Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I'll post soon!

I feel so bad; it’s been almost a week since my last post. No time now though... I’m filling out university applications in addition to my schoolwork and other activities. If I don’t get these done I will have to commit seppuku.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

mi madre está loca

Ok, she's not really crazy, but the guy on the other end of the phone thought so.

We had spent the weeks following 9/11 glued to the tv set. Our neighbors tv to be precise. Neighbors that lived across town. And had a small tv. And no comforatable seating. When fights broke out over who got the single padded chair we realized it was time to get our own satelite.

It should have been simple, right? You just go to the shop, by your satelite, plug it in and viola, you have all the news(and whatever else) you could ever want. Wrong.

We find a shop that deals what we are looking for. So far so good. We get our satelite set up but for some reason it isn't working. We call the service provider and they tell us we have an outdated reciver box thingy(I hope that isn't too technical). Ok, no prob. It was probably an accident... We should just go to his shop and exchange it. This is where it gets fun.

My mom is not the kind of woman who likes dealing with people who aren't dealing straight with her. Let me make this clear, she really does not like these kind of people. Really. At all. This needs to be clear in your mind or you will not get any of what I am saying.

So, all of us had piled into our mitsubishi pajero. We are on are way to the little shop and my mom decides to call the guy to make sure the shop is open(hours are weird here, right now shops are open from 11-1:30pm and then 7-3am). My mom calls the number from her mobile(cell) and calls the guy. He answers and she begins telling him the tragedy of our tv. About 30 seconds into the story the guy stops her and tells her that she has the wrong number and that he is a journalist, not a shopkeeper. My mother apologizes and hangs up.

My mother again tries the number, this time trying sure to get it right. Three rings later someone answers it... the journalist guy once again told my mom it was the wrong number. Once again my mother apologized. Third time is the charm... right?

My mom looks extra close at the guy's business card and makes sure to get the number right. She dials and before it has a chance to ring a very annoyed journalist answers. He starts off on her how she is bothering him and that he is busy. He then hangs up.

My mom gets angry now. Very angry. "What kind of @#^&$ business is this"(ok, i inserted the hidden swear word... my mom rarely swears. When she does, you know its coming, there is this deep intake of breah, a moment of silence and then... the word. But that is a whole other post) She started ranting how it was probably some guy who moved his shop every day selling outdated overpriced stuff. He was a crook for sure. We all discuss who he guy might be. My mom calls again but the guy answers and hangs up before she can say anything. After several tries he finally answers. My mom starts ranting at him and yelling about what a horrible person he is. He threatens to call the police and hangs up.

My mom is huffing(and puffing) with anger now. The nerve! My dad asks to look at the business card and her phone. While swerving to avoid rear-ending cars he looks at the dialled numbers on my mom's phone and the card... back and forth over and over again. A faint smile appears on his lips. "Hon," he says in his sweetest voice, "I think you may have forgotten to dial the area code before he number." Dead silence. My mom flushes. You see, to dial any land-line from a mobile here you have to put the area code of the number which you are dialling, something my mom failed to do numerous times.

Needless to say she never made that mistake again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New methods add twist to stem cell debate

From http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1483682.htm

Two alternative methods for making embryonic stem cells work in mice and might lead to a less controversial way to grow human ones, US researchers report.


Dr Robert Lanza and colleagues took a cell from an embryo when it only had eight cells, and used it as a source of stem cells. The remaining seven-cell embryo developed normally.


A second team at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) genetically disabled a gene in a mouse cell that is important to allow a fertilised egg to become an embryo.

The scientists then cloned the cell, grew an embryo, and extracted stem cells from it.

This looks pretty interesting... Found it while Stumbling today. I'm about as pro-life as they come an am against anything that threatens the life of an embryo, fetus, or "person". It would be awesome if they could do this in humans. In 50 years every person could have custom grown organs waiting for them at the hospital. That is pretty cool.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Yay for Iraq!

I've been watching the news about the Iraq elections for the past couple days. Awesome. I was struck by the high voter turnout... In some places it was as high as 93%. National turnout was somewhere around 60%. Amazing. I wish Americans were this patriotic. I can't wait to talk to my Iraqi dentist(i have an appointment this week) and see what he thinks.

Friday, October 14, 2005

So, robots are supposed to help us, right?

This week I was helping out in my church with the little kids. They were given some paper and told to draw 'robots'. Instead of nice little robots helping out their neighboors(in a Chrisitan manner) we got what follows.

This one by 'Sarah' is named 'klownbot. The caption reads: "Shuts acid out uv handz. Can flie. Haz gunz in shoos. Made by Sarah. He likes flours" How sweet.

This one is adorable. It was made by little Emily and seems to be some kind of 'killbot' with razor arms, tank-like treads and a rocket launcher on its head. I sure want this kid to grow up to be a Sunday School teacher!

'Trogdor 2' by 'Daisy' is the best of the lot. Notice the flames shooting out of its head andthe word 'eagle' on the flamethrowers? The ice-sword and chain-saw covered in blood seem like good touches. What really pulls it all together is the verse on the bottom: Revelations 2:8 - "And Paul said Trogdor will come to earth and destroy all defilers and burn every second born daughter. All mothers will be sawed to pieces." I sure hope Daisy's mom keeps an eye out for this little stinker!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Brothers are people too!

This is my deep thought for the day.

Ok, this may sound pretty obvious but brothers are people too. Why am I saying this now? Because I just really learned it, or at least just realized that I really learned it.

My little brother and I used to fight. Alot. We could fight over anything. Things like grabbing something ou of the fridge while someone else had it open were a big deal. We could fight for three hours over something like that. Last year I lived away from my family and only saw them about once every other weekend. Things began to improve between my brother and I. For the most part we got along pretty well.

This year I am living back with my family my brother and I continue to get along great(with the occasional fight). Tonight, while on a crowded bus with fifty other youth I began to think about what had changed over the last year and a half. My little brother had changed, that was for certain... Many people had commented on his newfound maturity. But had I changed? Was he the root of the problem between us, was it him who needed to mature before we could get along? I wonder.

I have always thought of my little brother as, well, a little brother. To me that meant that even though we wouldn't neccesarily get along he was someone I had to live with and would protect at all costs... because he was my brother. But that was it. I thought of a brother as someone you love in spite of the fact that you can't stand them... i didn't realize he was someone that I had the privilege to get to know, an individual. It sounds ridiculous, I know. But I can see no other reason for the way we get along now other than the fact that I now recognize that he is an individual who is unique and has his own life which has meaning. Now I get the chance to get to know him because I am interested in what he has to say, I realize that his emotions matter and treat him as a friend.

And that concludes my deep thought.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Sure it's not legal...

But it’s fun. This little tale is about my first foray into...drumroll please... “The Black Market”. This is not to be confused with “The Gray Market” where you can buy foakleys and 10$ Rolex’s on your way to see the Statue of Liberty. No, this is the real deal. I’m practically a gangsta now (I have been given the honorary title of “wigger”).

I live on the border between two countries. One side, Al Ain, is affluent and beautiful. Gardens cover the city. For the most part it is a pretty ‘good’ city. Meet Buraimi, Al Ain’s “darker half”. Need a place to sell those stolen camels? Go to Buraimi. Need a hit-man service? Talk to the clerk at the entrance to the Buraimi Hotel. I however came for something much more insidious, much more evil. Something that companies like Microsoft would be willing to kill for (probably using the aforementioned service): pirated softwarez (notice the ‘z’ that makes me sound like an uberhacker [not to be confused with my wunderkind persona])

Driving through the city’s ‘green light’ district (hey, it’s a foreign country... they do things differently here) my brother and I spot a seedy little shop, its half-darkened fluorescent tube-lit sign reading: “Computerz, softwarez, gamez, har”(n.b. ‘z’s mine. The last word was unlit but I assume that it has something to do with the secret password of computer h@ck3rz [notice the L337?])

We try the door of the shop, it is locked. I peer through the dirty glass trying to see if anyone is inside. I knock. I see movement within. The door opens. Darkness seeps out onto the sidewalk, dimming all the lights. I try to look behind the looming figure in the doorway. All I can make out are shelves and shelves full of what I can only assume to be some kind of kontraband. I look the man in his glowing red eyes and gathering up my courage I whisper, “Do you have software, copied software?” He looks a bit puzzled at my use of italics. I ask him again, this time in bold, he still doesn’t get it. Finally I ask him in unformatted 12 pt Arial font. A smile creeps across his face and the fire in his eyes flares up. He nods.

He exits the store and locks it, the streetlights brightening slightly. He gives them a withering look and they darken again. He takes us around to the back of the store and we begin walking through the alley. The only light comes from the glow of his eyes. We walk. And walk. I begin to fear for our safety. Shadows gather behind us, following. Some slither across the ground in front of us. Suddenly the man stops. He knocks on a brick wall twice, waits and then knocks again. The outline of a door appears. The door tries to look like it was there all along, but I was watching. I know what happened. It can’t fool me.

The door opens and an eerie greenish light washes over us. The gaunt man who led us here leaves, the shadows following him. A jolly looking man stands in the doorway. Jolly that is, except for his beady eyes that look like little wells of darkness. “Come in,” he rasps, “I know what you are here for.” My brother and I enter.

Strange carnival music plays in the background. The room is small and is empty but for a cheap card-table with one chair. A folder lies on the table. Jolly gestures towards the chair. I sit. Fear grips my soul. The man rubs his hands together as if anticipating what is to happen next. My little brother reaches towards the folder. “Wait,” I tell him, “wait.”

I steel myself and reach for the folder. Upon opening darkness begins to fill my being. I look as the names of the pirated softwarez. Windows XP, Halo, The Sims 2... It’s all there. A netherworldly force guides my hand as I point at different softwarez. Jolly grins and leaves, the door disappearing with him. We are trapped. And so we wait. And wait. Beads of sweat form on my forehead, dripping down one at a time, landing on the pages in the folder, turning instantly into steam when they hit. We wait.

The outline of the door appears once again and Jolly enters, smiling his fiendish smile. He proffers the gamez I asked for. The bargaining commences. “Our souls are too high a price to pay,” I argue, but the man shakes his head. I offer him money. Anger spreads across his face and the black holes of his eyes begin to suck me in. The room begins to fade. “Wait!” I shout. Our souls it would be. We take our gamez and leave. And so we find that the price of piracy has nothing to do with money.

Ok, this might be a slight exaggeration. Not everything here is true. Fine, I admit it. The truth is if you want to sell stolen camels you have to go to Muscat, Oman. There. Happy now? I just didn’t want to compromise my supplier. That’s right, I got a problem. I deal camels. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. You ain’t so perfect either. I can quit any time I want.

Monday, October 10, 2005

This is just a cool tree that was by the school we were painted. That snail is about the size of a baseball. Pretty gross eh?

This little Sri Lankan kid tried to grab my camera. All of the kids there loved to take photographs and then look at the pictures on the digital screen.

My God, what's hapening?

I look at the headlines and can barely hold back the tears. "South Asian quake toll nears 20,000," "1200 estimated dead in landslide," "Suicide Bomber Strikes Basra." In the past year so many numbers have rolled by on the screen that when I hear that only a thousand died I think, "well that's a relief." A relief?!? That means a thousand mothers and fathers and sisters and brother and grandparents and grandchildren and sons and daughters and friends and neighbors just dies. What does it make me if I cannot grieve for every one? Does it matter if I knew them? Each one of them is a human life. Each one has value. Yet why does the news only report the American deaths when an airplane crashes? Does being from a specific country make you more worthy?

The ills of this world are so great that I find myself questioning everything. At first I question God, but then I realize that millions more die from the works of man than any "act of God." I question whether or not there is any redeeming value in humanity, but then I see enemies working together to rebuild. Right now, I have so little hope for the world. We fight our petty wars and tend to our infinitesimally small issues and ignore what is happening around us. Yet who am I to judge someone's problems? What does it make me if I point a finger and say, "What you're going through is unimportant, his problems are more important then yours." So many people are suffering, dying. So many lives are being ruined every moment of the day. But what have I done to make it better, what have I done to change the world? How can I begin to blame man, or even God when I have not done everything possible in my power to somehow improve the situation?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Here's a quick break from Sri Lanka pix to show you my new kitten who is already a part of the family after only three days.


Our first day at the school in Colombo was a little boring, we didn't have the supplies we needed to start cleaning so some of us sat around talking while others thought of something a bit more interesting to do.


This is about the cutest little boy I have ever seen. After dropping our stuff off at the house we came here, a little school in a part of Colombo called Nugegoda. He was just sitting there, playing with his little toy. He had no idea he was breaking my heart.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

This is the living room of the amazing house we stayed in in Sri Lanka. There was no air conditioning and tempuratures were well into the 90's with high humidity. After a couple days we stopped noticing the tempurature. It was so great to get out of the habit of using aircon. This house had an inside garden with a little pond and an open ceiling. Most of the windows were left open all the time to cool the house.

death by foam

This is us going from the airport to the house we were staying in outside of Colombo. We had to bring our own matresses and the bus was definitely a little crowded

Sri Lanka

In june I went on a trip to Sri Lanka. About 20 of us went there with an organization called Youth for Christ. We spent about ten days there painting a school and hanging out with kids who either:
  • lived on the street
  • had families killed in the tsunami
  • lived at an orphanage
  • had prostitute mothers who didn't want them or couldn't care for them
My following posts will be some pictures I took while there.

Friday, October 07, 2005

You know you've been in the Middle East too long when...

It's the holy month of Ramadan which means no eating/drinking in public. When we first moved here I remember my family complaining loudly and vociferously about the restrictions. Things have changed. Yesterday afternoon my mom and I were driving through town when we saw a Filipino man drinking juice while he was crossing the street. My mom turned to me and clicked her tongue muttering something about how rude the guy was. This place has definitely gotten to us.

I found out something very interesting today. We expatriates survive on one thing and one thing alone. Rumors. Lots of them. We hear rumors from stories about potential coups to how prisoners converting to Islam are freed. Today I found out that one rumor I had long ago dismissed as a tall tale was in fact true. There have been unsubstantiated stories about Muslims gaining massive amounts of weight during Ramadan on account of being starved all day and feasting all night. I was talking to a Muslim friend of mine whose dad works at a local hospital. He told me how during the first three days Ramadan hundreds of patients come into the ER who have to get their stomachs pumped because they overeat. Go figure.

bias pisses me off

Over the years my family here has become increasingly pro-Palestinian. We don't think that Israel should be destroyed or anything but we definitely hold views that greatly differ from many Americans. Today I realized how blind and biased people on both sides of the issue can be. I was talking to an Arab friend(of Palestinian descent) and we got on the topic of Palestine. I was surprised at how strong her views were about the issue... To her the Israelis were all in the wrong and the Palestinians only participated in terrorist attacks because they were provoked... i.e. they had no other choice. On the other end of the spectrum I was reading some articles online today about the Israeli-Palestinian debate. Wow. These well written articles(these people are not stupid, just extremely biased) made claims that the Palestinians weren't even a proper people group, that they only exist to destroy Israel and that everything is the Arabs fault. Unbelievable. I am continually surprised by how often we humans simplify complex events to justify our actions and make ourselves look good. Grr.

New Kitten!!!

Hallelujah, we caught one of Teri's siblings. We opened the door and put some fod out and in it came. It's hiding in its bed now, we'll see how it does in a couple days.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


This is Teramitsu, the first kitten we caught. She's been int he house for almost two weeks and is quite tame now. There are still two kittens left. We want to catch one as a companion for Tera and the other for a friend.

Mean Momma Cat

A few weeks ago a family of cats moved into our yard. There are three kittens and we decided to try our hand at catching them. The mother cat isn't very happy about this.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Watch out where you put that sausage...

So, the holy month of Ramadan has begun. For those f you who don't know, Ramadan is a month of fasting(from sunrise to sunset) for muslims. The penalty for eating in public(at least here) is imprisonment. No longer can I drink a cup of coffee at starbucks in the middle of the day. If I drink coffee at all I will have to be covert. Straws are very useful.

Once the sun has set an evening of feasting and partying is order. Tables are filled with traditional Ramadn food eaten for centuries. Last night however, I found a not so traditional Ramadan food: pizza. This doesn't seem too abnormal. At first glance our Ramadan Pizza seems like any other stuffed crust mushroom pizza. Stuffed crust?!?!? I thought we had ordered mushroom and sausage. Perhaps they had just mixed up our order. A hundred other people probably ordered at the same time. On closer inspection however, there seemed to be something wrong with the cheese. An investigation was definately in order.

I soon realized what had happened. The dusgustingly springy jelly-like mass in my crust was not cheese. I took a nibble and spat it out. It burned my tounge. Yup, not cheese. The guys at pizza hut had given us exactly what we had ordered... it's just they put the sausage in the crust. This came as a shock to me. But maybe I am just behind the times. Perhaps it has been too long since I've eaten pizza. No, I think not. It is simply an attempt by imperialistic Americans to cause death to thousands of muslims. How? After fasting all day one would be hungry enough to eat anything, even the sausage crust of a deformed pizza. That is where the catch is. The burning sensation it caused on my tounge leads me to beleive that this sausage contains high amounts of some sort of toxin, perhaps iocane powder. Needless to say this could be fatal to the thousand of muslims coming home famished and willing to eat whatever is set in front of them. Yep, definitely a conspiracy.