TechGirls : Inspiring A Worthwhile Road

When i grow up, I want to...

When I grow up, I want to…

One year ago, I was going through the pictures of the Tech Girls of 2014, wishing I was one of them.

Yesterday, I was on Flickr, going through the pictures of Tech Girls of 2015 – the pictures of girls who have become sisters to me in the past 3 weeks. I still have trouble digesting the entire experience I had went through in the United States and the fact that I was even part of this program. Every single moment was a special one, a different one.

Sisters.

Sisters.

From the day I arrived, I knew that this is going to be a life-changing experience. Going from Washington DC’s airport to American University, I looked through the bus’ windows at DC:  Its clean vastness that boasted a contrast of lit signs of international companies and beautiful greenery is enough to inspire anyone to think big. Such forms of inspiration continued from the first moments of arrival up to the last minutes before departure – which for the fact, we spent at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM)’s annex (Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center), digging deeper into the science, mechanics, and history of international and historic airplanes.

And I was right: it was a life-changing experience.

At Tech Girls, we were exposed to how the real tech world works and to how successful people have built themselves and their companies. We visited the big tech companies and met with several hard-working, intelligent women, each of which had her story to inspire us with. We visited museums that exposed us to the American culture, past scientific achievements, and future ideas on the road.  We went through a technology camp that empowered us with a programming language and creative ideas. We spent two days at a summer camp that gave us long-lasting friends. We learned about the importance of continuously giving back to our communities and about the strategies of designing projects fully focused on benefiting the people. We made friends – no, sisters – from all around the Arab World. We laughed, cried, danced, sang, and talked for hours. We fully embraced the importance of diversity, technology, and society.

Most importantly, we realized that the road in the field of technology is not going to be an easy one, but it will definitely be one that’s worth it.

Why?

Because the technology we develop is the future of the planet. Our innovation and hard work will be what will determine the next course humanity will take – be it regarding space exploration, renewable energy, social media, medicine, politics, and many more topics.

At Facebook and Yahoo, we met with women whose work is at the intersection between politics and social media: The effect of the work they do ripples into the hands of millions of users of these two massive companies. At Virginia Tech University, we saw and listened to the newest research and inventions being made: solar cells as thin and small as an A5 paper, doorsteps that can help conserve energy by turning off the electricity in rooms you are not in, 3D printing technology that can change the medical and industrial field, and much, much more.  And what these visits, and many others, made me realize is that everyone can have a role in technological development – not a small role, but a big one if he/she wants to. Everyone and anyone can change an entire industry if he/she put their mind and work into it.  Everyone and anyone can affect the community, country, and world they’re in.

Just think about it: The next coding class you’re giving might be to a 12 year old that would one day start what would become the biggest tech company. The next event you make might hold the inspiration that a young entrepreneur needs to launch his idea. The next picture you post might be one of a tech program that sparks the interest of a young girl in the suburbs of a big city – a program that once she applies to and gets accepted in might change her life.

Scratch the last “might”. The program already did.

Tech Girls gave me the confidence I needed to have in my tech abilities and ideas and in myself.  I now look at all the difficulties currently present in my country and in the world, and remember a sentence said by one of the women we met at Facebook:

“Every job I had did not exist before I had it. I saw this problem. I saw the solution, and I realized that I want to be the one to do this.”

 I see the problems, and I’m on the look-out for solutions.

In Veins

There are days were black-polished nails clutch on tightly to white porcelain,

and golden rings fall off tanned fingers,

and words swarm on top of throats

and hold hands to dance

in place

and stomp feet to feel

in vain

and echoes swim in salty water

up

to cling to veins

just above the eyes

but just below the eyebrows.

They say eyes mirror the beauty within.

I look for it in veins.

12 great free online courses

For those with a constant thirst for learning :

TED Blog

Much ado has been made in recent years over the quickly rising cost of healthcare in the United States. But the cost of college tuition and fees has skyrocketed at nearly twice that rate. Going to college today will cost a student 559% more than it did in 1985, on average.

In an exciting talk given at TEDGlobal 2012, Stanford professor Daphne Koller explains why she was inspired — alongside fellow professor Andrew Ng — to create Coursera, which brings great classes from top universities online for free. Coursera classes have specific start dates, require students to take quizzes and turn in assignments, as well as allowing professors to customize their course into online chunks rather than simply recording their lectures.

When she spoke at TED Global, Coursera offered classes from four top colleges — Princeton University, the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the University of…

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10 places where anyone can learn to code

TED Blog

blog_learn_to_code_art_revTeens, tweens and kids are often referred to as “digital natives.” Having grown up with the Internet, smartphones and tablets, they’re often extraordinarily adept at interacting with digital technology. But Mitch Resnick, who spoke at TEDxBeaconStreet in November, is skeptical of this descriptor. Sure, young people can text and chat and play games, he says, “but that doesn’t really make you fluent.”

[ted_talkteaser id=1657]Fluency, Resnick proposes in today’s talk, comes not through interacting with new technologies, but through creating them. The former is like reading, while the latter is like writing. He means this figuratively — that creating new technologies, like writing a book, requires creative expression — but also literally: to make new computer programs, you actually must write the code.

The point isn’t to create a generation of programmers, Resnick argues. Rather, it’s that coding is a gateway to broader learning.“When you learn to read, you…

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This Is Not An Article About 10 Things You Should Know On The “Arab-Israeli Conflict”

Chaos and violence continue in the Arab world as Gaza enters its 50th day under Operation Protective Edge, Islamic State gains full control of Raqqa, and Islamist militants take hold of Libya’s capital.
This article serves as a reminder that we need to re-think our over-confident analyses and convictions to gain a better understanding of the complex situations going on around.

Mish Jareedi

(Ibrahim Halawi)

The crisis is overwhelming; the tragedy is beyond one’s cognition. We have had to swallow the frustrating and brutal counter-revolution in Egypt and Bahrain, the bloody escalation in Syria and Libya, the geographic expansion of the so-called Islamic State, and to add insult to injury: the war on Gaza. We have had to pretend we’ve got our analysis right; that we have managed to connect the dots in a rational manner at times when the regional power constellation is at its peak.

We haven’t. Despite some exalted activists posting thousands of words on Facebook and getting shared as ‘words of wisdom’, we have yet to understand why and how this has happened. We are yet to understand the political economy of the counter-revolutions. We are yet to visualize the parallel processes of the revolts and the proxy battles and when/where/how did those processes dialectically clash. We are yet…

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How one woman’s Googling led to a boom of female-led TEDx events in Lebanon

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Dead Poets Society
The importance of one person’s idea in affecting a society.

TED Blog

Organizers show off their shirts at a TEDxBeirutSalon. Photo: Courtesy of TEDxBeirut Organizers show off their shirts at a TEDxBeirutSalon. Photo: Courtesy of TEDxBeirut

In 2008, Patricia Zougheib was at work in Beirut, Lebanon, when she came across a video of Jill Bolte Taylor describing her own stroke. She was awed, and Googled the three red letters she noticed in the background—T-E-D. “I started watching one talk after the other,” she says, “and I got hooked, big-time.”

For a while, Zougheib kept her TED habit her own special secret, watching talks alone at her advertising job. “But then I thought, after one year, ‘No, this is too good not to be shared.’” She introduced her husband to TED, and the two decided to invite some friends over to their house to watch and discuss talks.

TEDxSKE, the first TEDx event in Lebanon, started as a gathering of six friends — but it has led to a boom of TEDx events…

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On the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict

Hamas and Israel agreed on a 72-hour ceasefire which started today morning at 8 AM local time and will continue till Friday morning. On what would’ve been Operation Protective Edge’s 29th day, the numbers are as follow:
• 1,717 Palestinians dead – 85 % of which are civilians ( According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, last updated on August 3)
• About 10,000 Palestinians wounded
• Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker dead
• 64 IDF soldiers dead

Numbers talk, but the dead are not mere figures. They are people who were supposed to be leading and fulfilling lives: A toddler who took his first steps a couple of weeks ago. A boy who liked collecting seashells by the shore of Gaza. A young woman who recently got engaged. A mother who enjoyed the sight of her smiling children.

But the toddler was burnt and only a disfigured little black corpse, blotched in red remained. The young boy was killed by the shore as he played with his friends, and only the sea knows the last words he said as his hands touched its waters for what he did not know was his last time. The woman’s fiancé lay dead under iron and stones, and she wept as his sweet voice echoed in her ears while she held her golden engagement ring close to her chest and traced its delicate cold figure with her hands . And the smiling children, they wept, too, as they clutched the vivid vermilion hands of their still mother and watched her eyes slowly roll back into their sockets.

The majority of Gaza has been turned to rubble. Its infrastructure is collapsing. Its only power plant, bombed on the 29th of July by Israeli forces, needs a year to repair, and 5 – 8 power plants out of 10 that conduct electricity from Israel have been disabled, some by Hamas’ rockets. Hospitals continue to suffer from medical equipment shortage and weak sanitation systems. UN schools are overcrowding as 11% of Gaza’s populations has been displaced.

The situation has been called a humanitarian crisis. Both sides have been accused of war crimes. The international community remains divided between condemnation of Israel, support of Israel, condemnation of both Hamas and Israel, or silent watch.

Assaults on Gaza date back to 1967 and the words of late Prime Ministers calling to “get rid of Gaza’s Arabs” and inhibit “the increase of the Arab population in Israel” seem to remain alive and in practice. Israel claims its right for self-defense when questioned about the motives behind all the operations it has led on Gaza since the elections of Hamas in the first Palestinian elections in January 2006.

The “self-defense” excuse is wearing out though– that is if the excuse was justified in the first place, for in accord with the International Law: the use of force is allowed without Security Council authorization in exactly one case: in self-defense after informing the Security Council of an armed attack, until the Council acts. Israel has not followed this procedure in most of its past operations.

Hamas is recognized to be seeking Israel’s end. The truth remains,however, that Hamas officials had repeatedly stated in the past their readiness for accepting a two-state resolution, a currently far-fetched resolution, but the only one that I believe would work in establishing peace in both Israel and Palestine. Yet, Israel had continuously blocked negotiations. Now I do not rally in full support behind Hamas. Its rockets aimed at civilians violate international humanitarian laws and constitute as war crimes. Its recent statement that “ all Israelis have become legitimate targets for the resistance” horrifies me, and its friend, the Islamic Jihadist Movement , scares the hell out of me. Yet so does the destructive Israel, which has taken the land from its owners by force then ironically established what it calls a “democratic” government and “the most moral army in the world,” both of which carried on with murder, destruction, and oppression in Palestine, and forced a siege on what came to be one of the worst open-air prisons in the world: Gaza.

Currently, Israel continues to blame the death of civilians on Hamas. It claims that Hamas is using the people as humanitarian shields. However, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, and reporters from BBC, the Independent, and the Guardian have found no evidence of that. Amnesty International still stated that even if Hamas “direct[ed] civilians to remain in a specific location in order to shield military objectives, all of Israel’s obligations to protect these civilians would still apply.” It has also commented that “although the Israeli authorities claim to be warning civilians in Gaza, a consistent pattern has emerged that their actions do not constitute an ‘effective warning’ under international humanitarian law.”

The recent 72-hour ceasefire seems to be signaling the end of Operation Protective Edge. As much as I wish that the international community will continue with its war crime charges on both Israel and Hamas long after the operation ends, I don’t have my hopes up. All would probably return to “normal” in the next few weeks – the norms being described perfectly by Noam Chomsky in the following paragraphs :
“ For the West Bank, the norm is that Israel continues its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to repression and violence.
For Gaza, the norm is a miserable existence under a cruel and destructive siege that Israel administers to permit bare survival but nothing more.”

Change and Revolutions – Quick Late Thoughts

The talks that have been happening on social media websites regarding “change” and “revolution” have been something alright. I respect all the tweeps going after change. That is a step at least, but what shouldn’t be forgotten is that it’s not the only step.

Now what I’ve been admiring is the consistency with which some people have been working on to get hashtags to trend. That’s good. 

But, they’re just hashtags.

Yes, they’ll spark a thought for the need of change in the mind of the reader, but let’s not forget that the reader is someone who’s leisurely browsing his timeline, and the hashtag might cease to mean nothing to him once he passes over it. 

Let’s also bear in mind t the fact that instead of trending words where we call for change in a 140-character tweet, we could tweet something that actually changes. Petitions. Mentions to people in charge. Dates of the protests taking place. Reasons of why we should be interested in the cause. Actual substantiated and compelling reasons, not the shallow surface ones that we hear on adds or in political speeches aimed at getting submissive votes.

Another important point is accepting the disagreements that are going to come from people around and taking them to consideration. Consciously questioning your actions and words and accepting constructive criticism. Accepting one another, and that goes to everybody. It’s not a matter of who’s right, but a matter of what’s right, and unless we learn to take an objective view towards all options and thoughts available, change will never happen.

Lastly, yet most importantly, is the actual work that should be done, and that isn’t necessarily just “on the streets”. There are ways other than protests. Organizing meetings where you personally meet with everybody of interest in the topic.That’s already done on a larger scale by NGOs, and we can make them possible on a smaller scale too. Organizing school clubs or awareness campaigns in schools, taking time to talk with your classmates and open up their eyes on what they may not be aware of.Actual contact with humans, in person, and not over screens, because those leave a greater impact on the person.

Social media is good to start the talk and group together people of similar interests, but it’s just the start,a pencil. We should now take it and write. 

Let’s Not Let the Case Drop

It’s not the first time buildings shake and window glasses break. not the first time smoke rises in the skies of Beirut and phone networks stop working, definitely not the first time ambulance sirens are heard mixed with the cries and screams of the hurt and scared and frightened.

At 4:10 PM, an explosion took place in Beirut’s southern suburb, ending the lives of four civilians. Less than a week ago, on Friday, an explosion took place in Downtown, taking away the lives of eight. Total death toll :ten. Ten in less than seven days dead because some terrorists decided they can do so.

It has happened a handful of times in Beirut and its surroundings.It happens everyday or the other in Tripoli. People die; their names forgotten in a few days, the whole incident forgotten in a few weeks.
Apparently, nothing’s new. We’ve adapted, got used to the scent of blood hovering in the streets.

And that is just sick.

It’s sick that we got used to it, that we’re ready to continue our daily routine a few hours after hearing of the explosion. It’s sad that people die in such a gruesome way just because they happened to be passing by the wrong place at the wrong time, and it angers me how the media turns their death into a scoop, and how politicians use it for their own benefit and for encouraging hate between people of different religions and sects. One of the victims of last week’s explosion was a 16 year-old boy called “Mohammad Chaar” – a name that would’ve gone unnoticed if it weren’t for his friends, who did something unusual : They tried to organize something. They organized a peaceful march from his school ” Hariri Highschool II ” to the site of the explosion in Downtown,Beirut. The march was joined in by many teenagers from all around Lebanon, who didn’t necessarily know Chaar but wanted to give out a message, a cry. They wanted to let their call for change reach the entire country. And they did; the march got great media coverage. Social media buzzed with talks about Chaar. Tweets about him filled timelines; hash-tags like ‘ #TheMohammadChaarRevolution ‘ and ‘ #RIPMohammadChaar’ trended.

And then what?
In the past two days, the thoughts of Chaar gradually faded, and if it weren’t for the explosion today, which reminded people of what happened a few days ago, I bet his memory wouldn’t have survived the rest of the week.

Often, when we’re first introduced to a new idea,we get excited about it. We always pour ourselves into it at the beginning. A sense of fulfillment fills our hearts as we take the first few steps. It’s quite beautiful at first, that feeling of initiating a change, of doing ‘something’ – a twist from the every-day routine. But what’s disappointing is that most of the time, the idea withers away before getting the chance to blossom. We get bored, or tired. More ‘important’ things fill our time, or so we claim. We get sucked into the never-ending hurricane of selfishness, self-doubt, and laziness. ‘What’s it to me? How will I make a change?’ and so we sit and wait for other people to continue our work. That’s exactly why Lebanon’s been in this sad state for the past decades. Oh, sure, blame the politicians, the government, certain terrorist groups, and other countries, but we’re to blame too, because we’ve been sitting here and allowing them to do what they do : to steal and kill and control.

I’m not saying that tomorrow we should all go to the streets and protest. This surely will not work, since a large group of people is still blindly swallowing what their religious and political leaders are telling them. A real revolution can only work if all the people stand together, which does not seem possible in Lebanon at the moment. What we should do ,though, is try to wake these people up, show them the truth; and gradually, change will come.

What we should do is not let the case drop once the blood dries.

Realize

I once saw this piece of writing and liked it since. It opened my eyes on many things :

“Go lay on the grass in a quiet place…

Take a few deep breaths, relax, and stare up at the sky for a few minutes.

Now realize that you are stuck to a massive rock 8,000 miles wide… hurtling through space at 70,000 mph… around a gigantic ball of fire burning at 9,941 degrees F(5,550 C) …through a Universe that has no beginning or end.”

It really shows how big and fascinating everything in this universe is. Realize that the stars you look at have been there for billions of years, and that the light they emit sometimes takes thousands of years (and more) to reach the Earth. Realize that the Earth had been roamed by many creatures we have never seen and possibly some we have no knowledge of yet. Realize that since  the beginning of life on Earth, there has always been day and night, in a consistent pattern day after day. Realize that yesterday and tomorrow don’t exist and that your entire existence has been one long second – an eternal present moment. Realize that your birthday also represents the number of times you’ve gone around the sun. Realize that your body hasn’t stopped functioning since the day you were born, and will continue non-stop till the day you die. Consider that you can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum, and that there are colors the human eye can’t see and the brain can’t imagine. Realize that we never really know what we think we know and that life is one hell of a mystery still waiting to be unraveled .