Saturday, May 17, 2008

Keep the marriage box full

Last year, my wife and I attended the Baytona course ( 'baytona' is an Arabic word for 'our house' ) which covered many aspects of having a cheerful marriage. There were several pamphlets handed out that included advice on choosing your partner, selecting your core values...etc. You can visit their website for more information about the course, I highly recommend it. One of the handouts had the following excerpt.
Most people come into marriage believing it is a box full of goodies from which we extract all we need to make us happy. Marriage is an empty box. There is nothing in it. It is an opportunity to put something in, to do something for marriage.

Marriage was never intended to do something for anybody. People are expected to do something for marriage. If you do not put into the box more than you take out, it becomes empty. Love isn't in marriage, it is in people, and people put it into marriage. Romance, consideration, and generosity in marriage, are in people, and people put them into the marriage box. Living for each other, releases both of you to relax and work together productively to keep the box full.
Searching the Internet for the above will reveal that it was written by J. Allan Peterson. Thank you, for the advice Mr. Allan.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Turjuman project

About 2 years ago, one of my friends was discussing the problem with how IT related books are translated. He stressed so much on how weak the translations are to the extent that at times the meaning was totally messed up. The real problem lies in the absence of a standard for translating books to Arabic. Every writer, translates based on his own understanding to the words with no referral to any kind of reference for this.

Looking around the Internet, the people at arabeyes have done a good job in creating a wiki-based dictionary. Although, I value their effort in maintaining that wiki, but there seems to be a flaw with it and to be honest, this has been the problem with most English-Arabic dictionaries around.

Usually in Arabic, a word can be used in several contexts with different meanings. This surely implies the need for a tree structure of the possible contexts ( of course the more in-depth , the less ambiguety ) to classify the words. Unfortunately, none of the efforts I have passed by solved this problem, they usually had a typical word-word translation. They had to attempt to get the most general translation that can fit most contexts, but then, that isn't applicable in all categories.

Several months later from my friends discussion, the idea came up again of starting this project and researching it, we came up with some ideas and and attempted to prototype some of them using drupal. We then documented some things on a public wiki and codenamed it, Turjuman.

Besides having a complete taxonomy for the translation, we touched the issue of the translation process. Who has the right to change the translation of any word ? Experts ? Anyone ? We had some thoughts about this. For example, maintaining a list votes on the user-submitted translations and the top one would be the *current* translation. This may be susceptible to many flaws, such as the equality of votes between expert translators and amateurs. This may call for a committee where their votes are factored up above others. Again, maybe that may lead to a tight dictatorship by the committee, opinions vary here.

Currently, we will try to come up with a simple prototype that would demonstrate the missing features mentioned above.

So what are your suggestions ? Feel free to add your comments.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How to get the most out of your CS degree

Last year, I came across a Slashdot post that discussed how to get the most out of a computer science curriculum. Actually, it was very informative, some people stressed on learning the fundamentals such as algorithms, data structures, numerical analysis, compilers...etc. Others found that it's software development that counts.

One comment was really exceptional, the comment author gave some advice to students on how to behave while getting a computer science degree. After reading it, I hoped someone told me this long ago before my computer engineering journey. I'll summarize the comment below, though, you can refer to the actual comment for more details.

  1. Remember you are not at school. You are doing the degree for you and what you will gain will be proportional to the amount of effort you put in.

  2. Ask questions to your TAs and lecturers. It's your degree and it's for you, asking questions might make you look silly, but which is more important you learning or what people who think they are still at school think of you?

  3. Program. Lots. Anything and everything.

  4. Work. Actually do the recommended reading (it's there for a reason) and the exercises.

  5. Acquire a copy of "The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Languages", it will make you a better programmer.

  6. It's up to you.
The advice above is not just for those who are about to apply for a CS degree, but also to those who already have one and find themselves no different than any codemunger. It's never late to get back to the basics and grok them well enough.

Hope this helps ;)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Who stands up to be imam ?

( Courtesy of www.nubar.com )
A couple of days ago after the Isha'a prayers at the mosque, the imam turned around and discussed the issue of who stands up to be the imam ? At first he discussed the factors that decide who is candidate for the imamship which briefly involve how good you read the Qu'ran then how much you memorized the Qu'ran...etc. But then he touched the issue where I see most people go wrong, which is
What if you see someone who isn't supposed to be imam, standing upfront ? What should you do ?
From what I have seen, it happens many times that people just arrogantly shout or push back those who stand up for the imamship when they aren't good enough especially when it's a young man who did it.

The imam discussed this point in a really sensible manner, he said that it takes a lot of braveness to actually walk in front of people and stand there reading the Qu'ran out loud. Even if you happen to find the current imam not *that* good, you shouldn't go shouting at him as soon as the prayers end or even look hostile. You could probably discuss this issue while walking with him on your way out as a friendly talk.

Then the imam concluded his talk with what I find a very constructive statement, that if young men do stand up for imamship , then it's a sign that hopefully they can become leaders one day, it happens that schools and colleges in the US value this ingredient in kids and apply them for leadership courses, then why not seed this principle in our mosques.
In short ... Give space for leadership...