Nora Ashmawi's Blog

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Here is a video I recently made for Fish World restaurant on how they make their scrumptious paella dish. Take the salivating test: try not to feel hungry or saliva during the video.. many fail ūüė¶



Probably my favorite word in the English language



Its bulging succulent b’s:

B bb

Its hefty, heavy vowels:

 u   e

Its roll-off-the-tongue-because-I’m-too-lazy-to take-the-stairs:


Onomatopoeia to my ears,

once sounded I can’t help but imagine a chubby, stubby boy —¬†

yet such a delicate word,

say it with care, for one err and you pop it!

Look at those big bellied b’s,

visual onomatopoeia to my eyes.

Look at u trying to be an a.

Meager unfinished attempt

it leaves us gliding in mid-air.

And what about that tall dainty l?

And that silent yet noticeable e

the freeloader that attaches itself to the end of so many words.

But who are we kidding?

Without that e we would have a lopsided


So perfect is the


That it deserves a capital B

that’s twice as many bellies.

B bb

 u   e


Say it with care, for one slight fault and you could end up with

R    b



                 e    .  ..

“If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?” – William Shakespeare.

This poignant quote by Shakespeare illustrates the prominence and presence of racism and disputes between people of varied colors, religions, and cultures. This problem still exists today…

The Clash of Ignorance is an article in The Nation written by Edward W. Said on October 22, 2001. Said is a renowned professional both in the Arab and the Western world. He was a professor of English and Comparative Literature in the University of Columbia who writes for many American and Arabic newspapers worldwide. The great writer passed away on September 2003.

Edward W. Said

Dr. Said

Dr. Huntington

Said¬†began his article by referring to Samuel Huntington’s 1993 article titled The Clash of Civilizations? which attracted much attention and reaction and attacked policy-makers. Huntington asserts that conflicts amongst countries will turn from ideological to cultural. Said reiterated the fact that the clash between Islam and the West earn the greatest, or “lion’s share” of the attention of “civilization identity.” It is said that the West fears and tries very hard to fend off Islam. Much of the West has persisted Islam and increased doing so because of the greater appearance of Muslims in Europe and the US. What these Westerns percieve is that the great Arab/Islamic conquests and power of the seventh century will repeat.

Most of the West and most probably its media has a distorted view of Islam. Said quoted one of Pakistan’s great writers, the late Eqbal Ahmad as claiming in a 1999 article in Dawn weekly, that it is near impossible¬†to study and recognize modern Muslims as an ideal sample of how the are supposed to be and act. Today’s Muslims (as well as Chritians and Jews), Ahmad argues, are concerned mainly with power and¬†mobilizing people for political purposes, as opposed to empowerment through the soul, ¬†and alleviating aspirations for a higher truth and peace. Therefore to attack modern day Islam because of the modern extremeists and atypical examples of Muslims, such as Osama Bin Laden, is a terrible error and would lead to a very muddy view of proper Islam.

There were weaknesses and strengths prevalent in Said’s article. One weakness was his beginning. Said started his fiery article with a quite bland or rather typical opening line. He opened with a sentence about the name and year of Huntington’s article and which magazine it is found it, concluding that it has claimed much attention and reaction. I feel that since Said has many interesting, relevant and insightful points, he shouldn’t have began with “Samuel Huntington’s article “The Clash of Civilzations?” appeared in the Summer 1993…” His article should begin strong so readers would be engaged and continue to read on.

Secondly, Said openly criticized Huntington for being an “ideologist” who “wants to make ‘civilizations’ and ‘identities’ into what they are not…” Although it is good that Said is able to recognize flaws in Huntington’s article, it is perhaps too honest or severe for Said to attack the writer with strong labels.

Another weakness I found in the article was that of biases. To illustrate, I will quote a part of Said’s article: “Huntington tried to give his argument a little more subtlety and many, many more footnotes; all he did, however, was confuse himself and demonstrate what a clumsy writer and inelegant thinker he was.” In my opinion this is an outright insult. It was too blunt for Said to defame Huntington and there are many other subtle ways to hint at readers that Huntington’s article is unreliable. Further, when Said openly portrays his biases, he loses credibility as a writer. Readers may now how suspicions as to whether all points made in the previous part of the article are also tainted with biases…

Having described the weaknesses, there are also many strengths that deserve mentioning. First, the title of Said’s article is a spoof or smart pun of Huntington’s article. Said names his article The Clash of Ignorance which mirrors the ignorance that Huntington and other generalizers have of Islam and the West.

Another strength that Said has in his article is that he uses a variety of sources. For example he uses sources from Pakistani writers, such as Eqbal Ahmad, as well as sources from Western writers such as Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington. This makes his article well-rounded and impartial. On a similar note, Said notices the flaw of Huntington’s sample because it consists of a minor number of some Muslim populations. Said points out that a all-encompassing and reminiscent of the entire population, something he asserts is near-impossible to do. Said says that doing this would confuse the mind induce stereotypes and generalizations.

Said concluded by thrashing¬†Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations claiming that it is “better for reinforcing defensive self-pride than for critical understanding of the bewildering interdependence of our time.”¬†In Said’s eyes, the matter of Islam, the West and the clashes they have are too complex to be understood at such a surface level. One must be careful not to generalize Islam and the West, this is one thing Said never forgot.

Hmm… I create my own avatar… So I can be anything I want to be? Do anything I want to do? What’s that? I can even fly? Open and develop a multinational company from my desk? Save the world? Second Life sounds great!

I am a spunny [s’p Ćn…™]. A ‘spunny’ is a four legged mammal, no bigger than the palm of an average human’s hand. They are most reminiscent of modern day bunnies and chipmunks. Spunnies are furry and their ears are half the length of their heads. They have a cotton ball-like tail on their lower back region. Male spunnies are blue and green, female spunnies are purple and pink, and those that are asexual are orange. When spunnies are angry, they turn into monotone shades of white, grey and black, depending on how angry they are.

Spunnies have a life span of 60 years in which they do not have the complications of grey hairs, slower motor reflexes, weakening bones, etc… as they age! Spunnies are adapted to all environments, cold, hot, even polluted ones. You see, spunnies have undergone a selective mutation process in which only the spunnies’ genes with traits and characteristics which help them strive in polluted areas are passed on. Spunnies have therefore developed a kind of inbuilt air filter in their noses. Their saliva also contains a higher level of SAK, (selective acidic killers). SAK recognize foreign and potentially dangerous antibodies, bacteria, contaminated food and kills them (with high acidic levels) before they enter further into the stomach and cause damage. Therefore, spunnies have the advantage of being immune to viruses and health problems. So, why do spunnies die at age 60? Well, why would you want these furry little creatures to live forever and overpopulate the world? Don’t worry though, their times to leave are very subtle. When a spunny passes away, it simply switches off, so to a spunny it feels like it is just dozing off. I have created spunnies to have remarkable bodily functions and systems which help them survive because these are traits that I, as well as many other people I’m sure, would love to have. Health is, in my opinion, one of the most crucial factors of life and spunnies are lucky that they do not need to worry about it.


10 Year-Old Female Spunny

How wonderful it is to be a spunny! Spunnies have many abilities that ordinary animals do not have, they speak and understand English, Arabic, French, Chinese and German, which allows them to interact with humans. Spunnies were first bred in Switzerland, Geneva and now live in our modern-day real-life world in almost every country around the globe. This means that they are able to affect and change our lives directly and quickly.

One major problem that my spunny, as well as other fellow spunnies will deal with is war. Spunnies have the ability to eradicate hatred in people so they will end conflict and war. Spunnies’ eyes emit un-violent rays. Un-violent rays alter and destroy the negative aura and violent feelings that are especially prevalent in human beings. It alters people’s harsh feelings so that they become loving humanitarians. Israelis, Palestinians, Indians, Pakistanis, Americans and Iranians will all be united and live in a harmonious world.

But all these are just dreams… Our Second Life characters, avatars, personalities, accomplishments, though they may peak into the real life by helping us meet new people, establish new ideas, invent new products, or realize new solutions to global warming, they cannot be substituted for real life movements and actions. These ideas we develop from Second Life mean nothing until we follow them through and translate them into tangible and realistic ideas. I agree, we should live in a world where extensive eating habits do not affect our weight, or little rainbow bunnies roam the streets (well, maybe that’s just my fantasy), but ideas that are too absurd, alien and unrealistic may not exactly work in our world, real world that is. Having said this, my dream for spunnies is strong and I am hopeful. Perhaps one day a little pink spunny will hop onto a war zone and end a war!

P. W. Singer writes a frighteningly surreal article titled Robots at War: The New Battlefield where robots and other highly advanced technologies are substitiuted for soldiers at war.

To summarize, Singer explains the hazards of IED (Improved Explosive Devices) and how EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams are sent on missions to disable or safely explode these devices. It seemed that the EOD team was effective because $50, 000 incentives were given to insurgents who could kill an EOD soldier. An example of a EOD soldier was 42-pound, $150, 000 PackBot. PackBot is an example of mastered engineering that allows flexibility of the robot so that it is able to climb, twist and squeeze through areas.

These robots are now commonly called “unmanned systems” and as of 2008 there has been a reported 12, 000¬†units operating.

Many of these¬†battlefield technologies were inspired by science fiction pieces such as H. G. Well’s 1903 short story Land Ironclads which led to Winston Churchill’s developments of the tank. One war robot¬†was inspired and designed to look like R2D2 of George Lucas’ Star Wars.

The technologically advanced robots are now available in an array of sizes and types. There are currently 22 different robot systems operating on the ground. However, this realm of surreal robots are taking over air and sea as well. A famous example of a UAV (Unmanned Aerial vehicle) is the Predator which is operated by a human pilot actually 7,500 miles away usually in the air force base in Nevada. The Wasp is an example of a smaller UAV with a tiny peanut-sized camera that allows soldiers to receive transmitted video surveillance of war sites or suspicious areas, thus keeping a safe distance.

The main functions¬†of “unmanned underwater vehicles” are to aid the Navy by¬†searching for hidden water¬†mines and chasing down pirates.

There is a plethora of advantages with the unmanned systems at war. A pertinent advantage that is often¬†emphasized is that it saves the lives of many soldiers by keeping them far from the dangers of war. As is mentioned in the article, soldiers can now operate at a base in the states, and make it in time for their child’s PTA! Other obvious advantages are that robots do not get hungry, afraid,¬†emotional, or forgetful. Also, the robots unlike humans do not require breaks. For these reasons, they are also able to perform the¬†“dull, dirty, or dangerous” jobs that humans may not be wiling to do. According to Singer “robots can do the same task in about a fifth the time and with greater accuracy” than humans. The unmanned system computers learn much quicker than human and share intelligence with fellow computerized soldiers through wiring and networks at digital speed.

In addition to the many advantages of unmanned system, there are many horrific disadvantages. First, many worry that working with robots has alleviated the horrors and seriousness of war that can even encourage more wars.

Secondly, the semi-automatic to¬†fully automatic modes of unmanned robots may pose great threats as their judgments of what is and isn’t the enemy¬†may be flawed. Take the U.S.S. Vincennes¬†for example. This ship¬†was equipped with the new Aegis radar system that would¬†detect then shoot down enemies, or rather, any foreign objects. The Navy crew on ship trusted the computer systems without second thought when it detected an overhead plane. When the missile was released it hit the Iran Air Flight 655 passenger jet killing all 290 passengers…

Another consequence of using robots for battle is that it portrays an apparently cost-less view of war that leads to greater masses accepting, and reinforcing the idea of war.

Some argue that the greatest disadvantage of war is the fact that postings of robot-versus-enemy video footage¬†are being viewed by people¬† as a form of entertainment. War that was once¬†viewer as a serious and threatening experience is¬†now a past-time as it¬†encourages voyeurism.¬†¬†As Singer rightly points out “the ability to watch more but experience less has a paradoxical effect.”

Singer ends his article by noting that “robots entail a dark irony” because by aiming to decrease the cost of¬†human lives at war, they seem to¬†increase the number of wars, which leads¬†to highly human cost, just on the other side of the battle field. Further, since citizens have no emotional attachment to the soldiers at war and therefore the idea of war,¬†¬†they are now able to look at war from an objective point of view and treat it like any other policy.¬†Society may grow cold-blooded responses¬†and reactions to one of the most volatile subjects on earth!

E-Learning Through Second Life

Second Life logo

Second Life logo

The MTV/gaming¬†generation labels todays education “ineffective, irrelevant and unproductive.” So what can be done to educate these youngsters short attention spans and a need for their electronic life-support? ¬†Dr. Tony Karrer has the answer, Second Life.

Second Life is a 3D online virtual world where learner become immersed into their topics of study. This system does not take away from the social interaction and development of students either. Learners are able to interact with different avatars and communicate with others, on orientation island of course.

This unique world allows learners to visit different periods of history and they become even more immersed in the environment because they are momentarily a part of it. Learners are able to have first hand interaction with places otherwise inaccessible , such as the inside of a Van Gogh painting, a Dell computer, or the Sistine Chapel! Language barriers are even shattered as learners from all over the world can interact using language translators on Second Life. In addition, time and space barriers are broken as users from all over the world can attend virtual lectures together at the same time!

Voice support is another tool, which allows users to extend their voices and speak in their virtual reality. This allows Second Life users to feel as though they are fully and wholly submerged into this virtual world, mind, body and soul.

Second Life E-learning encompasses many educational modules that stretch from history to geography, to science.  Within the science module, for example, learners will be able to view enlarged cells and even enter them. If schools wanted to teach students about cells they would use microscopes, and some schools even lack the necessary technology, Second Life removes this technological divide!

Karrer is therefore, in my opinion, a great thinker who has created a propitious pedagogy that is Second Life.

Second Life May Point to the Future, That’s Nothing to Call¬†‘Overhyped

Second Life is thought to have a great future, it may even become a huge million/billion dollar company sooner than we think, as David Kirkpatrick, the senior editor of Fortune magazine estimates.

Second Life is not a game, it is a second world, a newer form of social life that exceeds other social networks such as MySpace in the sense that it gives its users even more freedom more and greater creations that any other social network has done. It could be described as an empty platform on which users are free to build on.

One other advantage of Second Life is that it allows users to see and interact with users who are in a nearby location, virtually of course. It is amazing because a person (their avatar actually), who is a few steps away, may actually be a user who is on another continent!

Second Life still needs some time and work because right now the 1.3 million users who have managed to join it are either technical geniuses or those with a specific powerful computer system.

As Kirkpatrick optimistically estimates, give Second Life some time and it will soon be a place where¬†anyone who’s anyone will be.

The Reinvention of The Future of Interactive Fiction

The idea of allowing readers to become a co-creator of the fictional piece that they read is coming back!

My earliest memory of an interactive fiction is a book I owned from the Goosebumps series.¬†That book allowed me to read a chapter that ended with a¬†cliff-hanger and then I was able to choose the next chapter to read according to what I wanted to¬†see happen next in the¬†plot… Scary stuff!

The Guardian article dicusses how the interactive fiction is re-emerging in three different ways:

1. Original interactive fictional books are being re-packaged and sold, whereupon readers are reminded of the classical interactive books like Fighting Fantasy by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.

2. Interactive books are being created but with themes different from the typical fantasy theme. Newer themes are in a self-help style such as how to deal with relationships.

3. The idea of a wovel (web-novel) is created in which an author writes a  story online and depending on the votes he/she receives for the popularity or admiration for a chapter, that chapter will be the chosen as a part of the novel!

In all cases readers have a greater say in how they want the plot of a book to advance, some love the idea, others hate it. Should a reader have some say in what he/she wants to read? Does this take away from the excitement of not knowing what will happen next? Or should writers stick to typical fiction formats since they supposedly know best?

Yes Men to the Rescue!

According to their official website, the Yes Men is as follows:

“Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.”

The Yes Men imitate corrupt large corporate leaders but instead of speaking about positively about their positions and advocating their companies as any spokesperson would be excepted to do, the Yes Men openly and quite wittily unmask major problems and faults of companies. Sometimes they do so to aid humanity and other times to just unveil the truth.

One example of a Yes Man can be seen here. It consists of a Yes Man impersonating the Dow company spokesperson and apologising for the Bhopal, India toxic spill that occurred 3 years earlier. Many allusions to mistakes are made, portraying a corrupt corporate ethics that would otherwise remain unacknowledged and even denied!

Here is an image of a Yes Men invention which is a large self-containing balloon that one rests in, it is called the SurvivaBall!

Halliburton (a Yes Man) and his SurvivaBall

Halliburton (a Yes Man) and his SurvivaBall

The Yes Men claim that it will protect CEO’s and managers of large corporations from climate change and other effects of global warming. Quite a hilarious and ingenious way to mock unscrupulous and deceitful corporate leaders!

Views of the Yes Men vary, some say the movement is groundbreaking and is useful to informing society; others say that the Yes Men are not actually making an effective change to the problems that occur… Whether the Yes Men are helpful or not- you decide.

Yes Men

Yes Men

What Do These Articles Have in Common?

Well, many occurring themes include the latest uses of technology. Each article and website discusses the ways that technology and the internet can be more effectively used, whether it is to: connect users worldwide, enhance learning, spread the word of truth, or interact with authors to create a wovel!

An obvious similarity is that E-Learning Through Second Life and Second Life May Point to the Future, That’s Nothing to Call ‘Overhyped’ are associated to Second Life. Both the website and article commend Second Life and how it opens doors to new possibilities.

Although the Yes Men website also acts as a connector between people, it does so in a somewhat more political way. Instead of focusing on creating an online community, it aims to improve society, and happens to simultaneously connect people through similar interests.

My favorite website was the Second Life site that explained the function of Second Life through tutorial-like videos; this almost mimics the setting and experience of Second Life and makes it easier to imagine what it would be like to become a part of the Second Life community.

My online identity is different from my real life identity…

My real life identity is less diverse and less out-spoken than my online one, perhaps this is because of the greater pressure I feel to speak in public.

I have a diverse personality online because¬†there are many different online networks that I can easily and freely become a part of. I am a part of the Facebook network, (the fourth largest nation in the world), and within Facebook I am a member of a set of groups such as “Egypt: Om el ¬†Donya, ” “Hello…my name is nora,” “U.A.E. Pet Lovers” and many more.¬† Facebook is like a country to me, and its groups are the country’s states, cities and societies. I feel as though I am different in each society, or group, because I feel obliged to talk about only one topic… For example, when I am talking in “Hello…my name is nora” my only concern and focus is my name. I talk to people all over the world named Nora, and I become more aware of my name, its origins, what it sounds like and what I dislike about people’s pronunciation of it.. I forget about my other characteristics and focus on one.

I am a fan of many online networks, sites and web pages; here is the¬†art gallery site of a painter that I only discovered online and by accident.¬†¬† The artist’s name is Elizabeth LaChance and I am absolutely infatuated and inspired¬†by her colorful, vibrant¬†pieces that seem to balance on the line between realistic depictions and fantastical depictions…

Here is one piece by LaChance titled Bubbly Sensation. I appreciate the cool colors, and how it gradually changes from green to blue. I also like the juxtaposition of the round “bubbles” with the linear style.. A purely uplifting sensation!

Bubbly Sensation, By LaChance

Bubbly Sensation, By LaChance

Another webpage I recently visited and would recommend others to visit is this page contains the script for Blood Simple which is a script I fell in love with though I have not seen the film itself!  Blood Simple is the first film by the Coen brothers, who also went on to write and direct such films as Fargo, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and Burn After Reading.

Another change I have gone through because of the internet and its online community is that I have become a more do-it-yourself kind of person. No longer do I¬†need to what for a doctor’s advice for what to do in case of¬†trivial quandries; now when I what to know¬†how to lose weight or erradicate¬†runny noses, or even¬†split ends, I simply go to¬†One important point to make is that¬†I use such informal medical sites with great discretion, by which¬†I mean I do not¬†inquire about life-treatening¬†or major illnesses. I also like to play it safe by visiting this site because all treatments are¬†¬†herbal or natural, I believe you can never go wrong by using organic products from nature.

Finally, I enjoy using Google-images to look for an overall collection of images, and this way I do not limit myself to specific websites and authors.

Google screenshot
Google screenshot
You can see why I prefer Google to other search engines… It has a clean, simple-to-navigate, layout. It only consists of the necessities: Option for search (web, image, videos…), sign in for Gmail, and a few other options, as well as this it has a clear, white background.
In contrast:
Dogpile screenshot

Dogpile screenshot

Has too much images and distracting text. The links such as horoscopes, download toolbar, SearchSpy, etc.. are futile especially when I have a set idea about what I am looking for. In my opinion this page becomes crowded and messy, although I do love the little dog!
At the same time Yahoo, Google’s key competitor is over simplified. Whether I am just accustomed to Google’s page or not, Yahoo’s page seems to have empty space on the top and bottom..
Yahoo screenshot

Yahoo screenshot

In conclusion, these are the main reasons that Google is my number one search engine.

I used this wider search to find some images of classic advertisements, they are posted on my media library, please feel free to look through them and read the comments I made on them.. Tell me what you think about them too, I thought one of them was hilarious!




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  • norashmawi: Hey Yasmin! I am on both! On Twitter I'm @norashm and on LinkendIn.. I'm just there too! Hope you're doing well!!
  • Yasmin Helal: Where are you old friend? Can't find you on Twitter or LinkedIn!!
  • nazgolhrh: Good job on your blog... great word choice and creative as always.