Indiana Jones for the Weekend...Without the Action

Monday, April 30, 2007

What does one do with a 3-day holiday weekend? Go digging in the dirt, of course! I just returned from a couple of days working with an archaeologist friend down in Shobak. My friend specializes in Iron Age pottery and is working in a number of Edomite sites just north of Petra.

The weather was perfect. The Bedouin hospitality was fantastic. (On a side note, Bedouin tea beats Ammani tea any day of the week.) And to top it off, we dug up some really cool stuff. We found tons of pottery, including a number of really nice, significant pieces. We also uncovered a number of bones, some coal (for radio carbon dating), a bunch of seeds (great for dating because they only have a lifespan of 1 year), a piece of leather with a hair attached to it, and a pile of fossilized clams and mussels.

Now how do you suppose clams and mussels arrived in the middle of the desert at 1,220 meters above sea level?

Traffic Enforcement Crack Down

Friday, April 27, 2007

A taxi driver friend of mine is none too pleased at the moment. He pulled over in front of a hotel to drop off a passenger, but because he pulled over in the middle of the road next to a line of parked cars, he was stopped by a police officer and ticketed.

Now if you believe my friend's story, he'll claim that he pulled over with sufficient room for traffic to pass. Despite the fact that this man is my friend, he's also a taxi driver, so I'm going to liberally interpret the phrase "with sufficient room for traffic to pass" to mean that cars were probably forced to swing into the opposing lane of traffic to get around.

In this situation, I have little sympathy for my friend. While I never enjoy hearing about the misfortunes of friends, I am an avid proponent of the crack down of traffic laws. If the government and police force is actually beginning to step up on this matter, I applaud them.

A word of caution to our governing bodies, however. Such an operation must be handled with kid gloves. Enforcing an instant crack down on laws that have previously been loosely moderated will only cause problems. Many people are not aware of proper traffic laws and therefore, are not aware that they are breaking them.

People are going to begin complaining that such a crackdown may be akin to punishing a kid for touching something when you never told him/her not to touch it in the first place. This excuse has only partial validity. Any person with a Jordanian driver's license should have taken a written driver's test, which includes necessary traffic laws and precautions. But again, the government's lax enforcement of traffic laws has been interpreted by many as freedom to bend break the rules.

I would suggest starting a safety campaign to remind the public about common traffic laws and their consequences, perhaps through the newspapers, billboards and other public notice points. Warn the people that tougher enforcement is on the way. If such a campaign is executed correctly and expediently, the government cannot be held at fault for doing their job and the public can't rightfully complain about clubbing tactics.

Perhaps we'll see safer, less crowded streets in the near future. That would be a nice change.

Do Drivers In Jordan Know...?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

...that automobiles inside the traffic circle have the right of way?

Radison SAS Panorama

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Spring is the nicest time in Jordan, specifically because everything is green. Now "green" is a relative term that is influenced by the amount of time you have lived in Jordan. I just had family visit from Maryland/Pennsylvania who though that everything still looked pretty brown.

But for those of us who spend most of the year in Jordan, things are green—a nice result of the abundance of rain that we received over the winter. And because things are looking so nice lately, it's prime time for all of you shutterbugs out there to go out and snap some photos.

Now is the time to capture the city. In a month or two, everything will be back to bland.

On Theft in Jordan and Police Ineptitude

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Just two weeks ago, I had a brand new Dell laptop computer purchased and brought into Jordan for a friend. A couple days ago, this same friend stopped for a minute at a pet store near the Al Ghad magazine office on Mecca Street in order to purchase a mouse for her brother’s snake (use your imagination). In the two minutes that it took her to purchase the mouse, someone broke her car window and stole the laptop.

When she returned to her car, she noticed the broken window. As she was trying to figure out what to do, a guy who had been sitting on the other side of the street when she entered the pet shop approached her and asked her to move her car, since she had inadvertently parked him in. The guy seemed rather nervous and in a sudden rush, so my friend began to ask him questions. The man claimed to be a watermelon salesman who had been selling watermelons all day, which seemed strange since his booth contained no watermelons and there was not a watermelon in sight. When questioned about whether the man had witnessed the robbery, he claimed that he had been praying. I’m telling you, this guy must be the fastest prayer in Islam, because she claims he wasn’t praying when she entered the pet shop two minutes earlier.

My friend decided that, rather than calling the police, knowing that they would take their sweet time getting to the crime scene, she would request assistance from the local police hut. The watermelon guy tried to convince her to move her car before calling the police, but she stalled, wrote down the guy’s license plate number and then proceeded to the police hut.

The traffic police officer was unable to do anything about the situation and ordered my friend to move her car to let the watermelon guy out. A while later, the detectives arrived on the scene. As the detectives casually took my friend’s statement, they admitted that similar thefts had been happening in the same area.

In the meantime, my friend noticed that there had been a couple guys sitting in the window of the Al Ghad magazine office the whole time, so she began to wonder if they had seen anything. She suggested that the police ask the two guys some questions and follow up on the watermelon guy, who was acting really suspicious.

Yesterday, on a hunch, my friend went back down to the Al Ghad magazine office to ask some questions. She enlisted the help of a nice security guard who showed her security camera footage of the street in front of the office. The footage showed two men, one dressed in black and one dressed in lighter colors, walking together back and forth in front of the office. A minute later, the man in black walked past the camera carrying the laptop and disappeared down the alleyway. My friend, ecstatic with this find, thanked the security guard and informed him that the police would be returning to collect the footage.

Armed with the knowledge that Al Ghad had evidence that could help with the case, my friend returned to the police station with her father and a friend from the Muhaberaat. When she walked into the detective’s office, he was sitting on his butt doing absolutely nothing. In fact, he hadn’t bothered to look into the case at all and was quite surprised when my friend showed up with a superior officer. My friend reported her find to the detective who promised to go with her down to the Al Ghad office the following day to collect the security camera footage.

Meanwhile, the detective decided to use the license plate information to look up information on the watermelon guy. Turns out that he is actually a licensed watermelon salesman and that he does have a booth in this exact area, but the fact that he didn’t have any watermelons for sale that day, didn’t see a thing because he was “praying”, and became extremely nervous when questioned by my friend didn’t seem to be suspicious to the detective. Rather than bring him in for questioning, the all-wise detective decided to not follow that lead.

This morning, my friend returned to Al Ghad with the detective. They were informed that the security guard who had helped her yesterday had been fired (no explanation given) and that the security footage had been erased. The director of security accidently admitted that there had been additional footage of the actual break-in from a second camera, but that the magazine did not want to have to be troubled with any legalities in this incident. He claimed that the footage wasn’t good evidence and that there was no more room on the hard drive, so they decided to delete it. Apparently, tampering with or destroying evidence is not against the law in Jordan. The detective did nothing.

This is where the case stands at this point. There are a couple of points that really bother me. I’m a bit surprised at the impotence of the local authorities in this situation. I’m not at all surprised at the lackadaisical attitude of the detective and his apparent lack of motivation and intuition. If I had to wager a guess, I would assume that the detective probably acquired his position through wasta and not by personal merit, especially when a 21-year-old girl can do a better sleuthing job.

I’m appalled at the actions of Al Ghad magazine. I have no doubt that they fired the poor security guard simply for his willingness to interact with my friend and assist in the situation. I also can’t believe that they would cowardly tuck their heads in the sand simply because they don’t want to be inconvenienced, rather than help another fellow human being and assist the police in making this a safer city. In my estimation, they are just as guilty as the person who stole the computer. I also have a hard time believing that they ran out of hard drive space. Even if it were true, they knew full well that the police were coming to collect the footage so they had a responsibility to make some sort of transferable back-ups before deleting the data. And what kind of sloppy operation deletes security footage a day after it is taken, especially when they know that a crime occurred directly outside their office?

At this point, my friend’s father has graciously allowed the Al Ghad security staff two days to recover the missing footage before marching in with lawyers to take care of the situation. If Al Ghad thought they didn’t want to be inconvenienced, they’re in for a surprise.

The End of Innocence

Monday, April 23, 2007

Every so often, I hop in a taxi only to be regaled by the driver with tales of the safety and security of Jordan. I hear about how a visitor is potentially able to leave his luggage on the side of the road and no one will touch it. The visitor can return hours later to find his possessions unharmed and exactly as they were left.

Every time I hear such stories, I have to stifle a laugh. People with such grandiose misconceptions of Jordan are obviously living in the past. I would never presume to leave anything of value sitting around where others might make off with it. Why? Because that is exactly what would happen.

Some friends of mine have a new baby, so they purchase a nice, rugged, Jeep-brand stroller and had it shipped over from the United States. They went out for a walk a month ago and left the stroller in their yard for a few minutes when they returned back to the house. Now when I say "yard", I’m talking about a walled courtyard that is at basement level. You actually have to walk through a gate and down a flight of steps to get to their yard, which is what someone did in order to steal their stroller.

Since such a stroller is extremely rare in Jordan, I assume that the thief has two options. He could sell the stroller to some unsuspecting buyer in exchange for some extra hubbly-bubbly money or he could present it to his wife or family member as a gift. Either way, I assume that if my friend ever saw this type of stroller being wheeled around Amman, he would probably assume that it was his and most likely be tempted to pummel the truth out of whomever was steering it.

Just How Many Vehicles Are On Amman's Roads?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Perhaps you've noticed them...the guys in the orange vests planting little blue stickers on vehicles at busy intersection. I know that the question was raised earlier this month, who are these guys and what the heck are they doing plastering my car with stickers?

According to The Jordan Times, this "manual survey" is part of a campaign by the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) to count vehicles on the capital's streets. GAM teams are targeting specific areas at high peak times, namely Zahran, King Abdullah II, Mecca and Arar streets.

Now the question begs to be asked, isn't there a safer, more efficient way of counting vehicles in Amman? I'd be happy with a solution that doesn't involve me trying to scrape blue stickers off my windshield. (I scrape them off to skew the numbers. They've counted me three time already!)

According to one motorist who commented for The Jordan Times, "There is a strong possibility of traffic accidents due to the way the project is being carried out," referring to how vehicles were stopping suddenly in response to GAM team members who were jumping from one car to another to place the stickers.

Safety aside, I can tell the GAM just how many cars are on the capital's roads: TOO MANY! The 1999 census claims 400,000 vehicles within the city limits, but my argument is that the exact number really doesn't matter when everyone knows that there are too many in the first place. If the GAM had asked me first, I could have saved them a lot of money with my 2-second assessment.

According to Yousef Borno, director of GAM's Traffic Engineering Department, limited use of public transportation by citizens and residents was the major cause of traffic congestion in the capital. I can tell you why: Amman's public transportation system is an unorganized, worthless mess. Spend a month reading Jordanian blogs and you find a handful of complaints about this very subject.

I commend the GAM for attempting to find an appropriate means for reducing traffic congestion, but they might be surprise at how taking care of little things would solve some of the problems. I'm talking about enforcing double parking laws, no parking zones, and the issues of taxis, buses and citizens stopping anytime in the middle of the road. Considering that half of our streets are taken up by stationary vehicles, freeing up some of the congestion may be as easy as making more of the street usable.

Source: The Jordan Times, April 12, 2007

Should I, or Should I Not?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I received this very tempting offer in my e-mail. My spam filter flagged it as a junk suspect. I can't imagine why. The subject line of the e-mail is "VERRY URGENT".
Dear Sir

Best compliments of the day. I Need your help I have a sum of $10.5M (USD)dollar I want to invest It here in Dubai but I don't know anybody here to assist me. I am Mr. Eric Martins the son of retired General in the Republic of Congo army and I need protection so if you can handle such a huge sum of investment please get back to me and again if you are really want to assist me please I have to tell you this we need to meet and discuses how to bring this money out for the airport here I am now in Dubai.

and I am afraid I never discuss this matter with anybody because this is my first time to come to this country and when I come here I saw too much black peoples here I hope that I am not going to have any problem if I am doing this with you I have to put all my trust on you please contact me through my private email,i will take you like my brother here now and I don't know any where here and i dont have any number now to reach me so contact me with my email address my private Regards,

Mr. Eric Martins

If any of you folks in Dubai want to take him up on the offer, feel free to follow up using the e-mail provided.

The Real Reasons Why Mac OS X Leopard Is Delayed

Monday, April 16, 2007

Leopard Delayed

Asian Day

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I was at the Dead Sea yesterday, as was half of the population of China and a quarter of the population India. Sure there were plenty of Arabs, but they were in the minority.

The City on Seven Hills

Saturday, April 07, 2007

In the Roman period, Amman was a favorite to Roman soldiers because, like Rome, it was built on seven hills. Today, the city spans over 13 hills. But can anyone list the original seven?

Google Offers Free Broadband in the US

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Our technological overlords, Google, are offering free broadband to subscribers in the US and Canada. Google is calling their new service TiSP, complete with the tagline "Going with the Flow".

Early adopters can sign up for a free self-installation kit, which includes setup guide, fiber-optic cable, spindle, wireless router and installation CD. Users can expect to be online with 60 minutes of installation.

TiSP Diagram

Find out how TiSP works.