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Understanding the Middle East with better clichés

Some people feel that western media coverage of the Middle East is dominated by too many clichés and stereotypes.

An emerging view now believes that there are actually too few rather than too many clichés, thereby making reporting less accurate.

This radical critique of what is really wrong with Western media coverage has already produced enlightening pieces that allow us to understand what exactly is happening in the Middle East, far better than we have managed in the past.

Below is a sample of this revolutionary trend.

Karl reMarks: Understanding the Middle East with better clichés. Feb. 27, 2015 karlremarks.com

In order to understand the Middle East and North Africa/the Arab World/The Near East Muslim, one must begin with its centre of gravity and most populous nation, Egypt.

Following the general tumult that ensued from the Arab Spring/Arab Uprisings, Egypt is now ruled by the military strongman and former army leader Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi is presumed to be a bald Sunni Muslim secular leader who came to power after overthrowing democratically-elected moderate Islamist Sunni (not-bald) Mohammed Morsi .

Sisi’s secular takeover was supported by hardcore Wahhabi Sunni Saudi Kingdom and other moderate conservative Sunni Arab States.

However it was opposed by the only other Wahhabi state, Qatar, a “moderate” conservative small country that employs conservative Islamist journalists in Arabic and left-wing, socially-aware journalists in English. (The western media insist all these dictator Emirs/Sultans/Kings are moderates…)

This is not a surprise because the charm of the Middle East stems from its contradictions.

Now both Qatar and Saudi Arabia oppose the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a secular Alawi leader from the minority offshoot Shia sect, but they disagree on which of the moderate Sunni Muslim rebels against him they should support in public and which of the extreme Sunni factions they should support in secret.

Assad is in turn supported by conservative Shia Iran and the Lebanese Shia (not offshoot) militant group Hezbollah.

Conservative Shia Iran and uber-Conservative Sunni Saudi Arabia are locked in a fierce geopolitical struggle that some argue is the continuation of ancient sectarian divisions, while others believe is more of a struggle over influence embellished with sectarian rivalries.

Despite their many disagreements, Saudi Arabia and Iran agree on conducting their rivalry through proxy regional wars instead of an all-out war, probably because it’s more fun this way.

Besides Syria, there are several other mutually-acceptable venues in which Saudi Arabia and Iran conduct their proxy wars, such as Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Recently in Yemen, the Houthis who are members of yet another Shia offshoot group, took over the country, once again as a consequence of the general tumult that ensued from the Arab Spring.

Some say Iran was behind the Houthis’ move, partially to punish Saudi Arabia for allowing oil prices to drop.

In traditional Persian culture it’s considered an insult to allow the prices of commodities to drop below production cost, which explains Iran’s anger.

But it’s in Iraq where the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia gets really complicated.

The sudden rise of the Islamic State under the leadership of self-declared Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has taken everyone who wasn’t paying attention by surprise. (It was No surprise, just impotence from Iraq government)

Baghdadi, a very Sunni Muslim extremist, although I wouldn’t say it to his face, has led his forces to occupy large parts of Iraq including the second-largest city, Mosul.

The rise of the Islamic State threatened Iran’s influence in Iraq, which should have pleased Saudi Arabia, save for the fact that the new Caliphate is ideologically indisposed towards Saudi Arabia, which it sees as the epitome of liberal values.

Everything is relative, as they say.

So Saudi Arabia is in the tricky position of having to balance its competing aims of weakening Iran but containing the existential threat posed by the Islamic State. There are No non-existential threats in the Middle East.

For its part, Iran has thrown its weight behind the Shia forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, although this has aligned it momentarily with its old foe, the United States.

But Iran is also full of contradictions as, despite being a theologically-governed Islamic State, it seems to be capable of taking pragmatic decisions in its regional policies.

Recent photographic evidence obtained by Western media outlets even suggests that Iranian women, who must wear Islamic clothes in public, actually wear bras under their clothes.

They also watch television and laugh with their friends, much like people in the West sometimes do.

Western media clearly thought this was important to point out, so it must be so.

Another major Sunni player is Turkey, which is allied with Qatar against the Saudi-Egyptian axis.

Turkey is led by relatively moderate Sunni Muslim Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a suited non-bearded Islamist with latent Ottoman impulses.

Turkey opposed the removal of president Morsi in Egypt, not least because he was also a suited Islamist.

Turkey’s position has been close to that of Qatar in Syria and Libya, where everyone has been competing for influence since Gaddafi’s fall.

(Regional Middle Eastern powers are like the nightclub circle, they all want to be seen in the new place. Lately, Qatar revealed that their activities in Syria in funding the extremist organizations was dictated by USA)

The situation in Libya was complicated by the fact that there are no sectarian divisions in the country, which made things difficult for a while until Libyans decided to create random divisions.

(You can get a sense of this by reading any article on Libya and trying to understand who is against whom and why).

This greatly facilitated the involvement of external powers and made proxy wars much easier to wage.

Although it is a bit unfair to Iran, which being Shia can’t find any allies in an exclusively Sunni Muslim country.

Oh look, this is almost one thousand words already and we don’t have time to wrap up all the loose strands neatly, so it’s best to end on a timeless-sounding platitude about the Middle East and how it will always be the same.

Perhaps even a quote from Khalil Gibran or Omar Khayyam, hinting at our sorrow about lost potential and showing how learned we are.

What Programming Language do you use? Would you switch based on Average Income?

 posted this August 21, 2013 “Average Income per Programming Language” (selected as one of top posts)

Update 8/21:  I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about issues with these rankings from comments, and have tried to address some of them here The data there has been updated to include confidence intervals.

A few weeks ago I described how I used Git commit metadata plus the Rapleaf API to build aggregate demographic profiles for popular GitHub organizations (blog post here, per-organization data available here).

I was also interested in slicing the data somewhat differently, breaking down demographics per programming language instead of per organization.

Stereotypes about developers of various languages abound, but I was curious how these lined up with reality.

The easiest place to start was age, income, and gender breakdowns per language. Given the data I’d already collected, this wasn’t too challenging:

  • For each repository I used GitHub’s estimate of a repostory’s language composition.  For example, GitHub estimates this project at 75% Java.
  • For each language, I aggregated incomes for all developers who have contributed to a project which is at least 50% that language (by the above measure).
  • I filtered for languages with > 100 available income data points.

Here are the results for income, sorted from lowest average household income to highest:

Language Average Household Income ($) Data Points
Puppet 87,589.29 112
Haskell 89,973.82 191
PHP 94,031.19 978
CoffeeScript 94,890.80 435
VimL 94,967.11 532
Shell 96,930.54 979
Lua 96,930.69 101
Erlang 97,306.55 168
Clojure 97,500.00 269
Python 97,578.87 2314
JavaScript 97,598.75 3443
Emacs Lisp 97,774.65 355
C# 97,823.31 665
Ruby 98,238.74 3242
C++ 99,147.93 845
CSS 99,881.40 527
Perl 100,295.45 990
C 100,766.51 2120
Go 101,158.01 231
Scala 101,460.91 243
ColdFusion 101,536.70 109
Objective-C 101,801.60 562
Groovy 102,650.86 116
Java 103,179.39 1402
XSLT 106,199.19 123
ActionScript 108,119.47 113

Here’s the same data in chart form:

Language vs Income

Most of the language rankings were roughly in line with my expectations, to the extent I had any:

  • Haskell is a very academic language, and academia is not known for generous salaries
  • PHP is a very accessible language, and it makes sense that casual / younger / lower paid programmers can easily contribute
  • On the high end of the spectrum, Java and ActionScript are used heavily in enterprise software, and enterprise software is certainly known to pay well

On the other hand, I’m unfamiliar with some of the other languages on the high/low ends like XSLT, Puppet, and CoffeeScript.  Any ideas on why these languages ranked higher or lower than average?

Caveats before making too many conclusions from the data here:

  • These are all open-source projects, which may not accurately represent compensation among closed-source developers
  • Rapleaf data does not have total income coverage, and the sample may be biased
  • I have not corrected for any other skew (age, gender, etc)
  • I haven’t crawled all repositories on GitHub, so the users for whom I have data may not be a representative sample

That said, even though the absolute numbers may be biased, I think this is a good starting point when comparing relative compensation between languages.

Let me know any thoughts or suggestions about the methodology or the results.  I’ll follow up soon

Understanding the Middle East with better clichés

Some people feel that western media coverage of the Middle East is dominated by too many clichés and stereotypes.

An emerging view now believes that there are actually too few rather than too many clichés, thereby making reporting less accurate.

This radical critique of what is really wrong with Western media coverage has already produced enlightening pieces that allow us to understand what exactly is happening in the Middle East far better than we have managed in the past.

Below is a sample of this revolutionary trend.

Karl reMarks in : Understanding the Middle East with better clichés. Feb. 27, 2015

In order to understand the Middle East and North Africa/the Arab World/The Near Muslim East one must begin with its centre of gravity and most populous nation, Egypt.
Following the general tumult that ensued from the Arab Spring/Arab Uprisings, Egypt is now ruled by the military strongman and former army leader Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
Sisi, a bald Sunni Muslim secular leader came to power after overthrowing democratically-elected moderate Islamist Sunni (not-bald) Mohammed Morsi .

Sisi’s secular takeover was supported by hardcore Wahhabi Sunni Saudi Arabia and other moderate conservative Sunni Arab States. However it was opposed by the only other Wahhabi state, Qatar, a moderate conservative small country that employs conservative Islamist journalists in Arabic and left-wing, socially-aware journalists in English.
This is not a surprise because the charm of the Middle East stems from its contradictions.Now both Qatar and Saudi Arabia oppose the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a secular Alawi leader from the minority offshoot Shia sect, but they disagree on which of the moderate Sunni Muslim rebels against him they should support in public and which of the extreme Sunni factions they should support in secret.Assad is in turn supported by conservative Shia Iran and the Lebanese Shia (not offshoot) militant group Hezbollah.

Conservative Shia Iran and uber-Conservative Sunni Saudi Arabia are locked in a fierce geopolitical struggle that some argue is the continuation of ancient sectarian divisions while others believe is more of a struggle over influence embellished with sectarian rivalries.

Despite their many disagreements, Saudi Arabia and Iran agree on conducting their rivalry through proxy regional wars instead of an all-out war, probably because it’s more fun this way.

Besides Syria, there are several other mutually-acceptable venues in which Saudi Arabia and Iran conduct their proxy wars, such as Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Recently in Yemen the Houthis, who are members of yet another Shia offshoot group, took over the country, once again as a consequence of the general tumult that ensued from the Arab Spring.

Some say Iran was behind the Houthis’ move, partially to punish Saudi Arabia for allowing oil prices to drop.

In traditional Persian culture it’s considered an insult to allow the prices of commodities to drop below production cost, which explains Iran’s anger.

But it’s in Iraq where the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia gets really complicated. The sudden rise of the Islamic State under the leadership of self-declared Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has taken everyone who wasn’t paying attention by surprise.

Baghdadi, a very Sunni Muslim extremist, although I wouldn’t say it to his face, has led his forces to occupy large parts of Iraq including the second-largest city, Mosul.

The rise of the Islamic State threatened Iran’s influence in Iraq, which should have pleased Saudi Arabia save for the fact that the new Caliphate is ideologically indisposed towards Saudi Arabia, which it sees as the epitome  of liberal values.

Everything is relative, as they say.

So Saudi Arabia is in the tricky position of having to balance its competing aims of weakening Iran but containing the existential threat posed by the Islamic State. There are no non-existential threats in the Middle East.

For its part, Iran has thrown its weight behind the Shia forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, although this has aligned it momentarily with its old foe, the United States.

But Iran is also full of contradictions as, despite being a theologically-governed Islamic State, it seems to be capable of taking pragmatic decisions in its regional policies.

Recent photographic evidence obtained by Western media outlets even suggests that Iranian women, who must wear Islamic clothes in public, actually wear bras under their clothes. They also watch television and laugh with their friends, much like people in the West sometimes do.

Western media clearly thought this was important to point out, so it must be so.

Another major Sunni player is Turkey, which is allied with Qatar against the Saudi-Egyptian axis.

Turkey is led by relatively moderate Sunni Muslim Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a suited non-bearded Islamist with latent Ottoman impulses.

Turkey opposed the removal of president Morsi in Egypt, not least because he was also a suited Islamist. Turkey’s position has been close to that of Qatar in Syria and Libya, where everyone has been competing for influence since Gaddafi’s fall. (Regional Middle Eastern powers are like the nightclub circle, they all want to be seen in the new place.)

The situation in Libya was complicated by the fact that there are no sectarian divisions in the country, which made things difficult for a while until Libyans decided to create random divisions.

(You can get a sense of this by reading any article on Libya and trying to understand who is against whom and why).

This greatly facilitated the involvement of external powers and made proxy wars much easier to wage. Although it is a bit unfair to Iran, which being Shia can’t find any allies in an exclusively Sunni Muslim country.

Oh look, this is almost one thousand words already and we don’t have time to wrap up all the loose strands neatly, so it’s best to end on a timeless-sounding platitude about the Middle East and how it will always be the same.

Perhaps even a quote from Khalil Gibran or Omar Khayyam, hinting at our sorrow about lost potential and showing how learned we are.

Have you attended AUB?

Nur Turkmani posted on Listomania this Apr 15, 2014

From the worst of horrors to the almost-peed-in-my-pants-from-laughing moments, if the below stereotypes are familiar to you, you know you went (or go) to AUB.

1. You felt like a boss when you got your acceptance letter
(image via tumblr.com)

This is particularly true if you’re an Arab – AUB has, and hopefully will continue to be, one of the most prestigious universities in the Middle East. And just admit it: you were beyond ecstatic when you got the email informing you of your acceptance.

You tried to keep your cool, but even your parents bragged about it to their neighbors and friends who responded by rolling their eyes, forcing a smile and saying, “Ahhh, your child is at AUB? Yih, smallah, smallah. Allah ywaf2oo”.

2. Registration: The Horror
(Image via tumblr.com)

When it’s registration period at AUB, you are bound to find students pulling out large chunks of their hair or screaming loudly in hallways about their hatred for the university (unless, of course, they are the lucky 2% that got the courses they wanted).

Every student wakes up early during registration period to ensure a spot in a course they really need, but lo and behold, one minute past eight and you come to the realization that seniors have filled up all the courses. You breathe quietly, and try to control your anger.

3. Starbucks who? Abu Naji’s coffee all the way
(Image viatumblr.com)

When you’re an AUBite, $6 for coffee is a privilege not everyone can afford. Having Nescafe from Abu Naji or Epi D’or then becomes your daily ritual and your day doesn’t feel quite right without it.

4. All-nighters happen every other week
(Image via tumblr.com)

Particularly if you’re an engineer or pre-med student, pulling an all-nighter isn’t some strange occurrence that only happens in the movies. It becomes a living, breathing reality every other week.

5. The Green Oval on sunny days ❤ 

(Image via aub-graduat.blogspot.com)

There is nothing more relaxing than napping on the Green Oval when the weather is nice. Although it is dominated by the hipsters these days, on sunny days you will find a ton of different people napping, enjoying a bite or reading a book.

6. Chemistry stairs – damn you!
(Image via akdn.org)

The Chemistry stairs should simply not exist. It is, in fact, so bad that a day will not go by in AUB without hearing at least ten complaints about how unbearable these stairs are.

It is even worse when you have one class on the lower campus, and another on the upper campus right after.

7. Nicely’s numbering will forever be confusing
(Image via tumblr.com)

Your first year at AUB will be spent trying to understand the odd-even arrangement of rooms on campus. You will also only figure out where room 108 Nicely is located on the last day of your senior year.

8. You’ve had a crush on at least one of your professors

(Image via newsfeed.time.com)

C’mon, admit it. There’s something about our professors, they’re charming, smart and good-looking. You can’t help but have a crush on one or two of them.

9. Math 201

(Image via polybloggimous.com)

Everyone who has taken this course likes complaining about it, even if it’s not half as hard as other Engineering or Economics courses.

It has just become a thing to say: “maaaan, 201 shi kteer”.

10. Eng 203/204 courses are worse than your major courses

(Image via wayneandchristina.wordpress.com)

Last time you checked, the courses were described as introductory courses that were simply meant to help you write a proper research paper. You signed up and thought to yourself, “Woohoo! No exam for this one!”

Now, you wish you had an exam in place of the loads of papers, presentations and critiques you have to write before the semester ends.

11. You join 20 clubs, and end up in one
(Image via tumblr.com)

When it’s Club Day, you become overwhelmed with the plethora of awesome clubs (How could you not join the Astronomy Club or the Hiking Club?) but later on in the semester, you realize you ain’t got time for that shi* and end up missing all the meetings.

You promise yourself that next year you will manage your schedule to better accommodate your extracurricular activities. This, in fact, never happens.

12. AUB Outdoors/AUB’s Got Talent

(Image via aub.edu.lb)

Forever the coolest events of the year.

13. Ultimate nightmare: moving in and moving out
(Image via tumbler)

For every dorm student, having to pack and unpack when the semester is over is the worst thing ever. I mean, we finished our exams, what more do you want from us? Can’t I leave my stuff in the room, please? PRETTY PLEASE?

14. The cats.

(Image via reddit.com)

A cat once gave birth in a students’ dorm. Enough said.

15. 9 AM classes on MWFs?

(Image via wired.com)

This is the infamous rush hour at AUB – feared by many.

16. Rainy days: a big no-no
(Image via tumblr.com)

When it rains, you just know that the entire way from Main Gate to Bliss will be overflowing with umbrellas and people pushing past one another to get through.

17. Your summer is saved by AUB’s Beach

(Image via Al Mashriq)

A free beach in summer is everything you have ever asked for.

18. Jafet during exams: don’t even bother.

(Image via alternatehistory.com)

Let’s just say tables in Jafet are probably booked two months prior to finals. I mean, how is it possible that for three days straight there has not been a single free table?

19. French power
(Image via tumblr.com)

Oh, yes. You will hear French being spoken at the American University of Beirut much, much more than English or Arabic. You will eventually get used to it and maybe pick up a sentence or two by the end of your final semester.

20. The worst/best exams are in SLH

(Image via create meme)

There’s something about this hall that is sweat-inducing and nerve-racking, and no one really knows what it is. And you always know that if your tummy growls in SLH, everyone will hear it because it’s just that crowded.

On the upside, if there are no proctors, it will be the best exam ever.

21. Business students are stereotyped as dumb
(Image via tumblr.com)

Business students are actually some of the smartest people you’ll meet. The stereotype on looks is not out of place though – OSB looks more like a fashion show than a Business building.

22. Pre-meds really do hate each other
(Image via tumblr.com)

This one right here ain’t no stereotype. It gets to the point where calculators are stolen, glasses are broken and tears are shed.

23. Engineers speak in a weird dialect

(Image via tumblr.com)

Friends from the Engineering department always come up with really weird terms to describe things like “I failed” which, to them, becomes “tajjaytu” or “I studied well” which becomes “barashtu”.

They’re also the loudest, usually – which is quite ironic since you’d expect them to be part of a nerd collective.

24. You avoid getting into debates with Politics/Philosophy students

(Image via tumblr.com)

They’ve read too much and know too much, so before you open your mouth to say, “the women of this century are so superficial!” and notice one of them lurking around the corner, you remind yourself that you are not prepared to hear long arguments quoted directly from Toni Morrison’s books.

25. Fall back parties
(Image via tumblr.com)

This is when you realize AUB might not be the nerd haven you thought it was – the entrance in itself to these parties is enough to make you realize there is a hidden partying culture here. It’s very exclusive. And you love/d it.

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