... in syria

Terrorism and urban planning

16 Jan 2017 | 244 words | terrorism syria urbanism united states

From the novel I am currently reading:

Back in his hotel room he remembered that Mohammed Atta , the famous World Trade Center hijacker, had been a student of urban planning in hamburg in Germany. Was there a connection between the two things – terror and planning? It was possible. Atta in his religious way, had wanted the perfect religious city &emdash; his thesis was on Aleppo in Syria. In the end though his urge to design took a different form &emdash; het took down the twin monstrosities of the towers over Manhattan, and there, in a single day he accomplished what no other planner could have, erasing the cold shadows of those vile boastful buildings of the sun-filled streets of the city.

While “the association of small bombs” is a work of fiction it appears that the fact that Mohammed Atta has indeed written his thesis on Aleppo is not. Given this the recent events in Aleppo, which have lead to the almost complete destruction of the city, feel like the completion of a circle of violence that has been started by Atta and his companions on 9/111. It is probably vain hope to expect this to be the end of the circle, but with the whole geo-political situation changing quite dramatically, nothing seems impossible these days.

Live broadcast of russian drone footage monitoring the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo (15/12/16)

  1. the area where the twin towers stood used to be ‘Little Syria’ ↩︎

The motorized mountain bike(s) of Damascus

Back in december when walking through Damascus I ran into this mountain bike rigged up with small combustion engine:

Mountain bike fitted with a combustion engine on Khalid ibn al-Walid street in central Damascus

If you ask me this is quite a marvel of engineering and although I never spotted a second one during the 3 days that I spend in Damascus I am pretty certain that this is not a unique modification but rather one of many that are produced in some back alley workshop. If anyone has seen more of these or has additional information about these please do let me know…

Update (26 Februari 2017):I ran into the same design in Mexico City today.

Enjoy the most complete edition of windows (Syrian style)

07 Apr 2007 | 215 words | syria piracy business technology

When i first flew to Beirut in 2005, i was seated next to a Microsoft representative who then mentioned that Microsoft could not do business in syria, ‘because it is on the shit-list‘ (guess her refers to John Bolton’s extended axis of evil). Of course that does not mean that no one is using Microsoft products in Syria (in fact there are shit-loads of computer shops and internet cafes in Damascus if one considers that computers and internet have only been legalized in 2000). In fact you can buy the latest Microsoft products almost anywhere, the only thing that differentiates them from Microsoft products in other countries are the installation instructions:

Install Windows Vista Ultimate Without Entering a Serial Number. Chose The Option “windows vista ultimate”

after completing the installation, go to your cd drive and open the folder “crack” from there, and run the application “crack.exe” and wait until the activation process complete and you’ll se a message says: the process is completed successfully, and requesting a system restart.

after restarting system you will receive a pop message says” activation done successfully now close the message windows and start windows.

and that’s all, now you can enjoy the most complete edition of windows with no time limits, and can be updated directly from Microsoft.com

R.I.P Samir Kassir

03 Jun 2005 | 485 words | beirut lebanon security drone wars politics syria

Today i am back in Beirut. In the morning we met with the Hezbollah (i was still getting SMS straight from the ‘zionist entity’ while sitting in their press room), but talking to them did not make them any more sympathetic. The guy got himself in rage about Israel and how they had every right to defend themselves against Israeli aggressions, but instead of stopping there he then started to explain us how we (the Germans) were also victims of them as ‘they (Israelis) made us (Germans) responsible for the holocaust which has never happend’. when told that we did not see this this way he referred to ‘a book by an French professor’ that he had read but whose name he had ‘unfortunatly’ forgotten that would prove that the ‘holocaust never happend or at least was much smaller than they say’. yuk! This contributed to the resentment that had been growing in me after yesterdays visit to the south (Hezbollah country) where the mood was really depressing which at least for me was largely the result of the excessive presence of bearded men on all kinds of posters and billboards. (something that at first had appeared as a welcome change of scenery compared to the visual Hariri onslaught in the rest of the country. (between Nabatiye and Sour i did not spot a single Hariri poster). It does however seem that the posters help winning the elections in Beirut Hariri won all 19 seats and in the south Hezbollah and Amal are projected to win almost all 23 seats on stake in Sundays election round.

The unfortunate encounter with political Islam was soon pushed to the background when the news broke that Samir Kassir had been assassinated when a bomb detonated under his car seat just after leaving his apartment in Ashrafiye in east Beirut earlier that morning.

On June 2, 2005 Lebanon’s prominent journalist and historian Samir Kassir was assassinated. Kassir was a dedicated, vehement and eloquent critic of Syria’s presence in Lebanon, its security apparatuses and its Lebanese collaborators. from indymedia beirut

While i had not heard of him before suddenly everybody (ok i guess minus the Hezbollah) who we had met had connections with him ranging from personal friendships to working relations (the ladies from ‘un mémoire pour le avenir whom we had met on Tuesday evening were apparently some of the last persons to meet him on Wednesday). The somehow ironic fact that Samir who – as everybody was telling me – had been a very vocal critic of the Syrian role in Lebanon for quite a while had been assassinated by the Syrians (at least that is what everybody thinks) after they had left the country has had quite a devastating effect to everybody i spoke to during the day. Most people were wondering if ‘this was ever going to end’ end seemed extraordinary disillusioned by what had happend.


28 May 2005 | 647 words | airtravel lebanon syria beirut berlin

At tegel half of the people in front of the check in counter seem to belong to one family whose patriarch is constantly busy telling te members of the extended group where they should be (basically the men at the counter and the women waiting on the other side of the hall).

On both flights (half of the passengers of the full A300-600 leaving berlin seem to make up for three quarters of the full A320 leaving frankfurt) the normative system of the family patriarch proves to be stronger than that of Lufthansa’s ticketing algorithm. both flights take of with 15 minutes of delay mainly due to intensive trading of boarding cards that only stops when the patriarchs family is distributed in the plane according to his wishes (basically boys in the front, girls in the back). The whole flight the patriarch is patrolling the aisle of the plane with much more rigor than the lufthansa crew who has been told to be more respectful and friendly (read: bring more beer by the 5 dudes on the 3 place row just behind me). By now they have retreated to the galley and one needs to go there if one wants another drink…. There was a slight escalation earlier when the party crowd behind me was blocking the aisle, but that situation was defused by the middle-aged gentleman from Stuttgart (of all places!) who told the stewardess to ‘smile a bit more’ and ‘leave the young men alone’. this is the same person who – at the check in at Frankfurt – when told him that the flight was overbooked – fell down at his knees and started to tell them that they could not do this to him as his mother had died and was buried tomorrow and that he could not be denied to board the plane…

While i am writing this the guy next to me – who belongs to the clan of the patriarch – is staring at my screen. so i ask him if he is reading what i am writing but he assures me that he is just looking at the clock in my menu bar. Turns out that he is coming back to lebanon for the first time in 20 years (he left the country when he was 6). He seems to be scared, but i cannot tell if it is because of flying or because of the fact that he comes back to Lebanon after 20 years – ‘things have changed a lot since i left’ there is another person that is looking at my screen: the guy in the window seat. from looking at his screen earlier i know that he is working for Microsoft Lebanon. Later i ask him what he is doing for ms in lebanon. He is a technical consultant who came back from canada 9 months ago. Microsoft Lebanon is the regional representative for ms in lebanon, cyprus, syria – ‘but not right now since syria is on the shit-list’ – jordan, the west bank and iraq – ‘but we do not go there, it is to dangerous, but we have a hired representative’. we talk a bit, i tell him what i do and ask him a bit about their operations. They mainly do MNC work but also government jobs. asked about syria he tells me that they do not operate there but upon my suggestion he tells me that they assume that the syrian government also runs on ms software, albeit pirated. I suggest that this is probably also good for them because once the US topples the government there, they will be used to run MS. He tells me that this is exactly how they see it. Before leaving the plane he gives me his card and suggests that i should meet with his colleague Khaleed who is running their educational operations.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: