I have never hidden the fact that I am a geek, a dork or a nerd. I embrace that side of myself quite happily. I subscribe to and demonstrate most stereotypes associated with these 'special' people without issue. The geeks, the dorks and the nerds are my people.
I also teach to (and see business plans from) a bunch of nerds who want to become internet billionaires: 'This is the next Facebook, Google, Twitter' has become all to frequent. As a side effect to this, the 'social-media-anything-is-possible' craze has somewhat redefined the geek persona and lowered the barrier to entry into Geekdom.
That is why this new video from the Pantless Knights is so accurate, well written and à propos.
Geekdom, enjoy. This is the new us.
Once in a while I see a diagram that captures my thoughts / opinions so well, I can't help but to share it. That's why I am thankful to Bud Cadell for his brilliant blog post. It's brilliant enough that it needs no explanation.
Let me tell you a story.
It all started with a little blood in the stool on thursday february 5th, 2009. The next day, there was a little more. And in the night of friday to saturday, my wife was quietly hemorraging. I say quietly because when I woke up saturday, she told me that she had a little more blood in the stool and was going to the local clinic just to be sure (we later found out she had lost close to half of the red blood cell count).
After 4 hours at the clinic, the attending doctor was not alarmed. He told her to go home and eventually take an appointment with a gastro-enterologist, which, he warned, could take months. So back home, Saturday noon, she was debating whether to go to the hospital or just 'walk it off'. A wise phone call to her eldest sister, a pediatrician, convinced her make the trip to the emergency room. So she drove there (remember, she unknowingly only had half her blood) while I was home with the 3 boys.
As soon as she stepped in the ER, she was placed as a priority case (the advantages of a rural hospital). They started monitoring her and booking her for tests to find the cause of the bleeding. By the evening, they had sent a camera down to the stomach to find out if there were ulcers to burn - but to no avail. So they booked her for a colonoscopy Sunday morning with her Saturday night filled with drinking a disgusting Gatorade-like juice to empty the system out. At that time, we were pretty sure it was an ulcer somewhere that just needed to be burnt with the camera light. An annoyance more than anything else, or so we thought.
Ah, Sunday. A day drilled into my memory banks. It was her father's birthday too. The colonoscopy was done before noon and then there was an interminable waiting period in the ER. It seemed like an eternity not knowing what the problem was, hoping for a small ulcer, being told to wait 'just a little longer, you're going to the 4th floor, oh no wait, you are being transferred to the 7th floor'. And for an alpha male like me, those 7 hours were a brutal test of patience.
We finally got transferred to a room on the 7th floor, with other people who have been operated on. Hummm ok. So that means she'll get operated on ? Why ? Don't they just burn ulcers with the camera light ? And why were the nursing personnel coming in to see us every 5 minutes ? Finally, around 9pm, the surgeon walked into the room and, after sending everyone out of the room, sat beside me at my wife's bedside.
Looking down, she got right to it: 'We performed a colonoscopy to go see what was in your colon and the reason why you were bleeding through the stool. What I have to tell you is not going to be good news. It actually quite bad. We found a growth in the colon and we are pretty sure it's cancer. We think you have colon cancer.'
A million questions went through our minds. What ? How ? Are you sure ? How bad is it ? What happens now ? ... and the big one ... What about the kids, what will happen to them ?
After a couple of my feeble and inept attempts to reassure her that everything would be OK - I didn't believe my own words - the surgeon went on to say that the operation would be early next morning and they were going to take out the piece of the colon with the tumor. It was all happening too fast. And this was the worst news we had ever gotten, and the closest we felt to death.
We called her parents and mine and a few close friends. More tears were shed. Some prayed with us, well they prayed and I listened, crying, broken. That night, I left the hospital to let her sleep before the operation, but we both didn't get much rest. I went from breaking out in tears to convincing myself that God was in control to praying for this nightmare to end and then back again to the tears.
As much as I prided myself on being someone who has accomplished much, none of that mattered. I wasn't in control. I was forced to rely on my faith and others. And it hurt.
The operation the next morning went well. During the operation, I was reading up on colon cancer and I found out that there were 12 risk factors... and that my wife had none of them. This was out of left field. So they took out the tumor and a piece of the colon, they reattached it to the small intestine. Then they confirmed through initial pathology that it was a malignant tumor and that there was a distinct possibility that there was a proliferation of the cancer in the body. More tests had to be done to determine the depth of the tumor and if any ganglion were hit. And the word 'chemotherapy' was mentioned as a possibility for the first time.
Then the support system started to react. More on this later, but suffice to say it was quite a challenge to manage the different reactions to my wife's cancer.
When I arrived Thursday morning to see her, they had moved her from room she was in to a quarantined one with gloves, masks and med coats at the door. What ? Why ? Well sir, they said, she has contracted a highly contagious bacteria during the operation - so we need to quarantine her and you need to dress up to go see her.
She left the hospital on Friday with antibiotics for the bacteria and staples on her scar but in great spirits. She was finally going to see the kids after an unexpected 6 days in the hospital. They needed to see her as much as she needed to see them.
We needed to wait 3 weeks before getting the full pathology results on the cancer. Longest 3 weeks of my life. I'm not very good at waiting so this was another brutal test of patience and faith. Finally, the oncologist tells us that the tumor was indeed malignant and a stage 4 one at that (out of 4) because it was at the colon wall and that the next step was out of the colon into the liver and the lungs. Good news though, there were no ganglion found out the 19 that were tested. He then entered the variables into a software (age, type of cancer, etc) and outputs 2 scenarios: one with chemo and another without. 'Basically without chemotherapy, he said to my wife, you have a 25 % chance to get cancer again in the next 5 years. And this time it won't be in the colon but in the lungs and the liver with palliative chemo treatments. With chemo, he goes on, you're chances fall to 15 % so you gain 10 % in your risk management for 6 months and 12 treatments of preventative chemo at the rate of one every two weeks for 3 days at a time. '
It didn't take us long to decide. We wanted to be able to say we did everything in our power to beat the cancer as best we knew how.
I had a revelation the first time we walked into the cancer-patients waiting room. Picture a room packed with older people with no hair and bandannas on their heads, most in wheelchairs, chatting, sharing and smiling. On the walls of this room, there were posters plastered everywhere about help support groups and phone numbers to call. And then it hit us - hard. This was us, these were our peers. We had instant solidarity with a group of strangers with similar worries and fears but also with similar dreams and hope. This was a fraternity, a microcosm of understanding and courage.
In the midst this whole experience, one piece of advice stuck out for me. It came from a two-time chemo patient who was sharing her experience with me. She said: 'God gives me and renews His grace and His strength one day at a time, not more, not less. So I every morning I wait on Him and every night I thank Him.' For a control freak like me, it was an earth-shattering statement.
Yesterday was her third treatment - 2 months after we first found out about the cancer. We now know that she lives the full force of the side-effects one week out of two. And we've adapted, and we're helping the kids adapt too. And our priorities have radically changed. I am now more at home and I do what my wife spent years compensating for what I should have done. I've had to quit many extra-curricular activities that have defined me in the past, like the Entrepreneurs' Organization, church and community activities.
Throughout this whole ordeal, my wife demonstrated a calm, a quiet strength, an integrity-filled character and courage that could shame the Wizard of Oz's lion. And, true to her sensitive self, I would often find her comforting others who had trouble dealing with her own cancer. I know...
Oh, and I have half a mind to call back the incompetent attending doctor at the local clinic.
--- THANK YOU ---
I'm grateful for so many things in the last 2 months and seeing these silver linings in the very black clouds was quite salutary.
- The blood in the stool as a sign was a rare and surprising occurrence.
- It was caught early, right before it hit the ganglion and the liver. It didn't splash to other organs.
- The operation went well and the intestinal reconnect too. She didn't have a stomach bag.
- It's in the colon, a body part we have a lot of.
- Her attitude is tops.
- She has 5 sisters and we have a fantastic family and friend support system. We truly felt the prayers done on our behalf and thoughts that were sent our way.
- The kids are awesome and have adapted well
- It didn't happen while she was pregnant. We would've lost the child or had to provoke her
- And finally, I am thankful for all the lessons learnt, the first of which was to learn 'to be thankful'. ;)
--- FRIENDSHIP ---
I learnt a lot about ways to react to this type of news through hundreds of different reactions. For me, the below reactions show true genuine friendship. These golden people :
- listen first and foremost... and talk a lot later
- don't look to offer grandiose solutions, because there aren't any
- are genuinely interested and worried about how we are, not just what we are going through
- don't think of themselves
- are proactive and creative about ways to help and encourage us
- don't preach to us or look to interpret for us the 'why' this is all happening
- are sensitive to our basic needs (like food, time, kids, mental health, morale, etc.)
- are just there.
This poem came back to me a couple of weeks ago. I had it in a quaint little book called Treasury of Inspiration that got me through some tough times in the past. It really defines the type of friendship that I appreciated.
'When trouble comes your soul to try,
You love the friend who just "stands by."
Perhaps there's nothing he can do --
The thing is strictly up to you;
For there are troubles all your own,
And paths the soul must tread alone;
Times when love cannot smooth the road
Nor friendship lift the heavy load,
But just to know you have a friend
who will "stand by" until the end,
whose sympathy through all endures,
Whose warm handclasp is always yours--
It helps, someway to pull you through,
Although there's nothing he can do.
and so with fervent heart you cry,
"God bless the friend who just 'stands by'!" '
Written by B.Y Williams, published in Poems That Touch The Heart by A.L. Alexander
--- MY OTHER LESSONS ---
There are so many things that I realized since that dreaded diagnostic. I must admit they were almost all ego-destroying lessons.
*Fair warning, many of these lessons are biased by my Bible-based world view.
- Anything can happen to Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere so essentially, my life is not my own (try telling that to an entrepreneur).
- No man is an island, I need help and need to learn to accept it.
- When I lost everything, all that was left was 1. Love from God and others, 2. Faith in His Word, His plan, my beliefs and my values and 3. Hope in a better tomorrow.
- The most powerful force on Earth is the collective, focused prayers of God's children.
- The theory of suffering is worth very little until it is fully experienced.
- God never promised me healing, or an explanation. He just promised His presence - and we have felt it.
- Life is so short, so we will live it up and only do things that stick to my core value with people that are fit with us.
--- CONCLUSION ---
I wrote this for you to know what transpired in the last 2 months. But in all honesty, I write this post mainly for me. It's therapeutic for me to put on (virtual) paper the fruit of this whole experience. It's not over, but at least now I know more of what I'm looking at... and whose looking at it with me.
--- COLON CANCER ---
Here is some general info on this type of cancer
- Wikipedia entry: Colorectal cancer
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I was involved with a wonderful leadership event organized by our Governor General four years ago and again this year. In 2004, I gave a speech to Her Excellence about what I had learnt. I loved delivering it and she later told me she loved it too.
You have to read it with the Pomp and Circumstance song playing and picture me with a bright red flowing Canadian flag behind me. Cliché ? Maybe, but I loved doing it.
AS CANADIANS :
We are quick to listen, but slow to speak
We would rather be peace keepers than war mongerers
We don't want to walk the path of criticism to generalization to stereotype to prejudice to hate
We don't dwell on differences that end up dividing us but on our commonalities that unite us
We choose to love and honor our differences
And it makes us feel good to empower others to be great
That problems start once we stop communicating
That leadership starts with follower-ship
That there is power in silence
That indifference is the real weapon of mass destruction
That 90% of us agree on 90% of everything and yet spend 90% of our time arguing over the 10% we don’t agree on
That true leaders are defined by the measure of their passion
And that the Measure of a person is based on their heart and nothing else
We believe in Being - becoming - and belonging
And that Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.
WE SAW IN OUR SOCIETY :
That it takes villages to build this great country
That Front line grassroots workers are the foundation of any initiative
That we value unions and corporations the same
That there are bad apples everywhere but we're glad there are more good apples than bad
That socialism and capitalism can work together in mutual harmony
That anyone who is too adamant to further their cause without listening first , does their cause a great disservice
That youth is more important than adult ego
That we respect our elders and honor their experiences with dignity
That we can have the elderly serve breakfast to kids or kids serve the elderly
That we appreciate the sacrifice of our men and women in blue and those on the front lines
That we respect our outdoors, we conserve, and we see that diversity started and is perfected in nature
That right makes might and not might makes right
That crime is not just about breaking the law, but breaking the relationships in society
That I can disagree with all I got about what you say, but I'll fight to the death for you're right to say it
That all is one and one is none
CANADA IS THE ONLY PLACE
Where you'll see a rabbi in a mosque
Where politicians can speak from the heart without shame
Where people are sometimes way too nice
Where the trademark is diversity and the inclusion of all groups
Where we can dress up for winter and show skin in the summer and be gorgeous both times
Where it’s not just clean, simple and beautiful, but above all, it is humane
Where Her Excellency has a dashing portrait of her young self in the Library and National Archives
There is no 'I' in
But there are way too many 'I' s in
It is in the differences where we find our beauty
MY NAME IS JEAN FAHMY AND I AM CANADIAN
My website, and this blog, has been down for 2 days because of some server change at the hosting company. I used to run an ISP so I know the hassles involved in server moves, but I also know that service is the key to rising above the current hosting-as-a-commodity value.
Weebly.com is a FREE Ajax-based site that helps me waste little time setting up this site and modifying it. I recommend it for it's ease of use, it's design, and, oh yeah, it's free.
I am willing to accept a lot of restrictions because it is a free proposition. However, it still irks me that I receive the email below 24 hours before the server is moved. And on top of that support never responded to my email asking if this was a fishing scheme (scam) or if they really are moving servers.
OK self, stop complaining... you get what you pay for.
We are showing that www.jeanfahmy.com's A record is currently pointing to our old IP address: 188.8.131.52
It is necessary for you to update this record to our new IP address (184.108.40.206) as soon as possible in order to maintain uninterrupted service. We apologize for this inconvenience, but our hosting provider is switching locations and our old IP address will no longer be available.
In order to update your domain's A record, follow these steps:
1. Login to your domain name management interface (ex. http://www.godaddy.com)
2. Locate where to update the A record of this domain
Note: This option is usually located under an "Advanced DNS" page. GoDaddy users should click on the "Total DNS Control and MX Records" link.
3. Point the root of your domain (usually identified by a * or @) to Weebly's new IP address: 220.127.116.11
Note: Since your domain's A record is already set to our old IP address, you should only have to update fields that have 18.104.22.168 to our new IP address, 22.214.171.124
If you are in need of additional assistance, please send an email to email@example.com and we will respond promptly.
The Weebly Team
Quite a change for me. After 11 years of starting, building and selling businesses in technology, I decided to join an existing corporation. I am now an 'intrapreneur'.
Wikipedia says : An Intrapreneur is the person who focuses on innovation and creativity and who transforms a dream or an idea into a profitable venture, by operating within the organizational environment. Thus, Intrapreneurs are Inside entrepreneurs who follow the goal of the organization.
So what would push a hardened entrepreneur to switch gears ? From my own experience, I can talk about a combination of variables.
Time with family
As en entrepreneur, the family is usually the stakeholder that is the least satisfied in the entrepreneur's ecosystem. In order to keep my clients, my suppliers, my employees and my investors satisfied, it often demanded super-human patience and understanding from the ones I love. Funny how the first people in your heart are sometimes the last in your calendar.
My wife works with Child Protective Services and the job isn't an easy one. I often say that I get to meet and work with the cream of society, while her clientèle are child abusers and neglecters... the bottom of the barrel in my mind. And soon our third boy is going to see the light of day and it was a bit of a wake-up call for me. Are we both going to keep living fast lives where I am preoccupied by demanding clients and she is preoccupied with emergency abuse situations ? I certainly don't want to reflect back on my life and say I should have spent more time with them.
An entrepreneur has to learn to juggle multiple hats and perform tasks that are often outside their unique ability. Focusing on this unique ability is a luxury that most can't afford, especially in the beginning phases of startup life. In my current role, I can focus on one expertise : digital strategies. I help internal and external clients optimize their content and digital reach.
One of the reasons I joined a corporation was that I was seeking new experiences and new learning opportunities. I've done the entrepreneur thing for 11 years, and while I still have lots to learn, I felt I have sufficiently experienced it... for now. This certainly does not preclude the fact that I will return to my own business in the future.
I was a consultant for the company a couple of months before joining them, so I got to appreciate the team there. They are believers in the mission, they are experts in their field and they are genuinely nice people.
Challenge and openness for change
Finally, the organization has demonstrated a huge appetite for change in the media industry. They are Canada's biggest paper publisher and their understanding of future growth potentials in the digital world is refreshing and motivating.
The people and the challenges were the most important factor in my decision process.
Now, I'm addicted to startups, so to help my weaning process, I still
- mentor and coach Montreal tech start-ups
- teach engineers at the Bachelor's and Master's level how to start and sustain their businesses
- participate actively in the Montreal tech startup community
Oh, and I will still keep blogging on entrepreneurship and strategies in this space...
I was in the southern province of China, on the island of Hainan. It is a developing economic zone with great potential. On the software and web development side, their expertise (and price) is quite impressive... but the details of that will be another post.
I wanted to list some of the observations I made there. I don't know if these observations count for all of China, or just the Hainan province I was in, but it gives you a good idea about the fun little differences we share.
- They are good people with sometimes horrible bad manners (Watch the impromptu spitting)
- Absolutely the craziest driving I have ever seen - no look lane changes, father crossing a very busy highway (à la Frogger) holding the hand of a 4 year old behind him, on-coming chicken games between cars...
- Walking away while bartering is a surefire way to win
- TV is boring: 100 channels of Chinese soap operas, American Idol knock offs or period pieces. Only 1 channel in English, and its controled media
- English is incorrect translate
- The world is truly flat : Investor from Singapore, CEO is from Taiwan, VP Biz Dev from Canada, project manager from Scarborough and the graphic artist from Germany ... all in Hainan.
- Chinese is a friggin' complicated language
- Whatever it is you are smelling while walking down the street, don't ask
- I saw one blond woman here.
- At the end of dinner, they don't give you candy... they give you cherry tomatoes.
- KTV - or Karaoke TV - is an endless source of fun and entertainment (why is that not here ?)
- Hainan redwood is rare and expensive
- Silk is cheap
- Beds are hard, very very hard (your wooden floor in your living room is softer)
- Pizza Hut is a luxury product
- There are no Starbucks, but don't worry, the virus is coming shortly
- Tech gadgets are 1 year ahead
- Peanuts in shells taste different
- There are more special effects in a cell phone commercial than in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie
- You get a 5 course meal for the price of a McDonald's trio.
- Fresh sugar cane is a great substitute to coffee
- When I buy clothes here, I'm an XL size (those of you who have seen me are on the floor laughing right now)
- Every piece of the body of the pig is comestible. And I mean every piece...
Aside from eating every part of the pig, I ate fish tripes, eel, frog and ox tongue. And it was all tasty.
The international language is NOT english. It's sign language, impromptu pictionary and... thank you.
Montaigue said that getting out of your normal confort zone is good for you, well, he's right.
Two words which symbolize all new beginnings in IT programming. Welcome to my humble abode. In this blog, I will open a window and record my different thoughts on
- Entrepreneurship and startups
- IT and the web
- Personal life lessons