Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 14th, 2009

Article #17, April 13, 2005

 “A few anecdotes of my teaching methods”

My composite class of all engineering disciplines takes my course in Human Factors in engineering for different reasons. It is a required course to the industrial engineers but optional to all the others.

You assume that most university students have discussed with the previous enrollers about the contents, difficulty, novelty and time consuming constraints of this course.

Apparently, the responses generated in class to my query whether the students have any idea about this course prove that they have no knowledge whatsoever.

I prompt them by mentioning the term ergonomics and lo and behold they have read this term somewhere in ads on ergonomically designed chairs and keyboards.

Another surprise is that when it comes to purchasing course materials and answering old questions in assignments many succeed in locating previous students who took the course.

I have tried many teaching styles, revised several times the contents and arrangements of the course chapters, and experimented with various methods to encourage the students into reading the course materials on their own volition.

 I varied the number of quizzes, exams, assignments and lab projects, tried to encourage them to read research articles, investigated new presentation techniques, gave them hints on how best to read and assimilate the materials, emphasized on thinking like engineers and not memorize information and I assigned students to reading to class with basically the same observations.

Engineering students will read only under duress, will barely take notes even if bonus points are at stakes, will start an assignment a couple of days before due date even if the assignment was handed out several weeks prior to due date, will remember to ask for clarifications only on due date, will copy and cheat unabashedly.

Engineering students refuse to carry to class any course material unless the exam is an open book, many don’t bring any paper or pen to take notes, many refuse to redo their assignments for a couple points more or for closure sake, and most of the redone works show no improvement.

Students can use word processors or any computer applications for their assignments but the end product has to be hand written including tables, charts and figures. 

It turned out that my guess was correct: most of the time I can manage to read physicians’ prescriptions better. 

There was a time when engineers were trained to submit neat drawings as engineers should be trained to do but this time is long gone.

Another advantage of submitting hand written work is that students will actually read what they are writing and rely less on copied CD’s and try their hands on being neat, using rulers, compasses and the long lost engineering working components.

I invented several ways to brute force students to read at least parts of the course materials. 

In addition to mid-term and final exams, they have to answer dozens of questions for their mid-term and final take homes exams. 

I assign graphs, tables and figures to students to hand write, copy on transparent sheets and present to class with written explanation attached.

All assignments are submitted on composition booklets.

I encourage them to taking notes by asking them questions on materials not covered in the course materials and giving bonuses to anyone who remember to provide a copy of his notes on final day.

Mystics and Sufis (June 16, 2009)

 

 

            Sufis refers to those who wore wool (souf) clothing summers and winters. Probably the first known Moslem Sufi is Abou Achem who died in 780.  Moslem mystics and Sufis, of both genders, judged that sexual desire was the main enemy of rational thinking.  They comprehended this dialectic: You cannot vanquish your enemy if you fail to know the enemy completely since the mind is the most valued part in man. 

            In “Memorial of Saints” Hasaan Basri said of the woman Sufi Rabi3a Al Adawiya “I stayed a day and a night by Rabi3a, discussing with such ardor on spiritual ways and mystery of life that I had no idea if I was man and she a woman” The differences between genders that permit union is viewed as the pre-condition for access to plenitude.

 

            The Sufi Al Hallaj (857-922) was Persian and was burned alive for going too far in his mysticism; he said “God and I are one; I am the One I love; the One that I love has become me; I was exuberant in my love: I am chastised for that loving exuberance; my death is to survive and my life is to die; I feel that abolishing my bodily life is the noblest grace I was offered; my survival as I am is the worst of wrongdoing. My living has disgusted my soul. When I am dead you will find amid the calcified bones the surviving souls.”

 

            Love is no longer a sign of weakness. “Eros subjugates the hearts of only the one who carries the mark of excellence and a great delicate temperament” said Abi Hanifa. “Love has the motif of an imperishable vision of beauty and splendor.” said Addaylami. In the world of the Sufis separation of man-woman and man-god are blurry; the dividing lines are shifting constantly. The veil that hides the “others” is flimsy because love is a perpetual attempt to discovering the ultimate in beauty, intensity, and refinement.

            Fundamentally, Islam is the religion of reason.  Desire is thus the risk to take that might distract you of knowing God the focal point.  Sexuality is not opposite to civilization but desire (a component of sexuality) is.  Reason has to control desire; if desire (al hawa) meddle in science it pollutes it into error; if desire is exercised in power and overtakes the powerful then it corrupt both and lead to injustice. If desire intercedes in the Imam then religious laws and commandments are transformed from their proper meaning.  Imam Ibn Al Jawzi said: “there is no sleep heavier than inattention (al ghifla) and no servitude as complete as desire.  If we exercise constant reflection then desire cannot triumph.  There is negative correlation between reason and desire; as one takes the ascendance then the other wanes into oblivion. Thus, the will (azm) and capacity of discernment (ra2i) are the two main aspects of the mind”

            Desiring a woman may lead to succumbing to evil “the arrow in Satan’s arsenal that never misses is when he dispatches a woman to his victim”.  Al Hallaj said: “If you assign a sensual individual to legitimate functions then he will occupy you in illegitimate activities. Learn to control and govern your behavior.”

 

            Mystics are found in most religions; many of the “prophets” led mystic life of denigration of the body, eating lightly, fasting frequently, praying, contemplating nature and the living things around them, and seeking seclusion of society.  I have visited one of the “monasteries” of the Maronite monks who were secluded from society at the altitude of 1,400 meters where snow covers the tiny village 7 months a year.  I have seen the room (2*3) meters of Mar Charbel, beatified as Saint for miracles he performed after his death, and I could not believe how a person could sustain such rough weather wrapped in a single blanket on a thin mattress. Those mystic monks were allotted a garden to plough and they refused to meet with their parents and cousins.  They read only religious books.

            I may understand someone who experienced life to the hilt deciding to change his life style; but for an adolescent to start a mystic life does not seem right and normal. This kind of “grace” is pure expediting punishment for a youth imposed by institutions.

 

            Mystics and Sufis, of both genders, achieved the highest level of serenity in personal victories after mastering the characteristics of the enemy to defeat; they faced it boldly; they lost many battles but their purpose was to keep up the struggle.  Steadfastness in the struggle for the victory of rational thinking is the discipline of the courageous and strong men and women.

Headdress (June 16, 2009)

 

            Versatility and creativity in women headgears and hair fashions are the sure sign of a rebellious spirit among women.  When uniformity in hair design and headdress are witnessed in a society then the system is veering toward a one-directional path in religious beliefs, ideological indoctrination, or political structure. 

            During the Arab Islamic civilization that spanned from 640 to 1400 al kinds of hair fashion and headgears were designed and adopted.  The western fashion didn’t catch up until the last three centuries and most of the styles are varieties on what have been used many centuries ago.

            The grand daughter of Caliph Ali Sukayna refused to wear the veil; she adopted a special hair fashion that even men emulated. Caliph Omar Abdel Aziz had to whip men using Sukayna’s style and shaved their head.  Sukayna refused to keep distant from male society and conversed with poets and entertained erudite in her cultural salon. She denied her husbands (five in total and descendent of noble families) marrying another wife, having extra-marital relations, or even forbidding her to meet with her woman friend.

            The grand daughter of Caliph Abu Bakr Aicha Bint Talhat was very beautiful and refused to wear any kind of veil saying: “God distinguished me from the other women with beauty. I would like men to notice and recognize my superiority.”  Aicha toured the Kaaba without any veil and the governor of Mecca changed the schedule of prayer to suit Aicha.  The governor was sacked but Aicha couldn’t care less.

            In fact, in all civilizations only rich women could afford to wear veil or fashionable headdress.  Working women in the field or active securing a living for her family could not be encumbered with redundant headgears. Veil and “designer” headgears were the domain of the super class in social hierarchy. Clothing and headgear were codified and regulated at all periods so that every class would remain within its limit of fashion.

            Olayya, the sister of Caliph Haroun Al Rasheed had a mark on her forehead; she wore a bandana to cover the spot; bandana became the rage. Women loved turban and imposed that style most of the time regardless of the reticence of the clergy.  Actually, headdresses were more targeted than other garments. The Mamelouk Sultan Qayitbey interdicted women of Cairo to wearing bonnets exhibiting coq crests in 1471; women rebelled and preferred to go out head naked.

            During the reign of the Moslem Mogul Genghis Khan exuberant hair fashion reached the zenith.  The more the number of fine plaits (reaching over 40 plaits) the higher was the rank of women; the longer the length of the plaits (reaching the small of the back) the nobler was the woman.  Only princesses were permitted to wear hats and then covered by colorful veil.  The other women of various ranks wore scarf of white gaze or flowery.  In the 13th century, princesses imposed on elegant women to stick feathers on their hair and then covered by veils (chechias).

            Mini skirts were the fashion at a period; shirts with extra large sleeves (for example as the musketeers are shown in movies) were predominant in Egypt in 1390; the vice-Sultan regulated the size of the sleeves; when the Sultan returned from his trip then women returned to their preferred fashion adding more tissues to their sleeves.  The more tissue entered in clothing the higher the sign of rich status.

            Wearing veil can sometimes send a strong message of revolt in political direction. For example, in Tunis of 1975, a woman professor of philosophy wore the veil (Hijab) to teaching in class as a political stand against President Bourghiba’s laws discouraging women to wearing head covering.  Moslem women were expressing the desire to advance Islam values after the ideological defeats of western capitalism and Marxism. The veil was a counterattack on cultural aggressions by the western civilizations.

            The more women care for elegance the healthier is society in cultural diversity and freedom of expression. A European lady was touring Egypt in mini skirt and very short sleeves; she complained of mosquitoes to an acerbic Dutch priest; he replied “I certainly cannot complain as much as you do. The airport surface for mosquitoes in my case is far reduced”.  Man also created varieties in headgears; mainly for protecting their skulls in battles; frightful and ugly metal helmets protected of a few injuries but never of concussions. Women had to face dangerous situations after their men returned from wars.

Right to Return: for the Palestinian refugees (June 15, 2009)

 

            There are more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and their birth rate is three times the average of the Lebanese.  The Palestinian refugees are concentrated in a dozen camps (ghettoes) and they run their communities. The Lebanese government is not extending facilities to the camps or to issuing work permits.  The UN agency UNRUWA is supposed to care for the education and health of the refugees since they were chased out from their homeland in 1948.  In the last decade the UNRUWA budget has been politically reduced to force the Lebanese government into de facto enacting residency status to the refugees.

            Lebanon facilitated the influx of the Palestinian refugees in 1948 under the perception that it was a temporary stay since UN resolution demanded the return of the Palestinians. Israel exacerbated the problem by sending another wave of refuges in 1967 after it occupied the West Bank.  The Palestinian resistance was born but it failed to rely on the Palestinians inside the State of Israel for effective resistance against the occupiers. 

            There were three camps in the Christian districts which were closed down during the civil war such the ones in Dbayeh, Jesr al Basha, and Tell al Zaatar; the Christian militias forced the evacuation of the Christian Palestinians by military activities, genocide, and terror.

            Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and with the cooperation of the USA and France the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by Arafat was forced to evacuate Beirut to Cyprus and then to Tunisia.  The remaining camps were supposed to be the refuge of civilians and not containing any heavy weapons.

            The entrance/exits of camps are monitored by the Lebanese army and the movement of the refugees strictly controlled.  A salafist Sunni movement “Jund al Sham” challenged the army in Nahr al Bared camp in Tripoli.  This camp is demolished and waiting for financial aid to be re-constructed.

            The ex-President Emile Lahoud fought the good fight to keep the right of return of the UN resolution 194 alive during his tenure. For example, before the Summit of the Arab League in Beirut of April 2002, the Saudi Foreign Affairs Seoud Al Faissal visited President Lahoud on March 22 and handed him the project of the Saudi Monarch of “peace for land” without a specific clause of “the right of return”.  President Lahoud refused it. Lahoud was subjected to al kinds of pressures and diplomatic maneuvering to let the project as is with no modifications but he didn’t relent. The Arab leaders suggested including the “right of return” as a separate clause to no avail. The Saudi Prince Abdallah was forced to include the clause as intrinsic part of the peace for land PROJECT.  The USA vowed to make the tenure of Lahoud a period of hell for foiling their major political goal.

            It is crystal clear that the western nations have a sole political purpose for Lebanon: accepting the Palestinian refugees as Lebanese residents.  The civil war from 1975 to 1991 failed to achieve completely that goal though most of the prosperous Christian families preferred to immigrate.

            Late Rafic Hariri PM believed that an overall peace deal with Israel is highly serious and went along a program of easing the conditions of the Palestinian refugees.  It turned out that there will be no peace with Israel because Israel’s interest is not in any kind of peace.  Pragmatic Hariri realized that the social and political fabric in Lebanon cannot digest 400,000 Palestinians and he changed his strategy; he was assassinated by the detonation of a roadside truck containing 1000 kilos of TNT.

            Though the US Administration comprehends better the predicament of Lebanon it is still hoping that this tragedy could be settled at the expense of the Lebanese people. Hezbollah challenged that strategy and won its war against Israel in 2006. The leader of the Tayyar Party, General Michel Aoun, has picked up the banner of fighting any policies targeted at settling the Palestinians in Lebanon and he won by a landslide in Mount Lebanon.  The coalition of Hezbollah and the Tayyar has put a strong break to the western strategy of reducing Lebanon to a refugee status.

Arab Sex Art: Star of the Internet (June 14, 2009)

In her Preface of “Love in the Moslem Countries Fatema Mernissi wrote:

“My editor wanted to publish an investigation on love in the Moslem countries that I had written 20 years ago and that I had published in the magazine ” Jeune Afrique” (Young Africa).  I told my editor that no one is interested to read Ibn Hazm (an expert on sex and seduction during the Arab Andalusia period around the year 1000).

My academic friend that I had invited for lunch to extract information from said to me: “You are disconnected of the digital galaxy. The translated book of Ibn Hazm is the best seller on the internet.”

Fatema felt a surge of anger: her male friend was only 7 years younger; then how come he is connected and I am so far beyond in technology?

Fatema learned that the search engine of Google had mentioned Ibn Hazm 200,000 times in less than 0.1 second.  There is a site based in Paris Iqra Shop Com that offers CD to learn Arabic, the Koran and the Hadith for the francophone people and other clothing garments.

The book of Ibn Hazm “The affinities of love and The Necklace of the dove” is sold for 12 Euro and described as a must read reference on the subtleties of love proper to Moslems.

Thus, Fatema re-caled her editor and said “Ibn Hazm was right. Love is eternal.  I will have to add a chapter on love in Islam in the time of Internet”

The Al Jazeera channel (the Arab counterpart of CNN) is based in Dubai and has Qaradawi as star commentator on love and sex in Islam.  Imam Qaradawi calls on an army of experts in religion, fekh, shari3a, psychology, psychoanalysis, sociology, and physicians of both genders to answer the thousands of questions that flood his bureau.  Qaradawi posts his answers on the net (al internet wal-hub) and publishes booklets at low cost in matters of marriage and love for the adolescents and their parents.

Islam Online has competitors in Muslima.com to aid searching for the appropriate partner in friendship, discussion, romance, and marriage.  In the subject of romance the choc of civilization is a non issue because it is universal as the object of world ethic.

For example, estimate in 1999 indicate that aging people had invested over a trillion dollars for rejuvenating their look, especially growing hair on their bolding skull.

Ibn Hazm was born in Cordoba (994-1064) of an aristocratic family.

His father was vizier and he became vizier in Valencia.  Ibn Hazm was polyvalent in erudition; he was grammarian, scientist, philosopher, and a religious jurist. He lived in a period as troubled as ours; he led the Zahirite movement against the rigid Malekite sect.

He was made vizier twice and was incarcerated several times when power kept shifting among the warring factions in Andalusia. He came to the conclusion that the best remedy for the decomposition and disintegration of society was to learn authentic love and experience the power of “falling in love”

Other famous Arab authors in seduction are Ibn Al-Jawzi “Denigration of Love” (Dammu Al Hawa) and Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyya “The Garden of lovers” Rawdat al muhibbeen).  If all fails, you may fall back to “One thousand and one nights” where you find all kinds of detailed psychoanalytical description of emotions and sexual desires.

It appears that oil may deplete but the medieval archive of Arabic manuscripts on love, sex, and seduction is here to be mined, translated, published, and disseminated in all form of media because romance is for the eternity.

The Arab civilization was the richest in the field of sexual desires; it dissected sexual desire in all its forms, shapes, and varieties; they explained sexual desire in the minute details, pornographically, physiologically, anatomically, and psychologically and left us scientific manuscripts in that field with accurate terminologies.

Note: I opened another category in my blog Adonis49 (Seduction/Love/Sex).

You may start with the links for those interested in following the conversation: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/seduction-tales/ https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/love-tales/ https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/sex-tales/

Elections’ Aftermath: Bi-weekly report #26 (June 15, 2009)

Iranian President Ahmadinajad won the election by a landslide; over 80% of the Iranians lined up to vote and Ahmadinajad got 64% of the vote.

On June 8, I posted “Bi-weekly report (#25) and stated “Iran is having its Presidential election on June 12, 2009.  The candidates Ahmadinajad and Mossawi faced off in a television debate.  Moussawi suckered to the public opinion of the western nations’ demands: he is speaking as a foreign affairs minister and not a candidate to win the presidency.  The attitude of appeasing the western public opinions is considered very disgusting in Iran and not the characteristic of a candidate of a vast Empire.”

The Iranian people didn’t vote for reforms, for bread, for appeasing the USA (Obama is already appeased), for their right to build nuclear power plant (they have them), or to own their nuclear arsenal (they could if they wish).  The people voted according to their perceived high dignity.

The Iranians have acquired strong sense of identity.

The Iranians sent the clear message that they are not going to cow to the threat of a tiny and puny State such as Israel. If the Israeli government planned that their threat during Election Day is going to turn the balance toward the more “moderate” candidate then it failed to comprehend the current spirit of the Iranians.

The President of Iran has no desicion power since three other implicit institutions have decision responsibilities.  Thus, this election means that the Iranians are satisfied with the tacit “Constitution” erected after the death of Khomeini.

Moving to the election in Lebanon you can feel the lack of dignity and weakness in identity.

Foreign interventions and the purchase of voters are preponderant; the laws controlling the election process are not meant to be applied except on the weaker candidates and their supporters.

The opposition had a definite program for reforms and change of the political system; the opposition was to win the election by a slight majority; it did not.  (The opposition alliance was constituted of Hezbollah, the Tayyar of Gen, Michel Aoun and Nabih Berri…)

Foreign projects of a tacit alliance among the USA, the EU, Syria, and Saudi Arabia dictated that a victory for the opposition is not in line for appeasement at “this junction”.

Syria is going ahead for a “peace” deal with Israel, supported by the US Administration and Saudi Arabia.  Turkey is to resume its mediation.

The other hot “problems” such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian State would be negotiated after Syria is fully satisfied for the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Golan Heights to the borders of 1967.

Barak Obama has Pakistan to worry about and the resurgence of virulent Taliban to tame and to control Taliban spreading activities.

Thus, the Lebanese extremist Sunnis were denied representation in the Parliament.

A surprising influx of Lebanese immigrants of over 100,000 within a week destabilized all polling estimates.

Saudi Arabia is not shy denying that it budgeted over $1 billion for the Parliamentary election in Lebanon.  Syria was allocated a major role to bring to power the government coalition in the district of Zahle.  The Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah  Sfeir was allowed to give a warning declaration on the eve of the election that defied election laws: the Patriarch proclaimed a pack of political lies that everyone in politics knew is false; his speech galvanized the ignorant and sectarian citizens to vote for the government coalition.

Hezbollah knew that the opposition was not meant to win and it suited its interest at this phase of the struggle. The real “cosmic” battle was focused on defeating General Aoun and the coalition of the Tayyar.  The Tayyar won against all odds: it increased its bloc from 20 to 27 deputies and captured the two additional districts of Baabda and Jezzine.

The Tayyar defeated Patriarch Sfeir and the President of the Republic Michel Suleiman by a wide margin.

Syria did not appreciate that Michel Aoun defied her staunchest ally Nabih Berry (head of AMAL and Chairman of the Parliament since 1991) in the district and city of Jezzine. Actually, the bloc of Nabih Berry lost 5deputies in this election but will be re-elected at the head of the Parliament.

Michel Aoun proclaimed that he will participate in a national government that allocates ministerial seats on relative victories; thus, if the government is to be of 30 ministers,  the Tayyar bloc should enjoy seven portfolios. It is my contention that the Tayyar will be satisfied in the next government simply because no one, internally and externally, is ready to spare time and counter attack the frequent rightful exigencies of the sole truly opposition bloc in this election.

What General Aoun has to plan for is another serious trip to Syria and Iran for two reasons;

First, to establish direct communication lines for timely advices and updated intelligence offered by States instead of relying solely on his advisors and his personal reflection; it is known that General Aoun is judged “unpredictable” and unbending on principles of autonomy in decisions and the strengthening of the Central State. Many powerful foreign officials are reluctant to meet face to face with Aoun for fear of “losing face” suggesting advices that go counter to Aoun’s principles.

Second, General Aoun has to revamp the misinformation and understanding of his concept for a Third Republic and setting a schedule of formal meetings with foreign officials in Syria and Iran.


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