Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 17th, 2014


First Woman in Space,  Anousheh Ansari: In visit to Lebanon

Passionate about space and stars, Anousheh Ansari tells her extraordinary story on how she made it to space.

I had the chance to meet her today in Berytech where she impressed everyone with her experience and vision about space and future ideas she’s working on.

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Anousheh Ansari at Beirut Digital District

Born in Iran, Ansari showed a passion for space. She used to watch stars when unable to sleep at night and asked herself many times on what’s hidden in space. She moved to US during the Iranian war, she was 16 years old back then.

“When i went to US, I thought this is my chance to change my life and apply to space, but it was too difficult, I wanted to study astrophysics. Mom said what do you wanna be? A teacher?“ Said Ansari

Her mom wanted her to take a different path and work as a lawyer, doctor or engineer.

Engineering became her career after she studied it at George Mason University, and continued her masters in Washington DC.

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Ansari to the left, sharing her space experience – Maroun Chammas to the right, CEO of Berytech

She still wanted to go to space, with no idea on how to do that, just kept her passion and awaited the opportunity.
She began working at MCI, where she met her husband, Hamid Ansari. They married in 1991. Few years later, they co-founded their own company which they called Telecom Technologies Inc

“I Worked a little on VoIP even before skype, but no one believed in its power back then, now everyone knows about it”

In 2000, she sold TTI, a company she started years before.

That’s when she focused more about getting to space.
With her friend Peter, she established X PRIZE foundation which is a non-profit organization that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit mankind.

They did a 10 million dollars competition where you have to demonstrate that you can fly to space twice in 2 weeks.

She became partner with Peter and in 2004 a team won. They spent 25 million to win the 10 million competition but gave a brilliant idea. They sold it for Sir Richard Branson. It was a success, a whole industry was launched from it.

This idea is what is called now Virgin galactic, a British commercial spaceflight company within the Virgin Group which hopes to develop commercial spacecraft and provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists, suborbital launches for space science missions, and orbital launches of small satellites.

In 2006, Anousheh got to the russian space program, she was pursuing her love for space and training in their station. She spent about 8 months full time in Stars City – Russia as preparations, where she underwent physical trainings along with astronauts.
I had to learn Russian, basically Space Russian” she said.

3 weeks before the mission, one Japanese astronaut developed kidney stone problems. So miraculously, they offered her the mission instead.  “It was a miracle”

“It’s a life changing experience, especially for someone who loves space and earth pictures.
It’s a completely different experience when you see it live, It changed everything in me” said Ansari.

The commercial vehicles, similar to the one I used are the ones that travels, comes back but are only usable for 1 time only. The capsule had enough space for 3 people. But it is too tight.

“I sat in the scientist seat, the 2 other seats are for a engineer and pilot”

The launch happened from Kazakhstan after 2 weeks of heavy training. “During that time i was very happy and afraid of being scared of the launch day. I kept trying to lower my pulse down and told my examination doctors, If my blood pressure is high please don’t stop the mission please”

The day of the launch Anousheh was surprised she wasn’t scared, she sat for an hour before taking off reviewing her life.

“It was a strange feeling, I connected the dots of the people i met to achieve the dream I’m going to live in about an hour”

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Anousheh Ansari in her spacesuit

Arriving to the space, Ansari felt a sense of freedom she never felt before.

“I started crying the first time i saw earth from the capsule, you feel that it is something alive with lots of energy and live coming from it”. Anousheh orbited 220 miles from earth, where she stayed for 11 days.
She conducted 4 experiments. 2 of them had to do with the physical changes in the body.
You are 2 inches taller in space because there’s no gravity. But it put strains on your back.
It puts pressure on your sinuses and face because of your body fluids moving up.

3rd  experiment was the Bacteria test. How they develop and live in space. And finally, she tested the amount of radiations one can be exposed too up there.

7 people have gone to space on commercial flights, Anousheh is the 4th and first woman.

Virgin galactic are going to fly next year with a capsule able to fit 7 passengers.

Dubai is investing in it where they intend to send space flights from UAE.

Also Space X will be flying alone in 2016 and will start commercial trips in 2018

On the future of space expeditions Anousheh said, “I believe space is full of hidden resources and capabilities that we will use soon, because we are consuming a lot here in earth and our resources are limited”

“We need to reduce the cost of flying to space by creating competitions, technology will evolve and cost will be lowered.

Nothing was annoying in her trip, but there’s no privacy in space as the capsule is too small.

“I believe there’s 100% intelligence life in space, I don’t know the chances if we can reach it but I’m afraid we continue our life like this on earth, because we are destroying it”

Going back to earth took her 2 days only to match the orbit exactly. She said that now they do it in half a day.

Going back to earth is much more intense because the gravity force is doubled
“You see flaming sparkles coming out of the window, I thought the capsule was disintegrating”

She landed on the ground with 4 parachutes slowing the capsule down

Anousheh is now working on Prodea, a gigantic project to transform the way people see technology and make it accessible to everyone.

She said that next year she’s hopefully planning to visit Iran for the first time after the war.

Ansari’s story is an amazing example on pursuing your dream.

She finally said:

“If you have a dream, Talk about it, don’t be shy. Everyone knew about my love for space. A sequel of events helped me later to get to space. I always looked for doors and my dream came true, because of my willingness to go there. Chances arise but i was close to people who loved everything I’m passionate about.”

Mhّmd Dankar

Open Letter to Mr. Rem Koolhaas

We have recently learned that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) has been commissioned to develop a design for a projected development on a prime sea-front location in Beirut (Lebanon): the Dalieh of Raoucheh.

Proposing a private development over such a prime social, national, archeological and geological landmark in Lebanon has generated an ongoing public outcry, in the form of protests, letters to officials, discussions, and media mobilization. We are writing today to alert you to the disturbing facts behind the project, and solicit your support in outlining an alternative vision for Beirut’s seafront.

by The Civil Campaign to Preserve the Dalieh of Beirut

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Here are the facts fuelling the dispute over the project:

1. The project will erase an important social space and a national landmark

For decades, the site where the project is being designed has been a prime social and public gathering for Beirut dwellers, but also a national landmark for Lebanese citizens. The site included traditional fishermen ports, informal restaurants, and a vibrant informal economy that lived off such temporary recreational activities.

These activities have recently been interrupted as the site was reclaimed as “private property,” and fenced-off, displacing its long-term users.

Adding to the social and symbolic significance of the site is its immediate proximity to the Raoucheh Rock, perhaps the main city landmark that holds enormous symbolic significance at national and international scales.

Frequently used as a metonym for Lebanon’s natural beauty, the Rock has appeared on national currency as well as in numerous films, histories, and imageries of the city. Any architectural intervention that modifies this seafront landscape, particularly one that privatizes a natural extension of this public landmark, will have resounding negative impacts.

2. The project will be built on property that was partially acquired illegally

Dalieh properties were the result of the visions of Ottoman and later French authorities to entrust the city’s commons to the main families of the city, as its custodians and protectors.

Until 1995, these properties had multiple owners, who were all members of the so-called “old families of Beirut.” One investor managed to buy these property shares, consolidate single private ownership and expand it over what was the city’s collective commons.

This take-over operation has been represented as a de-facto reality that overshadows the historical communal practices in Dalieh and represents them as illegal squatting of private land. This led to the fencing-off of the area and the subsequent prohibition of access to the sea.

Historical and contemporary property records we have obtained unequivocally demonstrate that property boundaries in the area have been modified to encroach on the public maritime domain, in contravention of the law. In other words, a large section of the area where the project is currently planned has been illegally privatized.

This includes the fishermen port that, until recently, secured the livelihood of over 75 families, and also served as a recreational space for thousands of others. Implementing this project in this location will make theft of public land a fait accompli.

3. The project serves the narrow interests of an elite group of politicians and real-estate developers

While urban and building regulations had relatively protected Beirut’s seafront for decades, making of the promenade along the coast a landmark communal space in the city, regulations have been considerably modified over the past 25  years.

Indeed, private real-estate developers have lobbied affiliate politicians to pass multiple exceptions to existing laws that serve their interests, allowing intensive building exploitation ratios at the expense of the city’s livability. The lobbyists behind these regulations are not only property owners, but also policy-makers, ministers, and other members of the political elite who have turned law into yet another tool that serves their private interests. Your client is a member of one of the most powerful players among that elite.

Thus, while the entire zone of the project was non-ædificandi (unbuildable) until 1966, exploitation ratios have gradually increased reaching a whopping 60% rate, according to the most recent modification of April 2014.

The effects of these exceptions to the law are clearly visible on the city, where miles of public beaches and open spaces have been turned into a gated private resorts and landscapes. A design intervention that works within this usurped legal framework will serve the interests of a handful of policy-makers/property-owners who are blatantly manipulating the law to their own advantage, at the detriment of the city, its natural environment, and its dwellers.

4. The project threatens a unique ecosystem

Numerous studies highlight the ecological value of this area, particularly as it includes representative marine habitats, namely underwater caves and vermetid reefs where a unique sea-life flourishes.

We cite, for instance, the National Physical Master Plan of the Lebanese Territories (approved by decree 2366/2009) that identifies this site as a distinguished natural area of utmost importance to be protected, as well as Plan Vert de Beyrouth (2000) proposed by renowned architects and urbanists, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Lebanon’s Ministry of Environment (2012), Greenpeace’s A Network of Marine Reserves in the Coastal Waters of Lebanon (2012)

5. The project will destroy a rich archeological site

The site is etched with features that could be traced back to the geological history of Lebanon. In fact, it may be the last remaining coastal karstic outcrop on the Beirut city coast, which is the backbone of the city’s visual landscape. Among other sites on the coastal strip, it is also by far the most extensive and important site that presents evidence of the Stone Age in the Levant.

In light of the above, we are appealing to you in your roles as founder and lead architect of the firm, and as an educator and a public intellectual, to side by us in advocating to your client, but also to planning and urban authorities in Beirut the preservation of a site with unique characteristics, and withdraw services on this project.

If such advocacy efforts falter, we urge you to dissociate yourself and your firm from this contentious project.

We remain open, as a campaign, to meet with your office to discuss in more detail various aspects of this controversial project and this key national site.


The Civil Campaign for the Protection of the Dalieh of Beirut

[All images are authored by the Civil Campaign, unless indicated otherwise.]

[Banner on the Raoucheh’s Newly Added Fence: “Lift your Warcheh (Construction Site) Off Our Raoucheh!”]

[Bathing on a Warm Sunday]

[Diving Competition. Image courtesy of Dalieh’s fishermen.]

[Family Picnics]

[Nowruz Kurdish Celebration]

[Picnics Facing the Sea]

[Protest Against the New Fence Sealing Off the Access to Dalieh]

[Public Rally to Reclaim Dalieh]

[The Old Port which Provides Boat Rides for Visitors]



Contradictory meanings need not have the same roots: To Love and Be in Love

To love is to act. a process of activities: Listening, discussing, reaching compromise, tending a helpful hand

To Be in Love is to have an image of what we want and expect of the other person. We do not seek to observe and comprehend the real person.

We are in a state of delusion and only playing the game of the delusional lover with this “In Love” person may aid him recognize his state and move on. This is the “Gradiva” notion, a term used in Jensen that Freud analysed.

I am crazy of being in love, my delirium is unreasonable in the eyes of the others and I know it. And yet I cannot help myself recounting my state of affairs in a wise way. Nothing is sacred in me.

To be Crazy was defined as “He is another person“, a depersonalized individual.

Do you believe a confirmed crazy person can be in love?

It may very well be that To be Crazy is a means to return to the normal self, a subject with a shadow, because I consist, and I don’t socialize yet.

A person Being in Love wants and need confirmation by pictures of who the other person is meeting with, even though he knows what is happening.  That’s why we hire private investigators.

Simply because it is what we see that deepen of bruises the most.

The form of the relationship is all that matters. And nothing is beyond the actual image.

The biggest of uncertainty is “How much do I know of the Desires of the person I’m in love with”

Facing the reality that we are unable to uncover this enigma of the other person set of desires institutes a religious kind of belief system “I believe totally in her and need no facts or tangible knowledge about her. She has become a myth for me.”

The eternal feminine attracts us and elevates us.

These two emotions of to love and be in love correspond to Infatuation and Admiration.

When we admire an author, a musician, a painter… our opinions might be divergent.

We still can admire the talent, the internal effort of the author to better himself, be current and had acquired a comprehensive knowledge in many domains.

An author striving to have a universal reach for future generations.

Infatuation connote a local and short term passion to emulate an artist in everything, to the point of mindlessness.

Infatuation leaves a taste of bitterness as we outgrow the period and realize how foolish and immature we behaved.


Shiite Ritual Draws Historic Parallels: Bloody. And belittled

The blood oozing from the cuts in the top of Ali Rassoul’s head on Tuesday had crusted in streaks around his eyes and ears and soaked the front of his long, white gown.

But his wounds had nothing to do with the car bombs and urban battles that have torn Iraq apart:  they were his way of commemorating a much older battle: that of Karbala, where in the year 680, the army of  Omayyad Caliph Yazid slaughtered Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and cut off his head.

Baghdad- For many Iraqi Shiites who commemorated the death of Hussein on Tuesday in an event called Ashura, the current threat against their community from the extremists of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has profound historical parallels.

“This year Ashura is more important because of the threat against us from ISIS,” said Mr. Rassoul, who runs a woman’s shoe store and had a long dagger in a shiny scabbard hanging from his shoulder. “They have come to kill us, just like Yazid came to kill Hussein.”


Shiites in Baghdad bled Tuesday to commemorate the slaying of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in 680. Credit Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

Mr. Rassoul spoke from a street in the Kadhimiya district of northwest Baghdad, in front of an ornate mosque that houses the tomb of a martyred Shiite leader.

While millions of Shiites across the world observe Ashura, Kadhimiya is one place where a minority pays homage to Hussein through the contentious practice of self-cutting called tatbir.

As the sun rose, hundreds of mostly young men gathered in a street here dressed in white robes.

While a few beat drums, the crowd chanted, “Haidar! Haidar!” invoking Hussein’s father, Ali. Some waved colored flags. Others carried long knives brought specifically for tatbir.

When the time came for the procession to start, Amer Matrouk, the leader of one group, drew his blade and the men, some of whom had shaved their heads, knelt before him so he could give them swift blows to their scalps, just enough to open the skin and start the bleeding.

“Not everyone knows how to do it,” said Mr. Matrouk, 63, who said he has been practicing tatbir since he was a child and had a row of straight scars on his scalp to show for it.

He rejected the idea that it could seriously hurt anyone.

“We have never had any accidents,” he said. “Sometimes there are those who are not very strong and they get dizzy from all the blood, but they are fine in the end.”

The practice of tatbir is debated among Shiites and many respected clerics have spoken against it.

Some argue that it is a form of self-harm, which is religiously forbidden.

Others have written it off as a folk practice, that may have seeped into Islam from Christian Passion plays about the crucifixion or from indigenous mourning rites that communities brought with them when they became Shiites.

Still others have argued that it makes Shiites look bad, which is reason enough to avoid it in a region where they are a minority and often looked on with suspicion by Sunnis.

These practices used to be limited and no one paid attention to them, but they have started to spread and defame the image of the event in a huge way,” said Abbas Shams al-Din, a Shiite cleric and writer during an interview in his book-lined Baghdad home. “If you search for pictures on Google and type ‘Ashura’ or ‘Shia Muslim,’ you won’t see anything but blood. It’s terrible!”

Ayatollah Khomeini went on record against tatbir, and it has become punishable by law in Iran, although some still do it in secret.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, too, has criticized it, and his movement has sought to channel the fervor in a more productive direction by holding Ashura blood drives. But other Shiite groups in Lebanon still do it.

And it persists in Iraq, where clerics who have spoken against it have faced popular criticism, Mr. Shams al-Din said.

“There are some who do not want to issue a fatwa because they know that people will do it anyway,” said Abbas Kadhim, a senior foreign policy fellow at Johns Hopkins University who has studied Shiite theology. “If you do this, you set them up to be sinners.”

But those arguments meant little to the hundreds of men marching in Kadhimiya, blood dripping from their heads, soaking their white robes and pooling in the street.

A woman who gave her name as Um Salah sat with two friends on the sidewalk, thumping her hand rhythmically on her chest as the procession passed.

“Yesterday, there were attacks and explosions, but we are still here,” she said, saying that the event showed the steadfastness of the community.

Two of her sons were serving in the Iraqi Army, she said. They never told her much about what they saw, other than calling to say they were fine and making progress “in the fight against the terrorists,” she said.

A short drive away at the Kadhimiya Blood Donation Center, an employee said that many people had come to donate.

“It can help the wounded person or the soldier,” the employee said, giving only his first name, Jassim.

But when a visitor observed that the clinic was deserted, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “People come.”

Others wish tatbir would go away.

“Why do they do it?” said Haidar Abu Yassir, a taxi driver, screwing up his face in disgust. “Did Hussein do that? No! He was cut into pieces!”

Mr. Abu Yasser said that he felt that donating was better than “letting all that blood drip off your head for nothing.”

But when asked if he knew anyone who had donated, he paused to consider the question.

“Nope,” he said. “They all want to do tatbir.”




December 2014

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