Monthly Archives: November 2012

Meet John “The Bull” Makdessi

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John Makdessi on the left

John was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on May 3, 1985 and is a first generation Lebanese-Canadian born to Lebanese parents.[1] His martial arts training started with Taekwondo at the age of 6. When John started high school though, his dojo closed, and he could no longer continue. Towards the end of highschool at the age of 17, he found a Karate Dojo. He spent a lot of his time competing in Kickboxing tournaments, and in 2006 won a gold medal in the USKBA. After going 22-0 in Kickboxing, John started training for Mixed Martial Arts. [Wiki]

He played 5 UFC games so far, lost 2 and won 3. His third win came yesterday after he beat Canadian Sam Stout. [UFC]

We have a few talented MMA fighters in Lebanon. Let’s hope one of them will be able to compete at the highest level of the competition one day just like John Makdessi is doing now.

This should be art indeed!

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Picture taken by Sietske

I walk by this particular wall now and then, and every time I see it, I think “This could be art!” Somehow it is done in such a wonderful way, it looks as if it was almost done deliberately. It wasn’t; just a bunch of construction workers who poored concrete into a wooden shape, but didn’t take this part of the woodwork off, because it was on the ‘other’ sede of the wall. There used to be a gas station on this side, and when that was torn down last year, the woordwork appeared. I think it looks beautiful. [Sietske in Beirut]

Lebanese Telecom Ministry’s Annual Progress 2011-2012

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4G Live Test reaching peak of 100Mbits/s – Picture taken by @NicolaSehanoui

“Let’s Connect” took place yesterday at the Beirut Digital District where Telecom Ministry Nicolas Sehnaoui talked about the progress done by his ministry between June 2011 and June 2012 and announced plans for the launch of the 4G service next year. You can read the one-year report [Here].

I was unfortunately unable to attend the event but I have to say there’s been a significant improvement in the 3G and DSL services over the past year not just in Beirut but also outside it. In fact, I had major issues with the DSL in the first few months (I live in Jounieh) whereas it would disconnect for no reason or slow down but I haven’t had any noticeable problems for at least the past 3-4 months. As far as the 3G is concerned, the coverage is much better and the service is more reliable but there are still a lot of areas without a decent 3G coverage and I am not talking about villages in the middle of nowhere but major cities like Jounieh and some areas inside Beirut (Achrafieh Sioufi for example).

In July 2012, Touch network already consisted of 5,612 antennas and 15 mobile stations, while Alfa’s had 4,505 antennas and 15 mobile stations.

This being said, no one can deny the improvement in the internet service over the past year but there are still few points I’d like to highlight:

– I’ve had DSL for almost a year now but cannot upgrade from the 1 MBPS I have because that’s the maximum speed my phone line and the “Centrale” in Jounieh can handle.
– There’s a major problem related to the availability of landlines in some areas like in Jbeil where you can’t apply for a new phone number because the network is full.
– There should be a decent alternative to DSL as there isn’t any at the moment. Mobi and Wise are terribly slow and the 3G dongles and routers plans are ridiculous.
– The 3G launch in Lebanon could have been much better had the infrastructure been ready for such a thing. I hope that we won’t be facing the same problem with the 4G launch.
– 3G prices are great but the caps need to be increased.

On a last note, I am glad the Ministry of Telecommunications’ website was taken down and is now under construction. [Website]

Charges dropped against Edmond Haddad and Rawiya Al-Shab

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Lebanese stand-up comedians Edmond Haddad and Rawya Al-Shab were accused of breaching public morality and inciting debauchery after Edmond showed his “Superman underwear” on stage during a stand-up show in Gemmayze. After appearing in front of the Criminal Court in the Palace of Justice in Beirut, the judge found both innocent and dropped all charges against them.

There’s still hope for this country after all.

Lebanese Harvard Graduate Sara el-Yafi protests “Offending” Israeli Buffet

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You can’t mess with the Lebanese when it comes to food. After almost 20 days of her original post, Harvard apologized to Sara and agreed on naming it a “Middle Eastern buffet”. When reading this story, I remembered the hilarious video I posted exactly two years ago about Lebanese vs. Israeli hummus.

Here’s the story as told by Sara on her Facebook page.

On October 28th in the year of our lord 2012, I posted a post about an Israeli Mezze Station Menu at the Harvard Business School dining room that I was not very happy about. The menu featured a wide array of typical Arabic and Mediterranean dishes, which as far as we’re all concerned should not be called Israeli the same way I cannot be called Israeli. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt unhappy about the false content of the menu… Within five days of my posting, the “shares” had climbed from 1 to 1,000 (with my knowledge of mathematics, that’s a whole increase of 000.) Then, literally overnight, the shares doubled to 2,000. Then kept climbing over the next week to 3,400+, all the while being accompanied by a generous 4,700+ likes and 270+ beautiful comments (we’ll define beautiful later).

Without me having to exert much effort, it was the virulence of your likes and shares, as well as the respectful way that everybody connected with their humor and frustration, that has caught the attention of the key people. Last week, I received an official, gracious response from Harvard Business School through Mr. Brian Kenny, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at HBS less than 24 hours after reaching out to them. He has kindly requested I share with you his response on behalf of Dean Nohria and Harvard Business School:

“As you can imagine we’ve been following the responses to your post since it first went up last week. [..] [our] response is essentially a mea culpa on the part of the school. Clearly we didn’t do enough to verify the the accuracy of the Israeli Mezze station menu. You correctly called us on it and struck a chord with thousands of others in the process. The fact that we offended people is deeply troubling, particularly considering that our reason for having the international buffets each day is to celebrate cultural diversity. We take such things very seriously. From the moment we first saw your post we began having extensive conversations internally and with Restaurant Associates to understand why this happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.”

To which I answered:

“Dear Mr. Kenny,
I appreciate the time and effort you took to understand and commiserate with us about the sensitivity of this issue. Naturally, I knew that HBS would react properly, which maybe lets us see that we Arabs (even the more educated–Harvard Arabs) may be placing too hard of a stigma on American biased responses when it comes to Israel. […] While my Arab colleagues’ pessimism concerning evenhanded American responses is not founded on illusion (we have tons of history to prove American bias), your response has proven that it is still worth reaching out when we feel trampled on. […] So thank you for that, this will bring relief to many.
Since your comment is positive, if you don’t mind, I will post it on my facebook wall, as I am writing a follow-up answer to the commotion that was caused. Do you mind?
Thank you again for your response. I look forward to posting a picture on my wall of an HBS authentic Arabic [sic. Middle Eastern] Mezze station, I think this will assuage everybody who feel they have been deprived of their identity. And kindly let me know when you do so, it would be an amazing response from HBS.”

To which he graciously responded:

“[…] Please do feel free to post my response on your page. […] We truly understand the reaction and the sensitivities of the Arab community. […] In the meantime, RA [Restaurant Associates, the catering company] asked me if they could post their own apology. They dont want to offend further but they would like people to know how sorry they are. […] As for the Arabic Mezze station, I will have them get to work on that right away.”