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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review: The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know that many--perhaps most--people would not like this book, but what do they know? I loved it. It is informative and concise, what I consider the antithesis of a boring work of non-fiction.

There are two aspects to the story: that of (two of) the people who worked together to make the OED--many of whom were actually volunteers, a fact formerly unbeknownst to me--and the story of the dictionary; or, rather, dictionaries. Since I've had great interest in the latter all my life--and it just so happens that my first interaction with a dictionary was with an abridged version of the OED that also provided Arabic translations--I found this a splendid discussion. (As a kid, a dictionary wasn't simply a book of reference to me. I would usually skim through it, read random definitions, gladly follow references to other words, and voraciously peruse the notes it provided on usage. I don't think that volume had any notes that I haven't read. Of course, I still do that now, but with electronic dictionaries, there isn't much to be done in the way of random reading except the applications' "word of the day".)

It also features a very brief discussion of mental illness--another topic in which I am interested and would like to understand better--as one of the protagonists was schizophrenic.

This was a relatively difficult book to find. I got it used off Better World Books two months ago, and regret not having read it immediately.


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Monday, June 27, 2016

Almost!

I haven't told you this, have I?

I've taken the last two weeks of my internship off. Meaning that, instead of the first of July, starting Sunday June 19, my internship is practically over. Over, as in over!

Is that a good thing? Yes!
Is it a bad thing? Absolutely!

Comfortable as I may be now, I need to find a job as soon as I can, and I don't know where to start, let alone where to end. Do you know anyone who needs a general dental practitioner for no more than three months and "with no strings attached"? I'd appreciate it, thank you very much.

Why do I refuse any attachment with strings? For a reason. Also, I feel a need to start out slow, with a part-time job. I guess it's normal to want to take it easy at such a pivotal point in time and career as this, but I need the dough, man!

Hmm. Maybe I can get a job other than as a dentist. Maybe teach English...

Later!

Antisocial Media

Today marks the beginning of a new era. OK, not really, but a beginning nonetheless. I have, as of this morning of June 27, deactivated my Facebook profile. I was getting sick of the ridiculousness of what people "post" there, and started asking myself about the point of the whole thing.

It's true that social media in general provide a platform upon which to communicate with people on a broad basis--that they enable you to talk to people thousands of kilometers away--but the drawbacks seem to outweigh the benefits for me.

First of all, there's all the hypocrisy. I cannot for the life of me take it. Can no one stick to a certain set of principles and not break them for the sake of "social interaction"? Knock it off!

And then there's the rants. They say the empty can rattles the most. Please, please, stop the threats and the oaths. You are not going to do anything! You're just a civilian, given the unfortunate opportunity of internet access, and who can (sometimes awfully) type. Again, you won't do anything--you just talk.

The showing off? That's another story. Taking photos of your food and of places you go and "checking in" is not cool. OK?

And speaking of photos... People take that stuff too far. And I'm not only referring to the apparent narcissism. Once, I saw an instance where a guy took photos with his uncle, posted them on the latter's wall/timeline, and tagged other nephews. But get this: the uncle was dead! Yes, that's right. He was shrouded and ready to be buried. It was a sickening spectacle.


Will I reactivate my profile? I don't know. What I do know is that I should activate my brain for a while now, away from the internet's horrible noise.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Say No to Football

Here's just one point (of many) that I don't like about football/soccer. A player scores one goal. And then another. Later on in the game, the same player scores a third. This, do you know, is called a "hat-trick".

What's so tricky about it? If a player can score two goals in the same match, he's probably not only a good player, but is also in top shape in that particular game. He's the most obvious threat to the team against whom he's playing and should be the defenders' center of attention.

If the other team is "tricked" by the third goal, don't you think they need to find another game to play?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

This is Why I Shouldn't Write Fiction - Part 2

Azure is the best telecommunication corporation there is. And you better believe that...
The Culler


Samantha Mercury is a Customer Service Agent. Her job is to take care of dissatisfied customers who make a lot of noise--to silence them forever. Quite an easy task, just as long as she keeps her emotions in check.

On the morning of her 28th birthday, Samantha's target is the young and charismatic Matt Clever, a linguistics professor at Ohio State University, whose well-written letters of complaint have caused quite a sensation on social media. He's been having the worst internet connection since he was a senior in college. This time, Sam simply can't do it.

She doesn't know whether it's love or just fear of going into her thirties unmarried, but she will do all in her power to save Matt, even if it means turning against Azure and everything her agency stands for.

Armed with the best training there is, and aided by Professor Clever's experience in decryption, Agent Mercury has only twenty-four hours to put an end to Azure and expose them to the world for who they really are.


Thanks to agents like Samantha, Azure has been able to boast of a 100% satisfaction rate for over five years. Azure is the best telecommunication corporation there is. But Samantha doesn't believe that anymore.



"It's a [good] book." -- Don Braun

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Argument Against Homosexuality

First of all let me point out a few notions.
First, homosexuality is a sin--in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. And a punishable sin at that. Secondly, it is true, of course, that punishment in an Islamic state is to be undertaken by the ruling "system" alone, and not by individuals. I am mentioning these two facts here because--although I've been thinking about the topic for a while--there has recently been a "shooting" in the United States in a "gay club". The shooter was a Muslim, and, unfortunately, some Muslims set about posting stuff that they intended as a form of "defense" of Islam. Try to defend your religion if you can, but only if you can. Those unequipped with proper knowledge (even when that knowledge is simple and only requires that you read one verse of the Qur'an) should not try that, as it might do more harm than good--these individuals themselves being the primary recipients of said harm. I have no idea why that shooter did what he did. I do not support it. But I have to say this: I do not support homosexuality!


My discourse aims to discuss two pivotal issues that have arisen of late: homosexuality, and the pretentious condemnation of "homophobia" expressed unfortunately by some Muslims. And I say pretentious because it is my firm belief that these few only say the things they say to sound "smart" or "tolerant".

I stated at the beginning that homosexuality is a sin. Lot's people were the first to practice that deed, and there's more than enough mention of them and their destruction in the Qur'an to make it clear that what they did was, in simple language, wrong. But I guess that, in many cases, people who commit that act or endorse it care not an iota for religion. They might be atheists, or any other "big" word they give themselves.

Assuming that proponents of homosexuality are evolutionists, I would please like to know how homosexuality makes sense to them. Evolution, in any system, aims to, you know, evolve the system. Biological "evolution" brings to mind a process that not only advances a certain species and its "superior" traits, but also aspires to promote further propagation of said species. In short, homosexuality precludes any chance of procreation. Don't be ridiculous.

Those belonging to a similar specimen claim that Homo sapiens is not the only species to exhibit such tendencies; that many "other animals" have it as well. My knowledge is limited as concerns the credence of such a claim, but the obvious response would be that it has never been the goal of any group of human beings in the entirety of our history to actually act like animals or be like them in any way. Murder is normal in the animal kingdom. So is rape. And to my knowledge, animals do not mind stealing. You know what I mean if you've ever seen cats fighting over food, or ever happened to tune in to National Geographic. I've never heard of a judicial system for animals, so should we eliminate ours?

Some would argue that homosexuals are born that way; that they have no control over their own tendencies. You might find this difficult to assimilate, but anyone who's grown up in the Arab world knows that that does not make sense. Why? Simply because Arab "gay" people are usually ones that have no other outlet for their sexual desires. For instance, a sexually-deprived young or even middle-aged man who has not had a chance to get married (or one whose wife might have grown "too old" for him (or even for her)) might resort to molesting kids in the end. But the sex of these young kids makes no difference--it is no longer a matter of preference for this man, but rather of desperation and availability. I know that this is a taboo topic in the Arab world, but hushing it up won't solve any problem. And why do you think child molestation scandals spring up against priests every now and then? I opine that the same principle applies to those guys. Abstinence and access to children is a very bad combination. (And if you differ, how would you like to have your (future) children hang around a flamboyant homosexual? Can you answer that question honestly?) Excuse me for wandering off the subject. My point is that if homosexuality were indeed the result of an imbalance of hormones, or any other similar cause, then this might indeed be looked upon as a disorder. Another point is that if it were indeed a "natural" thing for humans, why had there been no homosexuals before Sodom?


I now come to what I think is a much more dangerous issue. Homophilia. I've coined this term to describe a human being of normal (yes, normal) heterosexual tendencies that "stands up for" homosexuals worldwide and calls for their rights. These claim to adopt the "live and let live" principle, and that they love all people.

If you're a Muslim, you have to know this well: denying anything written in the holy book is a problem. A huge one, too. Of course this also applies to other religions: you can't simply take what you like and leave what you don't if you claim to follow a certain faith. There is a big difference between committing a sin on the one hand, and saying that it isn't a sin on the other. The latter is a huge mistake that you should avoid at all costs. The Qur'an is pretty clear on the point of homosexuality. So if you're an Arab, trying hard to sound smart by "supporting" international issues, I implore you to rethink your priorities, and even your identity. It is really none of my business whether people of the same sex are allowed to get married in the USA. Promoting this "cause"--either by word or simply by Facebook profile picture--is not only against my religion, but also doesn't make sense to a Jordanian that has bigger, more immediate problems at hand.

A Polemic Against People

I cannot for the life of me fathom human beings. How do you deal with people that don't want to bother with acknowledging you as a separate living entity that also has rights and desires?

My problem can be broken down into these simple points:

  • When I hurt someone, they are mad at me. So far so good--they have every right to feel that. But there's no need to treat me like trash when the harm was unintentional and non-malicious.
  • When I've caused hurt to anyone, and try to apologize, they treat me horribly. Apology does not mean I'm placing myself at an inferior position to you!

  • When someone hurts me, and I point it out to them, they get mad at me. As if I weren't an equal to them, some think that I'm not qualified to have feelings.
  • When someone hurts me, and I just stay quiet, give myself some time to cool off, and only mention a few days later--if ever--they get angry with me. Why? Because I'm "holding grudges" or something like that. Or because I'm not being "honest".
If you're reading this and think that I'm mistaken, then you yourself are mistaken. I put up with a lot of nonsense from people, and it's repulsive when they refuse to put up with mine.

I am sick of most people...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Ridiculous Short Story

Amnesia

I wake up with a start.

I look around. To my left, there's a red bike. I watch it glisten in the sun for a moment, but my attention is quickly diverted by the buzzing of fleeting cars on the highway on my right. I have no identification card whatsoever on my person, which makes little difference as I have no memory of what that is.

Slowly, I get up. I feel a bit lightheaded. I try to get as far away from the noisy thoroughfare as possible. There's a grassy slope on the other side. I have an inclination to take the bike with me downhill. As I reach the bottom, I find a circle of  college students sitting on the green, discussing classic literature and politics. A vaguely human instinct to ask for help possesses me. I approach them tentatively. 

"Hello, folks," I say jovially. None of them responds. "Would you happen to know who I am?"

They stare at me blankly for seven seconds before a dumb-looking muscular guy disclaims any knowledge of my identity on their part. I inquire whether they can help me. I tell them I might be suffering from amnesia, and they have a hard time remembering what that word means.

A few minutes later, I am on my own again, wandering aimlessly in the streets, wondering if I'll be able to start a fire when night falls. That is when a young woman with a friendly face approaches me. She calls me "Your Highness", and asks where I've been all this time. I ignore her question, and ask her about my identity. She looks shocked. She guides me to a dingy alley and thence we pass through a metal door whose key she kept attached to her necklace. I find myself in a big mess. A group of youngsters are seated on the large table. As we enter the room, a sudden silence descends. Presently, everyone gets up, and, facing me, place their right palms on their hearts, simultaneously uttering our meaningless greeting, made up of words from several languages, and then sit back down to continue their repast. "We have got work to do", the young lady whispers to me.


A few days later, I remember everything.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Loathing Your Clothing

I find it a repulsive notion that "society" gets to choose my raiment for me. Not that I'm against trying to look as "good" as you can--just that the whole "good" concept is vague and nonspecific.

Who decided that suits look good? I honestly think they look ridiculous. Oh, and why would anyone in their right mind tie a strip of fabric around their neck? Is it OK to sacrifice your airway for fashion? Do sartorial "needs" compete with those of vitality?

I know I am not in the least fashionable, but I least I wear what I want to wear. I pick comfortable clothes colored in hues I like. Shoes? They must be comfortable, or they'd be a waste of money. That's all that matters to me. I'm sure almost nobody who might read this would like it, so good night.


[I think I'm not bad at coming up with titles for posts I write here. Maybe I should stop writing anything other than titles!]

Imaginary Friends

I've never had an imaginary friend. Not that I object to the notion--quite the opposite. Also, this is not to claim the I'm entirely sane. I talk to myself a lot, aloud and silently. (I feel sorry for the Nigerian dudes that lived next door to my dorm room back in 2014; I used to practice my "evil laugh" in the bathroom.) Although imaginary friends suffer from the shortcoming of being "unreal", they boast some of the best attributes anyone might wish for in a friend.

They never disagree with you. I admit that disagreement is not altogether disagreeable, but in a society such as ours a disagreement leads almost inevitably to a fight. It's great having someone that cannot fight with you even if they wanted to. They even leave you be when you're sick of everyone. If you've got one, hold on to them real tight.

Imaginary friends don't embarrass you. (Partly because they care too much for you, but also because no one else can hear what they say.) They don't share your food. They take all your nonsense, and give you none. They don't judge and annoy you. They never act as if their time were more important than yours.

I am really beginning to contemplate the idea of getting myself one of those…

The list of advantages goes on and on, but here's the most important one for me: They know when to shut up!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Old Stuff

Today, I looked through the notebook that's been in my backpacks for, I think, a few years.

I found stuff I wrote in the period between August and December of last year. I keep telling myself that I should post them here, but it'll take a while to type them. They are mostly written in the fashion of diary entries. I only wrote them to write--as a form of practice.

At the last page of the notebook, I found this "shopping list". "Watch" here refers to "pocket watch". I get some absolutely ridiculous ideas sometimes. "Books" refers to a particular set of books, as I compiled a book-shopping list back then, and kept it in a file on OneNote.

Nonsense Verse - The Proposal Poem

At time, I wish you'd just say yes,
Other times I wish you'd tell me to beat it.
I know that this might not make sense,
But, trust me, I have some pretty good reasons.
While I can't promise you that I'll be the best,
I'll try my best to respect your feelings.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Real Love, Real Life - Part 2

"I love you," he started softly. "But you know I can't always show it. I'm busy a lot of the time; that's why I don't see you often. You know, sometimes I make a plan to surprise you. I buy flowers and chocolates, but can't make it, and end up eating the chocolates myself. You know I love you, right?"

"Will you please try to contain yourself when laughing in public? It's embarrassing. I know I told you I like it, but I don't."

"In the future, you know, you might notice that I'm ignoring you. That's only natural! It doesn't mean I don't love you; don't worry! Just leave me be. Don't nag me the way you do now. I might take it now, because it's a necessity to lie to one's fiancée sometimes. Later on, I might explode if you make me, so you better watch it. And please don't let your family visit us too often; I want to feel comfortable in my own home."

"Oh, and there's something I need to tell you," he said gravely. "Where I go, and whom I hang out with is my business and mine alone. I choose when to come back home, not you. On the other hand, I'm the man. You can't simply do anything without my permission. You know how these things work. So be a good obedient wife and everything will be OK. OK?"

"Remember the promise I made you to take you places around the world? That might not work, after all. Work is just too demanding these day, and I don't expect it to get any better."

"You know how you can make me happy?" he smiled idiotically. "Just keep taking care of your appearance. And smile when you see me. And don't forget to make me a good hot meal everyday!" he wagged a forefinger at her.

Mandatory Arrogance

A few months ago, we moved out (and then back in). The internet connection here is rubbish (as it was in our last apartment, by the way). I made many complaints to our internet provider, but to no avail. Eventually, I had to make a public complaint on Facebook so that they'd respond. Here's the "letter" I wrote them, and below it is the link to the original post on their page. (I had to sound mean for them to respond, I'm afraid.)


Dear Orange,
I dream of a solid internet connection...
In January of this year, I visited one of your centers to subscribe for a landline with an ADSL connection. (I wish I didn't.) The options we had were 8 and 16 Mbps. We chose the former.
When the technician came to our home to install the line, it transpired that the connection--alas--would be a very unstable one. Out of 8, I get 5 Mbps at best. Again, this is not always the case, I might get 0.5 Mbps any time of the day. However, the technician expressly told me from day one that our neighborhood is to have an "electronic cabinet" installed in a few months.
I was mistakenly optimistic as I observed--from our kitchen's balcony--the said cabinet being gradually installed and operated. Weeks have passed and our internet connection is still the same--unstable, and connected to the old clunker.
The electronic cabinet tantalizingly hums and whirs as I pass by it a few times a day. There's no denying that it's in due order. A few days ago, I saw one of the Orange technicians that drive Isuzu trucks skillfully connecting wires so as to switch certain lines from one cabinet to the other. I asked him whether he would eventually transfer all lines, to which he replied that no, I had to go to a customer service center and ask for a transfer. As if Orange don't know that their clients want the best service available. The technician had a hand-written list of certain numbers--those were the ones he was working on, he explained. I thanked him and went home with the intention of contacting Orange to state the obvious.
Today, I went to the Abdali center, and they told me that it's not in their power to do anything of the sort, and that I should contact tech support. This visit, of course, went to waste. Needless to say, I contacted tech support and sales on the phone a myriad of times in the course of my ordeal, and each referred me to the other. (I'd give Orange zero stars out of ten for customer service, thank you very much.)
Today, however, a helpful tech support lady answered my call. She told me that not much can be done; she wrote down a note informing her team leader of my hardship. What she told me and was of help is that our neighborhood gets only 2 Mbps--that's what the system says.
So I have two questions:
1. Why is it that, for a neighborhood that only supports up to 2 Mbps, a potential client is offered the speed of 16? (Offering "up to" 8 Mbps and informing the client what to really expect seems the fair thing to do.)
2. Since I've seen lines actually being transferred from the ancient cabinet to the state-of-the-art one, what should I do to obtain that privilege? (Customer service employees have told me that there's no such service as a transfer, but it seems that some people get it. Would you please explain?)
Not in the least bit yours,
Abdullah Khasawneh
PS: Please don't give me the generic response of "give us details of your problem and contact info". It's unconvincing, not mention extremely annoying and offensive to my supreme wits..

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Power of Words

What I've always wanted to say is that I don't always have something to say. Nor do I always make sense when I do. You know what they say: Not all Egyptians build pyramids. OK, I just made that up. And it bears no meaning, literal or otherwise.


What I'm trying to convey is that I'm kind of completely convinced that you don't always have to know what you're talking about. Because even if you do, others might not.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: الطنطورية

الطنطورية الطنطورية by رضوى عاشور
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

رواية دسمة حقا. اشتراها لي أخي بمناسبة "عيد ميلادي" قبل فترة، و كانت خيارا موفّقا بالفعل.

باختصار، هي قصة امرأة مِن مَن اضطروا لمغادرة قريتهم في فلسطين عام 1948 لينجوا من اليهود و مجازرهم. تتناول الرواية طبعا أحداثا تاريخية و شخصية تخص البطلة نفسها. أسلوب السرد جميل و انسيابي. أو قد يكون "مغصِّصا" في بعض الأحيان - حسب ما تحس به رقيّة.

كأردني، أعرف عن فلسطين و معاناة شعبها، و لكن مذكرات شخص ما جربها (و إن كان هذا "الشخص" خياليا أو حياته مبنية على قصص أناس كثر) كانت ذات وقع أقوى للتعبير عن كل ذلك. من الواضح طبعا أن القصة ذات طابع حزين جدا.

على كل حال، من التناقض المزعج أن بعض الشخصيات مثلا كان فدائيا في فترة من حياته، ثم يتفوه بكلام الكفر عند الغضب. لا تحتاج الرواية مثل هذا الكلام المستفز لتبدو "واقعية" أكثر.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Abdullah's Travels

OK, I've only traveled once. It sounds better this way, though--like Gulliver's Travels. My mom read us an illustrated Ladybird edition of that story. But I digress...

It was in last November that I left the country for the first time ever. It wasn't exactly for pleasure, but we tried to have some fun. My sister had an exam of some sort, and I went with her. We had a few "adventures"--at least, that's what I consider them. I'll try to recite a few here.


Nary a Day Had Passed

I'm the kind of guy that keeps on criticizing the society in which I live. Not the sort you'd think would experience homesickness. Apparently I do.

When we first landed in Houston's airport, we had to locate the place where the inn's "shuttle bus" stops to pick up arrivals/guests. Being in a strange place, I didn't know where to go. My only hope was to find a receptionist. 

The first one we found was already "receiving" someone. I listened closely from afar. The guy's accent--he was Jordanian! I was sure of it, but you don't approach strangers in a foreign country and speak Arabic with them.

I asked him where I should go, and, while he spoke, I stole a glance at his employee card, hanging loosely from his neck. I only caught a glimpse of his last name, but it was all I needed. Najjar. Bingo!

"Are you from Jordan?" I asked excitedly. He replied in the positive. I quickly converted to Arabic, telling him that we, too, come thence.

When I think of it now, I know that our whole exchange had no meaning whatsoever. It just taught me that I might miss home. That's the only moral of this story. Oh, and I'm good at detecting accents.

***

The Bus Driver Who Joked

A few days after our arrival at the inn, I decided that I couldn't move from one place to another without a vehicle. I could've tried to learn the public transport routes, but it would've consumed even more  time. I only had five days left, and I was starving. 

I rented a car online. I had to go pick it up at the same airport at which we'd landed, again taking the shuttle. The driver this time was an African American man, probably in his thirties. He was one of the few friendly people we interacted with. I, Abdullah Khasawneh, shy as I am, could interact with him easily.

People often mistake my politeness for servility, but this guy didn't. When I told him where I needed to go and added something along the line of "if that's not too much trouble", he started to tell me how I should know that I deserve what I'm asking for.

"Think of yourself as a king," he said. "If you don't, then who'll think of you as a king?"

"My mom, I guess," I replied.

"Yeah," he went along, mimicking mothers "'eat your food, king!'" I chuckled.

After a while, he went on. "I like to tell people to treat the customer like a king. 'I could have you beheaded for disobeying the king', I'd say".

"Dude," I said. "I'm from the Middle East. This actually means something."

He started pounding on the steering wheel, and at the same time laughing audibly. And apologizing, of course. This was funny.

End of second story.

***

Of Sirens and Embarrassment

My uncle had lived almost forty years in the states. He has friends and acquaintances there. His friend's son lives in Houston, and so he told him about us. Told him to take care of us, show us around.

He came to our inn in the afternoon. He insisted that he drive us around, although I'd rented the car earlier in the day. He showed us the city (downtown), and took us to a mall and then a restaurant. Before the restaurant, he took us to his place.

As we were preparing to leave his apartment, and were about to exit the hallway to the garage, something caught my attention. Right next to the glass door, mounted on the wall, was a fire alarm switch. It said "PULL". So I pulled...

I have no idea why I did it. But the building was instantly flooded with the wailing of sirens. I felt horrible. What a stupid thing to do!

Our host, thank God, didn't show much anger. He dealt with the situation coolly. He sent us back to his place, guarded by his roommate, and explained the situation to the... I don't know. I guess firefighters showed up. He told them that my shirt or something caught the lever and so it got pulled accidentally. Or that I was leaning on the wall. Never mind.

His roommate told us that back in his college days, it was common--as a form of hazing--for people (fraternity juniors) to set off fire alarms just like I did. He was therefore used to it, and wasn't worried at all.

I shouldn't be telling you this, I guess. One of the stupidest things I've ever done.

***

We went to NASA's Space Center. It took us around an hour to go there, and we didn't spend much time in the place. It was nice, though. I can't write everything we did there here, partly because it's a lot, but also because I've forgot most of it. Maybe I'll post photos later on, if you promise not to mention the fire alarm incident to anybody.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fun Facts About Me

A part of me still believes that I'll be a great detective one day. And, sometimes, a vigilante.

I'm a book sniffer.

I don't write for months, and then suddenly write oodles within a few days. The same applies to reading.

I act like a robot sometimes, but I do have feelings.

I hate it when someone calls me "doctor". Especially family.

Sometimes I feel that I'm invisible. And quite warrantably.

Like many human beings, I'm hypocritical at times.

I'm good at learning stuff. Especially languages.

I don't curse. It works!

Two months from now, I'll have finished my internship in sha' Allah. Congrats to me!

My mom used to call me "the senile baby".

I live with the presumption that, until proven otherwise, everybody hates me.

A Japanese lady once told me I act like Japanese people.

I can understand that we are all weak and that we sin. I just can't empathize with liars.

I like to think of myself as a football critic. I've always hated the game, and I criticize it constantly.

I don't mind being talked about "behind me back".

I adhere strictly to social abnorms.

I cannot walk slowly.

I have a fear of being loved. I also have a need to be loved.


Come to think about it, these "facts" are no fun at all.

Real Love, Real Life

"I love you," she started. "And I just want you to be yourself with me. Hmmm. Well, maybe you should change a thing or two. But I want you to be the same. I mean, you can stop picking your nose, right? It's gross! And please stop telling jokes to my dad. He doesn't like them. No-one does. I know I used to laugh at them, but that was six months ago. Oh, and what kind of guy doesn't bring gifts to his fiancée? I want a lot of stuff. Pink stuff. Let's agree to one gift a week, OK? OK.

"Remember how I used to call you crazy in a good sense? Now I can't stand your craziness. Grow up! No more frolicking. And stop complaining about your job; at least you have one. I'm not getting married to a spoiled child.

"Another thing." She was going faster now. "You have to accept me just the way I am. Never ask or expect me to change. You have no right to do that.

"Oh, and I want you to love me unconditionally. No matter what! When I'm being mean to you it means something wrong happened to me. (When you're being mean, you're simply a meanie.) I want you to listen to me complaining about everything, and then tell me everything will be all right. And when I yell at you that everything can't be all right, just tell me you love me and then shut up. I can't stand your lies. You're unbelievable! You know what? I'm not talking to you."


Introversion of Sorts

I've always been an introvert, and so my "time alone" is not something I would give up easily. I spend most of my time alone in my room, reading, aimlessly surfing the internet, or simply thinking. I also spend a lot of time in the bathroom, talking to myself and practicing languages and accents.

I wouldn't really call those my hide-outs. Whether it's my room, the car, or seat number 15 in the lecture hall; I always like to have my own private space. A space where I can be amidst people and at the same time be alone.

My hiding place is anywhere below the radar. Anywhere without humans, even when it's full of them.

I Wrote This On March 8

I awoke a bit early to watch a rerun of the Warriors vs. Lakers game from the night before. I have zero interest in sports--at least this kind of sports--so that was the first time I ever try that.

Immediately after the game, I was to find out that we were out of water. To get us back "in", I had to call the water company and politely ask them to send us enough water to fill our tanks to satiety. That call was made around noon.

The truck arrived in the late afternoon, and the sun set on full tanks and my wet feet. My first encounter of the day was towards its end.

Due to our lack of water, we had not made any food, and so I found myself compelled to leave home again to seek sustenance. My companions on this excursion were my brother and his cousin. He's also my cousin. We went to some newly-opened cheap fried-chicken restaurant that's famous in the north of the country. It was extremely not bad.

Now, these two encounters, I admit, are irrelevant; but they are nonetheless interrelated. Both had the same cause, and both ended with filling a container to capacity.

Trees and Memorees

If you were to pass through my grandfather's front gate, the first thing to meet your eyes would be the balcony where generations of the family spent quiet afternoons. Had you been there any time before 1994, your line of sight would've been obstructed by the huge apricot tree that dominated the garden, and the logs and branches of which were to spend nearly 5 years thereafter stacked against the western wall. I have a vague recollection of some unknown character taking a chainsaw to the poor thing.

That tree not only provided us with succulent produce, but also served as a "playground" for us grandchildren. My cousin tells anecdotes of climbing down the tree from the second floor whenever he was grounded. Another playing tree was the vine near the gate.

That one, like a snake, slithered on the ground, almost as if it had wanted kids to ride it as a pastime. The vine, alack, was also uprooted when it appeared to have given in to age.

The only surviving relic of a tree in that garden is the olive tree in the right corner, some of whose branches still extend out over the wall, blocking the way of anyone trying to make proper use of the sidewalk. It was under this tree that I would spend time alone, hiding from civilization while watching it through the lattice of green that was my all-year-long shield.

It's funny how I never think of all those trees today, even when I hurriedly walk into that garden on my occasional short visits to my uncle's...

Friday, May 6, 2016

Would you?

A few days ago, I watched a movie in which the main two characters undergo some sort of procedure to erase each other from each's mind (this sentence is really weak). I've wondered for years if there were something like that.

Although sometimes I wish it, I'm not really sure I'd do it. I'm not saying that I'd find it hard to part with my memories--and it is--but maybe we are who we are because of the experiences we go through. Even sad memories are part of us, although we can't always come to terms with that. Trauma shapes us.

The man in the movie eventually realizes that he doesn't want to go on with the procedure because as his memories are being erased, he comes to realize how much the lady means to him. But it's already too late.

There are years and people that I'd like to forget, but who would I become then? Which is more important: how I feel, or who I am? Does this actually make any sense?

Emotions are such strange things. So are memories. And thoughts. And me!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Yeah, I don't know what it means, either

I hadn't finished my coffee, and the rhymes started burstin'
No part of me is a poet, but I come up with verses
I have no control over this "caffeine coercion"
I rarely ever drink the thing, I have an aversion

I don't wanna be the person everybody is cursin'
I'm a really very quiet guy, sometimes even terse and
I'm often thought of as haughty and uptight, and worse things
But I don't really care at all about the aspersion
'Cause being open  and friendly isn't really the same as
Being honest and caring, intelligent and conversant
Perhaps I take it too far, I'm sometimes rehearsin'
Every single encounter, every conversation

You gotta be careful with people; you gotta be patient
You know that some people's standards are simply perverted
And then there are the precious ones who don't know their places
So choose your battles wisely if you care for your brain cells


All I really need is some form of compensation
So the only thing left for me is my introversion

Reality!

These days I'm living either in the past, or in an impossible future...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Social "Need Ya"

I've been getting sick and tired of Facebook lately. Not the website itself, but rather the people and their posts. It's becoming a place for hypocrisy and attention-seeking. OK, maybe it's always been like that, but it's getting unbearable for me. I think I'm on the brink of deactivating my profile.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Stink, Stank, Stunk

I stink...

I am sitting at my desk, waiting for our building's caretaker to come from his friend's so I can gain access to the boiler room to see what's gone wrong with our boiler. Until then, I stink.

We've only been in this apartment for about four months, and that thing is starting to play games. I am getting really tired of this stuff. I am sure it's going to be some very minor issue.

I am now reminded of a day a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday. I only remembered I'd forgot to apply the usual layer of deodorant to my armpits when I was already near the bus station, headed to my alma mater to attend a "semi-conference". I'm not saying I stank that day, nor did anyone imply it, but it just felt wrong. At the end of the day, I had a training session, which usually involves a lot of sweating, and even that was OK. I guess I overthink this stuff.

But now I'm even reminded of another period of my life. Back in my childhood, I stank. Like, it was my regular status. Was it my Brazil jersey that was made of nylon? Well, yes. But a few years before that I wasn't allowed to shower more than once a week--and with cold water for that matter. I don't want to think about that now, but it might have something to do with my current obsession. 

Kindness Again

I posted a few days ago about this. But that post was really about "unkindness", and this one is more positive in tone.

I'd like to talk here about people who actually appreciate politeness. I'll just give you the one example I can think of.

I was once driving to my uncle's. One of my maternal uncles, anyway, since they all lived in the same building. One of the streets I drive in on my way there is a very narrow two-way one with a few curves and side-streets. You have to be careful there, or you'll easily collide with someone. This is exactly what happened with me.

It was a very minor bump. I got too close to the car in front of me, and the lady and I kind of felt it. She got out of her car, so I was now sure I'd hit her. Of course the first thing I said was a sincere apology. (Believe me, others in my position would have gone berserk on the lady and tried to convince her it was her fault.) After checking out both cars, and seeing nothing was wrong with either, guess what she said! She thanked me. I have no idea why, but I was glad!

Looks like it pays sometimes to be nice. This happened more than a year ago (maybe even more than more than a year), and I don't recall any other similar instance.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Decaf

I don't drink coffee. Or tea. As a general rule, I don't ingest caffeine. Although I don't find hot beverages palatable, that's not the main reason.

The main reason is that I simply don't want to drink coffee or tea. My body reacts strongly to caffeine since I'm not used to it--I even experience some nausea and tremors! There is a strange mental hyperactivity brought about to me by this chemical, but I don't always enjoy it. Some might say that I should drink coffee until I get used to it, but then again, I don't want to.

Even though coffee (literally) nauseates me, it's not coffee per se that annoys me. I don't hate it as a drink, but rather as a phenomenon.

Lines like "you can't skip coffee" or "I am not fully awake until I've had my coffee" or any others usually posted online by coffee addicts get on my nerves. Go ahead, have all the coffee you want. There's no need to tell everyone in the whole world.

I know,.. everyone makes their own choices. I am not trying to change anyone's lifestyle, but I'd much appreciate it if people would accept mine as mine. I live whichever way I want. If you offer me coffee and I refuse, please understand that refusal means I don't want any.

The fact that I don't drink it, doesn't mean I denounce anyone who does. Once a friend of mine suggested that we go have a cup of coffee. I said that I don't drink that stuff. He looked at me funny and said "it's coffee we're drinking, not beer."

Oh, and if you're wondering how I don't feel sleepy all day without caffeine, here's the simple explanation: I sleep well!

Monday, April 25, 2016

I Sometimes Watch Anime

For some reason, this is one of my favorite scenes in this show. I really can't explain it, but it appeals to my boyish side.



The Argument Against Photography

I get asked a lot why I don't like getting my photos taken. Or why I never post my pictures online. The short answer is that photographs (especially ones posted on social media) are "a manifestation of false emotion". (I know that I shouldn't quote myself.) It's ridiculous that you should put on a face to get your photo taken the same way you put on an article of clothing. "Say cheese" should be replaced with "act happy for a fraction of a second".

Do I consider myself non-photogenic? I don't know; I've never tried it. This has nothing to do with it. OK, maybe it does. My lowly self-image has a lot to do with my... well, image, there's no denying that. But don't let's talk about that.

As I was growing up, there weren't any digital cameras around. People took photos with old things with film scrolls inside that had to be dropped off at the shop to be developed. Maybe that's why many were extra careful with what/whom they capture. As a social outcast, people usually didn't want me or any members of my family in their photos. I've only recently remembered that.

Around this time last year, as we were on the verge of graduating, my classmates had the intention of taking a group photo with a certain doctor of ours after her last lecture ever. As everyone gathered and were preparing for the picture, I noticed that one of my classmates was a bit far from everyone else. She started in the direction of the "photographees", but suddenly stopped in her tracks. I don't know whether she decided not to get involved in the photo, or if she thought it too late to go, but I saw the situation rather differently.

In that particular instance, it was almost impossible for anyone to notice that absence of the said lady from the large horde of posing people. In my childhood, most group photos were of a really small number of people. I don't think I was ever invited to be part of family photos. As a kid largely affected by society and its folly, I might have desired--at least sometimes--to be involved in that social activity. It doesn't matter, but it was made clear to me back then that you had to have more "value" to get into the circle of people special enough to appear in color on glossy paper. I'm not making much sense... In short: I rebel against the meaningless tradition of photography because I don't believe in its social value.

Another issue rises here--a much more controversial one. Photos on social media. Just why? I know that some people take photos to have something to remind them of the good times. But what purpose does posting photos online serve? I have never received any convincing answer to this question.

A profile picture is a good indicator to your identity. It tells people to whom you send friend requests, for instance, that you are you. It's not really a necessary proof, but it's not entirely useless. People are taking it too far, however: taking photos of oneself, one's family, one's possessions, and even one's food (this one particularly gets on my nerves). It's absolutely repulsive!


I don't want to make this any longer. My simple message here is this: instead of taking photographs to remind you of the moment, try living it real-time!

PS: Hypocritically enough, I've recently changed my Facebook profile picture (you can see it in the upper right corner). Silly, I know.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Fattitude

I've weighed the same since I was fourteen years old, twelve years now, and I'm grateful for that, but I was overweight when I was a kid. I even came up with a formula:

Weight at given age (n) =  n X 5

Sounds like fun, huh? Not really. Being able to predict your weight and actually controlling it are two different things. Now, I know that this doesn't sound like a lot, that I wasn't exactly obese, but it caused me a lot of trouble.

I've never had difficulty moving around. It was relatively easy to do sports--I just didn't like it. But it was at times challenging to find clothes for me. You know, because of the discrepancy between girth and height. Now that I think about it, I didn't actually mind the extra kilos. But then again I was a kid, and I probably didn't know what's best for me. However, I never liked how people looked at me.

I remember being made fun of a lot. I was called many things that mean "fatso". I guess this has a lot to do with my being afraid of gaining a lot of weight right now.

In my fourteenth summer--about the time of my growth spurt--we purchased a car. I spent a lot of time just sitting in it in the street, and less time eating at home. Perhaps I also started to care about my looks at that time. So I lost a lot of weight without any actual effort. I am very attractive now. (Sorry!)

Today, I suspect that I have an eating disorder. I am the only one who thinks I'm fat (even though I kind of exercise), and I have occasional binges. My mom says I don't eat a lot, and that I'm very thin. I don't know.

Blindness to Kindness

Am I the only one that noticed this? That being 'nice' is actually not a very savory attribute nowadays. It is rather mistaken for weakness. They way I see it, it takes a lot of strength to not only resist the urge to punch people in the throat, but also to treat them respectfully.

I started to notice a while ago. I recognized a pattern among people: when I say the words "I don't know" people immediately label me as stupid. Even if--nay, especially if--they were 'stupider' than me. You have to be assertive to command respect. And 'assertive' simply means 'arrogant' in my community. Some people just love anyone that treats them like rodents. Lemme say this: I know for a fact that I'm smarter than most, and I thank God for that, but that doesn't mean I'm better than anyone. We all have brains, don't we? And I don't walk around rubbing it in people's faces. I made that choice, and I'm strong enough to stick to it.

Of course, this kind of people I can easily avoid. I can block them out of my life. My problem is how the people close to me take my kindness for servility. When I apologize to someone, they take my apology as an invitation to tread on me. Again, being able to acknowledge one's mistakes and try to make up for them is not a sign of weakness. It is one of the most difficult tasks a human being, especially a Jordanian human being, can attempt. Go ahead, remember some of the arguments you have had with those you hold dear. Each single one of those started--and was maintained, of course--because someone would not admit to being wrong. Even if it cost you nothing to admit it, you probably won't. Human nature, I guess.

My point is, take it easy. Breathe. Think!
If someone is nice to you, it means they probably care for you. It's absolutely sickening how in some communities, pieces of trash get most of the respect that community has to offer.

Vacation, please!

Strange, isn't it? I am not the outgoing kind, but something tells me I need to go away. Like, now!

I know that I might sound evil here, but I need a vacation from my family. I love my family, and I like to be of help to them, but I just get sick sometimes. Someone always wants something. And if they don't, someone else does, of course. Again, I don't mind doing things for my family, it's just that I don't like be treated like a robot that is only there at my siblings' service.

Sometimes I feel that a mother duck has more private time than I do. Most of the time, I simply can't just sit at my desk and read, or just spend some time alone. The annoying thing is that neither my sister nor my brother will sacrifice any of their own time for anyone else. Especially if they don't feel like talking to anyone or doing anything for someone. I guess I am--as Americans put it--being taken for granted.

I am just sick of playing father to my siblings. One time they need something from me, the other I am asking stuff that's none of my business.

I'm really in a tight spot here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started this book in late February. I don't know whether it's the book itself or if I'm too depressed to read anything. So don't take this review too seriously.

Well, this novel has it all: action, suspense, comedy, romance, sci-fi. This is a good thing, really, but it doesn't always work. (I don't know what I mean, either.) The story line is nice, but still seems like an amalgam of all the stories you can think of, especially those of the young-adult genre.

As for the authoring skills of this dude, he's really good. His style is enjoyable, albeit superfluous at times. I'm not a big fan of MMOs and RPGs myself, but I didn't feel absolutely ignorant immersed in the details of this story.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

La Primavera

Spring is supposed to be a joyous season. The weather is nice, flowers begin to blossom, and everyone seems to be having fun. Still, late spring is the time when suicides are most common. There is some depressing quality about it, after all.

I was beginning to think I can control my memories and thoughts. I was quite successful at it, too. To my surprise, I could stop myself from thinking about certain things and people. But all it takes is just one tiny stimulus to stir my emotions. You can't control those, it seems.

These days, I go to work one day, and then get two days off. So most of my time I spend at home. I like that; I really do. But it seems staying home alone for too long is bad for me. I am back to sobbing, but for different reasons from those I had years ago, when I used to stay at home for much longer than I do now. Memories from this time last year are getting a grip over me that I can't escape. How quickly time passes by, and how difficult it is for me to cope!
I'm much weaker than I think I am and pretend to be...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Books

I always judge a book by its cover--more specifically, its back cover, where the synopsis usually is. I don't think there's anything wrong with judging a book by its cover design, either. Think about it: if the publishers found a book to be worthy of their money, they would pay some extra cash on the cover. It wouldn't hurt at all for the book to look presentable.

It's not really just about the cover. The first few lines of a book tell you a lot about it. A good author will know how to grab your attention from the very beginning. That's how--I believe--some old novels came to be so well-known as "classics". Printing technology wasn't much, and so it was all up to the skill of the author. It is therefore not so much about the content as it is about the way in which it is presented.

I just plucked a book off the shelf to try it out--one I haven't read yet. It's THE ESCAPE by DAVID BALDACCI. The cover isn't particularly appealing, but I bought it because it was on sale, and I wasn't being the normal me. (I am almost never normal in bookstores.) I think the cover's color is called "turquoise"--some bluish hue. It shows the back of a man running towards a more or less pyramidal door, which also doubles as the A in the word ESCAPE. If you look "less closely" you'll see that you're looking at the man through a breach in a metal fence. I might have read something about the book online, but it doesn't need a particularly sharp intellect to know that's it talks of a man escaping from prison. Not to mention the usual conspiracy, family, and a detective archenemy.
This novel's got a rating of 4.1 on Goodreads, but I wouldn't give it a 3 based on its cover art.

I am inclined to think that whoever said "Never judge a book by its cover" should have put more effort into looking. I know that the writing profession is not generally a superficial one, but looking on the outside is indispensable. Taking the maxim metaphorically, you simply cannot judge a person without first looking at them. We are inherently biased against certain attributes and for others.


Now, I'm not saying that 'beauty' defines how I look at someone, but it is rather their countenance and general bearing. If someone acts haughtily, then I immediately label them as such. The subject matter is too complicated for my linguistic faculty, so I shall stop here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wing Chun

I can't believe I've never shared this here before.



If you know me personally, I must have at least told you about this movie once. Not only because it's my favourite Chinese movie, but also because it has this awesome fight scene. Please don't think that it's unrealistic--you'll only ruin it for yourself.







Back in 2010, I was kind of desperate. I stayed at home and surfed the internet most of the day. I looked up a lot of things, and learned a lot of useless stuff. Around that time, Guy Richie's Sherlock Holmes movie came out. I liked the movie, and loved the fighting therein. I quickly Googled the martial arts. Of course, I could recognize Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, but there were two other arts, entirely new to me--Bartitsu and Wing Chun.



I started reading more about both martial arts, and I just couldn't resist Wing Chun. It's an art so gentle, yet so lethal; so simple, yet so powerful--fast and strong at the same time. I wished I'd learned about it earlier. Laugh at me if you will, but it is actually a lady's art--developed by a woman called--guess what!--Wing Chun.



OK. enough of me. If you're interested in the  art, read more about it. Otherwise, I am truly sorry for taking so much of your time.





(I haven't written anything here for a while, huh? I don't know why. I also don't know why people from different countries come here often. You are welcome, of course, but I seem to have run out of things to write about.)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Six Suspects

Six Suspects Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am such a horrible person! I couldn't resist reading this book with an Indian accent. I also found myself craving Indian food every time there was mention thereof, which is totally missing the point of the story.

When I first heard about this novel, I thought it would be a detective mystery--I like those. It turns out there's tribal ritualistic magic, out-of-body experiences, and even possession. Believe it or not, these were not the only far-fetched concepts in the novel. I've never seen any Indian movies, but I think that they would share that attribute with this novel--namely, too many "coincidences".

The author also takes it too far when it comes to diverting the readers' attention. I hate it when a crime mystery author withholds information; it makes it impossible for me to make any valid theories as to the solution.

The denouement, however, was not bad at all. It does make sense, even though it wasn't very predictable.

I enjoyed reading this book, but I didn't like it much. (Does this make any sense?)

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: أرض النفاق

أرض النفاق أرض النفاق by يوسف السباعي
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

قد تكون هذه أول رواية عربية أقرؤها. و قد تكون بالفعل من أفضل ما قرأت من الروايات.

ليس سبب إعجابي بها هو وصفها لأمتنا و "أمراضها" فحسب، فهي ليست قصة بؤس أو "تراجيدي". أعجبنتي الطريقة الساخرة للكاتب، و وجدت الكتاب مضحكا أكثر منه محزنا، و هذا جعل قراءته أسهل كثيرا (خاليا من "سمة البدن").

شيء واحد يزعجني على كل حال: المجتمع الذي يصفه الكاتب في هذه الرواية-مجتمع مصر في الأربعينيات من القرن الماضي-لا يختلف كثيرا عن مجتمعنا اليوم. و لو كان هناك اختلاف في التفاصيل الدقيقة، ما زلت أرى فينا كثيرا من العيوب التي نرفض التخلص منها.

خلص، بكفّي فلسفة.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Note to self: don't read a book just because it's a "classic".
Another note to self: I know you won't listen to me. Idiot.

I am no literary expert, but I know for sure this novel is lacking in many elements that make up a story; not the least of which is a solid plot.

Another thing I hated about it is the generous amount of cursing. Is that dude angry or just used to talking like that?

This is a depressing book. It made me laugh at certain points, but it's still going in the garbage.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: The Martian

The Martian The Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Because of all the hype the movie got, I thought I'd detest this novel. I even kept asking myself why I'd bought it in the first place (it was "on sale"; that's the reason). Anyway, it was a quick enjoyable read.

Being written in the form of "log entries", it pretty much resembles reading someone's "blog". It *is* actually. What I didn't expect however, is for it to be funny. You know how humor is a defense mechanism that helps you cope with stress? The author makes a point of it as the astronaut struggles to stay alive and entertained.

I'm not sure about the ending, though. The story kind of terminates abruptly.

OK. This is getting boring. Read this book. (If you want to, that is.)

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