Variations on a Theme by Jeff Haden

What better motivation can one have?
I have been big fan of Jeff Haden's ever since I caught some of his published opinions on LinkedIn. I think this gifted author has the right mix of good sense, professional approach and human touch that makes any subject he addresses take on a new dimension. Put simply, I often relate with his point of view and it just makes sense.
I must admit that when I read the title of his post: 10 Ways to Lose Friends and Irritate People, I was more interested in mischief than self improvement. There was this awesome author telling me exactly what I need to do to prank my friends. It turned out to be nothing like that. Instead, I was stopping after each subtitle, amazed by the uncanny resemblance to an overwhelming majority of my compatriots.

Warning: This is where you would stop reading if you are the overzealous patriotic type who refuses any criticism and considers Lebanon to be the birthplace of all that is good in this world.

To fully understand my comments you would have to read the original article but here is a summary of the original 10 Ways to Lose Friends and Irritate people, along with my take on how sadly they apply to our society:

  • You thoughtlessly waste other people's time
    The notion of time-value is non-existent in our society. People never respect an appointment, overstretch their stay, don't show up for meetings and often forget altogether that they were supposed to perform a task within a deadline. It's everywhere and people often rationalize this by useless sentences like: "Everybody does it" (where are you John Becker when we need you?)
  • You ignore people outside your "level".
    Everybody measures everybody up before interacting with them. They check out the watch, the car (or keyhanger) the outfit and decide if they would give you the time of day. Even salespeople in less-than-select stores might choose to snub you if they think you cannot afford their merchandise. I won't even get started on the domestic foreign worker discrimination in Lebanon
  • You ask for too much
    I can't help but remember this girl in an old job I held. She asked for help coz she was new and  helped her. Soon it was 9 month into her employment with us and she kept calling asking for help "because I'm new here". Family members also excel at this hear and abuse the blood ties beyond imagination.
  • You ignore people in genuine needEverybody shows up at Sky Bar for that benefit party because it's a hip venue and the event has been publicized enough. It's a guilt free ride into partying yourself but what about keeping that person in the job he badly needs even if he is costing you more than a fresh grad (or a refugee which you would exploit)?
  • You ask a question so you can talk
    The best way to show off your new mobile, car or real estate is to pretend to ask what's the best mobile to own, which car dealership has the best offer or how much is the meter of land being sold in an area. Shortly after that you will definitely be hearing a never ending slur of opinions and tidbits on how that person actually scored the best deal. The 3 topics will shift into girly things if the conversation is entirely female.
  • You pull a "Do you know who I am?
    I am the son/daughter of commandant/colonel/general/deputy/minister/president...this ends up with even the police officer serving time instead of the person doing the infraction
  • You don't dial it back
    Seriously, I don't need to know about how much your expat daughter makes, or how much you get asked out or how many job offers are you getting. Also, as Ziad Rahbani, our local music & theater genius puts it so well: I think you are the annoying person, not the hat that you are wearing.
  • You mistake self-deprecation for permission
    This one's personal. I love self-deprecation jokes. "British Humour" is a soft spot for me. Try pulling off a self-deprecating joke in front of someone and you either end up with an arrogant look "oh my, how could he say this about himself, no one will respect him now" or, for the loose canons, this will end up with a barrage of Fozzie Bear waka waka jokes.
  • You humblebragAs part of our oriental culture we are taught from early childhood that modesty (even fake) is a moral obligation. So humblebragging is not a new activity in our society. From parents talking about how their kids would be lost without them looking after their children, to the usual super-employee who is modest about her contribution to the company but without whom nothing would be done...we are covered in that area.
  • You push your opinions
    Take a newspaper, any news paper or turn on any talk show whether political, social or artistic and all you can hear are people pushing their opinions and not bothering to hear what the other have to say. I know some of you might disagree with this but I really want to explain my point further because I am sure you will see it my way: now read this last sentence again. see? this is how it's done.

Having said my piece on that, I must admit that none of us is immune to these 10 pitfalls in human behavior, but also, none of us is entirely victim to them. I know many of my compatriots who show the same aversion to such behavior as I do.
However, there is a sense of clarity that comes with having detailed this, and understood that the major reason a person might feel alienated by the society they live in, is the fact that such a society adopts standards, which in that person's belief and value system, sound severely out of tune.

I am certain you can come up with an even longer list of good things that distinguish our culture, and I am confident I will agree with that list also; but the bottom line here lies in the delicate balance between what makes you happy in a place and what annoys you. So, no matter how the scale tips, be sure it's doing so for the right reasons!


eTobb Goes Android

eTobb is an online platform connecting doctors and patients....etc...etc...etc...Now that we decided to move past the usual intros, prefabricated statements and huge paragraphs that no one wants to read, I can hand it to you in a nutshell.

You ask medical questions anonymously,
Real specialized doctors answer you with relevant and precise information. 

It's as simple as that and it has been taking Lebanon and neighboring countries by storm since their inception. The idea may, admittedly, not be entirely unique or original (think WebMD) but the implementation is. The capacity of these fine (very) young professionals to conceive, execute and push through with their idea has merited awards and recognition from numerous professionals in this field.

I am not entirely impartial. There I said it!
I knew about the idea from the start, I also knew one of the founders. I am also notorious for not chewing my words and they have heard all the criticism I might have had throughout their growth.

Today eTobb have pushed themselves beyond a major milestone: They have gone mobile. They have also done it on Android first. I don't want to ignite the next big stand-off between fandroids and ifanboys so I will leave it at that for now.

The app itself has been pretty smooth to launch without any lag whatsoever. The Android-specific sliding drawer works like a charm but from the left side (see what I did there Windows 8?). It allows access to the various sections and "filters" that allow a rich browsing experience. A solid search feature is implemented along with push notifications and most importantly the oh-so-important Android Share menu.

I have seen, way too often, apps being ported onto Android without attention to the native UX of that ecosystem, consequently missing out on several features or looking altogether like an iOS app exiled onto enemy territory. This was not the case with eTobb mobile app. I went about tinkering around with it, trying to break it but had no such luck.
So instead I am going to rant about how much I hate the blue color from the letter e in the logo when used on a screen that has many questions, or also on the notifications screen. I understand why they stuck with their corporate identity colors but that blue is making my eyes bleed every time I look at it. Who knows maybe it's intentionally done to make me use the app and ask an ophthalmologist about it.

Aouch m'eyes m'eyes!

On a final serious note, I am really happy to see this company mature and grow the way they have done so far, let's hope they keep their heads on straight and keep pushing onward as many clones will start popping up around; it's only a matter of time.

Download eTobb on your Android now from Google Play and for those of you who don't have an Android, what are you waiting for? Go out and get one...this app alone is worth it!


The League of Extraordinary Hikers

This Picture is not watermarked.
Apparently it did not require too much hopping around
I make it no secret that I am huge fan of outdoors and hiking trips in Lebanon's beautiful mountainous regions. The great outdoors are sadly one of few things left that set this tiny piece of land apart from its surroundings. Unfortunately, this is changing towards the worst fairly quickly. The amount of forest-covered areas in Lebanon has radically dwindled by 35% in the last 40 years and I expect things to get even worse, but that's a whole different ball game from what I am about to discuss here. Right now I want to talk about something far less depressing.

Part of the joys, and often grievances, I have with going hiking with groups are the different characters you end up meeting. Most of them are usually entertaining, quirky and harmless. A few can however really drain the pleasure out of the entire trip to the point that it would take me a few weeks to join another outing.

They say "Sharing is Caring", and I since do care about the few persons that actually decide to kill-off valuable time they have, to actually read my musings, allow me to present:

The League of Extraordinary Hikers

A unique unmatched group of individuals with superhuman capabilities who have dedicated their entire existence to perfecting the art of going on group hikes. Who are these mysterious members of this secretive leagues. Their secret identities remain anonymous but the public knows them by their superhiker names...behold:
  1. The Mountain Goat
    The hiker known as such possesses great climbing capabilities that cross human skill level into the realm where only goats excel. The Mountain Goat Hiker needs no guide, and will often start off barefoot his or her separate trail alongside the official trail that everybody is following crossing back in forth using time warp techniques. Occasionally, they may realize they just ended up in the middle of nowhere and fall back in the ranks until they reach the bus.
  2. The PhotograHopper
    First, there were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but that was just for fun. The PhotograHopper is a breed that surfaced mostly thanks to digital photography. They will stop at every corner, climb rocks, slide down slopes and do ballerina poses just to grab a picture of an oak tree leaf. They are often recognized by the watermark added to the photos before being shared on social media channels. It's only normal that, with so much effort being put into these pieces of art, one would need to protect them from someone who would want to claim credit for that chamomile flower shot.
  3. The Eternally Dieting Hiker
    This breed of hikers joins the group seeking regular workouts in hope of intensifying their metabolic burn. They are often the most perseverant and rarely miss a weekend outing. They are usually recognized by their selection of special food, specially chosen to survive the hike and the sun, such as: Classic Pizza, Lebanese Thyme Bread (منقوشة),  Muffins, Croissant and to wash it all down a Diet soda of some sort. They posess polymorphic powers that make them appear 4 to 5 kilos heavier from one week to the next. Their motto: "I'm dieting all week, I need to eat while hiking or I will collapse"
  4. The Bleeding Feet Fashionista 
    Nowhere does it say that if you are going to walk on a trail made of a dirt road for 15 kilometers through thorn bushes, mud stretches, water streams, rocks,  rock splinters, slippery stones, unstable slippery gravel on mud with streams going over them, you can't wear your favorite Birkenstock, Converse, Lacoste or, what the heck, a pair of red soled Louboutins. Nowhere!
    (actually it's written in every event brochure that you need to get professional shoes but who reads that s%#^t anyway)
  5. The Mating Call Hiker
    If you have ever watched The National Geographic Channel, then you probably already know that in the wild, many animals use specific sounds to attract a partner of the opposite gender for the purpose of ensuring the survival of the species. This has been dubbed by scientists as The Mating Call. No different from other creatures the hiker may emit certain sounds on a hike to attract any potential mate from the hiker sub-species. Some of these sounds may be familiar to the untrained ear and referred to in plain English as: giggles, loud squeaky laughs as well as very loud conversations about gym workouts and associated food supplements.
  6. The Earphones Nightingale 
    The nightingale is a tiny bird very well known for its amazing song. It is that very same melody that this hiker believes him/herself to be generating when they shove the earphones of their music streaming device into their ears, crank up the volume and start singing along in what seems, to the rest of us in their vicinity, like some sacred chant in Elvish and other Middle Earth languages. Some theories suggest that the Earphone Nightingale may be a sub-group of the Eternally Dieting Hiker family, trying to hear themselves lose weight as they walk.
  7. The Laundry Soap Ad Hikers
    I have always been amazed at how Laundry detergent commercials can always address, expose and resolve life's most challenging conundrums within 30 seconds. It's like the answers was always in front of our eyes but we were just too blinded (by dirt) to see it. Now take that same deep philosophical exercise multiply it by 5 at least and loop it over a 5 hour hike. You've just met the Laundry Soap Ad Hikers and not even a musical commercial by Rahbani Brothers can remove this stain.
  8. The Omniscient Hiker
    Each outfit needs its Professor Xavier. The brain of the operation, the data bank of all hiking knowledge. That person is always there waiting for someone, anyone to ask a question any question.
    Asking "what's the time?" will lead you to a whole explanation on how you can tell time on the hike even if you did not have a watch or a phone, even at night, in a cave...underwater...The only person who is imprevious to the powers of the Omniscient Hiker  is The Earphones Nightingale 


April's Fools vs Google

Any resemblance between this picture
and real characters is purely coincidental 
I have been playing pranks on friends, colleagues and family for as long as I remember. And by prank, I could be referring to something from a very short "one-liner", all the way to a more complex elaborate set-up. The only rules I set for myself for running pranks were the following:
  1. Always keep it light
  2. Make sure that even the victim can find some humor in it eventually.
  3. Make sure nobody is hurt physically but also psychologically in the process.
  4. Never prank anyone on April 1st. 

While we may go into debate on how humor is subjective and how the victim might still be hurt and pretend to find it funny, I won't open that can of worms at this time. Instead i want to talk about the pranks that take place on April 1st and why I do not jump on the bandwagon with everybody on that day.

Humor is indeed subjective, some studies have associated it with intellect, others with cultural background and some with personalities. I think they are all right and that it's a mix of each.
So inviting everybody to pull off their own stunt is basically like having a prank-orgy day which, in my book, amounts to just one big accident waiting to happen.
Yes, yes, I know, I should lighten up but the amount of lame, half-baked jokes I have witnessed on this day has exceeded any tolerance level I could have.

And then came Google. With their carefully crafted, witty and well balanced jokes and hoaxes, they managed to restore my faith that April Fools' can be a fun thing especially for those of us with a lively presence online.
The list was endless and more and more creative as years went by. You can check it here on Wikipedia.

But then also came 2014. In the Era of the Hyper-Connected Society and Online Trends, almost anybody who was anybody, from Tech firms to SMEs decided they were...Google, and took a shot at being funny.
Well, here's news for you...you are not...pretty much like this post or my entire blog. It's not funny and humor is purely accidental here.
And here I am back to hating April 1st because of its fools...not the ones who fall victim to pranks but those who think they have succeeded in pulling a fast one.
This time over, we can't even hide online...Geez! thanks y'all...