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Friday, March 09, 2007
Metaphorically Nailed To The Door Of An Egyptian Mosque
The picture at left is taken from a post titled Kareem Amer: "Your Blessings, O Azhar!" at Free Kareem dot org. I post the text, as it existed in the original Arabic, due to the sheer beauty and passion of the statement it represents. Below is an excerpt from the translation of the text at left, produced by a group called "The Free Kareem Coalition." They encourage distribution of this text, and I'm eager to share it.
Please note that this post was dated 10/28/06. Kareem was interrogated two days later, and arrested on 11/06/06. It is assumed that his thought crimes against the state of Egypt will lead to possible lifetime incarceration.
Emphasis in bold text below is mine. -- BG
Your Blessings, O Azhar! (Excerpts)
By Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman (Kareem Amer)
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Several hours ago, a summons reached my house, demanding my presence to appear for an investigation next Monday at the Moharram Bek Prosecutor Office. This is due to the investigations that the Prosecutor is initiating in the case that Al-Azhar raised with me by its intervention in what I write and publish outside its walls, on the free cyberspace that does not acknowledge any authority on what its users publish on it. It seems that the 'blessings' of Al-Azhar, which I vainly imagined that I had gotten rid of after I had obtained my liberation document from it, still follow me to this day. The summons by the Prosecutor to investigate me on this matter is one of the manifestations of these 'blessings', which do not leave their companion until he is in a situation similar to that of Dr. Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, whose Al-Azhar blessings resulted in a court ruling that separated him from his wife; or in a similar situation to that of Dr. Ahmed Sobhi Mansour, whose Al-Azhar blessings resulted in him going to jail and then being forced to permanently emigrate from the country; or, at best, they leave him in a situation similar to that of Dr. Nawal Al-Saadawi, Ahmed Al-Shahawy, and others whom Al-Azhar has always recommended and recommends the confiscation of their writings, and the prevention of their distribution in the market.
I'm not afraid at all. My happiness that the enemies of free thought deal with me by employing such methods - which only the intellectually bankrupt excel at - make me more confident of myself, more steadfast in my principles, and on readiness to face anything for the sake of expressing my free opinion, without any restrictions imposed on me by governments, religious institutions, or even the totalitarian society, whose continuation serves these vile methods that the enemies of thought and the hobbyists of drugging, either by religion or by drugs, are no good at employing.
The mere existence of legal provisions that criminalize freedom of thought, and punish to prison whoever criticizes religion in any way, is considered to be a grave defect in the law. The law was supposed to be founded to regulate the relationships of the individuals in the society, not for suppressing their freedom for the benefit of religion, the law itself, or the social order. The human being - the individual - is the first, and his existence preceded everything. On that basis, criminalizing the human being for criticizing the social order, religion, or authority - which are things that came following the appearance of the first human being - is considered to be a grave defect in these laws. Such laws greatly transgress their powers to intervene in matters pertaining to the freedom of the personal individual, which is the sanctified area that no human being, regardless of who he is, has the right to transgress.
I hereby declare, in all frankness and clarity, my rejection and repudiation of any law, any legislation, and any regime that does not respect the individual's rights and personal freedom, and does not acknowledge the absolute freedom of the individual in doing anything - as long as he does not affect anyone around him in a physical way -, and does not acknowledge the individuals' absolute freedom in expressing their opinions, whatever they may be and whatever they cover, as long as this opinion is merely an opinion or words coming from a person, and is not coupled with any physical action that harms others. At the same time, I declare, in all clarity, that such laws do not obligate me in any way, and I do not acknowledge them or their existence. I detest, from the depths of my soul, whoever works on implementing them, whoever uses them as a guide, and whoever is satisfied with their existence or benefits from them. And if these laws are forced upon us, and we have no power or strength in changing them because that is in the hands of those in power with agendas, who are more than satisfied for the existence of such laws and are making use of it: Nevertheless, all of this will not push me into submission, or into waiting for relief and appeasement.
I hereby declare that I do not acknowledge the legitimacy of my summons to investigate a matter like this, which is within the realm of my freedom to express my opinions. This freedom was stipulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Egypt has supposedly signed. Moreover, setting this declaration aside, and even if it did not exist, and even if Egypt did not sign it, human rights are very self-evident matters that do not require legislations or laws to regulate them or to define their essence.
To every gloating and spiteful person among those who envision that the likes of these primitive measures might change my positions, affect me, or force me to stray from walking in the path that I have set for myself, I say: Die in your rage and hide in your burrows. I shall not recant, not even by an inch, from any word I have written. These restrictions will not preclude my dream of obtaining my freedom, for that has been my wish ever since I was a child, and it will continue to run in my imagination in endlessness.
And to Al-Azhar University, its professors, and its Islamic scholars, who stood and are still standing against anyone who thinks in a free manner, far away from their metaphysical aspects and superstitions, I say: You will end up in the junkyard of history, and when that time comes, you will not find anyone to cry over you. Rest assured that your grasp will disappear as has happened with others like you. Happy is he who took advice from others!
Monday, March 05, 2007
Looking For Your Advice...
There's a career-related issue that's really bugging me, and after talking with Heather this morning, I'm probably even a little cloudier on things than I was before. I'm curious to know what you think...
I work as a consultant. I was hired in four years ago as a "Specialist," which is an entry-level title with my company, at my old position in Michigan. A year ago last month I was approached to pitch in "temporarily" on a small account in Pennsylvania in order to repair the damage done by the person who was onsite previously. That person was also a "Specialist," and had a "Manager" who did not work onsite with her.
Long story short, because of the nature of the damage done, I was tasked to take control of putting the pieces back together again, and from day one on the job here (March 2006) I was doing the job of a "Manager" despite my "Specialist" title.
A Manager is two notches on the ladder above a Specialist, with "Senior Specialist" in between.
Anyway, the temporary gig turned into permanent in late April 2006 when my Regional Manager (RM) saw how I had turned things around. At that time, I was looking to get out of Michigan anyway, and was really excited about a job in Oregon with my company. Unfortunately, that was taken off the table when they decided they "needed" me here.
Oregon would have been a promotion (to "Senior Specialist"). I did not receive a promotion to come to Pennsylvania, but it was explained to me that it was in my best long-term interest to wait on the promotion. The rationale sucked, but made sense, so I put my trust in my RM that I would be taken care of*.
*Here's the rationale, if you care: The revenue generated at an account dictates the staffing level. Since this account is small, it only "needs" a Specialist. There were some things in the works last April that would have increased the program's revenue that were out of my control, but always right around the corner. Had I taken a promotion in April, and had the revenue increased, they wouldn't have given me ANOTHER raise. The thought was: watch the revenue increase (again, not in my control), make the business case that the account "needs" someone at a Manager level, then promote me to that job. It would have been better for my paycheck in the long run. Naturally, none of these revenue increases have come to fruition, and that's why I am where I was four years ago title-wise.
Since April of last year, I saved this account (we were getting kicked out prior to my arrival), and am doing the job of a Manager. I am the only Specialist who reports directly into the RM in our company, and am the only Specialist working on an account that does not have a Manager.
In other words, I'm the Manager. My title and paycheck don't agree, but I'm running this program, and no one would disagree with that.
My RM has been really supportive, begging me for my patience and continuing to express his dismay that he "can't do anything" about the inequity in my title and paycheck right now. He's not being facetious or disingenuous, I really do believe he values what I do and thinks his hands are (more) tied (than they probably are).
January 2007 hits, and my company has an internal opening for a job about 50 miles from here that would get me the Manager job title and responsibility I deserve. The choice comes down to two internal candidates. There's me, who has been doing the job to this point on another account, and the person who holds my current job title onsite at that account.
On paper, there's no question I am more qualified for this position (by my count, the third person on whom I have both tenure and responsibility advantages on internally who got double-promoted before I even got single-promoted) than this other person. But, as it was explained to me, two factors worked in her favor when she was given the promotion. The first was her incumbency. The client knew her, and she them. The second was the preposterous notion that I'm "needed" here in this situation. Rather, that I'm too valuable to pull right now.
In other words, they can't move me up in this situation because the revenue isn't there, but they can't move me OUT of this situation because they'd be in danger of losing the account.
Now, I know damn well what this means for me career-wise. The advice I'm NOT looking for is "you need to find another job." This much I already know.
Here's what I need your advice on...
Last week in our regional conference call (again, where I'm the ONLY Specialist invited), it comes up that the person who got the job 50 miles from here is in over her head. It's not really her fault, I think, as there were three people supporting the account, and between the boss moving on, this person moving up, and a support person turning in her resignation. So it's (probably and most likely) not this new person's ineptitude causing problems.
Anyway, on the call the RM starts trying to figure out where they can find a Specialist to help bail her out for a couple weeks, and he's acting very careful not to bring my name up in the conversation.
I've got the time and the ability to drive to this client site six of the next ten days, so I spoke up and volunteered, much to the shock of my RM (who was on the interview team for the job I deserved and didn't get).
Let me be clear, I'm not being asked to "fix" anything by helping. I'm going to basically be running a help desk, which is what Specialists do. That's all. It's monkey-work, just doing a little of the heavy lifting for a few days.
It makes me a little sick to be doing this, to be honest, but I'm not so bitter and petty that I'd rather see this person fail than offer my help. Not only that, but I'm not egotistical enough to assume that a failure for her means an opportunity for me.
I think I'm just being helpful. Heather's got a completely different opinion, and made some good points I'm thinking about.
What do you think? Should I have not offered my assistance? What, if anything, do you think it says about me that I stepped up to help here? Do you think this sets a bad precedent, or potentially hurts my perception and/or career here somehow?
Tell me if I'm screwing up in this situation, and how (with the given that I'm being held back unfairly here, and it's past-time to do something about it).
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Coq Au Vin
Wanna know how I roll on a Sunday afternoon? After nearly two hours of prep and range-top cooking to prepare the braise, I've got my first attempt at Coq Au Vin in the oven. I'm making this using my take on a recipe from All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking by Molly Stevens, one of the two most useful cookbooks on my shelf (of about ten). Like most cookbooks, the author gets a little cute at times, but the basic technique of the braise is (in my opinion) the best way to get big flavor out of cheap cuts of meat.
So Coq Au Vin it is. Recipe and YouTube videos follow. This is mostly for Matty, who I know is curious to see how this turns out tonight.
Disclaimer is that my video camera sucks, as does my camera work. I'm just goofing around, so watch them or don't - I really don't care...
COQ AU VIN - RECIPE
Bone-in Skin-on chicken pieces (I'm using three breasts)
1/2 lb. of bacon (I used thick-cut peppered bacon)
3 stalks celery
6 cloves garlic
1 bottle dry fruity red wine (used Montevina Zinfandel)
Tomato paste (about 1 tbsp)
1 cup chicken stock
4 tbsp butter
1 bay leaf
Peel carrots, chop carrots and celery into inch-long pieces. Chop onion. Peel and roughly chop garlic. Set vegetables aside.
Pat chicken pieces dry. Salt and pepper both sides, then dredge lightly in flour. Set aside.
Chop bacon up into small pieces and add to an unheated Dutch oven on the burner. Turn heat to medium, render bacon for about fifteen minutes until it's done (but not crispy).
Preheat oven to 325.
Bacon Rendering and Kitchen Tour
Remove bacon with a slotted spoon. Add one tbsp of butter to Dutch oven and melt. Place as many pieces of chicken as you can (skin-side down) to the bacon fat/butter mix and brown. Turn chicken until all sides are browned.
Remove browned chicken and set aside. Pour off all fat from Dutch oven, but DO NOT mess with the crust that's formed on the bottom of the pan. Add remaining butter (3 tbsp) and melt. Then add all vegetables and garlic, sauteeing with some salt and pepper for about five to seven minutes, or until the carrots are starting to soften.
Add the tomato paste, toss until it's spread out on the vegetables. Add 3/4 of your bottle of wine, pouring the last 1/4 into a big goblet for yourself. Increase heat to med-hi and bring to a boil. Scrape brown bits off the bottom of the Dutch oven once boiling (with a wooden spoon, never metal). Reduce liquid as alcohol burns off, about 15 minutes. Add chicken stock, one tsp of thyme, a bay leaf, some salt and pepper, then return the bacon, returning to a steady boil.
Reducing Wine, Adding Stock
Return the chicken to the Dutch oven. It should NOT be completely submerged. Take a piece of parchment paper and press down so that it's barely touching chicken. Put lid on Dutch oven, place on bottom rack of oven and braise steadily for 60-90 minutes until fork tender.
Ready For Oven
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