “kebbe nayyeh” for Sunday’s lunch and eggs with “kaorma” for Saturday’ breakfast and tabbouli or mjadara on Fridays.  The usual staples were cereals, beans, crushed wheat, lentils, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, soup and plenty of breads. Fruits were a delicacy, especially apples which could be stored; sometimes, apricot and blueberry jams; and more often molasses and “rahat el halkoum”.

Most of the toys and game equipments were homemade.  They used to fabricate rectangular flat wood plates, mark a number of 3 decimals on it and a string to attach around the forehead.  They divided themselves in two groups and scattered in the woods hiding their numbers on tree trunks.  If the enemy guessed the hidden number attached to the front head then the opposite member was out of the game until everyone in one team was out. With time, many of these masks would become marked one way or another and the unfortunate wearers soon found themselves guessed out immediately, no matter how tightly they hid their front head closely to a tree trunk.

They also made rudimentary balls and divided themselves into two teams:  the member hit by the thrown ball was “killed” and transferred to the opposite line unless he caught the ball and then the thrower was considered eliminated.  They fabricated backgammon and tic tac toe gizmos and the like games.  The most rewarding type of equipment were sling shots, wooden swords and arches; the kids would go out hunting rabbits and squirrels within a short range because wild beasts were commonly found such as hyenas, wild boars, and wild dogs.

This system of schooling was expanded to towns at lower altitude for a shorter winter season of only 4 months.  Somehow, a few of these schools constructed annexes around their grounds with the help of the military garrisons close by and were transformed into major production centers for army supplies and exported objects.  In the winter season skilled families of the interned children would manufacture goods and help in the maintenance of the institution while the remaining of the year the school and its annexes would be invaded by skilled workers occupying the living quarters for 6 months. 

There were cases of greedy administrators in tandem with local officials abusing children as slave workers and delaying the release of the able and skilled children. Families got wind of these awful practices and stricter monitoring procedures of these institutions were established.  Families were encouraged to resume sending their children to the nearest parochial schools for a couple of hours during the busy seasons in return for preferential winter work facilities at the boarding schools.  These boarding schools became popular and families from afar trekked their children to Baskinta until new boarding schools were available and mushroomed to every district in Mount Lebanon. 

This system of boarding schools developed into more professional institutions :  Overseas parents inscribed their children for a substantial sum of money in return for lengthier educational periods and better accommodations for housing different age groups of students. In the newer more professional boarding schools with diverse ethnic and religious affiliations there occurred a few religious frictions among the adult students without any repercussions to the children who found happiness and joy in being together, energetic and secure in their daydreams.  Like most institutions in the Levant, the boarding schools experienced traumatic and feverish times but never took roots to grow and then suffered sudden death.

After lengthy discussions, Antoun agreed with Mariam that it would be an excellent decision to offer incentives to municipalities for arranging educational facilities.  Instead of villages constructing more churches, the central government offered to incur half the expenses for constructing schools, the wages of the instructors and lunch for all the students.  In return for free education for a 4-year period the graduates would refund part of the expenses after securing better employment. This edict would be formalized so that no State investment would be contemplated without local and regional investments and participation.  The rational was that if investments were shared by the well to do inhabitants who tend to mind a return on investments then, proper and timely execution of projects were more secured since founded on individual interest.

Within a year Antoun appointed Mariam Najjar as his education counselor. Mariam encouraged many visiting scholars to settle in Mount Lebanon and more opportunities for various disciplines sprouted in education that required specialized higher educational institutions.

What’s that concept of Human Factors in design? Article 21

“How engineering curriculums can be restructured to respond to end users demands?” (Written in  April 19, 2005)

In 1987 Alphonse Chapanis, a renowned Human Factors professional, urged that published Human Factors research papers target the practical design need of the various engineering disciplines so that the research data be readily used by engineers.  Chapanis was trying to send a clear message that Human Factors sin qua was to design interfaces between systems and end users.  And thus, research papers have to include sections directing the engineers as to the applicability of the results of the paper to design purposes.

In return, it is appropriate to send the message to all engineering disciplines that research papers should include sections orienting the engineering practitioners to the applicability of the results of the papers to the end users and how Human Factors professionals can judiciously use the data in their interface designs.

As it was difficult for the Human Factors professional to send the right message to the engineering practitioners, and still has enormous difficulty disseminating the proper purpose and goals, it would be a steep road for the engineers to send the right message that “what they design is actually targeting the needs and new trends of the end users“.

As long as the engineering curriculums fail to include the Human Factors field as an integral part in their structures it would not be realistic to contemplate any shift in their designs toward the end users. Systems would become even more complex and testing and evaluation more expensive in order to make end users accept any system and patronize it.

Instead of recognizing from the beginning phases that reducing errors and risks to the safety and health of end users are the best marketing criteria for encouraging end users to adopt and apply a system systems are still being designed by different engineers who cannot relate to the end users because their training is not directed explicitly toward them.

What is so incongruous with the engineering curriculums to include course that target end users?

Why would not these curriculums include courses in occupational safety and health, consumer product liability, engineers as expert witnesses, the capabilities and limitations of human, marketing, psychophysics and experimental design?

Are the needs and desires of end users beneath the objectives of designing systems?

If that was true then why systems are constantly being redesigned, evaluated and tested in order to match the market demands?

Why do companies have to incur heavy expenses in order to rediscover the wheel that the basis of any successful design ultimately relies on the usefulness, acceptability and agreement with the end users desires and dreams?

Why not start from the foundation that any engineering design is meant for human and that designed objects or systems are meant to fit the human behavior and not vice versa?

What seem to be the main problems for implementing changes in the philosophy of engineering curriculums?

Is it the lack to find enough Human Factors, ergonomics and industrial psychologist professionals to teaching these courses?

Is it the need to allow the thousands of psychologists, marketing and business graduates to find debouche in the market place for estimating users’ needs, desires, demands and retesting and reevaluating systems after the damages were done?

May be because the Human factors professionals failed so far to make any significant impact to pressure government to be part and parcel of the engineering practices?

Article #20 in the series of “What’s that concept of Human Factors in design?”

“How would you like to fit Human Factors in the engineering curriculum?” (April 13, 2005)

I would like that the Human Factors in engineering be a required course to all the engineering disciplines and architects, and any field requiring designing systems and objects, such as graphic designers…

Human Factors in design need to be taught in the first two years in order for design processes to have the human objective nailed down.

The engineering students were awe-struck that there is a whole body of knowledge, specifically targeted to improving their designs, that there are new important set of criteria, which they agree with, but were never exposed to in their design training.

Human Factors in design course was an eye opener to the various problems that engineers will have to deal with, once they leave the university setting and move on to the working environment. Engineering students were following a one-dimensional view of the world through equations, number crunching and manipulation of formulas that permitted them to solve simple engineering problems, and may be a few design problems that never included the end users in the equation.

Students were exposed to problems of shift work, discrimination based on age and gender, occupational mental stress, occupational physical pains and aches, potential risks and injuries, human errors and their consequences, and the urgency to target the end users whom will use their designs.

Next, I would like that all engineering disciplines be required to take the “design of experiments” course. It is a pre-requisite for industrial engineers in their last two years curriculum. This course of experimental design is highly important for several reasons:

First, the course material in Human Factors is pregnant with statistical results drawn from experiments which use human as subjects in the experiments. Unfortunately, the design of experiment is not required for the other engineering disciplines and not even offered or encouraged as an optional alternative. I have a real hard time explaining through examples the difference among the independent variables, the dependent variables and control variables and may be a couple of students finally end up comprehending how experiments are designed.

Second, how could an engineering graduate update his education and continue to keep pace with the practice if he cannot read research papers?  The process of designing and conducting experiments is tedious, time-consuming and requires skills. Students have no idea how experiments are done and their final projects are very inefficient.

Their experiments are basically of the type one independent variable and one dependent variable, like scientists used to perform in the 18th century.  Students have to perform several sets of these inefficient experiments for their final project while one well designed experiment would do. Nowadays, inference experiments or cause and effects experiments can easily be designed with three factors or independent variables and two dependent variables and permit good interpretation of the statistical results which provide a wealth of information on the interactions of the factors in a single experiment.

Thirdly, I would like that industrial engineers be offered an optional course on the cognitive aspects of Human Factors since computer information processing and communication is the sin qua of this age of technological advancement and mass accessibility to information. More importantly, this follow-up course will allow students to design, conduct and run a complete experiment using human subjects, learn the process and procedures of comprehending research papers and the validity of the explained experiments and have a hand on designing a simple interface.

I am leaning toward starting with the design of an interface from the beginning and whenever common sense dictates certain sections in the design to actually design an experiment to validate the common sense assumption.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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