Big Brother Is Watching

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Conspiracy theorists unite! The word on the Jordanian blog-o-sphere is one of concern and outrage towards those in government who would try to censor what is written in online publications. The biggest concern is the rumored development of a new, self-censorship plug-in for popular blogging software such as Wordpress, Live Journal and Blogger. Allegedly this plug-in will be released by Jordan's E-Government to "help Jordanian bloggers not to cross the ambiguous red line, easily and smoothly."

Did I miss something? Jordan has an E-Government? Government offices still write everything out on paper (in triplicate)—complete with circa-1956 stamps and numerous signatures—and yet we have an E-Government. Perhaps the E-Government should be working towards modernizing Jordan's technological infrastructure rather than being overly concerned about citizen watchdogs.

Nevertheless, it's so thoughtful of the government to want to "help" bloggers by keeping us from saying anything negative about...anything. We're one big shiny, happy country. Nothing to see here. Move along.

My “Royal” Experience

Monday, September 24, 2007

It seems like public opinion concerning Royal Jordanian’s (RJ) quality of service is waning. I fly RJ about 12-16 times each year simply for the convenience of being able to check-in early at the 7th Circle City Terminal and the frequent flyer miles. (I use the term "convenience" loosely, as there are times when the unmanaged crowding and massive chaos makes early check-in a real chore.)

I’ve generally been a pretty decent supporter of RJ as they attempt to transform their airline from really bad to really mediocre. I hope that one day, RJ may rise through the ranks and become a really great airline, but that day has not yet arrived. Currently, quality of service on RJ is hit or miss.

My most recent experience with RJ was on a flight to and from the United States. The trip to the States was horrendous, while the return trip was much better.

Every trip out of Jordan starts in Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA), which is in pretty sad shape. The airport was built in 1983 but it was decorated in 1977 (or something like that). There are times when I wonder if the airport has been updated since its completion, aside from adding unnecessary obstacles to impede customer thoroughfare (such as the x-ray machines put in place to scan your luggage on the way out of the airport).

I generally try not to use the bathrooms in the airport (for obvious reasons), but as I was waiting for my flight this last time, it couldn’t be helped; I felt the urge. And as I stepped foot in the bathroom, I remembered why it was such a bad idea. From the water pooling on the floor around the open drains to the filthy toilets; from the lack of toilet paper to the bathroom door that wouldn’t close (allowing all those passing by to peek in at those trying to do their “business”), the bathroom screamed dysfunction. Considering that the airport services around 8,000 travelers a day, you would think that taking care of people’s bathroom needs would be a higher priority.

But I digress. I don’t believe that Royal Jordanian airline has any control over the state of QAIA. It does, however, have control of their own airline schedules and services which, I’ve discovered, generally are lacking when departing from QAIA. My most recent trip to the States boarded over an hour late and left the tarmac an hour-and-a-half late! This is my second trip in a row to the States where the plane left over an hour late.

One would expect that RJ would be utilizing their best planes when it comes to their long-haul bread-and-butter flights. But as Qwaider has documented, the dilapidated planes leave much to be desired. I’m especially disappointed in the entertainment options for a 12-hour flight: a couple 30-minute American television shows, a single trimmed-for-time movie and an hour-long. This dearth of content is available on a handful of fuzzy, badly colored screens or monitors positioned throughout the interior of the plane. I always hope against hope for the individual entertainment screens which are set into the back of each seat, but I’ve only managed to experience those on 1 or 2 of my trips throughout the year.

Due to our late departure from QAIA, we landed over an hour-and-a-half late in New York. Then it’s the typical wait in line for customs control and another 45-minute wait for luggage, which caused me to miss my connecting flight to Washington. I ended up having to stay overnight in a hotel and catch the next flight the following morning. RJ never offered any reparation for my inconvenience. (To be fair, the customs control and luggage wait were not the fault of RJ but, had we arrived on time, I would have never missed my flight.)

My return flight from Chicago, however, was much better. The flight boarded and left the airport exactly on time, which is most likely due to the strict penalties imposed by US airports for late departure. The plane was the same dumpy model, but the flight was pretty empty, so I was able to stretch out across several seats and get some rest. I guess the quality of the in-flight entertainment doesn’t matter as much when one is able to sleep through most of the trip. The flight staff (who were Japanese) were hospitable and the flight arrived 30-minutes early.

Here’s to hoping that the executives at RJ will listen to their valued customers and start to make some improvements. The goal should be consistent quality rather than the current hit-or-miss service that most have come to expect.

You People Are Idiots

Sunday, September 09, 2007

That's the implied accusation that I received after reading a comment on the recent article, Jordan's ATV: The Untelevised Revolution.

Many people have been anxiously awaiting the official launch of Jordan's first independent TV channel, ATV, a project over two years in the making. But after Jordan's Audio Visual Commission (AVC) halted the transmission of the press conference which was to announce the launch date, many potentials watchers have been trying to figure out what is the hold up.

I haven't been following the build up that has led to this point, but it's clear to me that many people are frustrated by the legal red tape that is stalling the launch process. And according to the statements by a Mr. Jum3a (who speaks with a level of authority), the "AVC saved [ATV from] a colossal failure which would have been broadcast to millions of viewers."

"Colossal failure", as the comment goes on to say, apparently refers to a "lack of quality programming which disappointed the investors or potential investors, lack of readiness, which was evident by the constant slippage in deadlines long before the AVC was blamed, [and] poor management."

So aside from accusing ATV's Managing Director, Mr. Muhannad Khatib, of being a liar (or is he accusing the interview of being a lie? I can't tell, but it's the first sentence in the comment), Mr. Jum3a is also insulting our sensibilities by insinuating that we are too stupid to determine between good and bad programming.

Who is right here, the AVC or ATV? Personally I don't care. But I do take offense to any insinuation that those of us watching television in Jordan are too dumb to make up our own minds about quality television.

Spin Doctors

Saturday, September 08, 2007

As a result of public outcry against the Jordanian public medical system, an investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the neglect and medical misconduct of the father of Jordanian blogger, Who-sane. But apparently the Ministry of Health officials responsible for the investigation have never taken a class on quality of service and customer support, as the investigation thus far has the makings of a first class cover-up rather than a fact finding mission.

One of the accusations leveled at Who-sane—via a bullying attempt against his father—is one of disloyalty against the Kingdom through a "harming" smear tactic. The investigators were also concerned about some of the comments and feedback by those who read the initial account, and for good reason. They should pay close attention to the responses and sentiments. Sure some were a little over the top but others were legitimate responses to years of neglect in Jordan's public hospital arena.

I have a book entitled The Brand Gap, which deals with the issues of companies marketing a brand to consumers. The premise of the book rests on a simple, tenable statement: your company isn't who you say you are; it's who others say you are.

The truth of that statement resonates within the comments of all those outraged by this story. Jordan's public medical image is no longer affected by the spin doctors in charge of maintaining face (and a job), but is being called out by the vox populi in an effort to build a better, more responsible system.

The Minister of Health officials need to realize that the people aren't shaming them by calling them out; rather they have shamed themselves if they continue to allow bullying tactics and poor performance to continue.

Forbidden Love?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I'm noticing it more and more around my neighborhood...

I was walking down the street late one evening to dump my trash bags in the dumpster when I noticed a Jeep Grand Cherokee with tinted windows parked in an unlit section of the street. The odd thing was that there was a sun shade in the windshield, even though there wasn't any sun to block out. I stared at the Jeep for a a good 20 seconds as I walked past, a series of questions and scenarios going through my head. As I dumped my trash in the dumpster and turned around, the Jeep started up and peeled away. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what was probably taking place in a shaded Jeep parked on a quiet, dark street.

The next evening, I struck out for my nightly jog. As I was stepping out the front door I noticed two young girls walking past the house headed up the hill. I turned to run down the hill. A couple minutes later as I was finishing my mile loop, I was rounding the final corner when I noticed one of the girls sitting on a wall by herself. She was fiddling with her phone and I wondered where her friend went to. Then I saw them: the other girl and some guy sitting about 30 feet away in a shadowy, abandoned garage. Apparently the evening walk was just a cover for a secret rendezvous with a boyfriend.

Two days ago, in broad daylight, a young couple had parked under a tree on our street in broad daylight. He was sitting on the hood of the car and they were goofing off, flirting and touching, laughing and being "in love". This type of scene is becoming more and more common in public locations throughout Jordan.

Yesterday I was walking back down to the dump some trash into the dumpster (yes, I generate a lot of trash) when I noticed a condom lying on the road...and it had been used.

Apparently word is getting around that my sleepy, unlit street is the perfect after-hours hang out for forbidden lovers.

Vox Populi

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The people have spoken and they are outraged at a quickly spreading story of appalling unprofessionalism and neglect at one of Jordan’s newest public hospitals. I hope government officials realize that when the people speak, they had better listen.

The backlash (thus far)