A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Author: Roba (Page 1 of 358)

How can you doubt climate change?

Snippets from New York Mag:

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today.

Since 1980, the planet has experienced a 50-fold increase in the number of places experiencing dangerous or extreme heat; a bigger increase is to come.

By the end of the century, the World Bank has estimated, the coolest months in tropical South America, Africa, and the Pacific are likely to be warmer than the warmest months at the end of the 20th century.

As soon as several decades from now, the hajj will become physically impossible for the 2 million Muslims who make the pilgrimage each year.

By 2080, without dramatic reductions in emissions, southern Europe will be in permanent extreme drought, much worse than the American dust bowl ever was. The same will be true in Iraq and Syria and much of the rest of the Middle East; some of the most densely populated parts of Australia, Africa, and South America; and the breadbasket regions of China. None of these places, which today supply much of the world’s food, will be reliable sources of any.

Already last year, a boy was killed and 20 others infected by anthrax released when retreating permafrost exposed the frozen carcass of a reindeer killed by the bacteria at least 75 years earlier; 2,000 present-day reindeer were infected, too, carrying and spreading the disease beyond the tundra.

Some speculate that the elevated level of strife across the Middle East over the past generation reflects the pressures of global warming — a hypothesis all the more cruel considering that warming began accelerating when the industrialized world extracted and then burned the region’s oil.

There is a 12 percent chance that climate change will reduce global output by more than 50 percent by 2100, they say, and a 51 percent chance that it lowers per capita GDP by 20 percent or more by then, unless emissions decline. By comparison, the Great Recession lowered global GDP by about 6 percent.

Map of Amman from 1956

Here’s a really cool map from 1956. For more information, head over to Tobzeh.

How small the city was.

Black Mirror Sucks. Here’s Why.

First: I love science fiction. I love it much more deeply than most people you’ve met. I love it enough to have systematically read every single book published that has ever won a major sci-fi award (my favorite awards being the Hugos). I’m currently making my way through award nominees.

So, when people started talking about Black Mirror, a sci-fi show that made it to the mainstream, I was sort of excited. Fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) is a much easier mainstream sell, and I was eager to see this new sci-fi show that all my friends — even the ones who HATE sci-fi — were talking about.

That should have been a big enough hint for me to know that I would HATE Black Mirror.

As a life-long reader of science fiction, I love science fiction because it helps me formulate my thoughts around why. Why are we here? Where are we going? Is there anything else out there? 

Reading a good sci-fi book is like having a wonderfully intense discussion of philosophy, one where you wrestle with ethics, exploration, and survival. Good science fiction is never contrived. It lets you think, often not give you the answer. If anything, science fiction lets you understand the future. Not the dystopian future. All possible futures. It’s never about the shock value (that would be horror). 

And this is why I think Black Mirror sucks. 

At its heart, it’s a contrived “shock” show, without science fiction’s elegant thoughtfulness. It attempts to be philosophical, but in reality, it’s simply shallow and predictable, often depending on a sick twist to amuse the trigger-happy masses. It offers no revealing insights into our humanity, our future, or why we’re all here.
The worst thing about Black Mirror, though? Like many a recent political campaign, Black Mirror uses fear, invoking it in concrete and abstract ways, summoning it out of the general state of fear overlaying the world today. Cheap fear mongering, at a time when the world needs it least.

As a life-time lover of sci-fi, this makes me sad. If anything, science fiction is never about cheap fear. It’s never about making people hold on more tightly to what they have and regard the unfamiliar more warily. Quite the contrary, science fiction is often a warning message against how fear can turn humans into… well, what we’ve already turned into this year, I guess. 

And this is why Black Mirror sucks.

In case you ever wondered why cartoon characters wear gloves

To be honest, I never did.

But this is really cool, anyways.

Wild Delicacy: Hindbeh

One of my favorite dishes in the world is hindbeh. Aside from the wonderful flavor, I also love its simplicity: chopped leaves, lightly cooked with onions and lemon sauce, and drenched in olive oil. Yum.

Up until a couple of years ago, I never stopped to wonder where the leaves come from. And then I discovered that it’s literally dandelion leaves. You know, the stuff that grows between the tiles of the sidewalks of Amman.

Amazing how something so wild can turn into something so exquisite.

The Peculiarities of Language: ما تنكسني

Update: My brain totally punked me. Seems the connection between Arabic “Nakas (نَكَّسَ : فعل)” and English “Nix” is nonexistent. Pretty cool that the word means the same thing in three completely different languages!

I’ve been subconsciously wondering for a while if the word “Nix” (put an end to; “he nixed the deal just before it was to be signed”) comes from the shady presidency of Richard Nixon. My subconsciousness thought it must come from Nixon, because how other than politics would such a difficult English word make it into Jordanian vernacular?

Let me explain.

“Nakis” (literally, “to nix”) in Jordanian has a similar meaning to “Nix” in English. I am assuming it is unique to Jordan, but I honestly have no idea if other countries in the Levant use the word, too. A quick Google search looks super Jordanian:

Unfortunately for my curiousity, “Nix” is much older than Richard Nixon. It actually comes from from German nix, dialectal variant of nichts “nothing,” from Middle High German nihtes, from genitive of niht, nit “nothing,” from Old High German niwiht, from ni, ne “no” (see un- (1)) + wiht “thing, creature” (compare naught).

That means that “Nakes” somehow made it to our vernacular in a much more random way.

Any theories?

Intermission: Kale

Let’s take a small intermission from this hiatus to all meditate together on how kale (in all its foreign, hyped-up, “superfood” non-glory) is the same food as delicious, hard-to-find, celebration-worthy and definitely glorious لخنة نابلسية.

Proves over and over again that the Levantine kitchen is among the best kitchens in the world. Where the hell else would something as gross-tasting as raw kale be transformed into the most delectable dish?

Dear Jordanian Government: Stop Killing Jobs #رخصولنا_كريم

Jordan has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. Yet our government consistently keeps trying to KILL job creation.

If you use Careem, you’ll know what I mean. The stories are often the same.

“I graduated 2 years ago but still can’t find a job, so I’m trying to make some money on the side.”

“I have two part-time jobs but still can’t pay my bills, so I’m working Careem at night.”

“I have been unemployed for five years, Careem helps me a lot.”

The Jordanian government, in it’s incapability to create enough jobs to employ all graduating students, is still capable of killing job creators like Careem. Does is it care that its in the process also affecting hundred’s of people’s livelihood? Does is it understand that unemployment = frustration = radicalism?

Stop killing jobs.



Madaya Mom: Brilliant and Sad Comic Book from Marvel


Take a minute to look at the details of the comic book panel above.

The water spills on the tiled floor.

The carelessly-uncovered bathroom drain led.

The laundry, piled neatly amidst so much squalor.

The woman, hand-washing laundry, clinging to what may be the last remnant of normal life, even though hopelessness is clear in her body language: clean clothes.

This panel is from “Madaya Mom”, a comic book just released by Marvel, which was influenced by actual correspondence with a mother-of-five in the besieged town of Madaya, Syria.

It is the woman’s hopelessly ironic clinging to sanitation that drives this painful comic home. You see, Syrian women are known to be borderline OCD when it comes to cleanliness, often forgoing all common sense to ensure that there isn’t a speck of dust anywhere they can see or cannot see.

“Madaya Mom” is a brilliant initiative from Marvel and ABC News. It reminds of Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust masterpiece, “Maus”.
You can read the comic book for free online.

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep in perspective how horrifyingly close I am to helping Madaya Mom and her five children. You know, they’re just a couple of hours drive away. But light years unreachable.

Old, Beautiful Pictures of Signage in Amman

Take a look at this beautiful post celebrating Amman’s handlettered store fronts before the curse of Photoshop on Hussein Alazaat’s blog.

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