London Trip: Day 5: Trafalgar Square – National Gallery – Big Ben

Sleeping on the upper bed, I woke up Thursday morning while Walid is playing the creepy man prank on me, staring at me real closely.  I missed his creepy man jokes.  He used to stand behind the door of my office when we worked in 2004 in a cellphone shop, and watch me in a creepy way, and pretend that he is hiding when I see him.  Sometimes it made me wonder if a psychological issue was really being manifested.  Thankfully, it was  just a prank all along.

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Walid is 10 years older than me, but he has the wisdom of a 100 years old philosopher. He grew up in Beirut Golden time, in an ocean of intellectual waves, when Beirut was the Paris of the East.  Then the intellectual waves became intellectual wars, and they in turn converted to real wars, and he lived the civil war in lebanon that started in 1975 day by day, the Israeli occupation that swept up to Beirut in 1982, till he left in the 90’s, and the civil war outlasted him till the year 1989, when it kind of ended with the Taif Accord, while the war with Israel continued till today.  He studied music in California, and a bunch of other things.  He is a professional guitarist, a well learned pianist, a great composer, and an accomplished poet in Arabic.  He is a reference and an expert in the Arabic Language with all its branches, Arabic Music, Arabic poetry, and fluent in English and French.  He also speaks Spanish, and some Russian and German.  He is also an Islamic scholar, and few of his friends declared him as Mujtahid.  Although it might have been a joke at certain times, but it really reflected his intellectual capability to infer the jurisprudence he needed for his daily life.

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Walid is also a radio producer, video producer, a TV host, a columnist, a chinese cuisine chef, a donut baker, an educator, and school administrator. Continue reading “London Trip: Day 5: Trafalgar Square – National Gallery – Big Ben”

London Trip: Day 4: British Library – Russell Square – British Museum – SOHO

Someone once said that the greatness of a city is in the proportion of its public places to its private ones.  The British Library is not only a library.  It is a celebration of knowledge.  It is a museum of the history of script.  It is a compositor of the great documents written in history.   It is London’s largest indoor public space.  It holds over 150 million items. Almost 14 million books, 824,101 serial titles, 351,116 manuscripts, 8,266, 276 philatelic items, 4,347,505 cartographic items, 1,607,885 music scores, and 6,000,000 sound recordings, and that makes it the second largest library in the world after the library of Congress.   It is also a conglomeration of awesome cafe’s and shops.  Thus, it is a great place for studying or working with its free wifi and 10’s of sitting spaces.  5 to 9 thousand people visit it a day. Continue reading “London Trip: Day 4: British Library – Russell Square – British Museum – SOHO”

London Trip – Day 3 – Imperial College – Science Museum – King’s Crossing

I am writing about my 3rd day in London, but today is the end of my last 5th day.  It will be hard to go back and recollect the 3rd day with its feelings since by now I feel the city has overwhelmed me emotionally.

On the morning of Tuesday, I woke up early, checked out, and left my bag at the Bell Desk for a pound, and headed to Hyde park. Our next destination is Natural History Museum in South Kensington.  We will cross Hyde park going there, so it makes sense to start at Hyde park’s Italian Fountain cafe.  I love this cafe.  It is the first one I experienced in London, and it feels like home to me now.  Just like the myth that chicks will think of you as their mother hen if you are the first person to see after they hatch.  That cafe was my mother hen.

I wrote, and sipped on the flat white that seems the most popular drink in London.  Another reason to love this city is that my drink, which is usually not even offered by most American cafes, and if offered, not written on the menu, is the most popular drink here.  I guess I have a London taste, or since most of the cafes in London are run by Italians, an Italian taste for that matter.

When Walid joined me, we strolled down one of the beautiful paths of Hyde park going South, on the bank of the Serpentine river. Magnificent monuments and sculptures marked the intersections of the park walking dirt roads, and dogs roamed freely.  I always saw a scene in the US when two dogs, leashed and walked by their owners, meet.  It always seemed like they want to kill or rape each other.  Seeing dogs roam freely in London, and then bark and approach each other when they meet, but yet not touch each other, made me think that the dog-leaching thing in the US is way overrated.

London is an ever non-ending beauty.  It is one large classical museum.  The architecture merges together producing chambers and chambers of Art and Architecture.  Then lined up under these magnificent 3-4 floor historical buildings, cafes, pubs, and restaurants, book stores, tea shops, and little shops, very neat and beautifully designed and decorated. I was impressed by most of the logos and type fonts.

In approaching the Natural History Museum, we passed by the Imperial College, and there, there was a farmer’s market in the middle of the day.  It didn’t make much sense since it was Tuesday, but it was a gorgeous coincident.  Authentic healthy Indian chutney food (street food), fresh beef burgers or kabab in a wrap full of fresh vegetables, cookies, fresh apple juice, pies, coffee, and line up of choices in small canopies.  I could not resist trying a sandwich, while Walid bought a loaf of wheat bread.  Yes, he was eating mostly like Jolvanjone from La Miserable. That’s what I called him every time he was eyeing a loaf of bread to buy. He would get some yogurt with it sometimes, and sometimes he would wrap it with some avocado and honey.  He ate like prophets, talked like philosophers, dressed like a 90’s teacher, and sang in the streets like a crazy person.  I loved every second with him.

Every time we walked through or in a university campus, he could not stop comparing the experience to the strenuous experience of passing through the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Beirut, Lebanon, and how a guard needed to check his student ID otherwise he would not be allowed in.

There was a long line to enter the magnificent Natural History Museum, but next to it were the Science museum which had no line.  It wasn’t on my plan, and I thought it is similar to Michigan Science Center or Ann Arbor Hands On Museum, which is basically few activities for kids to educate them about some sciencitifc facts. I was wrong.  The Science Museum was a magnificent two parts, each 4 floors museum, that covered the history of science, especially as related to British scienctists, from 15 century to today.  I ended up separating from Walid din the museum, and ended up staying till it closed at 5:30PM.

I then was invited to give a talk at a book store near Kings crossing area, and so we did pick a hostel next to the book store and reserved one night there, two beds, in a room of 4 beds.  The talk was titled: “Meetup with Wissam Charafeddine, cofounder of IRSHAD”.  I arrived there, and there were about 20 people sitting on chairs waiting, from different age groups and nationalities.  I was introduced by a Persian English host, and then I proceeded to talk about Islamic Reform, the story of IRSHAD, and my personal story.  After we were done, I was invited for dinner in an Italian restaurant near by, and had a great conversation with a friend from the Western Desert, a friend from Palestine, and a professor from Egypt.  All of them are English now off course.

That was my first night sleeping in a hostel.  I was convinced by the feasibility of using a hostel from my friend, Yousef Alqamoussi’s experience with hostels in Costa Rica.  You can read all about it at onechapterone.wordpress.com.  A shared rooms by a group of usually young travelers, and common rooms to intermingle and socialize, or work and eat.  Rooms are used usually only for sleeping.  Sometimes there are toilets and showers within the rooms, and sometimes there are general toilets and showers that are shared through out the hostel.  Although I was eyeing the Astor Hostels (there are 3 of them in London) to stay at, I didn’t reserve prior to my trip because I didn’t want to restrict my plans in a newly discovered city.

We stayed at the Key Stone hostel, next to King’s Crossing station.  It was also across from two things on my plan:  The King’s Crossing Bookstore, and the SHOP and DO Tea shop, which was rated as one of the best tea places in London.   Walid didn’t join me for dinner, and resorted back to the hostel to settle and pray.  As a practicing Muslim, he prays three times a day at least, 5 prayers.  So if you are not a Muslim, there are 5 muslim prayers a day: Fajr (morning), Dhuhur (noon), Asr (afternoon), Maghreb (Sunset), and Isha (night).  Each prayer is made of a number of physical activities or postures and sayings associated with them.  While each of the prayer has a strict interval to be prayed within, Dhuhur and Asr internvals can be combined into one, and Majrib and Isha can be combined into one, without needed excuse for Shia Muslims, and with a needed excuse for Sunni muslims.  In order for a Muslim to perform his/her prayer, they need to do Wudu (ritual washing), and have pure clothe (no impurities on it, and impurities are blood, semen, urine, excretion, pork, dog stuff, alcohol for some muslims, and infidel stuff for some muslims).  And only when you thought this can not get more complicated, listen to this:  Your wudhu is invalidated by using the bathroom, sleeping, farting, or passing out.  For ejaculation or sexual intercourse, Ghusul is required (basically taking a shower).

In Muslim countries, there are mosques or places designated for prayers everywhere.  It is also a common scene to see people stopping, lining up, and praying on congregation.  In the West, Muslims suffer through this practice, and often get into awkward situations.  And here is one of the most awkward ones I have every heard about that happened to Walid that night.

Walid prayed 5 times a day during our visit to London.  Keeping up with my plans, he prayed all over the place.  At Hyde Park, in Russel square, in the basement of restaurants, on the lawn of the National Gallery, at the Elizabeth fountains in front of the gates of her Majesty residence at Buckingham palace.  He prayed Jumaa prayer in a mosque in Paddington.  The guy who he asked about Jumaa prayer because he looked Muslim basically took him with him. The best place to pray off course was inside the hotel room.  Well, in the hostel room in this case.  We booked a room of 4 beds (two sets of bunk beds),  and when Walid entered the room, there was a couple already sleeping.  Trying to be as silent as possible, and not wanting to turn the light on, while also his phone was dead as usual, he went out of his way, to go get a flashlight so he would not wake up the other guests.  He used the toilet and washroom that were outside the room so he would not cause noise by using the ones in side the room.  Then he placed his prayer rug in the room, in silence, in the dark, and he started praying.  He read all the prayers in side his heart, and made all the moves with the utmost silence he could perform. Nevertheless, after leaving the room for 10 or 15 minutes after he finished his prayers, upon returning to the room, he found the two couples out.  We are talking at about 12 or 12:30AM.  Their beds are undone, lockers are emptied, their bags disappeared.  This mystery puzzled us for hours, trying to figure out what happened.  I asked the reception about them, and they said they don’t know anything about them leaving. We had a hypothesis that they were scared shitless by Walid prayers.  Maybe they have never seen something like that.  Maybe they have an Islamophobia, and I say that innocently, not out of bigotry by them, but perhaps out of ignorance.  At anycase, we decided that Walid would inform the other guests in the room of his performance of prayer before doing so and old explain to them the prayer so they are comfortable with what he is doing.  The next guests we shared the room with for the next two days were fine.  Carlos,  a Philipino English guy, and a couple from Netherlands the night after.

We slept, and it was not our half way through the trip, but we have experienced so much so far.

London Trip – Day 2 – Notting Hill – Portobello Market – Buckingham Palace and Unexpected Digressions

The dark eyed, hazel haired Italian Fountains Cafe server smiled at me as she sees me open my palm with a bunch of coins in them.  I figured out it is easier to just let them pick up the coins which they need rather than to try to hold each coin to the sun, investigate it to decipher out all the engravings, 15th century emblems, and the detailed ornamentation of the crown of her majesty, what denomination of a coin each is, before I do the math and give the right combination.

Then proceeded to sit on the patio overseeing the Italian Fountains in Hyde Park. The Italian Gardens is a 150 year old ornamental water garden located on the north side of Kensington Gardens in Hyde park.  It is believed to have been created as a gift from Prince Albert to his beloved Queen Victoria.  After my friend Walid joined me, we took a strol down the serpentine river, and stoped by the Kensington Palace, which is a 500 years old castle with so much history, the last of which is becoming the home of Princess Diana. Continue reading “London Trip – Day 2 – Notting Hill – Portobello Market – Buckingham Palace and Unexpected Digressions”

London Trip – Day 1 – Heathrow Express to Paddington – Welcome to London!

I bought the Heathrow express 14 days earlier for a special. Tickets were stored on my iPhone wallet. I checked in the flight electronically and boarding pass was on my wallet. I have never travelled lighter!  Technology is allowing us to enjoy our life skipping the nuances of the technicalities of the structured civil society.
I think I over prepared for the flight. I had two magazines, a book, iPad with keyboard, my phone, headsets, popcorn, protein bars, and I didn’t touch any of those. The service was superb with two meals, and a selection of movies. I watched Captain Fantastic, and slept. They provided a pillow, a blanket, a blind, and ear plugs. It was a wonderful sleep.

At arrival, the first thing I noticed was that the bathrooms at Heathrow were minimalist modern design and very green (environmentally conscious).

The second thing was that all of the immigration officers looked ethnic (non-white or whatever the politically correct term is) and 2 out of the 8 immigration officers were wearing traditional Islamic scarves (Hijabies in case the word is not offensive to you).  A nice multicultural welcome. Standing behind me were four Iraqi gentlemen with Iraqi passports discussing how the hospitals in Samara and Beirut are better than the ones in Germany and London. They also complained about the length of the line. I felt a sense of Arabic prestige and entitlement I have seen for a while. Continue reading “London Trip – Day 1 – Heathrow Express to Paddington – Welcome to London!”

London Trip – Itinerary

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I leave Detroit at 10:28PM for a 7 hours and 37 minutes red eye flight to LHR.

Sunday, April 2, 2017:

I will arrive at 11:05 am in Heathrow airport in London on Sunday.

I booked the express train from LHR to Paddington Station for $15.50.

I also booked the return ticket on April 9.

I booked the first two nights in Hyde park area which is next to the Paddington Station so I can settle, rest, and then proceed with hostels for the rest of the trip.

Staying in this hotel:

Royal Eagle Hotel

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There, I will be meeting my friend Walid Marmar, and spending the few upcoming days together.

Visiting on Sunday:

  1. Diana Memorial
  2. Kensington Gardens
  3. Kensington Palace
  4. Hyde Park – Sunset

Monday, April 3, 2017:

Staying in Royal Eagle Hotel

Visiting on Monday:

  1. Serpentine Gallery
  2. Design Museum
  3. Holland Park
The rest of the trip is approximated in this map and it will be flexible to make decisions over there.  I will be posting a daily blog while I am there summarizing my daily experiences.

February 2017 Personal Productivity Report

In the second month of the year, and after the Annual Strategic Meeting  at Fort Lauderdale that took place in the first week of February, implementing the W Plan for this month has a significant importance: it is testing the refined and edited plan to make sure it works, and stepping up the game plan based on the results.

So in January, I had 308 steps accomplished and an overall success rate of 55%. Last month of February, I had a 62% success rate and 367 steps accomplished.

Last month of February, I had a 62% success rate and 367 steps accomplished.

There were 12 important accomplishments in the month of February, including the establishment of 4 new businesses, establishment of a new meetup group and secured a great location for it, and some successes at the non-profit level.

The diet plan worked out fine and comfortable, although I followed the diet 76% of the time, and stuck to the menu 90% of the time, and exercised 85% of the time, I am 0.6 lbs away from the month’s goal.  This I counted as a failure, and next month it will get more strict.

Four of my goals in business that require coding and deep thinking, were not touched during the month due to lack of that “deep work” time.  Also, I had 53% success in doing my daily meditation, although much success in hiking through the woods. 

For that, an important resolution had to be made to tackle these “failures”.  The way is to create Deep Work time. Watch this video about Deep Work:

These resolutions were decided based on this:

2017.2.24.a Facebook is deleted as a phone application

2017.3.3.a Wake up at 6. Meditate to 6:15. Deep Work 6:15 to 8am.

2017.3.3.b To read and sleep, I have to be in bed by 10:30PM, otherwise a nap of 1 hour is needed in the afternoon of the next day.
2017.3.3.c Check mail once a week and scan once a month

Quote 

Your world is the outcome of what you pay attention to. 

Cal Newport

January 2017 Analysis of Personal Productivity

January is an important month, and this analysis is very important because it will adjust the plan to what is most probably will have minor changes for the rest of the year.

I tried my new plan  beginning of 2017 which divided my goals and life into 26 paths.

In the month of January, excluding the last day (which is today), we had 30 days.  The 26 paths are divided into 30 steps. That is a total of 780 steps.

Out of the 780 steps, there were 221 cancelled steps.  After couple weeks of implementing the plan, I discovered that it will take about 12 hours a day (in addition to work, cook, eat, basic hygiene, spending time with family, open mail, and sleep) to accomplish all these 26 paths simultaneously.  So what I did was, I twined some of the paths as to make them alternating. If I accomplish a step in one, I delay the step in the other.  So two paths of 30 days each, will be one path of 60 days, taking two months to finish these 60 steps instead of 30.

In doing so, 221 steps were cancelled starting about 9th of January, and it reduced the pressure of the schedule.

The schedule made me super productive, entertained, feeling accomplished, and truly structured my productivity in a meaningful way.

Out of the 559 steps left, 308 were accomplished successfully on time (55%), 52 accomplished successfully but late (9%), and 199 failed or were never accomplished (36%).

Accomplishments of January:

  1. Successful and comfortable Diet plan losing 5 pounds and feeling healthier. (This was under the failed paths since the actual goal was about 10 pounds, but accomplishing 50% of the goal is better than nothing!)
  2. Finished a course on Coursera
  3. Studied one full piece of piano, and half of another.
  4. Established the Advisory Board in one of the Non-profit organizations and recruited a number of volunteers for it.  Also started two regular recurring meetups for it.
  5. Established Meetups in about 40 cities for another Non-profit organization and membership skyrocketed. screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-12-27-46-am
  6.  Started Facebook Live Series and recorded the first two episodes live.
  7. Bloggins (obviously! 83% successful)
  8. Launching WDD with a full time Chief Designer.
  9. Successful Family Vacation in Florida
  10. Finishing 15 lessons in French (Fluent 2%)
  11. Establishment of a new business group
  12. Other accomplishments in Art, business, and family (confidential)
  13. Accomplishments at work (confidential)

 

Challenges of January:

  1. Workout (60% of planned)
  2. Writing in Arabic (0% of Goal)
  3. Reading two books (67% of Goal)
  4. Daily Meditation (43% of Goal)
  5. Connecting with Extended Family (37% of Goal)
  6. Launching new phase of the W Network (17% of Goal)
  7. Working on Autoboard (0%)
  8. Working on consolidating New Personal Site (0%)
  9. Preparation for Publication of book of Poetry (37% and I am happy with that for now)
  10. Getting GeoBuzz.co to work again
  11. Catching up with target weight
  12. Create something artistic in Music or Visual Arts

 

I will be discussing in the next blog how should I tackle the challenges I faced in January in February so I may accomplish more success in them.

Also, I will be discussing some reflections from January and lessons learned, and some resolutions and goals going forward.

The point of all this as far as the reader is concerned is this:

If you don’t control your time, it pours away into the mud, and draws you with it sometimes.

Goal Setting 2017

In efforts of improving my goal setting strategies which evolves year after year, I am using the strategy of the Large Monthly Charts with three color coding.

Basically this chart consists of 30 rows, one for each day of the month, and one column per goal.

My yearly goals are divided into monthly milestones, and these are divided loosely into 10-30 simple milestones that spread across the 30 boxes of the month.  Having a milestone in a box does not mean a dead line or a due date.  It basically means an estimate of when will that task be accomplished.  That gives me the flexibility of two things:

  1. Picking the goal (column) I want to work on depending on the mode and level of energy.
  2. Accomplishing these small bits of milestones or tasks (boxes) at anytime I want within the month.

Now, I color the task that is accomplished with in the estimated day of the month or before it in Green, and the ones accomplished after the estimated day in yellow.  The boxes abandoned will be colored in red or orange.

I can visually track my success in achieving my goals by glancing at the colors on this large chart.  The more green, the more I am on task.  The more yellow, the more I need to step up my game and figure out what is my distraction.  The more orange/red, the more I need to replan my next month to ensure that I catch up with my goals.

Now, you may ask, what are these goals.

Well, you will be surprised that out of the 30 goals, there are technical ones such as:

  1. Losing Weight (1 pound per 3 days)
  2. Learning French (1 duolingo lesson per day)
  3. Acquiring Clients to W Design and Development (10 clients a month so about 1 every three days or 2-3 a week)
  4. Writing a Book (dividing it into chapters, and the chapter mind map into days)

And there are other goals that have to do with my passions and hobbies, such as:

  1. Playing Piano (picking pieces to play, and dividing practice to 3 measures per day)
  2. Meditation (10 minutes per day that can be made up by extending the time for other days)
  3. Sports (changes seasonally because I get bored fast)

and what I am trying this year that I haven’t tried before is including non-tangible values and relationship into yearly goals, so for example:

  1. Family (picking one person a day to spend a quality time, conversation, or at least a phone call with)
  2. Friends (connecting with one friend a day either by spending quality reflective time together, or at least by a meaningful phone conversation or email or a facebook post)
  3. Gratitude (thinking of one thing I am thankful for)

Although this program starts on January 1, 2016, I have decided to start doing January program early on.  Here are my reflections so far:

 

  1. The flexibility is stress free in the program.
  2. Coloring something in green is giving me a positive reinforcement. So I am thinking to attach a positive reward to it, like number of chocolates I can eat a month equal to the green boxes.
  3. It is keeping me occupied all the time, because whenever I have free time, I look at the chart and pick something that I am in the mood for doing.

If you try it yourself, please give me your feedback.  If you have different strategies that works magic with you, please share.

 

Thank yousmarter-goal-setting-process