Breaking News from America

Thursday, March 29, 2007

American "news" has become a joke. I can't stand watching it.

Attention Jordanian Government: Free Money

Dear Jordanian Government,

I know you read this (and many other blogs). I've also been hearing of late that you may be suffering from budget deficit. Well today is your lucky day. I am about to tell you how to get an endless supply of easy money to help bolster that strained budget.

Take a look at the satellite image below (click on the image to view a larger size with notes). You see that red area around the HSBC Bank at 5th Circle? That's your cash cow.

HSBC Intersection

Here's what you do. Grab a bunch of your surplus policemen—you know, the ones generally standing around with nothing to do—and arm them with a handful of ticket books. Then set them loose on all the people who double park around the bank. You know the ones...all the idiots who take up an entire traffic lane simply because they are too stinkin' selfish and lazy to park down the street and walk.

This is the easiest income you'll ever get. All the police have to do is stand next to the bank and fine any joker who decides to break the law by stopping or parking in the middle of the road. And I'm not talking about your measly 10JD tickets; make it hurt!

You can thank me later.


More Than Meets the Eye

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I'm not ashamed of admitting this: I used to play with Transformers growing up. I had all the toys; I watched the cartoon; I even saw the movie back in 1986. Therefore I'm pretty hyped to find out what kind of butt-kickery that Michael Bay is packing into the latest Transformers movie. And after seeing the movie posters (view the images for full-size view) and watching the movie trailer, I'm even more stoked about the potential of this movie.

Dang, I'm suck a geek.

Democracy Reform in Egypt a Laughing Matter?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

So apparently Condi is urging Egypt to reform its democracy. I guess she's insinuating that Egyptian democracy is a joke. And aside from quotes like the following, I'm not sure where she's getting such ideas.
[The Egyptian] government just declared that it won't allow or tolerate any demonstration against the constitutional amendments in order to stop those opposition people from "delaying, opposing and stalling the democratic process".

Faster Airport Clearance In Jordan

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A minor blurb in The Jordan Times on Wednesday highlighted the Jordan eGATE project, a new clearance technology launched this week at Jordan's Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA).

The Jordan eGate is touted as an "advanced clearance system [designed] to accelerate the movement of passenger traffic through electronically-operated gates that screen their data". The eGATE supposedly can process passengers at a rate of 5 to 7 seconds per person. The process is supposed to simplify immigration by "using a fingerprint and matching the passenger's personal information", such as passport information and residency status.

Apparently, travelers wishing to utilize the eGATE must first purchase an eCard, which costs JD35 plus tax. The eCard displays a user's history and information on a computer screen, which is then verified by fingerprint authentication.

The information in the blurb is rather vague and raises a few questions. Is easy access to the gate available for arrivals, departures, or both? Where does one purchase an eCard? And why bother with eCards in the first place when they have already begun building a database of information and fingerprints?

Source: The Jordan Times, Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's A Good Thing I Don't Smoke

Friday, March 23, 2007

Apparently there are a lot of Jordanian men out there who have a problem.

Happy Arab Mother's Day

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Today is the first day of Spring and so for those of you living in the following countries, happy Mother's Day: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Sudan,United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

I still have a month to go before I can wish my mother a happy Mother's Day.

Simply for Roba

Monday, March 19, 2007

Roba, this is for you.

Type Indicator: Am I Weird or What?

Kinzi, inspired by Hala, has literally tagged everyone in an effort to determine their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality test designed to assist a person in identifying some significant personal preferences.

The type indicator linked to on both Hala's and Kinzi's blogs is just a small mock-up of the actual test, so results may be varied. I have taken the actual test several times throughout my career and here are my results:

I am a EINTJP. Yup, you read that right. Rather than the traditional 4-character score, I rated exactly 50/50 in two categories (which is possible on the actual test). So I am an Extrovert and Introvert (depends on my mood/situation; I prefer one or the other at times), Intuitive, Thinking and both Judging and Perceiving (I like a combination of planning and spontaneity).

Queen Rania on the 'Net

Thursday, March 15, 2007

It's probably a spoof, but "Queen Rania" has popped up on Yahoo! Answers, asking the following question:
What are you doing to empower women in your community?
After reading the question, all I could think of, Queen Rania is hanging out on the web. I'm more attracted to her now than ever before!

(If this is a spoof, I blame Firas for helping propagate untruths.) :)

What a Mess

Due to the snow, my daughter's school was called off today. My son's was not. Not right away, anyway. About an hour after his school started it was called off and I had to drive over to pick him up – an ordeal that ended up taking five times longer than usual because people here don't know how to drive in inclement weather.

I had barely returned to the house from picking up my son when my phone rang. The Chadian consul would like me to come pick up my passport and visa, and by the way, they close at noon today. Great.

Traveling: Your Carry-On (Part 2)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

When traveling, properly packing a carry-on is more important than most people think. The first step to the process is choosing the bag that best suits your travel needs. Now that the proper bag is picked out, what should we put in it?

The Basics

You're not going to get very far without this one. Fortunately I've never forgotten mine and hopefully I never will. If you are an avid traveler, be sure that there are adequate pages available for stamps, visas, etc. If you're running low, you may need to make a trip to your local embassy in order to get pages added.
Plane tickets
Another essential. Be sure to put these in an easily accessible (but secure) location.

Other Essentials

Digital camera
Why go somewhere if you can't document the experience? Unless you're a film junkie, take a digital camera. Not only are they generally smaller (mine isn't, but I am generalizing here), but for long trips I would much rather be able to transfer pictures from my camera to my laptop than lug around a bunch of film. Digital also presents you with instant results which guarantees better pictures in the long run.
Altoids, gum or Listerine breath strips
After the terrorist scare in Britain last summer, some airlines will not allow you to carry toothpaste in your carry-on. Because it's inevitable that I'm probably going to eat something on the trip that will leave my breath smelling pretty rank, I carry some type of breath freshener. I'm sure my fellow passengers appreciate my sweet-smelling breath in the close quarters of the plane.
Sleeping mask and ear plugs
I already covered the rationale behind this one.
This one seems pretty basic, but you'd be amazed at how often you might need a pen. Perhaps you just want to play Sudoku on the plane. Perhaps you will be required to fill out an country entry card on the plane. It really doesn't matter; you just need to trust me on this one.
Relevant guide book
I like to know what there is to do when I get to where I'm going. A good guide book can fill you in on what to do, where to stay, and where to eat. Many people prefer the Lonely Planet guides, but they contain a bit too much information for me. My favorite is the DK Eyewitness Travel guides. They contain a little less information, but are much more colorful and easy to navigate.
Irrelevant book book
It's a good idea to have some basic reading material (any old book will do) for the times when you stuck for a long period of time, especially when that place doesn't have electricity.
I was tempted to list this first, but I didn't want to look too much like a nerd. A laptop is indispensable when it comes to communication, entertainment and photo storage.
Cables, cords and adapters
Your camera, laptop or iPod isn't going to be much use when the batteries are drained. Be sure to pack all necessary cords for your electronics, as well as plug adapters for your country of destination.
Hand sanitizer
I'm not a germ-a-phobe, but I've been in some situations where I wished I had something to clean my hands with. A small bottle of waterless hand sanitizer or some hand wipes will do the trick and they take up hardly any room in your bag.
Pack of tissues
I shouldn't even need to explain the necessity of carrying these. Not only are these good for runny (bloody?) noses and accidental spills, but the first time you end up in a bathroom on the outskirts of Istanbul with no toilet paper, you'll wish you had packed some tissues.
Just because the airline advertises an in-flight meal doesn't mean that it isn't going to be absolute crap. It doesn't hurt to have a candy bar, peanuts, chips (crips, if your British), or some dried fruit in the event that you can't get something to eat for a while.
Bottle of water
This one can be iffy, since some airlines won't let you bring bottled water on board, but since it's pretty cheap, it doesn't hurt to try.

Splurge Items

The following items aren't absolutely necessary, but they sure are nice to have if you can afford them.

MP3 player
I prefer an iPod, but any ol' MP3 player with long battery life will do. I use mine for music, audio books and podcasts.
Media player
In the even that you are stuck on a long layover in an airport or the in-flight movies are absolute rubbish, it's nice to have something else on which to watch video or catch up on unwatched television shows. Options include video iPod, PSP, portable DVD player or a portable dedicated media player. You'll need to determine which is most beneficial for your needs. The video iPod consolidates media into a single player (see MP3 player above) but screen size is rather diminished. The video iPod also has the ability to play some basic games, which can be a good time waster. The PSP has a larger variety of games and can play movies, as long as the movies are in a specific format (bah!). Portable DVD players are the cheapest of this lot, but are fairly bulky and require you to drag a bunch of DVDs along on the trip. There are a handful of other portable dedicated media players on the market which do a good job of playing video and digitally recorded television in a variety of formats. Many of these media players also allow the transfer and storage of digital pictures, which is an added bonus.
This is probably the least important in this line-up, but if you end up in a place like central Chad (read no electricity) or stumbling around in a dark hotel room, a small flashlight isn't a bad thing to have. I have a battery-less flashlight that can be charged by shaking it (kinetic energy), which is pretty handy when there aren't any double-A's available.
GPS device
Whether you're wandering around in a strange place or trying to find your way to a specific destination, a GPS is an invaluable device. Used in conjunction with Google Earth, it can become a powerful tool indeed.
Portable external hard drive
In the event of laptop failure or theft, it's nice to have a backup solution. A portable hard drive allows the backup storage of crucial information as well as movie and photo storage. When it comes to choosing a particular type, be sure to get something durable with high-capacity. Also make sure the drive can be powered both by USB or by external power sources.


Aside from a pair of sunglasses (in a hard case), packing clothing in a carry-on is optional. It really depends on how paranoid you are about your luggage getting lost. If I'm traveling to India, for example, I would pack an extra change of clothes, as the odds of my checked luggage being lost are better than average. If I'm traveling to London, the odds of my luggage being lost are considerably less, so I opt for a lightweight rain jacket in place of a change of clothes.

So that's what I pack in my carry-on. Your results may vary, but these items are designed to keep me occupied on those long layovers, keep me fed on those stretches without a meal, keep me in-touch with friends and family, keep me clothed in the event that my luggage is lost, and keep me prepared for almost any contingency.

Traveling: Your Carry-On (Part 1)

I think people should travel more. There's an entire world out there waiting to be explored, and it's not as difficult or expensive as you might think. All you have to do is take that first step. Unfortunately that first step is usually the most difficult.

One of the headaches with taking that first travel step is knowing what (and how) to pack. Packing can generally be broken down into the following categories:
  • checked luggage - The luggage that you check in at the airline counter. It gets transported in the belly of the plane and (hopefully) arrives when you do.
  • carry-ons - The bags that you store in the overhead compartments in the cabin.

While I may tackle the intricacies of packing checked baggage at a later date, for the time being, I prefer to deal with the fine art of packing a carry-on, especially one that will help you handle any travel situation in which you may find yourself.

Part 1: Choosing a Bag

The style of bag that you choose largely depends on what you will be doing. If you are a photography enthusiast, as I am, you will want to employ a bag that will accommodate a variety of photography equipment, as well as the capacity to carry other necessary items. For the average traveler, a more general bag may be utilized. To this end, I recommend the following bags:

General Purpose: Timbuk2 Outtawack Day Pack
This medium-size versatile bag is great for the average traveler. Its best feature is its ability to transform from a backpack to a briefcase to a shoulder bag, which makes it a great companion when hauling other luggage. It contains 3 compartments: a front compartment for carrying passports, travel documents, mp3 player, cell phone, keys, and more; the middle (main) compartment is for general purpose items; and a padded rear compartment for hauling a laptop computer.
Day Trip Photography: Tamrac Adventure 8
This lightweight camera bag/day pack can be deceiving. Despite its small dimensions, it has an extremely adequate capacity. The bag is divided into two main sections: a foam-padded compartment for camera equipment and a medium-size top pocket for additional gear. The bag also contains a number of pouches and pockets for extra items. Depending on how you pack your equipment, you can fit a surprising amount of goodies into this bag. An extra bonus—not to mention a safety feature—is that this bag passes for a backpack and not a camera bag.
Traveling Photography: Tamrac Adventure 9 - Photo/Computer Backpack
While the Tamrac Adventure 8 (above) is better suited for smaller trips, the Adventure 9 is the one that I prefer when traveling internationally. The functionality of the Adventure 9 is nearly identical to the Adventure 8, but it has some extra features which make it a better carry-on bag. The Adventure 9 sports a larger top pocket which is better when hauling a jacket or a change of clothes along with your other standard items. This bag also contains a padded rear compartment which can carry a laptop (up to 17") and a separate pouch for cords, cables and adapters.
(When on video assignments, I use the Kata HB-205, which is capable of carrying a pro-sumer digital video camera, a still camera, several lenses, additional equipment, and a laptop. While it's comfortable enough considering the amount of technical equipment it can hold, it's fairly bulky and lacks the capacity to carry some basic items such as clothes, food, etc.)

While analyzing bags may seem like overkill, choosing the right bag can really make a difference in your travel experience.

Next up: Packing your carry-on

Traveling: Defeating Jet Lag and General Fatigue

I love traveling. Actually, allow me to clarify that statement. I love being places; I just hate getting there.

The worst part of traveling, especially internationally, is the actual process that it takes to get to your destination: airports, flights, connections and layovers. Since I do a decent bit of traveling, I've done some research into various tips and techniques for overcoming jet lag and general fatigue. Here are some of the ones I employ.

Before you leave

Eat lightly
Try to eat smaller meals before you leave. Smaller meals allow your body to function normally and without extra strain. This seems to speed up the adaption process.
Avoid caffeine
Caffeine will actually dehydrate you, which is worse on your body than the sleepiness jetlag creates. Try to avoid caffeine before and during flights.

On the plane

Change your clocks
Change your watch to the time of your destination as soon as you board the plane. This helps you to know how to act in relation to the time where you are headed.
"Sleep East, Party West"
Memorize this one. The basic jist is that if your are traveling eastbound for a long distance (USA to Europe or the Middle East, or from the Middle East to East Asia), get to sleep as quickly as possible. I generally try to hit the sack just after the meal. This is easier when the in-flight movies are bad ones. Of course, if you're traveling westbound, pray for good movies.
Don't do drugs
I personally don't take sleeping pills. I believe it's better to trick my own body rather than turning that control over to a drug. I'm not paranoid, but in case of an emergency, I'd rather be at my best. Besides, when was the last time Jack Bauer took sleeping pills?

Sleeping on a plane

When I'm in a bed, I generally sleep pretty soundly. Attempting to sleep upright in an uncomfortable airplane seat is another matter. I generally don't sleep well on planes, but as I've discovered, I don't really have to. The trick to convince my body that I did.

Generally I just put my seat back as far as possible, try to get comfortable, close my eyes, and pretend I'm asleep. Laying still and relaxing is still restful, which is at least somewhat helpful for my well-being. (After all, I've got the dark cabin, the whole jet engine thing going on...that always helps.)

There are several things that I do in order to lend credence to my pretend sleeping.

Brush and floss
I'm not kidding. Remember, the trick is to convince your body that you've slept, which means going through the whole pre-bed routine. Besides, it's just easier to relax with a clean mouth.
Take a whiz
This ties in with the whole pre-bed routine, but it's also a common courtesy to the other passengers sitting around you. There are few things more annoying than being woken up on a plane in order to let someone out to go to the bathroom.
Maneuver for empty seats
Since it's easier for me to sleep horizontally, I try to scout out locations with empty adjacent seating so that I can sprawl. This can be fairly difficult on international flights, however, so I generally try to get a window seat so that I can lean against the cabin wall.
Pack an eye screen
Sure, they look stupid and senior citizen-ish, but if you can swallow your pride and wear one, you'll be glad you did. (If you've ever been to a northern hemisphere country where the sun comes up at 3 in the morning, you'll quickly realize the necessity of an eye screen!) Some airlines give these out for free.
Ear plugs
Slightly more annoying than the fellow passenger that has to pee five times during the trip is the baby that won't stop screaming (or the idiot who is playing his crappy rap music on his iPod so loud that anyone withing 5 rows can hear it). Don't get me wrong; I love kids, but just not when I am sleeping pretending to sleep. Just remember, there's a "trick" to rolling up earplugs, pulling up on your ear with the opposite hand (from behind your head), then holding them in place while they expand.
Travel pillow?
I haven't had much success with these, but other people seem to love them. I'll let you make up your own mind on this one.
Nab and extra blanket
Those thin airline blankets sometimes don't do an adequate job if the plane turns suddenly cold. Having an extra blanket helps to cover any uncovered parts of your freezing body.
Take off your shoes
This is usually not an issue for me, as I generally wear athletic shoes when traveling. Not only are they comfortable, but they contain no metal, which makes it much more convenient when navigating airport security. Because my shoes are comfortable, I have no problems sleeping in them. If I were wearing heavy dress shoes, however, I would take them off in order to maximize my comfort. Just be sure you're wearing a clean pair of socks.

Amman Master Plan Sounds Good...So Far

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) is moving quickly in their completion of the final draft of the new Amman Master Plan, which they hope to have finished by by the end of the year.

According to the March 9-10 edition of The Jordan Times...
"Our vision is to ensure systematic and stable growth of the city rather than hap-hazard expansion," [Amman Mayor Omar] Maani said.

Reiterating GAM's commitment to enhance and rehabilitate the city center through several projects, he said the master plan is "a step forward towards a tidy and organized city, preparing it for decades beyond 2020."

The master plan is a response to the tremendous growth the capital has witnessed over the past several years, particularly with the influx of over 500,000 Iraqis.

[His Majesty King Abdullah] said the leading challenge would be to strike a balance that encourages growth, development and modernization, while at the same time ensuring the preservation of the capital's aesthetic qualities and charm.

As part of GAM's plans for downtown, the municipality will expand the green area in Omar Mattar Street, rehabilitate Rainbow and Faisal streets and restore Abu Darweesh Yard.

Stable growth rather than hap-hazard expansion. Expand green areas. Rehabilitate. Restore. The more I hear about this, the more there is to like.

I've been a supporter of an organized city master plan since before it was announced. I'm continually encouraged by what I see and hear concerning this up-and-coming Master Plan and the future growth of Amman. Obviously I have my doubts about certain issues, but I'll wait and see how things begin to develop.