Awesome Lebanese Bus Driver

Epic bus driver is epic? Yes I know.


“Attention! Driver is sleeping.”
The problem is you know it’s most probably true.

The picture was taken at Achrafieh.

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Harry Potter e-books Now Available


Rejoice Harry Potter fans. Your favorite book series is now available for your reading pleasure as e-books, which work on any device you own: iPad, iPhone, Kindle, etc….

The news was announced via Pottermore after many surveys for the website’s users asking them about their opinion regarding Harry Potter e-books.
The first three Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets & Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban are priced at $7.96 each. The subsequent four installments: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince & Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are priced at $11.15 each.

The whole collection can be purchased at a 10% introductory discount for $61.65 from the Pottermore shop.

You can also get the books from Amazon for $7.99 for the first three and $9.99 for the rest, but not from Apple’s iBookstore. They probably couldn’t reach a deal with J.K. Rowling regarding shares.

Why is buying the series as soft copies a good idea?
I was the most skeptical about e-books. But when I started reading on my iPad, I found out the experience to be as engaging, if not more, than reading on paper. You can highlight sentences you like, bookmark pages and passages – you can really make the book your own, which is something that I don’t like to do with a paper copy, wanting to keep it in a pristine condition.

At a time when e-books are on the rise, Harry Potter is now catering to the growing market: he future of reading is in soft copies that can be downloaded to your personal device in less than a minute. Those who haven’t read the books, this is your chance to hop on the bandwagon of this cultural phenomenon. You won’t be disappointed.
For those who have read the books, perhaps coughing up $60 for the books is a little unnecessary at this time, but if you feel like you need to own a soft copy of them, then why not, I guess?

Moussa el Sader is Dead. Officially?


For years, supporters of Shiite imam Moussa el Sader had hoped he’d still be alive more than thirty three years after he went missing in Libya on August 31st, 1978.
Al Akhbar is reporting today that documents received by Lebanese government from Libya confirm that Moussa el Sader had died at the beginning of the previous decade due to diabetes complications.

In more details, the imam was taken to the Abou Slim prison in 1997 where he was put in solitary confinement. He started experiencing ailments because of his diabetes but his guards refused to give him treatment. As a result, the imam died soon after.

Al Qaddafi refused to have him buried. So he turned his cell into a fridge, akin to the one used in morgues, and guards were set up for the cell for more than a decade – until the recent Libyan revolution started.
On August 22nd, 2011 when Tripoli fell to the rebels, the Abou Slim prison was heavily bombarded. Moussa el Sader’s cell was destroyed as a result of the bombing and his body was subsequently taken out, along with the other dead people.
Some had reported seeing a man’s body with a cloak and turban being taken out of the premises.

Current efforts to search for the body are underway. The most plausible of scenarios is that the bodies taken out of the Abou Slim prison were buried at known locations due to their rapid decomposition. These sites will be soon excavated to maybe find the body of the imam and return it to Lebanon.

Moussa el Sader founded the political movement “Amal.” He was known for his calls for interfaith dialogue and his constant championing for co-existence among all Lebanese factions.
It’s sad to see his ideology so distorted by the current form of the political movement he started.

Many of us were more than certain the imam was dead. But it is only natural for people to seek closure. Hopefully the certainty of his death brings that to those who need it.

Catching Fire (Book 2 in The Hunger Games) [Book Review] – Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has come out triumphant from the Hunger Games. But at a price. Her last attempt at bringing Peeta and herself out of the arena alive was seen as an act of defiance by the Capitol. And they cannot remain silent.

Going back to her home district, life for Katniss is not easy. Gale, her best friend, keeps her at ice-cold distance. Peeta has also turned his back on her. It is then that President Snow drops her a visit to tell her than on the Victors’ Tour, she needs to convince all the districts of Panem, the dystopian country they live in, that her act to save both her life and Peeta’s was nothing more than an act of love – maybe it could help quench the fires of a rebellion starting to spread across Panem, a rebellion that Katniss isn’t sure she wants to quench.

But there’s a twist. Creeping up on Panem is the 75th Hunger Games, which would be made special by introducing new rules. What could those rules be? How will it affect Katniss and Peeta? And what could the 75th hunger games mean for Panem?

If you thought The Hunger Games, the first book in the trilogy, was addictive, then Catching Fire will get your heart to catch fire as it races through the pages. It is a unique and engrossing storyline; the characters you met an installment ago change as your hands flip through the pages. You cannot but feel the need to root for them. The descriptions are exquisite, thorough and gut-wrenchingly real.

The setting, similar to the the first book, is both real, fantastical and sad. The mood for this book is even darker than The Hunger Games. It is also more concise and poignant. Catching Fire has action, romance, hope, despair and, most importantly, humanity. Political themes are the underlying current of the book but they’re not flagrantly in your face, making it a dense read for adults whose imaginations want to wander off and a light read for teenagers who take it at face value.

With Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins has met the expectations she created for herself with The Hunger Games. The plot is unpredictable in many circumstances and is energetic throughout. In fact, the energy and pace keep on building right to the ending which creates a cliffhanger that will leave you shocked and searching for book three.

The main purpose of Catching Fire is to serve as a transitory bridge between The Hunger Games and Mockinjay, the third book in the series. And it does so perfectly by gradually changing the frame from the first book and creating a new dimension for the author to base the final installment in. Some might feel such transitions do not make great books. I beg to differ. You cannot read Catching Fire just to finish it. You can’t but read it to know what happens.

Within its few hundred pages, Catching Fire has, like its predecessor, humor, treason, death, love, life, loss, pain. “Girl on fire, I’m still betting on you….” How could you not?

9/10

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 – Trailer: Bella as a Vampire

Here you go:

It looks like they’re toning down the “love story” approach for the promotion of this final movie and moving more into “Bella is now a vampire” realms.

Perhaps this is the smarter way to approach the final (and most useless) installment in the Twilight story. The final book, to begin with, has nothing going on. It’s a brick (about 800 pages) where Edward and Bella get married and have sex. She gets pregnant and delivers after a record-speed pregnancy during which she almost dies so he turns her. When she wakes up, they have more sex. The baby is thought to be a baby vampire and the rest of the movie is them preparing for a battle… that doesn’t happen. Diplomacy for the win!

Sorry for ruining it for you. Not really.

No, I won’t be watching it when it comes out.

No, it won’t be a good movie.

No, the trailer is not representative of the content of the movie.

Yes, it will make a lot of money.

In a nutshell, watching this movie will hurt your eyes and ears. Caution is advised.

The Smoking Situation in Lebanon: Blame The System, Not The Smoker

I always wondered why so many Lebanese smoke. We’ve all been through an educational system with more than one picture of a smoking-ruined lung in our biology textbook. We’ve all been through more than one lecture about the bad effects of smoking. We’ve all been through a phase where we were afraid of what our parents, some of whom smoke, would think of us if we do.

Despite all of that, many people ended up as smokers.

I am not talking here about our parents’ generation. They are the war generation to whom smoking might have been a way to cope with the stress of everyday life. But to our generation, one which is supposedly more aware than previous ones, the rates of smokers is just too high. You only need to go out with a group of people your age to notice this. My medical school class has 68 students. At least half of those are smokers. Less than half of them actually admit it when asked.

Fact. Nicotine is the most addictive substance known to man. No, not heroin. Not cocaine. Yes, nicotine. So when a smoker tells you they are not “addicted” to smoking, they are simply delusional.

Fact. Talking about lack of willpower when it comes to stopping smoking is nonsensical. Smokers have willpower the same as everybody else. It takes them way more effort, however, to be able to stop. Them not being able to stop smoking doesn’t mean they don’t have the will for it.

Fact. The more smokers you have in a given community, the higher the chance for non-smokers to fall into the habit: Peer pressure, imitation, call it whatever you want.

Fact. The easier it is to have access to cigarettes, the easier it’ll be for a non-smoker to become a smoker.

Let’s examine the situation in Lebanon. A regular shop in any given neighborhood has a stand for cigarettes displayed next to the cashier. That stand has a sticker that says cigarette packs are never sold to those less than eighteen years of age. This sticker is a formality. A fifteen year old enters said shop. This fifteen year old has an allowance of about $20 per week. Of those $20, he finds it very easy to dispose of $2 for a pack of cigarettes. This teenager goes back home and hides his pack. Later that evening, he meets up with a couple of his friends and they smoke it. The following day or week, another one of them volunteers $2 to “try” smoking until it’s no longer trying and their bodies develop a need for nicotine.

A study conducted by Jad Chaaban, Nadia Naamani and Nisreen Salti at the American University of Beirut (AUB) has found that 40.3% of people in Lebanon smoke, at a rate of 12.4 packs per month. This consumption is among the highest in the world, three times higher than Syria. To make things even “worse,” the balance for tobacco revenue and costs has our economy losing more than $55.4 million a year.

Last August, a non-smoking law was voted and its implementation was theoretically supposed to be gradually carried out. The reality, as with most Lebanese laws, is drastically different from theory. Some places, such as ABC mall, have borderline conformed to the ban. The absolute majority, however, has not. So when a smoker goes to almost any place in Lebanon, they will be inundated with cues for them to smoke, which have been proven psychologically to be the greatest trigger for smoking behavior. Those cues trigger the need in the body for nicotine. Example: a cigarette between classes, with coffee, with a drink, etc…

A few years ago, AUB banned smoking on its campus except for few select areas. This has caused many smokers to decrease their consumption. They simply didn’t have time to smoke between classes, on their breaks, on their tight schedules. What AUB did was to considerably suppress the aforementioned cues.

For the current smokers in Lebanon, it may be too late. Some have gone cold-turkey and failed. Others have succeeded. But it remains true that quitting smoking is one the most difficult things to do for smokers.

For the non-smokers, the story is much different and it is there that we must work to lessen smoking in our society. How? By making it drastically more difficult for these youngsters to access cigarettes. You know shops will not conform to the 18-year old limit. If a 15 year old doesn’t get his fix from this place, he’ll go to the next and the next until a pack is sold to him.

The first thing would be to put the cigarette stand in a place where it’s not very evident and easy for anyone to pick up a pack on a whim and make cigarette boxes a standard form: no special fonts and colors for a specific brand. Make them all the same, along with a pictorial warning covering most of the box about the dangers of smoking.

The second thing to do would be to drastically increase the price of cigarette packs. I don’t know why this is not a conceivable approach in a country where gas prices are half consisted of taxes. Meanwhile, cigarette packs have barely any taxes on them. Why not decrease the taxes on gas and increase them on cigarettes? Gas is a lively need for all of the Lebanese population. Cigarette is not. Gas should not be a privilege as it’s slowly becoming. Cigarettes should become a privilege. They currently are not.

Higher prices (say $8 a pack) and a decrease in the “cue” to buy a pack would lead to a drastic decrease in the up and coming generations to have high number of smokers. A higher price would also reflect on current smokers with a decrease in consumption. This leads to an easier implementation of smoking ban at various restaurants, pubs, public venues, etc.

When it comes to smoking in Lebanon, we tend to victimize the smoker for doing something “wrong.” Some smokers rationalize their behavior by saying that “everyone does it.” The “everyone does it” argument is faulty. Just because the majority does something doesn’t make it a good thing: just because the majority of the people in Beirut were exposed to violence in the 1980s does not make it a healthy experience. The fact remains that smoking is bad for smokers and for non-smokers. I, for one, cannot stand the smell. I am near repulsed by seeing the smoke going out of almost every bodily opening the smoker has. But it remains that it’s not a smoker’s fault as it is the system that has made it way too easy. So instead of dreaming big, like we always do in Lebanon, with a comprehensive smoking ban that reaches all the corners of the country, how about we start with baby steps for once and actually get somewhere?