A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: November 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

HelloFood Launches in Jordan

So, if you, like me, would rather not pick up a phone and have to deal with explaining what you want and what you don’t want when ordering food, HelloFood will come as fantastic news. All you have to do is log on to the website, enter your area, and then choose from the tens of restaurants available on the site. The best part is… they have menus.

Your lunch hour at the office has just gotten an upgrade.

They have an app coming soon too.

Another Cover Interview: OnCampus Magazine

It’s strange having your face on the cover of a magazine, but here we go again, for the second time this year.

You can read the interview on their website here.

Caramelt’s website is now online, and ready to deliver in Jordan

You can now order delicious caramels, toffees, and candied apples online. The online shop is run by the awesome ShopGo.

Interview about Amman on Belgian TV

If you speak Flemish, you might enjoy this travel documentary on Belgian TV about Amman. If you don’t speak Flemish, you can forward to minute 8 and watch me “blog” on TV, without a computer or a keyboard or any other digital prop I love.

(Click to play)

How to Feel Blissfully Insignificant: This Gorgeous Picture of Saturn

So Cassini took this amazing shot of Saturn this July. Look how small we are. I am always so fascinated by how pictures of Saturn looks like CGI.

I strongly recommend you click on the image and enjoy Saturn in all its high-res glory.

Must-watch Genre Movie of the Month: Thor 2, the Dark World

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, but I went ahead and watched Thor 2 yesterday (bringing my total movie count to THREE, which is one movie more than my total movie count for 2011 and 2012 combined). Verdict: Screw both Gravity and Ender’s Game, nothing beats the emotional satisfaction of of comic-book inspired, kick-ass fantasy.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Marvel universe, and the second Thor movie made me realize why. The backstory/history research in the Marvel universe is always brilliant, and everything is so rich and imaginative.

Anyway… yeah… if you want to go watch a sci-fi or fantasy movie this weekend, watch Thor. Wonderful visuals, witty writing, good acting, and a good old good-versus-evil storyline.

The Day I Tried to Be a Food Stylist

A few weeks ago, I had a long argument with a friend about what it takes to become really, really good at something.

No, I told him, that 10,000-hour rule of doing something to become good at it is kinda stupid. I don’t think it takes 10,000 hours. It can take much less, depending on what else you’re already good at.

You know, one of my all-time fantasies is to become a food stylist. There’s something so dazzling about making food beautiful. About setting up the scene to deliver a certain message (this is healthy food, this is traditional food, this is fancy food). About appealing visually to the most wonderful sense of all: taste.

It’s just such a delicious job.

My first experience with food styling was in 2009, when I was branding The Cakery at Syntax. We needed photographs of the items in the catalog, so I worked with a photographer and professional food stylist to come up with pictures.

It was a fascinating experience that started my obsession with collecting pictures of beautiful food. There are SO MANY THINGS involved in food photography. The lighting has to be perfect. The reflections on the food have to be studied and analyzed. You need to work with the colors in ways you never experience when working with Photoshop. You have to try to make the viewer taste and smell the photograph, by using certain visual tricks. Ahh… I felt like a child who just discovered chocolate.

A few months ago, I volunteered my non-existent food-styling skills to Caramelt, a caramel and toffee brand that I designed earlier this year. When I design brands, I get obsessive about how I want EVERYTHING to feel. So, I jumped at the opportunity of staging the photographs, as opposed to just providing photo guidelines. I spent hours pouring over the images I’ve collected of desserts looking gorgeous. I spent even more hours sketching the exact layout of how I wanted each photo to look. White vase here, chocolate chopped this way there, the caramels looking exactly like this sketch in the right-hand corner.

We then set up a home studio in the kitchen with lamps and headlights, using the help of my awesome photographer friend Shady Adwan.

The results were cool. It was fun trying to be all artsy-fartsy:

Yet, the home set-up meant that we weren’t able to capture proper depth of field, color tonality, and shade/shadow play. So, when we got the chance to shoot in a properly-equipped studio with Bashar Alaeddine from Adasat (with all his food photography experience!), I got very, very excited.

For the compositions, we decided to stay away from the dark wooden backgrounds and the “process” concept, and opted for simple white compositions that show how fresh and natural all Caramelt’s products are. Instead of butter and sugar, we used fresh fruits and nuts. It was awesome, and I am really happy with the results:

My need to add rainbows to everything shines through in this picture of caramel apples

Raspberry caramels

Chili dark chocolate caramels

Original caramels

Pistachio toffee crunch

Mango caramels

Candy apple fun

Of course, these were shot with Bashar’s fantastic experience and Caramelt’s already-gorgeous products, but for my second food styling experience, I can say that I’m very, very happy. Maybe one day I will quit my job and become a food stylist.

Which brings me back to the debate I was having with my friend. Do you need to do something for 10,000 hours to become good at it? No, you don’t. You can instead spend 10,000 hours looking at pictures of this something, and then you’ll probably become good at it too.

When I was in college, one of my favorite (and most useful) design classes simply involved looking at pictures of well-designed things. The instructor would come into the class, turn on the projector, and spend the entirety of the hour-and-a-half flipping through pictures. Sometimes, she’d stop on one for a whole 10 minutes. I can still see her standing back from the wall, looking at the images like some people look at works of art at the Louvre. It was in that class that I realized that the best way to learn anything is to actively see. You know, even if you spend 10,000 hours designing, you won’t produce good work unless you know what good work looks like. The technical aspects are always easy to learn. It’s the strategic thinking that’s tough to master.

As a child, I learned to write by reading a lot, and noticing the syntax of everything I read. There was no Internet then, so I couldn’t Google why punctuation works the way it does, or how to make a text come to life. I knew how to use an em dash and en dash at 11, but I didn’t know what they were called until I was 22. I would read, read, read, and often write my favorite paragraphs down and replace some of the words and ideas with my own. I still remember my favorite opening paragraph in a book, because I played with it in my head so often as a child:

“Most people would call me a ghost. I am, after all, dead. But I don’t think of myself that way. It wasn’t so long ago that I was alive, you see. I was only eighteen. I had my whole life in front of me. Now I suppose you could say I have all of eternity before me. I’m not sure exactly what that means yet. I’m told everything’s going to be fine. But I have to wonder what I would have done with my life, who I might have been. That’s what saddens me most about dying — that I’ll never know.”

Maybe that paragraph is why I use “you see” a lot when I write.

Yes, don’t do something for 10,000 hours. You’re alive, reading, watching, and looking all day. Use that time to see instead.

You can see all the photographs of the Caramelt photoshoot on the Caramelt website.

So apparently, we are very, very depressed

So according to this research paper, people in Jordan are very, very depressed.

Roba’s Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review: Part 1


A few things first:

1. A couple of years ago, I made this (slightly absurd) decision to only read science fiction and fantasy until I've finished all the classics.

2. In the past couple of years, I have stuck to this decision, meaning that I've recently read hundreds of the sci-fi/fantasy classics.

3. Scifi-/fantasy is the most amazing reading genre due to its blatantly unreal nature, allowing you to delve into topics to their impossible ends. You get to explore everything, from philosophy (Foundation series), military strategy (Ender's Game), hard science (Larry Niven), human rights (1984), history (Slaughterhouse Five), feminism (Ursula Le Guin) and more.

4. Due to the massive amount of sci-fi/fantasy reading I've done, I really believe that everyone should give this genre a try, although it might be one of the more intimidating genres to read.

5. I will start posting mini-reviews of sci-fi books, not based on my own preferences, but based on NPR's 100 Top Fantasy and Science Fiction books, which has helped me a lot on my journey to become a genre "expert".

So… here we go. I'll be taking several books in the NPR list's order, obviously skipping the ones I haven't gotten to yet, since reading in order has got nothin' on me. I will try to highlight the topic that the book covers, so you can skim through trying to find a book you like.

1. The Lord of the Rings
By J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: Must Read
Topic: Philosophy (Good versus evil)

One of the ultimate classics, I was 13 when I first Tolkien's masterpiece. Of course, you must read this book, whether you like fantasy or not. The amazing influence of "The Lord of the Rings" on so many other things just means that you must read it. I repeat, must read it.

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
By Douglas Adams

Rating: Kinda Boring

I haven’t met many people who did not enjoy “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, so you can take my thoughts on this series with a grain of salt. The truth is… I wasn’t able to complete the books. They angered me, because they took something I love so much too lightly. Maybe I’m the only sci-fi lover who feels this way, or maybe I’m not. It’s a book made for the masses in my opinion, parading as sci-fi.

3. Ender’s Game
By Orson Scott Card

Rating: Must Read
Topic: Military strategy, ethics

Easily one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. Not just this one book, but this entire series with all its short stories, novellas, comic books, etc. AMAZING. And the movie is coming out this year too… so before people go nuts I strongly recommend you read it.

4. The Dune Chronicles
By Frank Herbert

Rating: Worth Reading
Topic: Politics

Dune is a good book, and you’ll find yourself relating to it very heavily if you’re Arab.

5. A Song of Ice and Fire
By George R R Martin

Rating: Kinda Boring

Topic: Politics

While I did enjoy the first few books in the series, it is actually sort of boring. Everything is too long and too descriptive and too banal, and there is much better fantasy in the world.

6. 1984
By George Orwell

Rating: Must Read
Topic: Politics

Everyone must read this book. I repeat. Everyone. It will only take you a few days cause it’s a short book, so READ IT.

7. Fahrenheit 451
By Ray Bradbury

Rating: Worth Reading
Topic: Politics

This is a nice, fun, quick read that will make you think for a short time. I love Ray, he’s light and smart and awesome.

8. Foundation
By Isaac Asimov

Rating: Must Read
Topic: History, Psychology, Robotics

Possibly my favorite book of all time. I love it so much I can cry.

9. Brave New World
By Aldous Huxley

Rating: Worth Reading
Topic: Politics

Not as beautifully written as “1984”, but you should probably read it as it is a classic and everyone knows that you become a better person when you read the classics.

10. American Gods
By Neil Gaiman

Rating: Kinda Boring
Topic: American Pop Culture, and Religion

It’s an interesting book for sure covering consumerism and the retardedness of America, but I’m not sure I like Gaiman’s writing. He’s a bit dull.

11. The Princess Bride
By William Goldman

Rating: Kinda Boring
Topic: Nothing really

I thought this book was stupid. It read like a children’s book, but it didn’t really have the joy of Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, or even Twilight.

This is the first review. Till the next one :)


And sooo, I watched Gravity today.

While the writing was beyond shit, the movie was gorgeous. Every scene was breathtaking. Earth from above. The ISS and the Soyuz. The silence of space. The view looking in compared to the view looking out.

But I do wish it didn’t have to subscribe so fully to Hollywood’s love of melodrama. The acting was melodramatic. The monologues and choice of words in the script were cheese. The chain of events was terrible. Ekh.

I think Odyssey worked so well because it was actually written by a science fiction writer, and not a Hollywood director. The script was simple, beautiful, and you had time to enjoy the view because it wasn’t trying to shove every second with unnecessary drama.

On a side note, with “Ender’s Game” on Saturday, I watched TWO movies in one week, which is one movie more than the total number of movies I watched last year (The Hobbit). What can I say? I’m a sucker for space.

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