Thursday, January 31, 2008

Necessty is the mother of invention, household items being used in new ways... beyond the snow

So, the snow got me thinking (that's right, it only takes a foot of snow to make that happen). Back in the olden days, when I moved from Alabama (a state that until my last year there had NO snowplows state-wide) to Pennsylvania, I had never owned a snow shovel. And then... we got 2.5 feet of snow. Knee-deep snow and Southern bred gals don't mix, in case you are ever asked. So, lacking a snow shovel (or any shovel in fact, as apartment dwellers often do), we had to improvise. We took out our handy large (13 gallon) plastic kitchen trash can and two small trash cans and started to dig out our cars.

Yes, imagine if you will, El 3atal and MommaBean (pre-beans, that is), digging out 2 feet of snow with trash cans :). Living in apartments, as we did, all of our neighbors ere also digging out their cars. At some point, the guy two cars down was smart and realized that if everyone worked together to dig out one car at a time it would go faster. His wife gave E 3atal his shovel and within about 30 minutes they had dug out the 5 cars of the coop participants (we'd spent far more than that amount of time moving the snow about). Of course (as always) there was that one guy in our building. You know the one, he would speed through the parking lot narrowly missing children. He would also park blocking the entire road and leave his car over night (I wonder if maybe he hailed from Jordan, come to think of his parking habits). So, as they were clearing the snow, naturally, some extra snow managed to find its way onto his car for all the trouble he had caused his neighbors. (We had to stop the snow plow fromplowingright into his car, he thoughts it was an empty lot and piled all of the snow he cleared from the roadway onto the car, teehee.) So, there we employed trash cans as snow shovels.

Last week, Junior Bean (while being helped by JujuBean) fell and cut his lip rather badly while I was at the office with them. No ice, no washcloths, nothing. So, I thought, what do I have that is cold. My mind hit upon the Diet 7 Ups in the fridge and I pulled one out to serveas an icepack to keep the swelling down. Talk about necesity... poor Junior Bean.

Then, today, after we built our big snowman (since the snow today was real snow not sleet pieces and it was not so windy and blowing sleet), we decided to turn our steps into a sled path. Yep of course, I'm adding a picture for those who don't believe me. And, for those who don't recognize it, that's a cookie sheet we're using as the sled.

Happy necessity!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Scenes from my window... Yes, even more snow pictures

Like Jad, I can't help posting more and more posts (I'm winning so far, though!)... And I should be working! I can always do that tonight I guess. At any rate, I got some fun shots of my neighborhood once people finally woke up (I have sense that many alarms were not set this morning in anticipation of the snow). I do want to know what makes the drivers of old and VERY small cars (I like the green one especially) think that they can drive through 5-6" of snow... Silly, silly boys. Note the Range Rover passing both stuck cars on the right :). The cars in these pics took about 30 minutes to finally back up and make it down the hill, teehee.

The shabab come out to play.

Creative (and talented) neigbors)

Finally, the snow coming down at a nice clip earlier.

Happy voyeurism!

SNOW! More bean creativity, snow angels, snow mermaids, snow pricesses...

So, although we seemed to be the ONLY family in all of Amman out playing in the snow, the beans had an awesome time! The beans finished breakfast, suited up in 3 or 4 layers, and headed out into the snow. Our first spot (the empty lot across the street) was too windy with blowing sleety snow. So, we moved back in front of our garage where there was some protection against the rain for the kids. Then they got into the spirit with ButterBean gathering and tossing lightly packed snowballs, Junior Bean helping make snow people parts, and JujuBean giving directions from the comfort of the covered carport...

Here are some shots of our fun...

First, the snow people, a snow mermaid for JujuBean...

and a snow princess for ButterBean...

And then a snow angel (I think this one JujuBean Angel)...

We didn't get any shots of the Beans just after the snow hanging out on the edge of the carport roof came charging down onto their heads... The expressions were priceless. It was soft and lightly packed, so no harm, no foul. ButterBean took a bunch right on the top of her hood. I dried her face and then she realized how funny it was. Luckily no icicles so nothing dangerous. Now all those folks who thing I was crazy to buy such winter-y garb see why I did it. We came home with super big "puffer" coats for the kids and the kind of gloves intended for playing in the snow (in addition to the long johns). Great investments this year!

Last pic is a snapshot of the Beans...

We had an awesome day in the snow and are wishing you...

Happy Snow People!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

God is Good: SNOW DAY!

Well, God heard the beans. Their whispered desires for snow (and rubber ball "snow princesses") did not go unheeded. The predictions were correct and we've got snow! Not just a little snow, either. I'm estimating (without having been out yet), that we're at 3 inches. And it's still coming (or at least it look like it may have changed to sleet just a minute ago, but it's cold and good enough that it isn't raining.

So, the beans are planning to eat breakfast and then get bundled up warmly to play in the snow and make a snow princess... I'll update with more pictures of our creations later...

Happy Snow Day!

Update on the meaning of Life (or signage anyway)... Salam Wins!

Okay. So many of my readers played along and gave unique and creative suggestions for the meaning of this sign:

and while all of the suggestions were awesome, the winner is... Salam. I stopped in the store today to find out what the story was. As I was parking the car, I noticed the sale signs about four feet above this sign. They are up far above the door of the shop. So, we asked and the fellow "manning" the counter (ys, he had to come from across the street in another shop) confirmed that these are the dates of their sale. So, Salam, for your prize, you win... a cup of hot chocolate at Galler my treat (and did I mention the free wireless, teehee!).
Happy guessing games!

Stop Helping Me! and wishing for snow

Okay, so now for a beef I have (yes only one). I'm tired of people deciding what I want as a consumer for me... Recently blogger released a version in Arabic. This is awesome news! It make the free blogosphere a little more inclusive, I think. But, why OH WHY, when they did this did it change MY blogger pages to Arabic? I hate when companies look at my ISP, see it's in Jordan, and then automatically put pages in Arabic. Why do I hate this? Because, like Blogger, the often don't have a simple way IN ENGLISH for me to switch this. So, I have no idea what the top bar of blogger says now. If I could read the Arabic to tell, then I wouldn't need it in English, now would I? So, why do these blogger people think they know me? What makes them assume that because I reside in Jordan, I want sites in Arabic? Google did the same thing, but at least they let me choose English as an option. Hear this, blogger, I'm annoyed with you! (Yes I know that the chances that they care are less than 1 in a million.)

On another (more positive note), the beans are wishing for snow and rumor about town says they may get it. Yesterday when I got home from work the beans had made a snow princess in the playroom. They had taken a huge blue ball, on top of it they put a slightly smaller red ball, then on the top they put a yellow smiley face ball. That's right, they made a snowman out of regular plastic balls. They dressed it in one of their princess dresses, added paper hair and a crown they made for it and Voila! we had a snow princess in the playroom. Kudos for their creativity and I hope, for their sakes, that we do get some good snow that they can make a real snow girl in...

Happy Princesses!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Myth of Call Centers Spelling Salvation for Jordan

As most of you likely are aware, I hear alot of the work-related buzz around town. I have to admit that few of the bold statement amuse quite as much as this one. I hear it repeated time and again that Jordan is so well-suited to provide call centers for the US. My amusement is not of the haha sort, but more of the melancholic sort. First let me state what, I hope to my regular readers, is obvious. I love Jordan. This is truly an awesome country. But, its business leaders are often self delusional. So, now why do I think that Jordan is leagues and leagues behind in this dream of providing call center support.

Customer Service. Do I have to say more? Jordan is truly at the top of the awful customer service list. People in shops would really prefer if you didn't bother them to come in and buy items. More than that, large institutions employ people who promise to call back then never do. And, I don't mean one or two, I mean all of them. You really have to chase everything, constantly. In the US, if you say you're going to call back after you get information, you had best do that. If you choose to just ignore your promise, the average customer will call the manager incensed. Now, again this is an AVERAGE customer. In the US, you can't ignore everyone who doesn't come with a family connection. That's the point of customer service rather than friends-and-family service.

Empowered Employees. Okay, so lest you think I'm talking about a topic I know little about (it has been known to happen), let me share that I actually worked in telephone customer service during college. The company I worked for published cooking and craft books. As a lowly phone operator, I was given the authority to waive fees on books that customers indicated they had returned, issue credits, and resolve customer problems. Let's contrast this with the service we received with Jordan's largest mobile phone provider. El 3atal paid his bill on-line with the largest regional bank. In the process of transmitting the money, the bank included the wrong reference number. When he tried to call the cell provider to resolve the issue, they indicated that he had to work with the bank. When he tried to work with the bank, they said they would call back. Talk about a run-around... It took using a personal contact and pushing a good bit to get his cell service reactivated. Somehow, they lost sight of the fact that my money left my account and was given to them. Whether it had the proper reference number or not is really not my issue. I'm actually the CUSTOMER here. So, employees need to be empowered (and motivated) to resolve customer issues.

Ability to set aside tradition. I swear that people in Jordan have the worst possible time trying to think outside of the "always been done that way" box. When you ask why they have an issue with something, they explain "Hayk" (that's the way it is). Please, you'd better have a better reason than that. Jordan has a competitive advantage that few countries can boast. With a decent-sized Christian population, 7 day a week service should be easy to come by. And yet, the Christian bookstores are pretty much all closed on Fridays. Why? Hayk. Why not hire some staff to take a Thursday/Friday weekend (Muslim) and some staff to take a Saturday/Sunday weekend (Christian). That way you have easy coverage and are actually able to give time off to people when they want it. In India, they will hire 6 guys for a 4 person project and keep the extra 2 always back trained so that there is never downtime for illness or vacation. Somehow I think even the idea would be anathema to Jordan's businesses.

And last, but most certainly not least, infrastructure. Infrastructure is not great here. While I'm sure businesses can get decent Internet speeds, I'm not convinced that they will be cheap enough to compete with the other places in the world that offer these services.

So, in order for Call Centers to be a great hope for Jordan's economy, people will need significant retraining. In fact, it will require reinventing the staff, starting with the management. I assure you, currently I haven't seen a single company that runs customer service (or a call center) to even mediocre Western standards. So, while you may be annoyed by Westerners' arrogance (and all of the other bad), in order to truly service that market, Jordan will need to find a segment of the population that's willing to learn brand new tricks and meet the West where it is, not where Jordan is...

Happy Calling!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Now I see through a glass darkly...

Driving through the fog this morning, this Bible verse popped into my mind as somehow appropriate to the situation. It was really, really foggy at home. I mean pea-soup kind of thickness. And, yet, never fear. The cabbies still wanted to live life on the wild side. I only saw one cabbie with any kind of lights on. People, when there's fog out, TURN ON YOUR LIGHTS! If you don't have fog lights, use your regular lights. If you do have fog lights, use BOTH. However, don't use your brights in the fog (ever) as they only reflect off of the moisture particles and obscure more.

But again, it made me think of that Biblical description of how now I see through a glass darkly, but then (when I've gone home with Jesus), I'll see plain. And, going from home to the office heps illustrate that to my mind. At home, the fog was so thick that I could hardly see two feet in front of my car. But, by the time I got down to the office, the fog is up at about the 6th floor of buildings, so it's fine. And, like this experience, I have a sense that as we continue seeking and listening to God in our hearts, we understand more and more until finally, it becomes totally clear. So, anyway, I hope you all enjoyed the bumper-car fog this morning and here's wishing you...

Happy clarity!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Can someone please tell me, what hours are they open?!

I came across this sign the other day for opening hours and it leaves me with two impressions:
  1. They are very confused about what the From and To terms mean, and
  2. I'm unsure why they bother to open if they are only open 3 hours a day...

At any rate, I found this one quite funny and hope you enjoy it too.

Happy confusion!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Coming soon to Jordan? Pink Buses

Someone sent me a link to this interesting article about ladies only buses in Mexico City. When is Jordan going to get this idea. Aside from the obvious benefits (no fear of harassment, etc.) it has some aromatic benefits as well. Each time I see the overcrowded buses in the middle of the summer and think how awful the stench must be. And, I imagine the poor ladies crushed into that mass of humanity. So, I have to say, I vote for pink buses and pink services... Read about it!

Happy smelling salts!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sad news from the big screen

Heath Ledger died yesterday. How sad is that? I know he gained alot of notoriety for his role in Brokeback Mountain (which I haven't seen and don't intend to), but he was such an excellent actor. Some movies mark times in your life so perfectly. El 3atal and I got into watching a Knight's Tale when it started coming on one of the movie channels. As you all know, I'm a sap for a happy ending and for poor kid makes bad movies (probably something to do with my upbringing). So, anyway, farewell Heath...

Happy Memories!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In the words of Snidely Whiplash: Shucks, foiled again!

Well, I was making huge plans upon seeing the snow this morning. I was waiting on it to get a tad thicker and then planning to take the kids out to make snow people. Although, actually, the girls wanted to make a snow mermaid... And then it happened :(, waaaaaaaa. The rain started and the snow is melting. It's just not fair. I've laid out the warm clothes, started thinking about how we can use the spaghetti to make hair and sch and whamo! Rain. Just not fair. It's like a teaser. We got to see the snow but not play in it... But on the up side, I'm blogging instead of working (yeah, I know, what's new?).

Happy disappointments!

Monday, January 21, 2008

MommaBean's 365: What inspiration!

I love a good challenge and that's what this is. First kudos to Kinzi and Hal who introduced me to the idea. Dan had a great idea when he decided to call out 365 people in his life. I mean really, a year of people who've touched your life! How awesome is that idea? So, I'm joining the 365 crew. However, rather than lose my thoughts on this blog (which I do so often), I've started a new blog - MommaBean's 365 for it. For those of you who are technically challenged (yes, Kinzi this means you), I've added a link under Links over there on the right. No, your OTHER right! :)

I started with a lovely warm sweet lady I worked for in college. She was everything a Southern Belle should be... So,

Happy daily affirmations!

To learn more about the 40X365 adventure that Dan (the author of the idea) went on, check out his blog

Friday, January 18, 2008

Do they really not get it or are they being disingenuous... MommsBean posits why investment dollars don't find their way to Jordan

So, I hear alot of talk from people in various places (government, society, etc.) wondering why investors are choosing other destinations for their dollars (or riyals or dirhams or yuan). Having lived in the US most of my life, I've hit upon something that I think all of these pundits have missed. So, listen closely as I whisper this in your ear. No, come closer, we don't want it to get out. The secret is...

Most potential foreign investors are NOT from here.

Are you with me? So, most of you are thinking, well thanks for that spot of obviousness. But, while I think most people understand this point intellectually, they've got no clue of it whatsoever viscerally. So, if I'm not being a smart aleck, what do I mean by this glaringly obvious statement?

This blog post started to firm in my mind while I was reading an article in the Jordan Times about investors in China pouring yuan into Africa. Interesting, I thought, they'd choose Africa. And then, mere moments after finishing this article, I went to get the mail for our organization from the post office. And then it hit... the Jordan moment. I was pulling up to the sidewalk in front of the post office. The police officer stationed there motioned to me that I couldn't park there and needed to move. Well, now, it's not like a) there's a no parking sign, b) there's a parking lot, or c) there's any logic to that, but let's just see how it played out. My Arabic is limited, but there are some topics that I can handle and I figured this was probably one of them.

I rolled down my window and leaned my head out (since the officer couldn't be bothered to move two steps closer) and called out, "Wayn mahal il waquuf?" He came a tad closer and said, "Hadda Mamnua3." Hmmm, okay he didn't understand me, so I replied, "yella mish mishkili, bas wayn mahal il waquuf?" (okay this SHOULD translate very roughly into where's the place I can park.) So he replies with a general (leave me alone) wave in no particular direction and says (bil 3arabi), this is the exit from the circle, it's forbidden. Being a persistent and determined American, I replied again. "Mish mishkili, ana fahimtak, bas wayn il mahal lil waquuf?" Again he generally gestures and starts to get pissed that I haven't driven off yet.

Now, again this is a POST OFFICE. It has no parking other than the sidewalk immediately in front and the officer tasked with keeping the circle moving has no interest in assisting me in finding a legal place to park. He was rude, annoyed, and unacceptable. I circled back around and parked making entrance into the circle more difficult for the 1.5 minutes it took to get my mail. Sensible, hunh?

So, this is a really little thing right? I mean, this type of encounter wouldn't influence potential investors. You know, I might agree and yet, taken as a whole with the 3 weeks it takes to open a company, the 5 days spent arguing with the government over the company name (must be in Arabic, must make sense TO THEM in Arabic, must not be a person's name, or contain objectionable words (like leadership as there is only one leader in the country)), and on and on and on. And take this with the challenge of getting the bank to open a corporate account and then getting stuck with whatever translation or transliteration of your name they want. When you start to see all of the little irritations, they really do add up.

The disinterest of this police officer in being of productive assistance to the citizenry of the country is merely a clear and obvious symptom of the problem. While the government truly wants to encourage outside investment, no one is willing to do the really HARD work it takes to make Jordan friendly for investment and investors. So, really, do they not get it or are they being disingenuous? I'm afraid it's the latter not the former. If Jordan is serious about attracting foreign investment, here's what I would recommend... do some market research and customer satisfaction surveys. Find out what the biggest roadblocks are to business people. Check in with companies that are partially owned by foreigners about what makes their lives more challenging. In short, understand viscerally that if you want foreign investment, you have to make it comfortable for the investor. If everything is a fight, I'll definitely give up long before you get my money. Make it smooth and easy. And, while you're at it, clean up the attitude problems of your government employees, I promise it will help...

Happy Disingenuity!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fair Weather Friends

In English, we have this term, "fair weather friends" that refers to people who are only your friend when things are going well. You know, if you're on the top of your game, making lots of money, popular, they're friends with you. However, the minute that luck turns the other way, they aren't your friend anymore. They simply don't want to know you when the weather turns gloomy. Now, I haven't had a whole lot of these friends. Most of my friends have been the "through thick and thin" types. So, it's not my own friends that have gotten me thinking about the expression.

In fact, today I was reading the Jordan Times and saw an article on how President Bush is visiting Bahrain. In he article, it talked about how factions (mostly opposition) were protesting Bush's visit. They also quoted one of them as saying that Bush isn't a friend to Arabs. My immediate reaction was that Bush is a friend of the Arabs. Only, he's a fair weather friend. When he needs something he's a friend. Right now, he wants to go after Iran (because Afghanistan and Iraq weren't enough and after all the election is coming up soon). So, he's doing a tour to try and garner support. The funny thing is that I don't think most Arabs support Iran, but after the mess Bush created in Iraq, it seems to me that they will support his desires even less (I certainly do). The article cited the Israeli Defense Minister (I think) telling how the evidence clearly shows, yada yada yada. Well, that definitely doesn't make me MORE likely to support it. While I know that Israel has astonishing knowledge of what's going on inside their borders, after the WMD fiasco, I won't trust Bush or the Israelis say-so that someone is doing something. I find I can't trust that the evidence wasn't manufactured or misinterpreted. And, I started wondering, will the Middle East ever get a "through thick and thin" friend in the White House? Sadly, I'm afraid not...

Happy friendships!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

How horrifying would this be? Sister disappears overseas...

You know, those of us who go to live far from our native lands begin to see it as rather ordinary. When people ask me how safe Jordan is, I kind of scoff at the question. And, honestly, I haven't given much thought to the family left in more typical surroundings. But a friend alerted me to this story, which has been much ignored in the press.

"Nicole Vienneau, a 33-year old Canadian tourist, has been missing in Syria since March 31st [2007] (280 days). She was last seen by the desk clerk as she left the Cairo Hotel in Hama. She intended to return as her backpack was left in her room. Nicole had recently been asking other guests and hotel staff about how to get to the "Beehive Houses", a local sightseeing destination, as well as Qasr Ibn Wardan (a nearby castle). No one at these locations recalls seeing Nicole (and they are not heavily visited). Nicole preferred taking local transit, but none of the minibus drivers remembers her either. The streets from the hotel to the minibus pick-up are main streets with lots of people, even at 8:30 in the morning."

This excerpt is from Nicole's brother's blog about the search for his sister. How horrifying must this be for this family. Apparently the young lady is a veteran traveler who likes to take extended journeys around the world. She has traveled in the past for 6 to 8 months at a time. However, apparently this last trip was the one she shouldn't have made. I must admit, this brought home forcefully how awfully far Jordan must seem to my Mom. To me it seems quite close, after all with Skype and Vonage we can talk every day if we'd like. When an emergency occurred, I was there in not much more time than a drive from Louisiana to Alabama would have taken (thanks to time zone differences, of course). So, to me the world seem terribly small. And then I hear about things like this!

Suddenly, it is brought home how far away the family must feel, how impotent in the face of bureaucracy half a world away. And, Syria's right next door. I'm adding Nicole and her family to my prayers, that this situation will be resolved, that she is found unharmed, and that her family has the strength to go on regardless of the outcome. Anyone who knows anyone in this part of Syria, check the blog, read the posts, find a way to help. Together, as a community, perhaps we can help get answers for this broken family so far away. And, as a heads up, the post on December 6 (Nicole's birthday) by her Mom broke my heart. I don't know anyone (either in Syria or on the list), but maybe you will. Check it out.

Fruitful searching...

This is NOT a shameless self-promotion plug...

but only because I don't hold any ownership in Galler... Yes, that's right, as Kinzi said live blogging now occuring at Galler. Using their free wireless notice how sutle that plug was, it fit right into conversation, teehee! Seriously, some BloggerMamas are meting up tonight for a rare adult, kids-free mom-a-thon. So, I came on over immediately after putting this kids to bed (Do not Pass Go, Do not collect $200) so I could have a moment to blog and whatever. So, what do I blog about, chocolate, of course. And, honestly Galler has been a bit of a revelation to me in many ways...
  1. I thought I didn't like white chocolate until I had Galler's white chocolate (I thought it was a floral one-off, but it wasn't. I had another white chocolate today and it was also awesome.
  2. Hal's dad is impossible to refuse. He holds new chocoates under my nose and I must partake... no choice. And he really had to twist my arm, too.
  3. There IS something as good as Godiva.
  4. Orange is quite an attractive color when combined with warm wood tones and beige and yellows.

That's all I've got just now. Kinzi came in and I'd rather make memories than talk about making them!

Happy live-blogging!

Monday, January 07, 2008

In Honor of Fouad: Thoughts on Freedom

So, like Kinzi, I don't know Fouad. I do know that I'm sorry for his troubles and I sympathize with his situation. I suspect all bloggers have some concern that this could happen to them. So, with Fouad on my mind, I'm thinking a bit about freedom today. I figured I'd think aloud (or a-quiet, whichever it is).

During the last 7 or so years (and particularly since 9/11), I've watched with grave concern the erosion of personal freedom in the US. That's actually the reason that I voted against the incumbent - twice. Before he was elected the first time, it became clear to me that he felt he had the right to make important decisions about my life FOR me. Personally, I find that unacceptable. So, I voted for a choice that wasn't good, but wasn't as bad (in my humble estimation). And, since his election, I've watched as freedom after freedom gets pared down, split, redefined, and so on.

When I hear that the US is fighting "to defend freedom" in places like Iraq, I wonder about those sleepy, unaware Americans who haven't noticed their own freedom is disappearing. What do I mean by this, well, let's get more specific...

Free Speech:
When I was growing up, freedom of speech had a few different outcomes.

First, there was varying opinion and that opinion as saved for the Op/Ed page of newspapers. When reporters wrote articles using inflammatory or derogatory terms, it was called "editorializing" and it was a really bad thing. And it got copy-edited right out. Now, reporters seem to take pride in ensuring that everyone can see which side of the conflict or political spectrum they are on. Also, anyone with a differing opinion that the one in power is called "unpatriotic" or the like. Those stations (okay station) that are more fair-minded or balanced and actually strive to show two sides of any given story (yes, NPR, I'm talking about you) are effectively taken over and hamstringed by the government and its agenda. Basically, opinion is becoming a mighty nice word as long as you share the mind-meld with those in power... How did it come to that?

In the 1960s, peaceful protest was raised to an art form. People came together to raise awareness of issues and effect change. When an unpopular candidate or official came to town, you could count on the fact that they would have hecklers in their audience and protesters around their motorcade route. Free speech (and the right of peaceful assembly) ensured that the official saw and heard that some of his/her constituency disagreed with their position. Now, we have free speech zones. Wait, isn't that what we're fighting for in Iraq? Wasn't the free speech zone supposed to be the WHOLE US???!

Poking fun
Another outcome of free speech was the ability of social commentors, comedians, and cartoonists to poke fun at our leaders. It was one more way that Americans could voice their concerns, issues, and complaints. It was, in effect, a way to feel heard. I just have to say, THANK YOU JON STEWART! It seems like the Daily Show is one of the few bastions of people who can spot (and say aloud) the ridiculousness of political life these days. It's good to know that there are a few sane people left out there, ones who can see clearly the silliness of our current administration.

Freedom of Religion
Well, you know, once upon a time that meant freedom for any religion, now it seems to mean freedom FROM any religion. To me, this isn't a good turn of events. While it's good that we've become outwardly more sensitive to the needs of other religions, inwardly there hasn't been a change. Muslim is still equated with terrorist meaning that, clearly, it is some form of lesser religion. I assure you, that ISN'T the freedom that the founders fought for. So, sadly, this one has gone by the wayside as well.

Unreasonable Search and Seizure
One of those lesser known parts of the American Bill of Right is the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. In other words, the police have to get a search warrant to come into your home and a wiretapping warrant to tap your phones. These must be signed by a judge after reviewing evidence that this step is warranted. But, these days, the federal government is balking at the need to even take a short time to get warrants. So, they just do it illegally. Somehow, this one has gone by the wayside as well.

It definitely troubles me that we've seen so much erosion in such a short period of time. If I owned a home on a hill eroding this quickly, I'd sell and move immediately. And, while I hope for others in the world to achieve some of these freedoms, I believe it is very arrogant of us, as Americans, to think that our system is the answer for others. What works in our case may not work in others, like my adopted home of Jordan. They need a different system that works differently. One that's suited to the historical and regional culture.

But, I sincerely hope, both here and in Saudi Arabia, that this new system will breed greater freedoms. Society must be able to ask questions about its existence in order to improve. Do not, however, mistake my statement about improvement as being a statement about becoming more like the West. I would hate to see that. But there are populations that are overlooked and underaddressed. They need some focus of the sort that comes from asking questions about ourselves and introspection, personally and societally. This will come when the laws are clear and enforcement becomes a matter of policy rather than personality, I think.

Happy Introspection!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The challenges of international travel as a blond!

So, Kinzi's post inspired me. With all of recent international travels, my favorite blond joke seems quite appropriate. Of course, I (like every blond I've ever known) have quite an arsenal of them. It comes with the hair color... you either collect jokes and enjoy the goofiness of them or you go through life constantly offended. So, here's my very favorite.

An airplane was boarding for a flight to Hawaii. A gentleman went to board and found his first class seat taken by a lovely blond woman. He spoke with the flight attendant and asked for assistance. The flight attendant requested the blonde's boarding pass and found that her ticket had been purchased for the coach cabin. He explained gently to the woman that she would have to move as this was not her seat. The blond steadfastly refused to leave the seat and move back into her coach seat. The flight attendant was insistent, but the blond refused to listen to him. A few moments later, the captain came out to see what was stalling the boarding process. He had a brief discussion with the flight attendant and then said, my wife is blond, give me a minute and I'll take care of it. He went over, whispered in blonde's ear. She looked first concerned, then startled, then hopped up and dashed back to the coach seat.

Wow, the flight attendant said, that was amazing. How did you do that? The captain said, it's simple, I just told her that this part of the plane isn't going to Hawaii!

Speak slowly, I'm naturally blond...