AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: May 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

Haribo candy, in order of yumminess

I clearly remember one wish I made as a five-year-old girl. We lived on a rooftop apartment in Riyadh, and it was late at night right before bedtime.

I closed my eyes really tight and wished that one day I could eat all the Haribo I ever wanted.

It was a wish that quickly came true, even before I was old enough to go to the store to choose my own candy. It is a wish that still comes true, almost every day — dental health be damned.

Haribo candy, in order of yumminess:

1. Haribo Tropic Fruit

2. Haribo Raspberry
raspberry

3. Haribo Cherries

4. Haribo Strawberry

5. Haribo Funny Mix

6. Haribo Cola

7. Haribo Worms

8. Haribo Dinosaurs

9. Haribo Gummy Bears

10. Haribo Crocs

11. Haribo Jelly Beans

12. Haribo Banana

13. Haribo Peaches

14. Haribo Rainbow Bars

The Two-column Content Trend in Web Design Should DIE

I’m really hating this stupid trend of two-column content with endless scrolling.

WTF, I only have one pair of eyes. I can’t read both vertically and horizontally at the same time.

Case in point, Buzzfeed, with THREE columns of information (below). They aren’t categories or anything like that, they’re unrelated modules of content.

It is frustrating.
Buzzfeed design

But whatever. I’m not often on Buzzfeed so I don’t really care. But then… last week… the sacrilegious happened. Boing Boing, MY FAVORITE BLOG IN THE WORLD reverted to a two-column content layout and I wanted to rip my heart out.

Boing Boing website

What were they thinking? I can’t scroll down to read ALL the features then scroll back up and scroll back down again to read ALL the blogs. It’s just counter-intuitive. Sadly, comfortable reading is so important to me that I can’t even read my favorite blog anymore :(

It makes me really sad.

Seriously, what’s wrong with the regular one-column-of-content user interface? It works so well. Why break something that works?

But you know what really freaks me out… that I’m getting too old for this shit. Could it be that my eyes are so used to something that I can’t get used to something else? Or is it just horrible UX design?

Someone to speak about justice

I’m a writer. I have the ability to use words to describe how I feel.

I’m a blogger. I have access to a steady Internet connection. I have the know-how. I’ve been dumping my thoughts and feelings online for all the world to see for 10 years.

I saw this picture yesterday of the Pope in Bethlehem, praying over the horrendous separation wall built by the racist Zionist state. I’m not a spiritual person. It wasn’t the prayer nor the Pope that moved my heart.

It was the graffiti. I can feel the person who spray-painted it on the wall. This person is suffocated. This person has things to say. This person wishes the world would listen.

Check out the new face of McDonald’s Happy Meal

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And in other news, the new McDonald’s Happy Meal mascot looks like the illegitimate child of Steven Tyler and Microsoft Words Clippy.

Edraak: Arabic-language, free education for all

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Edraak is a new initiative that provides free high-quality courses in Arabic for anyone. As someone who finds formal education completely useless and as I learned most of what I know today on the web, I am very excited about the potential of such a platform. The partners are amazing too, which makes a huge difference: MIT, Harvard, AUB, and Bayt.com.

Open education is one of the most beautiful concepts in the world. Most of us do not have the luxury of being able to afford attending educational institutions like Harvard and MIT, and many of us are not fluent in English. But with Edraak, we can all take a course in Arabic with world-class educators without paying a single penny or having to travel half-way across the world. Classes are weekly, and they come complete with assignments and everything.

I am really proud that Edraak is a Jordanian initiative. Those who know me are familiar with my passion for copyleft, Creative Commons, and the open-source movement. Information, after all, should be free. It should be accessible. Education is a basic human right, and since Jordan’s educational infrastructure and economy are not going to be able to allow us to go through the much-needed educational reforms any time soon, Edraak is certainly a silver lining.

It is also amazing that we’re giving back as we start to get. Edraak runs and gives back to EdX, an open-source platform.

Information should be free. Here’s to information freedom, and a world where ideas and knowledge are not owned or controlled, but are instead tools to change lives.

You can register for a course on Edraak today. Courses start in June.

The Arab World Online in 2014: Research

One of my favorite surveys we produce is the Bayt.com Internet survey, this year done in collaboration with the Mohammad Bin Rashid School of Government.

For those of us who love the Web, work on the Web, and find the Web particularly important, it’s fascinating to see the changing trends. Highlights from the survey:

1. The economic impact of Internet growth in the Arab region will only increase going forward. For example, in 2020, it is estimated that around 20 percent of the labor market in the Middle East and North Africa region will be related to internet and technology industries4. Unlike other mature sectors in Arab economies, these fast-growing industries will provide the majority of the badly needed new jobs.

2. Limited availability of relevant Arabic content online is a key barrier facing Arab Internet users. If we take Wikipedia as an example of digital knowledge production, less than 0.9 percent of the 31 million articles created online on that platform in the 285 language, are in Arabic. An insignificant figure, if one considers that the population of the Arab world today is more than 5 percent of the world.

3. “Accessibility and connectivity”, “cost” and “lack of content in my language” were the top three challenges facing internet users in the region.

android

4. Online purchasing trends are more positive than in previous waves of this research:
• 64% of respondents have never purchased books online
• 54% of respondents have never purchased airline tickets online
• 76% of respondents have never purchased movie/theater tickets online
• 55% of respondents don’t purchase other items online

apps

5. 61% of respondents agreed that they could not live without the internet.

6. 79% of respondents indicated that the internet has made them more involved in their communities.

apps

child

You can download the whole research paper here: http://www.bayt.com/en/research-report-20422/

A Ten-minute Guide to the Best and Worst Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Out There

In 2011, I decided to finish reading all the gems of science fiction and fantasy. Ever since, I have stuck to this decision, consuming hundreds of the sci-fi/fantasy titles and little else.

Tell me what you want to read about. Dragons? Swords? Space exploration? Interstellar warfare? Robots? Steam punk? Superhero fiction? Vampires? Alien invasion? Time travel? Alternate history? Lost worlds? Cyber fiction? The paranormal? I’ve read SO MANY such books that I’ve lost track of themes, authors, and titles. Some books considered great by the critics were so insignificant that I have a hard time remembering if I read them.

And I fell in love with some books that might not be so significant to the critics.

One of my favorite fantasy writers is Patrick Rothfuss, the author of a projected three-volumed fantasy series called “The Kingkiller Chronicles“. Keyword is “projected”, has only published two books in his life. Get that? Two. But those two books were so brilliant that I clearly remember the plot, the names, the feeling, and the characters. That’s a tough feat to accomplish.

You know who I absolutely and utterly dislike?

Neil Gaiman. I couldn’t get myself to enjoy any of his books.

And you know who’s worse?

Terry Pratchett.

His acclaimed Discworld series is one of the most boring things I ever read in my life.

On the other hand, Chris Paolini’s “Inheritance Cycle” is excellent. He’s just amazing with words. When I googled opinion of Paolini, most people dismissed his books as a thinly-veiled retelling of Tolkein‘s “The Lord of the Rings“. To that, I say “EHHH, it looks like you never read Terry BrooksSword of Shannara Series.” Now THAT my friends is blind theft of a plot. The direct plagiarism of LOTR made my heart cringe with every page. HORRIBLE. And he’s actually really famous and stuff.

I really loved Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, and I was ecstatic to find that Robin is a woman. Her books are so alive, the characters so rich, and the plots so different. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is lovely too. It has been the only book to make me tear up in over ten years.

Back to the bad. R.A. Salvatore can’t keep a straight thought, and Roger Zezlany, although very famous, read like cheap pulp fiction. AWFUL.

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series is lovely. They’re so much fun to read it’s insane. Isaac Asimov is probably the best author in history of the world. I’ve never read an Asimov that I didn’t enjoy — whether a short story or sinfully and deliciously huge series like “Foundation”.

I greatly enjoyed the experience of reading Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel’s Trilogy”. It’s immensely different than anything I ever read, and I found myself enjoying it.

Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle of Leibowitz was TERRIBLE, with terrible capitalized.

Ursula Le Guin was a nice read too. Her books make me all fuzzy inside.

I thought I’d hate the Joe Haldman’s The Forever War, mainly because I hate military fiction, but it was actually really good. Speaking of military fiction, Osron Scott Card’s Ender Game series is one of the best things I’ve ever read.

Arthur C. Clarke is awesome, if only because he makes you SO uncomfortable. He also makes you think a lot too.

Dan Simmon’s Hyperion was a good, entertaining read, as was Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.

From Larry Niven, I really loved Ringworld but I really hated The Mote in God’s Eyes.

I couldn’t finish Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-five”, which sounds sacrilegious, but it’s the truth. I also couldn’t handle talking animals in Richard Adam’s “Watership Down”, which is borderline absurd as this is a list that solely covers fantasy and science fiction.

Robert Heinlein is genius, but he manages to lose me, somehow.

That’s it for now. The ones I remember.

Visual Stereotypes: Africa

The blog Africa Is A Country is taking lazy book cover designers to task, because apparently a silhouetted acacia tree = Africa.

Via Quipsologies

Sponsored video: Creation of Genesis: Philosophy

This is a sponsored video.

The Pocket Guide to Detecting Bullshit

Here’s a handy guide to making sure you’re not getting your info screwed over.

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