Monday, October 31, 2005

All Hallows Eve 

I love halloween.

I once put together a great Marge Simpson costume from scratch and won the high school costume contest (think big, blue, paper-mache hair, yellow body paint and a lime green wrap dress). On lazier years, I put on my dad's beekeeper gear (my parents until recently had a hive in the back yard), or would wrap myself completely in duct tape for the easy "role of duct tape" costume (which looks great but is really hard to get off and don't even try to go to the bathroom).

I'm so into halloween that I even had a halloween "kidnapping" party this weekend where we blindfolded a car full of guys and took them to a room full of candy, orange and black baloons and the monster mash. It was small and halloween supplies were scarce but we had a blast.

But a co-worker asked me to explain to him the history of halloween this morning, and I'm embarrassed to say, I was baffled. I know it used to be called All Hallows Eve and that they believed the dead came to life on that day with the living, but that's about all I know. Kind of sad really.

Well, thanks to the internet, I found a great description on the history channel page. And I guess the history is interesting. It involves celtics and animal sacrifices and bonfires, so that's neat.

But to me halloween is special not because of the history or significance, but just because you can dress up like someone else for a day and do crazy things you could never get away with on any other day (like drive around with a car full of blindfolded guys in the Middle East!!)... Just being honest. And the Monster mash and Werewolves of London are great songs that sound stupid on any other day.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Bill Gates 

My company organized an event last week for Bill Gates, who came into town briefly to promote Microsoft-Jordan and the technology initiatives the King has been working on for the last few years. The event was nice and Bill Gates was not bad. He gave a 12 minute rah-rah speech about what the technology of the future was going to look like, and how he was happy that Jordan understood the importance of technology in the global marketplace.

But what I thought was the most interesting aspect of the event was the fact that it was held at 4:30pm on a day in Ramadan. So the audience, who hadn't eaten or drank a thing the entire day, was forced to sit through 45 minutes of speeches before they could eat. The problem was that they had to sit there with a full spread set before them on the table. Plates of food and glasses of juice and water tempted them through the entire event. They couldn't break their fast until 5:20pm, iftar time. Much more interesting than Bill Gates' speech was watching these folks being literally tortured by the spread before them and thinking there was no way they could pay attention to the Minister of Technology even Bill Gates. I hadn't eaten since breakfast and I was starving. It was all a very impressive test of will.


Sunday, October 16, 2005


I want to first thank Hatem for commenting on my previous post on what he sees as my poor choices for favorite columnists that I had listed on my index (Paul Krugman and Molly Ivins). He reminded me that I have been meaning to remove Krugman from my list of favorite columnists.

I removed Krugman, but then it was just Ivins all alone, and I thought about adding some others like Joe Conason, Nat Hentoff or Anna Quindlen, but none of them had permanent pages that I know of, so I just decided to delete my "favorite columnist" index all together.

But don't get too excited Hatem, I didn't delete Krugman for any political reason...

I am unjustifiably very angry at the New York Times right now. Their new "Times Select" service now obliges me to pay an annual fee in order to read all my favorite daily columnists, from Friedman and Dowd to yes, Krugman.

So what if they are asking for a piddly $49.95 a year? Do I pay five times that to maintain my daily coffee habit? Of course. So why balk at $0.14 a day to read quality prose from my favorite columnists? I don't really know. But it just irks me. I just can't bring myself to pay for something I've enjoyed free for years. And I feel like if I sell out, then I am sending them a message that their little "foot in the door" scheme worked. I can't possibly be a contributor to the slippery slope that is the decline of the free dissemination of ideas and information. Or can I? Meanwhile, I'm just sulking here and missing hours of therapeutic reading. Firewalled from enthralling titles like "Miserable by design" and "A Pig in a Jacket."

I wonder what Krugman thinks? Does he empathize with my dilemma? I sure wish he'd write an editorial. He could use his economics background to make sense of all this. But then again, I wouldn't be able to read it anyhow.... Let's face it, I'll probably start subscribing to "Times Select" next month... But either way, Mr. Krugman won't be going back on my index bar, at least for the time being.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I have to admit, I'm really impressed by the Ramadan fasting.

At the risk of sounding culturally insensitive, I guess I didn't really believe that a culture where 15 minutes means an hour, "God Willing" means "probably not" and smoking in elevators is still common practice, would really be strict enough to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking anything from 4:20 am to 5:20 pm every day for an entire month.

But almost everyone does it and they do it with notably little complaining.

True, the entire country gets a little grouchy around 1:00 pm (you don't want to have business meetings after noon) and the traffic is a nightmare (I've been walking a mile home from work rather than risk life and limb in a taxi). However, everyone still works (until 3-3:30 pm) and still lives pretty normal lives. And best of all, they have great parties and feasts every night for Iftar.

So I tried fasting yesterday. I didn't think it would be too arduous since I haven't been eating much anyway during the day (as it is common courtesy not to eat, drink or smoke in front of people during Ramadan and it's actually illegal to eat/smoke in public).

Anyhow, I did really well with my fasting until noon when I realized I had a big meeting with a potential sponsor in an hour and an enormous, pounding caffeine withdrawal headache. I tried to work through it, but with no food or water to compensate, I caved and drank a Nescafe. Instead of conceding defeat, I chalked it up to a professional necessity. Trust me, asking companies for money is bad enough without having a pounding headache to contend with.

My point is that fasting all day is not easy for 1 day let alone an entire month. I'm impressed how committed these people are to their God and also to a purification that they say allows them to feel cleansed and healthier and also helps them better emphathize with those less fortunate then they are.

I personally like the fact that our work day is short, I don't come home from work smelling like second-hand smoke, and I have great parties at night to attend. I feel kind of bad though, that I get all gain no pain. Maybe I'll try fasting again tomorrow...


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Amy & Carson 

Just wanted to share a gorgeous picture from my friend Amy's wedding. It was actually back in July and I was very sad not to have been able to make it. It looks like they did okay without me though;o). Amy is my first close friend to get married and I couldn't be happier for her. Although we spent many happy times searching for the best happy hours in DC: scouting the cheapest miller lites (still $4) and if we were really lucky $0.25 buffalo wings, I don't lament the end of that phase and the beginning of this new one-- for both of us really. Congratulations Amy or as they say here Mabrouq!


Sunday, October 02, 2005


It's been a week since I posted. My parents are here and we just got back from a whirlwind tour of Jordan. It was really amazing but I have to admit I'm exhausted. I'll write more later on our adventures. By the way, my new dream is to re-write the Jordan Lonely Planet Guide Book. The current one really does not do this country justice. More on that later though... Here's a quick picture of the Sturvoni folks in Petra.


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