So you think you can bounce?

A couple of weeks ago I was speaking with Sarah Habli and we were talking about how it would be fun to jump on some trampolines. Well, we decided to rally up a crew and all go a for a night of bouncing and jumping.

I felt like I took off my adult mask and have become the child I was meant to be. I could feel the adrenaline and dopamine rushing through me as I was bouncing and jumping around. We (humanity) need to do more of this!

Off-trail Hiking in Sannine

Today I ended up going with Azhar, Alaa Hariri, her friend Catherine on a little road trip. We first went to Zarour then went to Sannine. I always get this sense of contentment when going through the mountains here in Lebanon – so beautiful.

While in Sannine I decided to venture off a little bit. It started with a short walk, then it went into full-fledged hiking and rock-climbing mode. I climbed a nearby mountain and it felt liberating! Mind you, it was getting quite dangerous towards the top as the mountain got more steep and there were a lot of loose rocks, but an enjoyable hike nonetheless.

Here’s some random footage of the day, mostly the hike:

Five minutes. Go!

Alright I’ll say everything that comes to my mind about today for the next five minutes. Today has been a good and productive day. A few highlights:

  • Did two interviews for candidates at HIL. It was an interesting experience interviewing candidates in Lebanon. They were completely taken by surprise when I asked them technical questions and to write code on the board. One of the candidates I interviewed, has about two decades of experience and mentioned he had never had an interview of this format before. Apparently, in Lebanon technical interviewers don’t ask candidates to write code. Baffling. Let’s just say the Lebanon talent scene leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Confirmed outline of machine learning workshop. This is somewhat related to the point above. I spoke with Bassem at SE Factory a couple of weeks about giving a workshop on machine learning for developers here who are curious about it but didn’t have the chance to dig into it. I am hoping it proves useful, and at the same teaching is the best way to learn, so it’ll be a great learning process for me. The event will be published this Friday and will be scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, two weeks from now.
  • Picked up some new dragon staff moves. I practiced for nearly three hours today and busted some new moves that I am excited about. I felt like I plateaued for a while so this was definitely a refresher. One favorite of mine was a move called “Cheating Death”. Very simple and very elegant.

Alright five minutes are up. Time to go to bed!

Chapter 0: Egypt

My stay in Egypt lasted ended up lasting 24 days. I wish I had been more diligent to write more about my experience. I am now flying out to Beirut, which will be my home for the next few weeks.
I don’t have a particular agenda writing this post. It’ll mostly be random thoughts that pop in my head around my experience thus far.
– It’s not as scary I thought. Not even close. The thought of leaving my job at Twitter and leaving the country with no plan was daunting to me and it took me months to build up the courage to do it. I was particularly worried about waking up in the morning and face the hard fact that I don’t know where life is taking me, that I don’t know what I am doing, that I am wasting my time, that I have no job, that I gave up my career, that I no longer have a paycheck, etc etc. But, having done it, it doesn’t feel that bad at all. It’s actually quite exciting – at least for now.
– I am very very glad to have made it to Egypt at this time. I was very fortunate to visit my grandmother – twice – prior to her death two weeks ago. It gives me a lot of comfort and peace that I cared for her and stayed close till the last minute, as painful as it was. There were a number of deaths in my family circle over the last few weeks, and each one was a stronger reminder for me that, in the grand scheme of things, nothing matters. And, as such, nothing ought to be taken seriously.
– I really enjoy being close to family. Even though the cultural differences between us had grown over time, I really enjoy being around them more regularly. I want to keep that in my life. I don’t want to always be away as I have been the last nine years.
– I love my circle of friends in Egypt. They are all forward thinking, ambitious, working on interesting projects, and are super fun to hang out with.
Lebanon will my first “experiment” post the stable days of San Francisco. It’ll involve exploring a new part of the Middle East and doing work that I suspect I would deeply connect with. I’ll share more details soon. I’ll leave this post at that – plane is landing!

Review: Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very simple and brief read on modern physics. The author primarily discussed two major developments in physics in the 20th century: general relativity and quantum mechanics. He later used both of these theories to describe our current understanding of very big things (cosmos) and very small things (subatomic particles).

In later parts of the book the author talks about how both of these theories view the universe in a fundamentally different way. General relativity views the world as curved space where everything is continuous, and in quantum mechanics the world is a flat space with discontinuous amounts of energy (quanta).

The last two lessons were unrelated and felt to me a bit out of place, but aside from that the book did definitely peak my curiosity and is pushing me to learn more about the subject.

My favorite part of the book was the lesson introducing the theory of general relativity and how it refined our understanding of the universe. The theory lead to predicting that the sun causes light to deviate, that time passes by more quickly high up than below, that space can expand and contract, that space cannot stand still, that space is currently expanding and that the expansion has been triggered by the explosion of an extremely hot and small universe (i.e. the big bang). The simplicity and elegance of how one theory could explain so much is breathtaking.

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وفاة جدتي و عزاء النفاق

من أسبوع تقريبا كنت أنا و مجموعة من الأصدقاء نستمتع بغروب ساحر على شاطئ لاجونا في دهب بسيناء. كان غروبا مليئا بالسمر و المرح. بعد ساعة تقريبا من قعدتنا على الشاطئ وجدت هذه الرسالة متروكة لي على تليفوني:

لا يسعني أن أقول سوى أنني شعرت بحزن ساكن. شعرت بالحزن على فراق جدتي، و شعرت بالسكينة لأنني كنت على تواصل شبه دائم معها لمدة سنين. شعرت بالسكينة لأنني كنت في مصر وقت وفاتها و تمكنت من زيارتها مرتين – مرة قبل خروجها من المستشفى و مرة في بيتها قبل أن تُتوفّى بخمسة أيام.

للأسف لم أحضر دفنتها و لكن حضرت عزائها، و للأسف وجدت منسابة العزاء هي ليست إلا مناسبة نفاق. أغلب من حضروا العزاء هم أُناس لا يمتّون لجدتي بصلة، و إن كانوا يمُتّون إليها بصلة فقليل منهم كانوا يكترثوا بها أو يسألوا عنها وقت حياتها. و حينما يعزون يعزونك بمشاعر باردة و لا ينظرون إليك نظر العين. حتى الشيخين الذين كانا يرتلا القرآن كانا يتسامران معا بين تلاوة تلك الآية و تلك، فبالنسبة لهما العزاء مجرد “بزنس” لا أكثر و لا أقل، و للأسف لا يمكنني أن ألومهم على تفكيرهم هذا.

هل صارت مناسبة العزاء كما هي عليه الآن غير ملائمة لعصرنا هذا؟ ربما. للأسف سادها النفاق كما يسود أغلب عادات هذا المجتمع.

ثاني يوم لي في مصر

و ها قد مضى اليوم الثاني، و أظنه مضى أسرع من اليوم الذي سبقه. قضيت أغلب اليوم مع العائلة – من صلاة العيد بعد الفجر إلى آخر الليل حينما وصّلنا أخي و إسراء و الأولاد إلى المطار. يذهبون الليلة إلى كندا و يقضون هناك الصيف كله. كم أتمنى أن كنت أقضي معهم وقتا أكثر.

هذه صورة التقطها اليوم مع أبناء أخي:

من الغد يبدأ العمل. للحديث بقية.

أول يوم لي في مصر

مضى يوم كامل على زيارتي لمصر. أخذت قسطا كبيرا و مستحقا من النوم، و قضيت وقتا ممتعا مع عائلتي و أبناء أخي الصغار و زرت جدتي في المستشفى. لا أستطيع القول أنني أشعر بالسعادة لأن عقلي لا يزال منشغلا بالمستقبل الغامض الذي ينتظرني، و لكنني بسعتي أن أقول أنني أشعر بالسكينة.

و الليلة هي أول ليال عيد الفطر. كل عام و أنتم بخير.

“This is not Cairo”

I am sitting at the Swiss Business Lounge in Geneva as I am writing this. I was supposed to be in Cairo about twelve hours ago, but my Lufthansa flight from Munich kept being delayed, and then when we boarded the pilot said that he is unable to fly the plane and we had to get off.

The way Lufthansa dealt with the situation was a complete shit show in my opinion, contrary to all my expectations. Instead of offering hotels to us they offered us pillows and blankets so we can sleep in the terminal (it was late at night then), and given that all restaurants were closed they offered us “water and chocolate”.

Unfortunately things got chaotic very quickly, as is usually the case when you have a crowd that is predominantly Egyptian. Passengers were yelling at the Lufthansa service crew, and understandably so. What disappointed me though was that the crowd had dedicated their effort to complain rather than calm down and look into resolving the situation.

What I found most disappointing, however, was the manager at the Lufthansa service desk, who got angry in response to the crowd’s protests and shouted “This is not Cairo!”

As expected, this comment added fuel to the fire and the crowd was enraged. I was very angry with this comment myself, yet deep inside me I knew that he was right. Objectively speaking, Cairo is one giant mess of a city, and it’s hard to compete with Egyptians when it comes to chaos and lack or organization.

I am sad. I am sad that Arabs disrespect themselves in their own countries and as a result are disrespected internationally as such. I want to fix this. I am not sure how exactly just yet, but I really hope to see this change during my lifetime.

Anyways, I’ll be shortly catching my flight to Egypt. A new chapter in my life is about to begin.

The Space Balloon Experiment

I spent the bulk of today with Nishanth, Carlos, Nick Pisarro, and Sai. We went to Tracy, California. Or, more specifically, we went to 37.642266, -121.395005.

Today was the launch date of project “Space Dust”, where we were going to launch a weather balloon carrying a payload with cameras + other sensors to an altitude of roughly 100,000 feet to record footage.

I brought up the idea of this project after reading guides on how to do it, and I felt it would be a great way to do something fun and that involves teamwork.

The planning for the project wasn’t as thorough as I had hoped, and with a project this complex this was a dangerous sign. Nonetheless, I think we got pretty far. We had everything set up – filling the balloon, securing the payload, electronics, spot tracker, radar reflector, etc. Everything came to a halt though when we realized that the helium we had wasn’t enough to lift the payload. Oops.

On a related note, I tried out the new Spectacles that the team at Twitter had (very thankfully!) gifted me to document this experience. I must say, it’s a pretty dandy piece of hardware. One thing I learned from this is that I need to say the word “alright” a lot less often.