A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: December 2013

Flux: 2013

The amount of sunlight that lands on a patch of ground each second is a kind of flux.

Flux is a beautiful word. My favorite word of 2013, in fact, because by its very nature, flux captures how life is anything but one dimensional.

2012 was my yes year, and an excellent one at that. I learned a lot by saying yes, yes, yes. I explored new things, new feelings, and new thoughts. I met lots of wonderful people. Most importantly though, I discovered the secret to happiness.

But that was 2012. Today, we mark the end of 2013, and 2013 was my year of flux.

Flux means both change and flow, which are two very different things: change signifies something drastic, and flow signifies something constant. It is that strange combination that made my year beautiful.

Here are the things I learned in 2013:

1. Embracing a content state of mind is embracing the very essence of joy. Contentment is pure, constant pleasure.

2. There is happiness in doing, and happiness in not doing. A balance isn’t necessary, but a balance is nice.

3. Just being is fun.

4. Always accept that you are who you are, that this is how things are, and that you are an entity. Everything else is another entity.

5. Be simple.

6. The big things don’t matter, anyway. Just enjoy the fact that the sky is blue. That the water is smooth and cool. That the vibe is right. It’s these concrete, basic things that will drive contentment.

7. “Nothing matters but the moment, there might be no tomorrow, and even if there is, no body gives a damn”.

8. “Internal balance” and other buzzwords of new-age bullshit are bullshit. Don’t worry about shit like that. Who ever said that there’s a mechanism in your body for balance, anyway? Just enjoy whoever it is you are.

9. Not everything has a point. Some things just are.

10. Just enjoy the things you can touch and see. Everything you can’t touch or see doesn’t exist. They’re just human-made emotions that you don’t need to subscribe to. Can you smell it? Touch it? Taste it? Hear it? See it? If not, then you don’t need it.

11. Learn how to use a semicolon.

12. Do all things with so much love in your heart that you’ll never want to do it any other way.

13. Your past experiences are negligible.

14. Don’t hate what you can’t understand.

15. Being happy is productive.

And to celebrate, here’s a video of 2013:

Thank you, 2013. You were good to me.

Tuna drizzled with fresh lemon and olive oil

Come home from work craving a tuna sandwich. You love tuna sandwiches that are made in your house: mixed with a spoonful of mayonnaise or cream cheese, and covered with finely chopped carrots and lettuce.

Feel annoyed when you discover you’re out of mayo.

But you’re really craving tuna, and you’re too cold and tired to drive to the supermarket to get mayo.

And it hits you. The way your father fixed tuna for your family in the early 90’s, when mayo still wasn’t a staple condiment you find in every fridge.

Shove the canned tuna in a plate. Squeeze a cold, fresh lemon directly into it. Drizzle a healthy serving of olive oil. Char some pita bread by placing it directly on the stove’s flame.

Use the pita bread to scoop the tuna. Get your index finger and thumb to stink like tuna for a day afterwards from the scooping. Taste the delicious combination of fresh-pressed olive oil, lemon, cheap canned tuna, and charred pita bread.

Enjoy it tremendously.

Iron Maiden Makes Millions by Using Piracy

From Boing Boing:

Iron Maiden hired a BitTorrent analytics company called Musicmetric to determine where piracy of their music was highest, then scheduled tours of those countries. They made millions touring Central and South America. Iron Maiden LLP has outperformed the UK music sector as a whole and was named one of the “1000 Companies That Inspire Britain” by the London Stock Exchange.

See? If you are smart about the new world and new media, you can make money instead of be an ass about it.

UPDATED: Sabat Istanbuly, Female Student at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania,1885

This remarkable photograph from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP), found in the archives of Drexel University which absorbed the successor to the WMCP in 2003.

As you can see, one of the women is captioned as “Tabat Islambooly”, from Damascus, Syria. You can’t miss her, or the fact that she’s from around here: she has the same face as thousands of young women from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. She’s also wearing a very Levantine costume, and I say “costume” because I’m quite sure she carried all that metal with her all the way to Pennsylvania in 1885 for the soul purpose of wearing it in exotic international nights. It doesn’t look Damascene to me, but more rural.

Then, there’s the issue of the name. The caption reads “Tabat Islambooly”, but I’m guessing that’s a result of the Latinaization of “Sabat Istanbuly”, or something similar, as “Tabat” isn’t a word in Arabic and I’ve never heard of a family called “Islambooly”. She is referenced elsewhere as “Tabat Istanbuli”.

I’m really interested in who this woman is. I mean… a female from the Levant, studying medicine in Pennsylvania in 1885, at a time when the Arab world was sinking under the backwards Ottoman occupation. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t know much about her. I did find this:

Sabat Islambouli is also believed to have gone back to Damascus, and then was in Cairo, Egypt, in 1919 according to the alumnae list of that year. But after that the college lost touch with her and it’s not known what happened to her ultimately.


So who is this woman? A family-name search on People tells me that there are many Istanbuli’s from Amman, Jordan. I’m assuming many in Damacus as well, but Syria isn’t very online these days, sadly.

Do you know anyone from the Istanbuli family? Does anyone have a doctor for a great grandmother?

Updated: So, I found more information, thanks to Najeeb :) Thabat Islambooly is a Kurdish Jewish woman. Yes, her family name was Islambooly, and not Istanbuly; I guess the fact that she’s both Kurdish and Jewish clarifies why I’m not familiar with the last name. Thabat moved to Cairo after finishing her degree in Pennsylvania, and died in 1941. Her descendants live in Canada.

On Which We Take a Minute to Appreciate the Sun

This intro from Treehugger is so cool that I won’t even bother to add any smart ass comment:

The sun, to many of us, is like water to a fish. Very important, but we kind of forget about it because it’s always been there. But the great nuclear fusion reactor in the sky is a fascinating astral body that deserves our attention, not only because it powers almost all life on Earth (exceptions are some chemotrophs and such) and bathes us in enough energy to easily meet all the needs of our human civilization, but also because it is beautiful in its own right and a great playground for scientists.

The video below is a timelapse produced by NASA (Jaymi had mentioned it here). It shows 3 years of the sun in 3 minutes (a bit more in the version with the commentary track by heliophysicist Alex Young) in a way you’ve probably never seen it before. Highly recommended.

Behold, the beauty of that light in the sky that gives us life.

[Hattip: Rosie]

On death, duvets, and the undying warmth of my father

In the two cold, December weeks before my father died, he sent me to the department store about a dozen times to buy duvets.

Not any sort of duvet either. He was very specific. Soft and snuggly tog 13.5, the warmest kind available.

I drove back and forth, buying the department’s store entire supply, while my father coordinated with me on the phone, as he lay dying at the King Hussein Cancer Center.

“Get five king-sized duvets for my nephews, the sons of my sister Um Il-Abed,” he would say. “The winter is long and cold, and it will keep them and their wives warm. Get one for my sister Salwa, and one for my sister Hannan. Drop off a couple at my friends’ houses, and two at your cousin’s place.”

It went on and on. And I would go, get the duvets, and drop them off to the homes of my father’s loved ones. I’d go back home, get more money, buy more duvets, and drop them off too.

Then my father died on the 10th of January, 2009. It was a cold, rainy winter.

This week, in the wake of Storm Alexa, I lie in my bed every night, cuddled beneath the warm duvet that my father got me. In the morning, I put on my super-warm coat and waterproof gloves, that my father also got me. Last night, I walked with dry feet in the snow for an hour after my cousin’s car started skidding, in the snow boots that my father got me.

My dad’s been dead for five years, and I haven’t had the heart to replace any of the things he bought to keep me warm when we first moved to Jordan 10 years ago. I only wear them in extreme weather, so that they live as long as possible. In my mind, these things are warm beyond the material they’re made of.

They’re warm with my father’s love.



10 Books That Have “Been a Part of My Life”

You know, before memes became the mess of GIFs they are today, they were questions that were passed on from blog to blog. Until this morning, when my blogger friend Naser tagged me in an old-school meme on Facebook, I had completely forgotten that memes were ever anything other than what they are today.

Anyway… Naser’s meme is about books that have been a part of your life. It’s an interesting list, because that’s a very different list than “favorite books” or “linguistic influences”. It’s just, you know, books that were a part of your discussions, your thoughts, your days, your preferences.

Here’s my list of books. I’m adding the year in which I read each book because I’ve never realized before how deeply impacted I am by the books I read as a child. I’ve read lots of awesome books after the year 2000 (I was 15 in the year 2000), but only 3 make it to list of books “that lived with me”.

1. Pandora – Anne Rice (1998)
2. Broken Wings – Jibran (1995)
3. The Fear Street Collection – R. L. Stine (1996)
4. Foundation – Isaac Asimov (2010)
5. Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling (1999)
6. Summer Sisters – Judy Blume (1999)
7. The Lord of the Rings – Tolkein (2000)
8. The New Medicine Show – ? (1994)
9. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (1994)
10. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card (2011)

In a vintage move, consider yourself tagged. What’s your list? Share it in a comment, on your blog, on your Facebook, in a letter.

The Pleasure of Cutting

Have you recently taken a minute to appreciate the pleasure of something as regular as using a cutter?

Like everything else in life, the pleasure starts at the starting point. That exact one-dimensional dot that you decide to start cutting from. Oh, the beautiful, limitless potential of a whole 360 degrees lounging aimlessly around this starting dot. You have so many directions to go. Each direction will disconnect a different plain, separate a different two atoms.

Then you dig, and you take a second to appreciate the amazing power the blade yields over the paper. The wondrous precision of the pointy edge of the blade, digging into the starting point of where you want to cut. The hard, cold, metal edge sinks into the spongy fibers of the paper. The paper becomes so welcoming, allowing the metal to go beyond its surface into its very pulp, its very soul.

Then you pull. And ah… the soft, satisfying feeling of pressure, causing the paper to gently splitting open, accompanied by the whispy sound of matter separating into a clean, smooth line.

I love it.

On November

year is almost done

Look… the year is almost done.

My calendar has become so thin.





















Can you really archive time?

2007: On March | On April | On May | On June | On July | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2008: On January | On February | On March | On April | On May | On June | On August On September | On October | On November

2009: On July  | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2010: On January | On February | On March | On April | On May | On June | A Captioned July An UnCaptioned August  | On September  | On October | On November | On December

2011: On January  |  On February   |   On March   |  On April  |  On May  |   On July

2012: On April | On May | On June | On July | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2013: On January | On Februaury | On March | On April | On May | On June | On July | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

All Hail the Robot Unicorn

I’ve always had an obsession with two imaginary creatures: the robot and the unicorn.

I love the smart, logical robot because he’s all about science, technology, and rationality.

I love the magical, beautiful unicorn because she’s all about happiness, fantasy, and rainbows.

Both robots and unicorns poop on reality, and they both bring me infinite amounts of joy.

During my birthday in July, my awesome friends wanted to throw me a birthday party themed around unicorns and robots. It was a surprise party, but they successfully sneaked in a question about how I would feel about a robotic unicorn. At that time, I told them that it was the worst idea I ever heard, because unicorns and robots represent the opposite sides of what I love.

I mean… come on. One is magical and fantastical and happy, and the other is a real possibility that is still harsh and heartless and cold. A robotic unicorn ruins both, I said, because a robot can’t be a unicorn and a unicorn can’t be a robot.

The days passed (and I did get a FREAKIN’ AWESOME unicorn-themed birthday party).

Then, last week, the friend who asked me about how I feel towards a robotic unicorn sent me this image…

…and my heart stopped beating from the gushing love.

Lo and behold, a gorgeous robotic unicorn with a rainbow for a tail. It’s sooo beautiful.

Now I want to build myself a robotic unicorn…

P.S. Robot Unicorn Attack, the game, is AWESOME, and insane.

P.S.S. My awesome unicorn-themed birthday party:

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