Sunflowers in The Least Expected Places

Listen to this postFew years ago I use to have spare time to click some pictures here and there. I was keeping the camera in the car when I was driving to a remote area. That’s when I noticed three rows of  sunflower plants on the backyard of an old shack. The place was used by labors and mechanics as a tea room. One of them had extra sunflower seeds few months before and decided to plant them in the backyard. When I stopped, the mechanics thought something was wrong because a car suddenly stopped and somebody went to the backyard taking pictures. They were happy to know that I was admiring their followers and wanted to take the pictures since the weather was beautiful and the sun was shining. I gave a large print of this picture to the mechanic who planted it as an appreciation for his beautiful work. I went next year to the same place but there was now flowers at all because the mechanics were relocated to another contract.

Sun Flowers


I Missed the Innocent Celebration

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Waiting for the next car

Waiting for the next car

I was driving on the Highway last week when I noticed a teenager in a micro bus opening the side window and then stick his hand outside the window holding a can. He immediately start spraying white foam on the cars behind the bus! Such behavior might be accepted if it was done 10 days later during the Kuwaiti National Day (February 25). But annoying people that early is a bit strange.

Twenty years ago, we used to celebrate the national day by decorating governmental buildings with colorful lights. Kuwaiti TV use to broadcast school boys and girls singing live an innocent and beautiful patriotic songs.

Spraying the Foam

Spraying the foam

Each year we would listen to new songs specially prepared for that year’s celebration.  All this beautiful and meaningful celebrations are now replaced with foam spraying and water splashing mixed with crazy driving. I still remember most of the songs performed back then. Now if you ask the teenagers about what they remember from last year’s celebration, their answer would be either car crashes during the celebrations or how they blinded each other with the toxic foam! Can anybody tell me what the foam got to do with the national day?

Read more on this subject in a special page in this blog.

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Everybody Should Answer This Survey!

Please check one

Please check one

Listen to this postLarge and medium size companies usually ask consultants to help them improve their administrative and human resources work. The consultant usually start by distributing a survey to assess the current condition and find gaps from the desired conditions they are in at that time. Most of the surveys used by the consulted are well constructed surveys that were used in different companies before. The consultant usually do few tweaks on the standard survey to customize it for each company’s special needs and culture. The problem with most of these surveys is the method it is written with. The questions are written in a way only middle management and senior staff would understand and answer. Junior staff will find such questions to be difficult to understand because they are related to the company’s long term strategies, failure of change management and other complicated issues. The consultant needs cross sectional response and the management wants the survey to end as soon as possible. The result would be using a well constructed survey for the wrong population to produce wrong results. Normally the results are never showed to the junior staff., but the management would ask them to carry out the recommendation in every possible way. I am sure that some of the surveys could be more successful if more time is spent in writing them.

See also in this blog:

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Looks Easy to Win

Grab the toy

Grab the toy

Listen to this postThe game looks simple. Insert a coin in the machine, maneuver the mechanical arm to the toy you like and then let the arm grab it for you. Or does it? I played this game once when I was a kid and figured that I will never be able to get the toy because the mechanical arm needs good practice to master its movement. You could spend enough money to buy the toy by the time you learn how to position the arm. The arms clips does not have strong grip to pick, hold and left one of the toy from the neatly packed toys. But you will know this obstacles after you try the game and lose some money. Yesterday I took the kids to the arcades and watched many kids lose their money trying to win one of those pink bears.

Neatly stacked toys

Neatly stacked toys

You may ask why do people try it since it is difficult to win? Well, it is located in the kids arcade section and the toys inside it have vibrant colors that attract the kids to try at least once. You or the kids can be easily fooled in trying the game (at least once) because you would assume that maneuvering  the arm would be easy and its grip is strong. You discover after few trails that it is not, and you never tell anybody about your failure. I was advising my son about this rep-off scheme when finally one of the kids got a toy and made me look stupid!

How To Deliver A Presentation With Confidence

Delivering the Presentation

Delivering the Presentation

Listen to this postIn the past two months I presented two different technical papers in two major conferences. It was not easy and needed good preparations. The latest paper was presented in the 13th Middle East Corrosion Conference and Exhibition in Bahrain. The paper was presented within the allotted time and generated many interesting questions which continued during the coffee break. I thought of sharing some of the tips I use to deliver my technical paper with confidence:

  1. Write the paper by yourself, do not let anybody else to,write it for you. You will subconsciously synthesis the information while writing and keep the information for future use.
  2. Prepare the presentation by yourself. Avoid using text automation and “cool tricks”, they might stop functioning during the presentation or function wrongly when the presentation is installed on a different PC.
  3. Last minute changes in the presentation will make you nervous, avoid them unless they are necessary. You may complicate your presentation or mistakenly drop some slides during the last minute changes.
  4. Go early to the conference place so you do not get stuck in the traffic. When you reach the presentation hall, get familiar with the place, lights, podium and microphone.
  5. Check the loaded presentation in the PC. It might be distorted because the presentation is transferred to anther of PC. If possible, stand at the podium and switch on the microphone. Talk or do quick rehearsal of your presentation while you are still standing at the podium. You will get used to hearing yourself through the speakers and will get familiar to the presentation position and relax a bit.
  6. When presenting, avoid unnecessary jokes unless you have tried them before and they were funny without offending anybody.
  7. You will be nervous in the first 5 minutes of the presentation, this is normal. The intensity of your nervousness depends on the situation and your confidence level.
  8. Stick to the time allotted for your presentation. Try to finish early to avoid rushing through your summary and concluding remarks. Most of your audience are interested in the conclusion. Make sure you deliver it clearly and slowly.
  9. When somebody ask you a question that you can’t answer just say ” Thank you, this is an interesting question… I never thought of it this way. I will explore it and give you the answer…I need your email to send the answer to you” hold you pen and write the question.
  10. Smile and thank the audience for their participation and excellent questions.

That’s it, you have done it.

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First Class Lounge

Airport First Class Lounge

Airport First Class Lounge

Listen to this postI was fortunate enough to use the first class lounge in Kuwait airport. The lounge is spacious and well decorated. The staff present excellent service and the atmosphere is relaxing. Large screen LCD TV‘s positioned in good locations for most of the gusts to see. The volume is low so as the sound does not bother the relaxing guests until their flight is ready to board. I had long and busy day before reaching the airport, so I asked for my skimmed-milk latte‘ to relax in the lounge. The surprise was when the man started steaming the milk and the sound … Noisy! Nearby guest wake up not knowing which country he is in because of the noisy steam. I felt guilty for ordering the latte’.

All the nice things that made the lounge luxurious  and relaxing disappeared because of the noise. You may have noticed the same noise when you order Frappuccino in Starbucks. The noise associated with making this sugary drink equal the number of calories in it! Basically I think Frappuccino is a crazy mix of milk, ice, sugary, artificial flavor and coffee, blended together with fatty cream on top. Back to the First class lounge, I would suggest a simple solution to solve the noise problem while serving fresh coffee to the guests. They should make the coffee inside the service room and bring it out fresh to the customer. The guests would enjoy the relaxing atmosphere just by relocating the coffee-making machine to a nearby room.

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Valentine’s Day is A Commercial Day

Happy Valentine's Day

Like most lovers

Listen to this postValentine’s day is today February 14 if you forgot. This day is set for people to express their love to each other. I believe that valentine’s day is a commercial day and has been marketed very well to make us feel guilty for not buying something valuable to express our love to our loved ones.
Valentine’s day is named after a priest who lived in Rome around AD 269. The occasion became more popular in 1800 when British printers started producing decorated cards that have paper ribbons and lace.  People started mailing each other such cards and the occasion grow up with popularity since that date. This how it was back then but now, you have to buy gifts, flowers or chocolate. A combination of all these gifts will get you closer to your loved one. The more you buy the better they will feel. That is how Valentine’s day is sold to us. But we do not need to show our love only on that day and does not have to be through gifts.

Cut Hart

Getting ready

I will now discuss the commercial side of Valentine’s day. The day is marketed very well by printing calendars with a reminder that February 14 is Valentine’s day. Just before that day, the companies (especially brand names) need to remained us of their existence. No more marketing is needed because we are sold on the idea. I think the reminder is actually meant for the gift-receiver to expect the gift from the giver. A survey conducted this year in Bahrain estimated that 30% of the population would spend $180 (KD 52) for Valentine’s Day gifts. A quick calculation resulted in $40 million will be spent this year on Valentine’s Day in Bahrain. Please note that this survey was done in Bahrain, an Arab country that did not hear about Valentine’s Day until recently.

Be My Valentine

Most of the gifts has short shelve time, meaning that the store can not store them for the next year similar to unsold water heaters and blankets when the winter season end. So it is more economical to prepare the gifts just one week before the set date and sell them on that day. Commercially, Valentine’s day has another advantage which is storage space. The stores order large quantities of their merchandise and sell them all in 1 – 2 days. No storage needed to stock delicate products like flowers and chocolate around the year in large quantities. The store need to hold the smallest quantity always. So the business formula is to market the date, pre-order the products, sell them all in one day to enjoy quick profit. Now if I try to convince my wife on the above logic she would think that I am cheap!

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Check If You Are Old

Old Window

Old Window by: Tariq Malallah

Listen to this postOne of my friends ask a valid question about mid-life crises check point. I thought of listing some of the sings to tell if men are old. Read through and check if you have some of these sings:

  1. The barber start to give you good discount because you cut your hair more often and the amount of hair he has to cut is decreasing every week.
  2. You stopped your kids from eating candy and sugary liquids like Pepsi and Coke but now you do the opposite with your grand children.
  3. You refuse selling that old car and go for complete overall with new paint job that cost 70% of buying a new car.
  4. Your shoes are comfortable not stylish.
  5. Although you are controlling you meals but your weight is increasing. You don’t change your eating habits, but change the scale.
  6. You leave early to work while you children are still getting ready to wake up for work.
  7. You come back from work and your children are back before you, and they make more money than you do.
  8. You have a favorite chair in the living room nobody is allowed to use.
  9. You hold the TV remote control in your hand more than you hold your wife’s hands.
  10. No mater how loud you shout, the kids will only listen to your wife’s instructions!

Denial will not get you any younger.

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Cell Phone Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Are you expecting this?

Listen to this postYou think that banning drivers from using the cell phones while driving would reduce the number of car crashes. You are wrong! This post might be controversial and may generate a lot of argument but I have a research to support it. So take a deep breath and relax. Cell phones distract the driver and may turn his or her attention to the discussion with the speaker on the other side. The other speaker might be driving also! There are many distractions in the car like talking (or shouting) to the kids while fighting on the back seat. This is a major distractions especially if you are trying to catch the action on the back seat using the rare view mirror. Another distraction would be switching channels on the radio or following the trip route on the navigation screen trying to find your way.

Car Navigation Display

Car Navigation Display

Wall Street Journal reported a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claiming that banning cell phones did not reduce the number of car crashes. New Your state forbade drivers from using their cell phones in November 2001, but the 47% reduction in car crashes took place before that date and no reduction was observed after the ban. California had similar law in July 2008 but no noticeable reduction was seen because of the ban. Connecticut and Washington, D.C., had the same laws with no effect. So …what do you think?

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Mark Your Calender


Mark the calendar

The coming few weeks are filled with important occasions for me. Birthdays, anniversaries and important social days. I will be presenting a technical paper in Bahrain on February 15. One day before that, we will see many people celebrating Valentine’s day on February 14 (in case you forgot!). Valentine’s day is socially not accepted in Kuwait, but secretly most of us buy flowers for our loved ones and pretend it was a coincident that we bought them at that day. February 25&26 are Kuwait‘s national day and liberation day. Everybody between the age of 10 to 20 go crazy for no reason on those two days. They will be spraying water, party foam and other liquids at each other to celebrate Kuwait’s national day? March 2 is my wedding anniversary, and this year would be our 10th anniversary. March 5 &6 is our two boys birth days. Usually, my wife does all the preparations for the birthday party and I take take credit for the party like any “Good Father” would do!

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