Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Eve.

It’s the festive season. Christmas Eve started in the traditional manner with carol singing at Ibrahim and Randa’s place.

Ibrahim and Sarmad in fine voice!

Then on to Linda’s Mom’s for Christmas dinner. The food was great, fondue night as usual. The meat and the chocolate fondues were delicious, however, the cheese fondue was a flop! Linda and I blamed it on the mixture of cheeses that was recommended by our delicatessen.

Linda jumping for joy... Sarmad holds his head in embarrassment!

Kina and Paul place Jesus in the manger at midnight.

Stephie and mom Nancy

Jason, Stephie and Peter get ready to open their presents.

Everyone managed to open lots of presents, specially the young ones.

No. 1 opened!

Peter overjoyed with this lot!
The older ones turn now
Paul capturing the moment
Lori and Simon finding out what they each got!

Mike receiving one of his presents

Linda's happy with what she's got!

Kina with her unexpected surprise - The calligraphy set.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Festive Season!

Isn’t it typical? For one and a half months we don’t see a drop of rain, and then … bang; a snowstorm with snow falling at 500m and above!

The first snow this winter

When the clouds lift...

...The magnificent snow-capped mountains appear

That was in the morning of the 27th. In the evening we had a BHS old scholars get-together. Joe Assad and I have been exchanging emails for nearly a year though we’d never met. He was 4 years above me at school, so I didn’t know him from then either. Being the Lebanese Consul to the Philippines he is based in Manila, but was over in Lebanon for a brief visit, and it was a chance to finally meet.

Amer and Mirna had come over from Abu Dhabi for the holidays. Ibrahim was over from Kuwait for the holidays, and Rima brought along Gaby Habib who also was over from Abu Dhabi for a couple of days. Ramez Sawabini was also over from Saudi/Bahrain, so the whole list was as follows:

Joe Assad
Ramez Sawabini
Gaby Habib
Amer and Mirna Kurdi
Ibrahim and Randa Qamar
Christine Sabieh
Rima Maatouk
Hoda Wallace
Mona Shour
Linda and I

Naji Raad and his daughter as well as Faris Araktingi and his girlfriend Michelle were supposed to join us at some stage but unfortunately could not make it.

The gang... L to R: Gaby, Rima, Amer, Mona (hidden), Christine, Randa, Ibrahim, Ramez, Hoda, Linda, Sarmad & Joe

Hoda and Ramez

Linda and Sarmad

Sarmad and Joe

L to R: Ibrahim, Rima, Linda, Ramez, Joe, Gaby (hidden), Amer, Mirna, Christine & Randa.

R to L: Randa, Christine, Mirna, Amer, Rima (partially hidden), and Gaby

Amer, Mirna and Mona

L to R: Standing: Ibrahim, Amer, Gaby, Sarmad, Ramez, Christine, Joe

Sitting: Hoda, Randa, Mirna, Mona, Linda, Rima

We had a wonderful time at Kasr Fakhrildinne restaurant in Brummana, followed by a night cap at Ibrahim and Randa’s house.

Night cap at Ibrahim and Randa's

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Graceful Exit!


When Google Answers debuted in the spring of 2002, we, the undersigned, enjoyed the unique opportunities of participating as Google Answers Researchers.

At this time, we wish to publicly express our gratitude to Google, and especially to Andrew Finks and Lexi Baugher, the visionary team behind Larry Page’s rough idea for Google Answers. Finks and Baugher created and championed not only a premium Q&A feature for Google, they unwittingly set into motion the creation of a premium Internet community.

We wish to also publicly thank our many loyal clients without whom Google Answers would not have been successful. For nearly five years, we delighted in tackling your informational challenges, many times learning from the knowledge you requested.

While we are saddened by Google’s decision to retire the Google Answers feature, we are proud to have served such an impressive company, software team, and client base, in our capacities as information specialists.

“Learning is not attained by chance,” wrote Abigail Adams, “it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

We agree.

Knowledge_Seeker-ga: Kimberly Gerson, Ontario, Canada
Tlspiegel-ga: Toby Lee, Phoenix AZ, US
Guillermo-ga: Guillermo Arnaudo, Patagonia, Argentina
Journalist-ga: Emily Moore, Knoxville TN, US
Rainbow-ga: Linda Al-Wadi, Lebanon
Cynthia-ga: Cynthia Lystad, Seattle WA, US
Till-ga: Tillmann Stoffel-Kueppers, Juelich, Germany
Missy-ga: Maggie Brazeau, Toledo OH, US
Hedgie-ga: Petr F., Czech Republic, EU
Crabcakes-ga: Barbara (Susie) Cannon, Glendale AZ, US
Politicalguru-ga: Tamar PG
Umiat-ga: June Dufford, Utah, US
Eiffel-ga: Roger Browne, England, UK
Mother911-ga: Ralph Peragine, Long Island NY, US
Scriptor-ga: Oliver Henkel, Germany
Pafalafa-ga: David Sarokin, Washington DC, US
Answerfinder-ga: Phil George, UK
Clouseau-ga: Bob Ulius, Palo Alto CA, US
Hummer-ga: Patricia B., Québec, Canada
Nenna-ga: Jennifer Pringle, Omaha NE, US
Angy-ga: Angela Cockburn, Sydney NSW, AU
Czh-ga: Clara Horvath, California, US
Aceresearcher-ga: Jo, US and New Zealand
Mathtalk-ga: Chip Eastham, Knoxville TN, US
Mvguy-ga: Montana, US
Byrd-ga: Chris Rogers, Austin TX, US
Sublime1-ga: John Everest, Phoenix AZ, US
Tutuzdad-ga: Mike Simmons, Arkansas, US
Keystroke-ga: Chapel Hill, North Carolina, US
Larre-ga: L. Rowan
Bobbie7-ga: Bobbie

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Another famous win!

Newcastle score first!

Into Half Time losing

With 12 1st team players out injured, Newcastle win by the skin of their teeth!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Up and Running

Now that Linda has gotten over the end of Google Answers, she is looking towards the future. With a view of starting her own research venture, she’s joined some of the other GA researchers in a blog called Web Owls. She’s also working on creating her own blog which will be called Rainbow Searches. Over the next few days she’ll be working on establishing some of the necessary tools she will require for that project. She’s grateful to Debi for helping her out with some of the web-based features. It also seems that my blogging experience has come in handy!

The following is her newly created profile:

Rainbow-GA - Moving on

“I was a Researcher with Google Answers from its inception in May 2002 until the service was discontinued by Google in December 2006. My researcher name is rainbow-ga, I've answered approximately 1300 questions. My ratings, customer comments and samples of my work are available for viewing here.

I have worked on a wide variety of topics, ranging from
find that movie/book/song to compiling lists of companies operating in Poland that are at least 51% owned by foreign investors.

An American based in the Middle East, I have a full command of both English and Arabic, and modest knowledge of French.

I am readily available for private research projects. If you would like research to be carried out, please contact me at or leave a message here and I will get back to you.”

So watch this space. I'll keep you updated on her news.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Google Answers Disgoogled!

Cyber world is saddened to hear the news of the demise of Google Answers. From end of November no more new questions were posted, and researchers have until the end of December to answer whatever questions that are left unanswered or unexpired.

As many of you will know, Google Answers is a professional service that Google provided where people paid to have questions on any subject answered by professional researchers. There are approximately 500 Google researchers around the world. Linda is one of them, and the only one in the Middle East.

The announcement by Google to suspend this service has generated a lot of debate on the internet. You’ve only got to look at a couple of sites like Google's Blog
and Digg to see how various people have reacted to the news. A petition has been initiated to be signed and sent to Google to keep this service, which is highly valued and respected, alive.

Not taking it lying down!

Some people have interpreted this action by Google to be a surrender to Yahoo, MSN or Amazon, who provide an answer service for free. Others are not interested in getting free answers. They cite professionalism at Google Answers where there are long-standing, highly experienced, answerers whom they could trust.

Many people asked questions that were important to their lives and livelihoods. People placed their confidence in a Google Researcher when asking, for example, what are the chances of a certain type of cancer recurring after 5 years of remission, or asking for academic research purposes how many companies operating in Poland that were at least 51% owned by non-Polish investors.

On the rare occasion when a researcher gave an incorrect answer, Google provided a guarantee that people got their money refunded. The guarantee backed up by Google’s name and reputation meant something.

However, this closure has raised a number of concerns.
People’s confidence in Google is now shaken. The action Google took to suddenly, and without warning, close down a service has set a worrying precedent. Will Google suddenly and without warning close down Blogger or Picasa or Gmail?

Google is a multi-billion Company, how much did it really cost it to keep the Google Answers service operational. How much does it take to keep it running? How much would it have taken to promote it better? Alternatively, why didn’t Google offer this service up for sale instead of shutting it down?

This service was maintained by a small number of Editors, understood to be 4 or 5 personnel. It was almost a self-sustaining operation kept going by a group of pretty smart individuals, some of whom were experts in fields of law, medicine and other professions. Some of those researchers were incapacitated; others relied on Google Answers as their only source of income. Many, like Linda, had a lot of fun working on Google Answers. It was an addictive hobby that she loved. It was perfect for her: it was online, she worked from home whenever she wanted, and was able to make time for other things in her life.

A Google Answers Researchers Tools

Google Answers Researchers formed close friendships over the years although most of them have never met each other. For sure most of them will eventually find something else to do on the ‘net, but for now it’s sad to see this service disappear.

Monday, November 27, 2006

New Newcastle?

Yesterday I witnessed a miracle in the happening. While Linda took an afternoon nap I watched as Newcastle United entertained Portsmouth at St. James’ Park and played with much passion and great determination. They won a creditable 1-0, although they could have easily scored 3 or 4 but for Portsmouth’s goalie “Calamity” James, now sporting a new hairstyle that resembles that of Superman’s. Newcastle hadn’t won a league game at home since August and haven’t won a league game, home or away, in 10 weeks.

The hallowed turf at St. James' Park, Newcastle United's home ground

They were briefly languishing in the relegation zone at one stage, however a very good draw against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last Saturday, and yesterdays magnificent performance, meant they have now jumped all the way up from 18th to 17th in the Premiership.

Newcastle have been very unfortunate with the number of key players that have been and are still injured. The team that played yesterday was by no means the “1st” team, and yet they came up with a stellar performance against a team which is in 4th place in the league. The performance of Dyer, Solano, Emre, Martins, Sibierski (the goal scorer), Ramage, and Taylor was very encouraging. Shay Given was hardly troubled in goal. Even the usually unreliable Bramble put in a solid performance. Three players who also played very well were added to the long injury list: Captain Scott Parker, Charles N’Zogbia and James Milner.

Contrary to their league form, Newcastle’s European form has been excellent, coming up with surprising wins against Palermo away from home, and Celta Vigo and Fenerbahce at home. Those wins mean that Newcastle are through to the knock-out stages of the EUFA Cup and top their Group with 9 points out of 9. It’s just as well that they have qualified to the next stage because they travel to Frankfurt for their next match against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday without Parker, N'Zogbia, Moore, Duff, Ameobi, Bernard, Babayaro and of course Owen. James Milner might be a possible for that game and Steven Carr could come back from injury too. Although Newcastle will be happy to have qualified they would still like to win and stay top of their group, because depending on where they end up in the group determines which opposition they face. The higher up they end up in the group the weaker the opposition (in theory) they will face in their first knock-out match.

Maybe Newcastle have turned a corner.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bridges and BBQ

The weather in Lebanon has been absolutely beautiful these last few days. The forecast is for this weather to continue at least till the end of the month. It’s unbelievable that we’re now over halfway through November and the weather is so mild.

In Brummana daytime temperatures are reaching 17º, night time temperatures not falling below 13º. On the coast they’re about 5º higher on both counts.

On Sunday Linda and I went down to Lori and Simon’s house in Fghal. This was the first time we’d gone there since the war in July. With us came Kina, Mike, Paul and Naimy. November is normally when Simon sets up his “kirke” to distil Arak. This year we had the added bonus with the weather being warm enough to have a barbeque outdoors.

Fghal is about 300m above sea level just south of Batroun. The fastest route to Fghal is along the coastal highway, this gave us a chance to survey the damage to all four bridges that were bombed by the Israelis during the summer war, and check out the progress made in rebuilding them.

The first bridge we come across is the Maamaltein bridge just north of Home City. I did not manage to take pictures of the repair work there. Only the south bound carriageway was bombed on this bridge, so heading north there’s no detour, and traffic flowed smoothly. On the southbound carriageway an asphalt bypass has been built.

The next bridge is the Casino bridge. Again, only the south bound carriageway was bombed on this bridge, however, traffic is directed both ways on the north bound carriageway and there was quite a traffic jam there.

The Casino Bridge soon after it was bombed on 4th August 2006

Casino Bridge on 19th November 2006

The next bridge is the Halat, or Fidar, bridge just before Jbeil (Byblos). This bridge was completely destroyed. However, an asphalt bypass had been laid, which goes down to the river bed and back up, making it pretty steep.

Halat or Fidar Bridge when it was bombed on 4th August 2006

Halat (Fidar) Bridge on 19th November 2006

The fourth bridge that was bombed along this highway is the Madfoun bridge. The turnoff to Fghal is just before that bridge, however, one can have a panoramic view of that bridge from the road up to Fghal.

Madfoun Bridge soon after it was bombed on 4th August 2006

Madfoun Bridge on 19th November 2006

On to the Arak, Simon managed to distill 7 gallons, which is pretty good going. Of course, sampling of last year’s vintage is also part of the tradition.

Simon's kirke for distilling Arak

Once the BBQ lit up the smell of cooking chicken and steak soon wafted into the air. One would assume that this would be the last BBQ this year, however, you never know with this unusual weather.

BBQ in November?

Brummana Pictures

I know that many of you would love to see some pictures of Brummana. Therefore I will be posting, from time to time, pictures taken from in and around the Brummana area. I'll start with a small collection that I took from the Kamel's house terrace. These were taken on 30th June 2006, during the BHS summer reunion, when Mrs. Amal Kamel, and her daughters Juhaina, Samar, Nahia and Sana graciously invited our group of BHS 70's friends over for breakfast.
Pictures of the actual gathering will be posted on the BHS70s website hopefully sometime in December 2006. I'm actually working now on resizing those and uploading onto the site.

The view towards grand Hills Hotel Resort

The view towards Grand Hills Hotel Resort zoomed in

The view towards Grand Hill Hotel Resort Zoomed in further

Rizk Plaza.

This place was bombed April 2005, in the period when bombs were going off on a regular basis.

Old House... We think Marie Hanna used to live there in the 70's. Can anyone confirm this?