Saturday, August 15, 2009

Late to the party

Drock showed this to me at the cottage. Its kind of fun to think that someone with a low rez camera and too much time on their hands (not sure if pun is intended there or not) can post a video that gets watched 33 million times.

33 million... which must make mine the last blog on the planet to take note.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I really like this as an artistic medium. It's sand on a light table.

It starts slow, but finishes strong.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Beads are the new plastic tubing

Does anyone remember the episode of WKRP where Johnny's daughter has that douche bag boyfriend? I can't really remember the quote (or find it on the web), but his career choice was "Plastic tubing" or some such thing, cuz everyone was getting into it. Great episode.

I couldn't sleep tonight so I went on a short walk. I am still down on Toronto so I am a) trying to do more "Toronto things", b) trying to make sure that I look around while I am out and about and c) moving into a place that I can nest for a bit (while reclaiming the best bed in the world - sorry Alison). Mixed results thus far.


How is it that "Beads" can occupy so much prime real estate on Queen west? Did I miss the gold rush somewhere along the way? Yes, this is was the "fashion" district... but... wow.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shut up.

"I will tell you one thing -- if we get a woman president, let it be her. She is a real woman. She knows what a woman is supposed to be. She is pro-life. She is pro-family. She is pro-woman," said Jon Eric Thompson, who attended the Sunday picnic in Fairbanks.

(About the Palinator)

I've been getting a serious hate on for some of the things I've been seeing lately. Source.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Things on my mind.

I would love to be one of the people who work in mints (not the chocolates). With the economic crisis unfolding I've seen more of these people than I ever would have thought. Every half hour and on every news channel, I see $millions being printed, folded and generally fondled by these people.. as stocks plummet and deficits fly. They are the "Crisis Celebrities". Them and poor middle Americans in front of foreclosure signs.

I watched a special on BBC that was talking about 8 tourists that went on a tour to Iraq. One older women said that she felt quite safe, but it was "very difficult to get any postcards at all".

My spam folder today had some very new and exciting offers. "Give your male member the strength to remember" seems to be a popular hook.

I think that a good horror movie would be firemen that went insane. An evil psychological thriller where you think that the firemen are the good guys, but really its a rogue platoon of evil doers who do unspeakable things to people and then spray their liquefied remains onto real fires. The town would be completely fooled (the mayor would give them the key to the city in one scene). Only one person would be on to them. Terrifying hyjynx ensue. (There may be a movie like this already.. I feel like I dreamt it, but maybe not?)

In Washington DC, 6.5% of African American males test positive for HIV or AIDS. Overall, 3% of the population has it, which is the same as Uganda. [source]

I played Civ4 (strategy game on the computer) for the first time. It told me that I have the leadership style of Dan Quail. I think that Syd Meyers (author of said game) can suck it.

I was watching TV with Ken and someone on the show said, "you can't look at this.. its classified". Ken made a good point. What the hell does that really mean? You can't look at this because it has gone through the process of being categorized?

I am down to 188 lbs. Somehow I didn't gain weight in Lebanon. Its an Easter miracle, cuz boy oh buoy is the food in Lebanon ever freaking tasty and buoy oh boy did I ever eat and drink a freaking lot of it.

This is all fluffy.. and I've got some things to say about Libya and Lebanon. They are rich experiences and I am finding it tough to frame them with words. Thought it would be better to squeeze out 10 sentences of shit that doesn't mean anything than continue to be blocked.

As you were.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Month in Time

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a long post. Don't read it.]

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an old post (Feb 19th). There was about 2 weeks that I wasn't in an environment to keep track on a lot of this stuff. Stay tuned for "next month" sometime soon.]

One day you have "it", the next day it’s gone. "It" can be anything really - cars, cash, people, places, houses, love, health, happiness, fortitude blah blah blah. It’s crazy.

Buddha and his ilk nailed it. It is Impermanence (kind of .. I think Buddha was talking more in a life and death sense). The gist being that you can't tie yourself to these things. If you do, you'll find yourself perpetrating a wildly disproportionate response when they disappear, or in a vain struggle to keep your death grip tight.

Once upon a time, I had my wagons rallied so tightly around myself with such an intense fear of failure that I wasn't able to let anything go or let anyone in. Loosing a big fat client or eating in a restaurant vs. takeout …. I was completely indiscriminate. I found myself holding on tight to shit that really didn't matter - even then.

I was, in a word, rigid.

Rigid materials are usually hard and are often brittle. They are strong, but they don't bend very well. If you put too much stress on them they'll snap if you are lucky; shatter if not. Take a look around you folks. Ask yourself why you are holding on so tight to this or that. "Because it’s important to me" doesn't cut it. I know that I thought it did, but the mental energy required to hold on to it all is startling. Why is it important? Am I a better person for expending this mental energy? I certainly wasn't.

Those whales died. Every single one of them. When I was on Isabella, I smelled them. There are few more striking moments in my memory than of being in the back of that pickup, smelling that fetid carcass smell of those useless deaths. That night the would-be rescuers had dragged one of them 3 miles out to sea by the tail. Imagine the smell of 5 boat dudes mixed with the rotting fish smell of a confused whale's breath in the salt spray. They finally let the ropes go and there had to have been this infinitesimally small slice of time which decided the fate of that great brute. A few muscles contract, deciding whether this being, this energy with its sad and wise eyes, answers some calling to go and beach again, or he comes to, shaking its head and saying "wow that was some experience. I am sure glad for that boat ride which saved my life. What was I thinking? I wonder what's over there? That fish has a fluffy tail". [EDITOR'S NOTE: cheesy boat metaphor redacted]

A fluffy tail indeed.

Now me and the Buddha are homeboys, and the above is a kind of a contradiction on my part. One way to look at it is if it is time then its time. The other, and what I am talking about here, is that a whale had it in its head that it was going to beach no matter what and that there were other options if he just wasn't so damn rigid. I guess what I am trying to say is that I need to work on being more flexible with things. When I hold on too tight, I end up beached.

There is a flip side to impertinence in that it goes both ways. The new age'rs and their ilk also have it right. You need to set yourself up for good things to come into your life. Just know that they might not stay and get it into your head to be ok with that.

My unified theory of life is still a work in progress, but being fluid is something that I have been wishing on for quite some time.

I've also been wondering why I don't keep up with the random nice things for my body. Like eating right, or working out. Little things don't take much to make a difference. I learned this once opun a time, I just need to be reminded every now and again.

So I set out to set a stage for good things to happen to me this month. I put myself in an environment that was simple, removed and well… stable (it has been far too long). And hell, a month is only a drop in the bucket from a time perspective.

The Good News:

I don't operate very well when I am over 200 pounds. Running the numbers, I gained 25 pounds last year.. Yikes. It hurts just to write that. When I was recovering from dengue fever, I weighed 179lbs, which was the result of a nasty piece of illness, but 2 months later I still weighed around 180 and felt pretty stellar. When I left early in December, I weighed in at 205 and change. Argghhh.

I've realized that I have never really lost weight unless I've been horribly sick. So this month I made a concerted effort to eat more better like. I ate about 25 tagines ("tagine" in restaurants refers generally to a type of food and not usually actually cooked - but served - in one), of which 14 I cooked at home. Lots of veggies. Lots of hearty food. I feel great.

Every morning I'd throw on a coffee and do as many pushups as I could in one go. My whole life I've been in the 20 pushup range (if and when I ever did them), but at the end of my kickboxing I could do 30.. Which was a world record for me. Some days ago I did 45. I also did sit ups every morning, but didn't keep track.

Everything in moderation.. Even moderation.

There's some beer math going on here as Moroccan beers are 250ml and 4.7% alcohol, so I converted everything into standard 1.5 ounce, 40% drinks. So all in all, I averaged 1.25 drinks per day.

I don't generally sleep all that much. I used to… a lot. But in the last couple of years I have tapered off on that trait. This month I slept as much as I wanted. Every morning. Some mornings I didn't want to sleep, or I was doing shit until 5am and 10 just seemed to be a good time to get my move on. Some mornings I slept in a ridiculous amount. The apartment is pretty noisy and the bed is lumpy so it wasn't a perfect experiment, but it seems like, all things being equal, I like to sleep an average of 8.5 hours a night. Any Google search could have told me that I need 8 hours of sleep a night, but I digress.

Take joy in the little things

I bought myself a coffee mug that says "I love you" on it. Every morning I'd get a little affirmation. Hahaha... the wit. That and the fact that I tended to talk to my cooking. Like "Look at yooouuu. You are gonna be taaaasty" in a most lascivious manner. Everyone does that though don't they?

Seriously though I spent a lot of time just looking at stuff. My brain has been pretty active and I have denied it no road. I haven't judged it and I've been scribbling thoughts a plenty.

I've tried hard to say things that needed to be said. In terms of being vulnerable, this post is a big step for me. It is rife with opportunities to bashfully write long posts in the future about how things that I learned just didn't stick… again.

There are some simple things that I am doing that I won't bore anyone with. But there are 5 of them, and I did them every day.


I set a goal of billing 80 hours this month, which roughly translates to half time. In this I was mostly successful (72). It was a pretty frustrating project and next month is looking a bit thin, but in terms of testing my ability to work in a beach town, I was very successful. My quality of life has been quite high, and I've made a decent wage this month which is in stark contrast to where I have been at of late.

I continue to vet out a business idea with a good friend which has been fun.. and I continue to learn Ruby on Rails and Linux which has been a huge challenge for me. I have only scratched the surface of each. Baby steps.

The Bad News:

I locked myself into a closet and smoked all of these in one go.

I need to quit smoking. I average exactly 20 a day. That was my cap, but basically I smoked every time that I wanted one and that’s where I netted out. Gross.

I am addicted to caffeine. I love everything about it… in all its forms.

Which leads us to this months goals:
  • Smoke less. Less caffeine. Standard fare.
  • Continue to track what I am doing, but annotate my days with a how do I feel?
  • Likely doing one set of the maximum number of pushups is a stupid way to become proficient at doing pushups. I want to figure out an exercise routine that is a little bit more balanced (and useful)
  • This month is going to take a beating on cooking at home, but I want to continue to make good'ish choices. Don't get me wrong, I ate some pringles and chocolate bars, but they were treats not snacks. My only bad snack was one macaroon cookie a day. They are soooooo good. Its ridiculous.
  • Shave
  • Learn a minimum of one Arabic word a day.
  • Write a "what I did this month" post... next month.
  • Kick this OCD tendency that I picked up some where apparently.
And if they don't work out? Well then that’s ok, but I will celebrate the little accomplishments along the path. At least I feel like I have finally chosen to go somewhere.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cooky McCookerstein

And i am back into kitchen land again, trying to eat healthily (I know.... it is shocking). Although Ken and I gorged ourselves on Dominoes Pizza a couple of nights ago... and well there was that incident with a grilled cheese loaded with 10 strips of bacon, but I digress.

Tagine Porn for Janette

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Garth asked me if I was lonely in the context of traveling with someone else or a lack there of. I thought briefly about it at the time, and then thought about it on a trip I made to the desert and then actually thought about it when I was in Tripoli. And then I actually wrote some stuff about it on layover that I had.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is somewhat more involved.

Saturday I had one of the best days so far this trip, just walking around lost for the day (one of my favorite pastimes). Libya seems to be a good place with a good vibe (as long as you can see through the bureaucracy of actually getting in). I hung out in a junk store in old Tripoli and wished I had another backpack. I have an idiosyncratic view of souvenirs, but check out this phone!! The shopkeeper delighted in showing me that it was actually his shop phone and made a dialing sign in the air (there was indeed a dial tone). I delighted myself by picking up the phone, mashing some numbers and saying, "Hello…. Canada?" Laughter ensued. Ha! Good times. Another highlight was meandering around a pet store that was sandwiched between a fruit market and an abattoir, each overflowing its boundaries to the other. Being a pet would blow in Libya, as would being livestock. Being a carrot or a tomato probably wouldn’t be that bad though.

It is entirely possible that if someone else was there that I wouldn’t have spent the time in these places. I may very well have taken my perception of what they wanted to do and not have dug deep in that pile of junk. It is likely that I would not have had such a gleeful reaction to the day’s events.

Even if that day’s experiences didn't have any room for someone else, there have been a lot of moments that I wish I could have shared. Its experiences like breakfast in the Sahara that has enough room for sharing to drive a Mac camel through. I need to relate with a friend in these places. Then sometimes you just want to have a significant other to keep your head on straight.

I'd have asked if she thought that the sand people found me to be joyless and she'd have asked me if I thought that it mattered. And I would have said yes, because what if I was joyless? and she would have rolled her eyes and reminded me that I have to work on not being dramatic. I would have sipped my coffee and looked out at the dessert, validating both points nicely.
Now not every moment traveling with me would be filled with such fun. There would be hard work, like downshifting through switchbacks, or making sand angels in the dunes, or seeking the maximum sustained speed of a KIA (155), or helping me triage out the fun Berber hitchhikers (some of them are duds), to laugh at the ludicrousness of a day or two here and there and see some really cool shit.

It is a cruel joke that the singular moments that I cherish the most make me the loneliest and the wackiest moments that are the most fun are likely only so for me.

So I guess I'm traveling alone partly as a choice and partly as necessity. I don't think that I am capable travelling with someone else for a long period of time. Although I barely notice when people make me do things that suck, I can't seem to forgive myself for choosing to do stuff that makes others have a bad time. Being with someone else (and actually traveling) comprises of about 150 decisions that have to be made each day. There is a certain responsibility to each other, and to each others "successful" trip (whatever that means) that really could be fulfilling, but may just turn out to be paralyzing. I don’t have enough experience with the subject to run the risk of late (things can change though). It boils down to a mixture of an inability to be vulnerable and an ability to take oneself too seriously, which I think too often, are just the same. Whatever it is, I am afflicted with the condition from time to time.

So I am alone. Lonely? Yes. Would I want it any other way the last few months? No. Although I am short on shared experiences with a palpable desire to relate to someone in a deep manner, I am doing what I need to do for now… without apology.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s funny that I am writing this on my way to crash Ken’s apartment in Dubai. Upon reflection though, there is a huge difference between two people spending most of the day working in the Las Vegas of the Mideast and 2 people sitting around a strange town asking, “So what do you want to do now?”, 10 months in a row. Does that make any sense?]

Anyways. I wish you were all here to share some things with me, and then disappear :)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fun things to look at on my way into the Medina from my apartment.

This is kind of the antithesis of hard traveling, although there are certainly better ways to live. I needed access to capable Internet for some work that I am doing and settled into a touristy town for a month. Things have been pretty good, but I am getting bored. Moving on soon'ish to something thats a little bit more wacky before my next work push requiring a tether to the Internets.

Its been a good place for me though and its quite clear that while I have transplanted some trappings of reality (like the need to make some money), Toronto it is not. Like yesterday when I walked past a woman in a severe, blackest of black burka reading a newspaper while laying out in a beach chair.

Parcour is quite popular here, but I haven't seen anyone who is adept at it. Kids like to try out various moves and I've seen some good wipeouts. One kid who can't quite get his front flip around repeatedly tries and lands flat on his back in these low bushes. I think he did it about 10 times that I saw.

(You will have to click on these photos to see them) I am resisting actually taking a proper photo of some of these guys as I don't want to contribute to the wheel chair fund when things inevitably went bad... a stupid tourist with his camera at the ready when some 10 year old lands on his head.

Parkour is about getting from a to b efficiently and navigating whatever happens to be in the way. Its quite an interesting slice of sub culture. Its also very French, which is why its so popular with the kiddies here I guess. It can actually be quite beautiful and very fluid, or like all things, it can be taken to extremes (take a look at David Belle here or here - the guy is an animal).

While we are talking about committing yourself to an action without a plan B in sight, take a look at Dan Osman. Unfortunately he liked to bungy jump with rock climbing ropes and died. Or these guys BASE jumping with wing suits.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Half empty... err missing.

I have figured this place out a bit more.

Its not whats here that counts.. Its whats not here.

And that my friends is one of life's great lessons...... and the biggest problem in Northern Africa to me right now.

(In case you don't know what I am referring to, it is here)

From Nicole's blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


In the "I did not know that" column:
"“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was the final episode of M*A*S*H. The episode aired on February 28, 1983 and was 2½ hours long. It was viewed by nearly 106 million Americans (77% of viewership that night) which established it as the most watched episode in United States television history, a record which still stands." Source.
A 77 share. Nice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


"Upon taking office, Obama ordered all secret U.S. prisons
closed immediately, and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay closed within a year; he stopped the torture of American prisoners; granted access to all U.S. detainees to the International Red Cross; ended the practice by which detainees could be sent to countries where they might be tortured; froze the salaries of all White House officials making more than $100,000; ordered all government agencies to "adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure" regarding Freedom of Information Act requests; ordered all administration appointees to take an ethics pledge; ended a government ban on funding for groups that provide abortion services or counseling abroad; and revoked Executive Order 13233, which placed limits on public access to the records of former presidents."
(from my Harper's weekly newsletter - join! Its good.)

I think a lot of this is to make it look like he has had a progressive start, and well, it looks like he has had a progressive start. Its low lying fruit though.

The whole idea that the US would revoke funding to nations or organizations that offered abortions (or even counseling of options) has got to be one of the more twisted republican platforms. Its like a church and state porno movie.

(If anyone is a Boston Legal fan, they argued a case on this issue quite well)

And I didn't realize, but how's this for craziness with a capital K?

"It was widely anticipated that Obama would sign the executive order yesterday, on the 36th anniversary of Roe. In 1993 former president Bill Clinton had revoked the policy on that day, while George Bush reinstated the policy on his first day in office in 2001, the day before the Roe anniversary." - Source.

Order 13233 was instated by The Dub to prevent Ronald Reagan's papers from being released to historians. Read this link, its pretty fascinating.

I think its going to be fun watching the political intrigue uncover over the next year. Then some sort of scandal will make for depressing fixation as it all unravels again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hey hey good looking, what you got cooking?

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, and if you are only able to be reincarnated as cooking implements, then I want to come back as a Tajine. It brings so much joy to people in this world.

Yesterday I realised my 2 week long dream of owning one. For the astronomical price of 25 dirhams (just shy of 4 CAD). I purchased this comely specimen at my local store.

So beef is expensive here and well, there certainly are better cuts of it in this world. Apparently there is a slaughter house here somewhere where you can pick out your chicken which I need to find. I think you are also supposed to use a broth in these things instead of water, so boiling down some bones is the goal for tomorrow.

Spices are cheap and fresh, but vegetables are kind of hit or miss. Couple of carrots and potatoes, garlic a plenty, some browned beef, some curry and some chili powder, olive oil and some water and BAM! 1.5 hours later Mike is a happy guy :)

In other news, I haven't eaten dinner in a restaurant in 7 nights, and that's a record for me since I was 18 or so.

Movin on up.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I hold these truths to be self evident. Obama: The end of an error.

I'm pensive today. and happy. I was a total pessimist on election day and totally said the sky was going to fall and I am glad I was wrong (or rather I am glad that it wasn't close). The world needs some relief. They may or may not find that in the new president. Good luck today Sir.

Ani Difranco is one of my favorite songwriters. She does spoken word from time to time and I have always found "Self Evident" (2002) to be the most powerful of her works. I'm thinking about this today, it wraps up some sentiment from a crazy time in history.

So once again, I can't find a place to share music legally on this blog. (Is there some sort of personal radio site that I can join or create - does anyone know?). I am limited to sharing posts on YouTube where people have spliced images over songs. This one is better than most though.

Did anyone see the Dub's last press conference? Or he and the Missus Dub on Larry King? I don't have links for them, but he defended his administrations response to Katrina in each of them (among other ridiculous claims). How they reacted quickly. 30000 people pulled off of houses and all that stuff. Too bad they had no water to drink, nowhere to go, no law, no order and no medical supplies.


AND to end on a happy note, I got to see Ani a couple of days before I took off.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."

Some thoughtlets that I am mulling over, other than I can't wait for the dub to disappear:

  • Wikipedia: One of the most well entrenched informational websites in "the Internets", has an operating budget of only 6 million for day-to-day operations: servers, hosting, bandwidth and a staff of only 23 people! I am fascinated by wikis in general. People are calling for 2009 to see a shift in social networking and I think the "Borg collective" attributes of sites like Wikipedia are a way more logical lineage to the next big thing than the largely exhibitionist / voyeuristic attributes of something like Facebook.
  • Portugal has a drinking age of 16
  • I fear setting off fire alarms more than I fear setting off fires. My new place has no fire alarms. Yay me!.
  • The domain name is worth several million dollars and once was for sale for $30 million in the hay day of domain craziness (and was actually only registered in 1994, a time when I was actually on the Internet which is depressing. If only we knew!) and it looks like it was for sale last year. I can't actually find if it sold, due at least in part to my laziness. I found an interesting site while looking this up that rates values of domains. Based only on traffic and ad revenue, they say its worth $12723.9 USD.
If you do some quick math, this valuation is only a multiple of 2 against yearly gross revenues. (this is less important as is an obvious brand, but as a simple site that is only supported by clickable ads, it has 5000 and change pageviews daily and makes $17. If you do some reading on the boards, people find that a couple of bucks a month for a domain is perfectly reasonable.. They just host a 100,000 of them.)

Sounds crazy to me, but in a way, people have found a way to estimate the bricks and mortar of sites supported by ad revenue, using publicly available information, it just still doesn't matter.
  • Wedding videos.. If I ever own one with me in it (the possibility of which seems to be dubious these days), I never want to look back on that day thinking that that time was any better than the now. Sure its a special day, but I think a lot of married people pull that tape off the shelf once a year and aren't wistful of the day, but wistful of that time in their relationship. A time when things were better. I've got enough regrets in my life, I really don't want the start of a marriage to be the pinnacle of the most important relationship in my life.
  • I am remunerating on the difference between "culture shock" and "shock to the system". At times, I think most people (including myself) get the two confused. People land in a place like Marrakech and its dirty and noisy and smelly and they say, "I am reeling from the culture shock". But its not really culture, its a condition. Its shocking yes, and aspects of that condition are a result of culture, like those derived from architecture.. but the fact that you need to walk through a backed up sewer to get to your hostel isn't culture.. its just because the infrastructure sucks. Yet back home, people sit over a glass of chardonnay around their warm and cozy living rooms and show pictures of a backed up sewer and say things like "it took a long time for us to get over the culture shock".

Words and sayings that I've been liking (not all new, but in my brain for the now):

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A man walks down Main street with three live bunnies in one hand....

Its tough sometimes. I try to ask myself questions that will somehow serve to enlighten. I search for the answers.. but sometimes I realize that all of the questions have already been asked. The worst ones are the ones that I remember asking myself, that I had already figured out in a past life and just plain forgot.

Take this for example. I was so excited. like it was new, like it was a key to unlocking my greatness. I just needed an answer and all would be right. Then I realized that it was just another question that has dogged generations since protoplasm was knee high to an amoeba.

I think that Plato posited it the most succinctly in one of his lesser known Socratic dialogues. It goes something like this:

"Dear man with 3 live bunnies in one hand,

What do you have in the sack, son?

Regards, Socrates."

The search goes on. *sigh*

Friday, January 9, 2009

Israil v. Gaza Strip

I know this is a terribly complex conflict and that its been going on for ever, but....

First the UN meets and fails to come up with a STATEMENT on the conflict. Why? The US wields its veto power. A statement!

Then the UN comes up with a resolution saying that everyone must stop and sort things out. The US abstains. Israel now rejects this pretty much meaningless resolution (but I think Hamas did as well).

At this very moment, there is another 3 hour "relief cease fire" to allow UN humanitarian aid. I am watching as bombs fall into Gaza live on the BBC.

The last "cease fire" saw 15 minutes of no attacks. A UN convoy gets shelled. Source.

The UN has charged Israel with bombing a civilian safe house. A place that Israel troops escorted Palestinian civilians to gather and to be safe. And then it got repeatedly shelled 24 hours later, blowing it to smithereens and killing 30-60 people. Source.

I know that Israel is trying to teach a lesson here. That they want to turn the people against Hamas, so that people in Gaza will renounce them, "look what they have brought?", but the flip side of this coin could very well see all of Gaza uniting against Israel. From what I can see this is a disproportionate response in the extreme with no end in sight.

This won't be a popular comment, but the timing of this war is very suspicious to me. They may very well have seen that the last 2 weeks that the Dub would be able to give them his unconditional love was their last chance to kick some ass.

Hamas obviously shares the blame here. Maybe all of it. They even keep saying that "Israel will die" blah blah blah. but something has to stop here. This is ridiculous.

I am very sad by whats going on over there. I am sad that Hamas continued to fire rockets over the last few years. I am sad that innocent men women and children are dying as a result (on both sides and over all of the years of this conflict).

Mostly I am sad that the international community isn't really able to do anything to stop it. I am sad that the UN no longer seems to have any power in the world stage.

One more expectation for Obama. I wouldn't take his job for anything. I have no idea how he can possibly succeed.

UPDATE (2:00pm GMT): Palestinian medics report 778 Palestinian dead, 200+ of them children. Israel officials will not comment on death toll. UN is charging Israel in specific instances of ignoring wounded women and children in direct violation of the Geneva convention. Israel denies attacking safe house as they were not in the area. Hamas fired 6 rockets during 3 hour humanitarian cease fire, 2 during today's. All as reported by BBC.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A letter

Dear Mosque,

First time caller. I have been around you before, but I am now making a concerted effort to understand you. I recognize your importance in a way that I had not previously. I have several questions that I am hoping you can help me with. To start:
1. What is that you are saying so loudly to me 5 times daily? Are you praying?
2. What are these pillars on which the faith of those who attend you are built?
3. Who is Fatima? Why is her hand on many of the door knockers in town?
Any help that you can give would be much appreciated.

Seeking Understanding Please

Dear SUP,

First off, the idea that I can reply to you is somewhat odd and may possibly be offensive. You are but a child though and have no knowledge of absolutely anything around you. It is obvious to me that you are trying to write a readable blog post, so I will entertain you this time.

1. I am certainly not praying over my loudspeakers. I am calling all Muslims to prayer. It is called the Adhan and is heard at dawn, at the midday, about the middle of the afternoon, just after sunset and at nightfall (about two hours after sunset). The Sunni version (the predominant religion in the country you are in) goes something like this:

Allah u Akbar, Allah u Akbar
-- Allah is greatest, Allah is the greatest,
Ash-hadu al-la Ilaha ill Allah - Ash-hadu al-la Ilaha ill Allah
-- I bear witness that there is no divinty but Allah
Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullaah
-- I bear witness that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger
Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullaah.
-- I bear witness that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger
Hayya la-s-saleah - Hayya la-s-saleah
-- Make haste towards prayer, Make haste towards prayer
Hayya la-l-faleah - Hayya la-l-faleah
-- Make haste towards real success, Make haste towards real success,
Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar
-- Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest
La Ilaha ill Allah
-- There is no divinity but Allah
At daybreak, I also say "Prayer is better than sleep", because as you know, that is true.
2. As you are starting to see, Islam is pretty complicated. Just like there are 1000+ Christian groups, people do things differently depending on their flavor of faith here. Grossly simplifying things appears to leave us with (one source):

Sunni's have:

Shahadah (profession of faith)
Salah (ritual prayer)
Zakat (almsgiving)
Sawm (fasting during Ramadan)
Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca)

Shia's add three more:

Taharah (cleanliness and purity)
Walayah (love and devotion for God, the Prophets, the Imam and the dai)
Jihad (meaning struggle or striving in the way of Allah)

So depending on how you look at it, there are 5,7 or 8 pillars of Islam.

3. Fatima is the daughter of the prophet Muhammad from his first wife Khadija. As for the hand, remember when you were cooking dinner with that dude Kamaal and he said that there were too many stories regarding this history? Well that appears to be true. The going theme of all of them though is that she wards off the evil eye and can be found on jewelry and yes, door knockers.

SUP, I may not be able to speak to you again, but I wish you good luck.

Ma’a salama,
A Mosque

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bad Day

Do you ever feel like you are having one of those days? Like when you are just standing around your yard, the sun is beating down on your leather coat. There is a nice breeze to whisk away the flies. You're just hanging out, eating some grass, maybe you're contemplative? Trying to think about why you were made so damn useful to the higher ups, but your little brain is only able to contemplate how fucking tasty that grass is.

Then some dude comes along, makes you face Mecca, slits your throat and bleeds you out. He chops you head and your legs off, spills your innards into a bucket to be sold for parts. Your skin gets made into gaudy shoes. Someone puts a meat hook through your anus and hangs you in the Medina. A henna tattoo is not so carefully done on your dick.

You can only hope then that you get a good price per pound before you rot, but all you have is some stupid tourist trying to take a good picture. He doesn't even give you the dignity of being able to capture the detail in any decent way.

I'm with ya. I have those days all the time.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Although cleansing your recent and not so recent sins in the ocean at the birth of the new year is poetic, everyone should remember to leave their camera behind lest it fill with sand and salt water. She was a good soldier and I will miss her.. and take photos with my phone until I can source something else.]

[EDITOR'S NOTE II: It looks very tattoo like, and I have seen it in other stalls. However, nobody I talk to has heard of such a thing.. maybe its just burst blood vessels masquerading as a symbol of some sort.. Anywho, this is the last time that I am going to be staring at a cow penis in a market for any length of time. Not the first of course, but you know.]