Purchase Books or Purchase Cigarettes? That's A No-Brainer!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Barnes and Noble
Did you know that for every 10,000 books published in North America, there are 42,000 published in South America and only 6,500 books published in the Arab world? Literary and intellectual books published in the Arab world represent only 0.08 percent of the world's output, less than those published in Turkey alone.

If these figures seem a bit surprising, than you've probably never stepped into a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Recently while in the States, I spent a significant amount of time in Barnes and Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the United States. There's just something exciting about stepping into a huge bookstore, equivalent in size to the Safeway at 7th Circle and filled wall-to-wall with books and other reading material. I spent more than $200 on just books, and I would have spent more if the airlines afforded me a higher baggage allowance.

I have yet to see an equivalent to Barnes and Noble in the Middle East. On the contrary, the facts listed above simply reflect my personal observations: that Arabs, in general, don't enjoy or pursue reading. I've even used this observation to my advantage. In incoming packages, all I have to do is place my US-imported DVDs below a layer of books and the customs agents don't discover them. Why? Because books are like kryptonite to the guys checking the packages. (My secret is out now, but I just couldn't resist using it to make a point.)

The sad fact is that this trend is having a negative effect on the professional success and educational growth of the Middle East. According to UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammad Ben Rashid Al Maktoum, "There is a wide knowledge gap between [the Middle East] and the developed world in the West and in Asia." This gap is affecting areas such as scientific research and scientific academia. The Arab world spends only 0.02 percent of its GDP towards scientific research, compared to developing countries spending between 2.5 and 5 percent. And in the Arab world, for every 10,000 people in the workforce there are 3.3 academic scholars, while the developed world has 110 for every 10,000. According to Sheikh Mohammad, "Our only choice is to bridge this gap as quickly as possible, because our age is defined by knowledge."

Entrepreneur Ideas: Jump On Them Before Someone Else Does

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I was talking with some of the Jordan bloggers at the last meet-up and the topic of stock photography came up, specifically the lack of good stock photography of Arabs and Arabia. What we've ended up with, as a result, is a bunch of happy, white people utilizing the services of Arab Bank – or at least that is what we are being led to believe based on the new ads. Any good photographers want to start tackling this issue? Do a good enough job and you could have a monopoly.

A month ago, I wanted to see Spider-Man 3 on opening night, but between the usual websites displaying incorrect movie times and the insane traffic issues in Amman, I wasn't able to get tickets for 3 days. I finally ended up at a matinée on a Saturday afternoon. So why is it that the Arab world doesn't have a service like Fandango? Wouldn't it be nice to have reliable movie times, as well as the ability to purchase tickets online and pick them up when you arrive at the theater? Not only would this be great for movie watchers, but I'm sure theaters would be willing to pay commissions for every ticket purchased online through such a service. Perhaps this is a job for someone like tootCorp. I think it would 10-times more successful than 7iber.

And the Littering Violotions Just Keep Climbing

Monday, June 11, 2007

Video cameras captures some 3,869 environmental violations in the capital last month, according to the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM). The majority of the offenses were in the Madina Munawarah district at 845, followed by Zahran district (707), Marka (391), Tlaa Al Ali (358), and Abdali (347). Sweileh recorded the least number of violations (10) followed by Tareq area (23). In early 2007, GAM, in cooperation with the Public Security Department, equipped 16 vehicles with video cameras to monitor harmful emissions, littering and traffic violations on the capital's streets.
I am so supportive of this initiative, it's not even funny. I think that the GAM should equip another 20-30 vehicles with video cameras to more effectively target offenders. Perhaps the revenue generated from litterers and polluting vehicles would be sufficient enough to persuade the government to lower the insanely high tax rate!

Source: The Jordan Times, Tuesday, June 7, 2007

"Water Is Everyone's Business"

Demographic changes and migrations have created an imbalance between available water resources and demand, Minister of Water and Irrigation Thafer Alem said...in his remarks at the opening session of a regional forum on local water governance entitled "Water is everybody's business."
Perhaps these "imbalances between available water resources and demand" are the reason the water pressure has been screwed up in western Jabal Amman since they started construction on 4th Circle over a year ago. Or maybe they are the reason that, for the past two weeks, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation has supplied less than 24 hours of water rationing to the same area.

Talk is cheap. If water is everybody's business, they'd better start looking into the areas where they are short-changing their customers.

Source: The Jordan Times, Thursday, June 7, 2007

Enshallah = Cop Out

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I'm getting a bit tired of the word enshallah. The word is supposed to mean "if God wills", but is generally used as a cop out by the lazy, the non-committed, or liars.

For instance, we invited some friends over for dinner one night. Their response? "Enshallah we will be there at 7:00." So we spent the afternoon cleaning up the house and preparing a nice dinner. At 9:00 we get the call that they were leaving to come over to our house around 7:00 when some family members showed up at their house uninvited. "What were we to do, habibi? We had to invite them in! Perhaps we can come to dinner tomorrow night, instead?" I'll tell you what to do: tell them that you were walking out the door to attend dinner at someone's house and that they can take a hike since they dropped by unannounced. We ended up throwing away half the food.

Recently our boiler sprung a leak. Our landlord called the plumber who "enshallah" would be at our house the next day at 4:30 to fix the pipes. Guess what, he never showed up. So I've been taking cold showers for the past 3 days waiting for this guy to enshallah his butt over to my house to fix my boiler problem.

My friends jokingly refer to Iraqi Air as "Enshallah Air", simply because they're so undependable.

I could go on with example after example, but the point is that the word has lost its meaning. Even worse, in most cases, it is used synonymously for the words "no", "maybe" or "I don't think so." Pathetic. In the future, I wish people would stop jerking me around and just be honest with me. A plain "yes" or "no" would suffice.

Destruction of Jordan's Ecology Will End Up Destroying Jordan's Economy

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Excerpts of an interesting article in The Jordan Times relating to the dangerous Jordanian habit of littering, for those of you who missed it.
[Aqaba's] unique marine habitat is beginning to lose its appeal among several tourist diving groups, who cite serious coral reef damage as a result of littering and other issues compromising their safety.

A prime attraction for divers worldwide and a key resource for tourism, Aqaba's diving sites that contain some of the world's most pristine coral reefs, are drawing criticism from several groups that expressed shock and dismay at their current condition.

In letters addressed to clubs in the area, several diving groups said the quality of certain dive sites were seriously affected by litter, while others wrote that they were looking to other destinations for future dive holidays. "All of our group had good words to say about you and... the people of Jordan... but are unlikely to come back to Jordan for a diving holiday," wrote British diver and reef conservationist David Prentice, following a diving expeditions in Aqaba.

A hotspot for thousands of Jordanians during the weekends, the southern shoreline is a key part of the problem. The beach is often littered with all kinds of rubbish by the end of the day — from cigarette butts, soda cans and plastic bags, to diapers, charcoal and even, on one occasion, the carcass of a goat — which find their way into the sea.

Although the Royal Marine Conservation Society (JREDS) and other community-based organizations conduct periodic clean-up campaigns to prevent additional damage to marine habitat, the problem prevails due to the lack of public awareness and weak enforcement of regulations.

JREDS Executive Director Fadi Sharaiha, who has led several awareness and clean-up drives in the area over the recent years, said attempts to change public behavior and understanding of the environment has been a challenge.

He acknowledged that the majority of the public have no regard for the conservation of the coral reef or the state of the public beach.

"We have done a lot over the past few years to step up awareness about the environment and the importance of the coral reef, but this has been difficult," said Sharaiha.

"Trying to change the mindsets of some of the older generation is as good as hopeless, that is why we are focusing our education on young people. As a nation, we have a problem when it comes to maintaining public spaces," he added.

Sharaiha said the problem exists at various levels, starting from the regular citizen all the way to those responsible for enforcement.

Currently [the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority] (ASEZA) and environmental rangers are responsible for monitoring violations and are authorized to issue fines.

Those littering can be fined between JD20-JD25, while Article 25 of the Environmental Protection Law stipulates a minimum penalty of JD10,000 for damaging coral, but it is usually never enforced, according to observers.

Sarah Lyle, a diver and underwater photographer from Ireland who has been traveling to Aqaba since 1998, told The Jordan Times, "The coral reefs in Aqaba are almost unique in the Red Sea in that they have not been devastated by over-diving, but from the level of rubbish that is being left on the beaches. Without pristine reefs, diving tourists will stop coming to Aqaba and probably opt for the cheaper, more accessible Egyptian Red Sea resorts."

Source: The Jordan Times, June 4, 2007

My Buns Have Become Comfortably Numb

Saturday, June 02, 2007

After a two-hour flight from Richmond to Chicago, eleven hours waiting around in Chicago's O' Hare Airport, and a twelve-hour flight from Chicago to Amman, I can honestly say that I no longer have any feeling in my derrière.

It's good to be back.