A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Category: Roba (Page 1 of 112)


My dear idiot countrymen and women,

Thank you for jading me. Numbing me. Locking me into a bubble. Thank you for making me not care anymore, about anything, really.

Somewhere along the years, I’ve lost hope in you ever growing brains (or logic). At this point, I’m almost okay with your idiocy, because you’ve convinced me that we really don’t deserve music. Or fun. Or colors. Or happiness. Or a life in general.

I hope you rot in the misery of your disgusting thoughts.

The spring that never came:

Recommended reading: The Black Iris on the topic


I Successfully Ate Half a Smoked Turkey Sandwich

Okay, so turkey.

I have been exercising regularly for almost three months. I’ve never been much of an exercise person, so it’s actually a big deal for me. Being a child of the super-trackable, super-measurable internet world, I’ve found that systematically doing a body-composition analysis, on the (very) unreliable InBody analyzer, and logging the journey into an Excel sheet really helps me stay motivated.

Except that last month I only gained 100g of muscle. Not so good for motivation when you spend 5 hours each week tearing down your muscles in an attempt to grow them. I was speaking to a trainer about it when she asked me the dreaded question: are you consuming enough protein?

I’m getting 50g of protein on a good day, I said.

That’s not enough, she said. You need at least 120g, and that’s not enough even.

How the hell am I supposed to get a 120g?

Eggs. Tuna. Protein shakes.

I do all three above. That’s 62g. Where am I supposed to get the other 60g?

Meat. Chicken breast. Turkey.

But I’m allergic to chicken and turkey and I really am not a fan of red meat.


Fish in Amman? Are you crazy? I’m not rich.

And so, I must find new sources of protein.

After my bad experience with chicken in November, I went back to stubbornly avoiding poultry like the plague. The human brain is an amazing thing, isn’t it? I just did not want to feel that familiar chicken-induced nausea.

But after my conversation with the trainer, I had the fatalistic attitude of screw-everything-where-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-get-60g-of-protein-from. I got home, and without thinking or dreading, shoved down half a ready-made turkey sandwich that I found in the fridge.

And guess what?

Nothing happened.

No red dots on my tongue. No weird, bloated tummy. No feelings of nausea.

This is a really big deal because I’ve always been the sad child who ordered club sandwiches with one empty layer (where the turkey is supposed to be), and never had Hawaiian pizza (because they always make them with turkey or turkey pepperoni).

The turkey sandwich was even delicious, which chicken is not.


My life will change.

Being Allergic to Chicken
Discovering that my Chicken Allergy is Gone
This Was the First Bite of Chicken in My Life
Second and third experience with chicken… good and not so good

How I Feel About the World These Days


Happiness 101: “Let reality be reality”


Little pockets of wise insightfullness are not usually found in publications like The Guardian. Until they are, that is.

Here’s a lovely little piece on accepting things for what they are.

Often, it’s more stressful to try to zone out from [unpleasant situations] than to accept them for what they are. This first struck me forcefully when I started running without headphones. True, listening to music or podcasts did distract me from the discomforts of physical exertion, but it also served as a constant subliminal reinforcement of the notion that exertion was something unpleasant from which I needed distracting.

With the earbuds off, there’s at least a chance that I’ll actually enjoy the running. Research suggests even intense physical pain can be reduced through paying mindful attention to it; by contrast, mental gymnastics to distract yourself from the situation you’re in never definitively works – because you are, despite all your inner efforts, in that situation.

“Let reality be reality,” said the ancient Chinese sage Lao-Tzu, who admittedly didn’t have to deal with a gruelling commute, not least because he may never have existed. All the same, he’s right: “acceptance” needn’t mean resigning yourself to fate; but it does mean stopping pretending things aren’t how they are. You’re on a late-running, scandalously overcrowded train, and you hate it. So quit your job! Or don’t quit your job. But don’t imagine that half-quitting it – quitting on the inside, but not the outside – will help. The external world is annoyingly stubborn like that.”

Indeed, it is.

Celebrating My Mother

We usually think of our mothers in the context of how wonderful they are to us. They made us who we are. We could have never been ourselves without them. They are the most loving creatures on earth. You get my point.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I want to step away from celebrating the wonderful Rula Dallal in her scope as my mother, and instead celebrate my unbelievable luck of having this amazing woman in my life.

My mother is an artist. When we were children, she taught art at schools and sold thousands of dollars’ worth of her beautiful paintings. Her appreciation of painting and art as well as her superb skills positively affected the lives of hundreds of people, thanks to her colorful murals on the walls of homes and schools.

My mother is a philosopher. When I think of her, I always imagine my her buried in a bunch of hardcover philosophy books, with a notebook and a highlighter, wearing her reading glasses. When I was a kid, I used to love listening to her debates on existence, on being, on knowledge, on religion, on everything.

My mother is a humanitarian. With her counseling, she has helped hundreds of people lead better lives. She is so patient, so kind, and so wise. She listen, she supports, and she gives back advice, whether she knows these people or not, with no judgement.

My mother is an entrepreneur. She started her own business a few years ago, and she is always running around making business deals, from meeting to meeting to meeting to meeting. It takes so much courage and perseverance every day, to do so.

My mother is the most fun person I know. When I was a kid, I always used to think that her ability to enjoy the moment so completely and unabashedly came with age. Then I became an adult and realized that it isn’t about age… it’s about my mother. She can do what most people can’t.

She is wise. She is fun. She is loving. She is brilliant. She is kind. She is strong. She is supportive. She is creative. She is loved.

That’s my mother, my amazing mother, who is so unbelievably wonderful in every sense of the word. An me? I’m just so lucky to have her.

Happy Mother’s Day, mama. I love you.

“Why is everyone so loud?”

One of the questions I always ask myself.

Sometimes, I want to escape and live somewhere really remote, away from people, just to escape their noise.

Or maybe move somewhere where it is considered absolutely rude and unacceptable to speak loudly, laugh loudly, and yell. The Arab world is probably the worst place on Earth for someone who hates noise.

More Private, More Reserved, More Skeptical

Sometimes I stop and wonder, what is it that made me more private, more reserved, and more skeptical over the years? Is it the wisdom of age, or the harsh reality of life? Is it that the Internet grew to include even more idiots, or that my tolerance to idiots has reached a limit? Is it because the romantic ideals of my youth have fizzled, or that time replaced that girl with a colder and harder woman? Is it because I am so busy these days that I have no time for creativity, or is it because I write so much at work that I’m totally brain dead when I get home? Or is it simply because people would rather read short status updates on Facebook than the long and meandering thoughts of strangers?

I don’t know.

Sometimes, I wish I went into research and academia. Would be nice to think of irrelevant things all day.

People who often speak in a baby voice

… should be locked up together, alone, away from the rest of civilization.

It is not cute. Not a bit. It is really, really annoying.


How I Quit Smoking Cigarettes… And How You Can, Too

They tell you that smoking is really addictive: once you start, you can’t stop.

It’s true, but it’s not the whole story. It doesn’t cover just how addictive smoking is. It doesn’t tell you about the intense relationship between cigarettes, your mood, your friendships, and your lifestyle (all of which start revolving around who smokes and where you can smoke). It doesn’t begin to elaborate on how you fall in love with the nicotine, the cigarette between your fingers, the 5-minute “break” from life and work (like a drug that coats everything with a layer numbness).

To smoke is to be a smoker, and a smoker is a person who functions in a world vastly different from the one that non-smokers know. It’s a world where smoking is as vital as your ten fingers and toes, as vital as your blood. Without it, you are not yourself.

I smoked for a total of eight years, averaging one pack a day.

I had my last cigarette in July, 2014. I was 29, and it was the first time I tried to quit.

Here’s what worked for me:

1. Don’t Let Your Cognitive Biases Screw Up Your Logic
This is really important. You are a slave to your cognitive biases, and it’s really very hard to make smart decisions unless you’re aware of these biases and how they affect your thoughts. Case in hand: the amount of times I’ve heard stuff like “I’m not addicted to cigarettes, I can quit any time”, or “Smoking is just as bad as all the other things I eat, anyway.”

No. You are an addict. Admit it, and understand it. Self-awareness is the first step to a solution, even if you don’t want to start with the solution immediately.

2. Be Scientific About Quitting
Deciding to quit smoking is like deciding to chop off your arm. It isn’t easy. It affects your body physically, mentally, and emotionally. The good news is that this is a topic heavily researched by all kinds of researchers and scientists, so spend some time reading research.

This is really important. Read more about withdrawal symptoms, and the changes you can expect to happen to your body. It makes it easier when you’re really down to stop and say “Okay, this is a symptom. It will be gone quickly. I am stronger than my addiction.” You can also turn the odds in your favor with some science, like the fact that using nicotine-replacement therapy makes you much more likely to really quit in the long term.

My nicotine-replacement therapy of choice for a while was argeeleh, which I know is just as bad, but it was really helpful for me. I had to wait till 8:00PM to have argeeleh, which helped curb the cigarette habit and made it a lot easier to quit.

Today, I use an e-cigarette with a negligible amount of nicotine once a week or so, when I know I will be around friends who smoke very heavily. The funny thing is that I’m constantly being told stuff like, “That’s so much worse than cigarettes” or “You’ll grow water in your lungs when you smoke that.”

What? Water in my lungs? No, cause science, bitch.

In reality, the latest research has indicated that e-cigarettes are at least 90% less harmful than smoking, according to research by the very credible Public Health England.

The point is: do whatever it takes. You’re not being weak if you use the patch, nicotine gums, or pills. Use whatever will stop smoking or going back to smoking is. Don’t let your cognitive biases cloud your judgement.

3. Treat Yourself as a Lab Rat
This step was very helpful for me. I downloaded an app on my phone that gave me daily updates on how my body is changing. You know, the human brain is really simple, everything revolves around rewards. The app, Cessation Nation, offered me the best reward of all: little snippets of information that told me how my body has improved since my last cigarette. It worked like a charm.

I also kept a daily log of how I felt mentally and physically that I updated before I went to bed every night. This was also very helpful, because it turned me into an observer of the awful process of nicotine withdrawal, instead of the subject.

Here are snippets from the first week of my log:

Sunday, 13: Zero cigarettes for the first time in years. I did not crave it too badly for the most part except after certain activities like after dinner and after having an emotional discussion. Had a can of Red Bull and was still okay with not smoking.
Craving: 8/10 Bad at times, did not cave in

Monday, 14: Consistently googling how long cravings last, so I guess it is getting quite bad. My mind does not want to miss out on the associated lifestyle of smoking, which sucks. At the same time though, I know it is just a stupid addiction and I don’t need to be a slave to my addiction. It’s just my brain on drugs. Dopamine.
The night was awful. I was very agitated and on edge until I had argeeleh at night.
Craving: 10/10 Awful

Tuesday, 15: It’s 2:00PM and pretty good so far. Not a single overwhelming craving yet. I am just worried I will cave in though when the office is back to life outside of Ramadan because I can’t stay seated for 9 hours! S.B. sat next to me just now and oh, holy shit, people who smoke really stink. Do I smell like that? It’s disgusting. The night wasn’t bad either.
Craving: 4/10 Not bad at all

4. Have a Support System
I am lucky that my fiance doesn’t smoke. It made it so much easier to just call him when I was excessively craving smoking. Get your own support system, whether it is your mother, your brother, your boyfriend, or a friend. Just make sure your support system isn’t a smoker — smokers tend to want the whole world to smoke.

5. Pat Yourself on the Back on a Set Date
Feedback is really important in remaining motivated. Give yourself feedback on a set date every month, until you feel you’re totally and officially a non-smoker. My feedback to myself is always pretty simple: I love that I go to bed at night not stinking like an ashtray. I haven’t woken up with congested lungs in a year and a half, which is AWESOME. I’m not that idiot in a glass room smoking in the airport. I don’t get fidgety in long meetings. I don’t have to step outside in freezing temperatures to have a cigarette every 20 minutes. Exercise is now difficult because I am pushing my muscles, not my lungs. Good job, Roba! It wasn’t easy, but it’s done.

This is how I quit smoking. I hope you can use it to quit smoking too.

AndFarAway Joins the New Decade, Ten Years Too Late

No, seriously. Look! AndFarAway has a new design!

This is a huge deal because the last time AndFarAway got a facelift was in 2006. That’s TEN WHOLE FREAKIN’ YEARS AGO, before smartphones were around, so my poor blog had no idea what “responsiveness” was. The good news is that it’s now responsive, so it should look good on your mobile. You can also subscribe to new posts. I do need to create a better header, and I promise I will get to that eventually.

The funny thing is that when I was still a student, and although it was SO HARD for me to edit HTML and CSS, I would change the design of AndFarAway at least once a year. Once I was done with school though and made a career out of building the web, I stopped playing with the design of AndFarAway. You know what they say in Arabic… باب النجار مخلع (the carpenter’s door is always broken).

In the spirit of nostalgia, here’s a look at the various facelifts of AndFarAway during the past 12 years:

September 2004:

(the first design ever)

This design marks the very beginning of AndFarAway. I was a 19-year-old kid who had never heard of HTML, CSS, or any other sort of web-related language. I had never used Photoshop before, and I didn’t even know that DreamWeaver existed (RIP). I chose an existing Blogger template, managed to change the original colors of the header after days of fiddling in what was none of my business. It was so tough that I had to find red and pink by randomly changing the color codes on the template and relying on trial and error. Fun.

November 19, 2005:

(the first “launched” redesign)

I launched this design after the first year of my design program came to an end, and I was more familiar with Photoshop. This design was based on a Blogger template, but I changed the colors and added a header I edited myself. I was so proud of myself. Of course, 11 years later I look at this and shake my head at my shitty design skills back then. What kind of crappy typography is that Roba, huh?
Here’s thepost I launched this design with.

July 13th, 2006:

(also marks the move from WordPress to Blogger)

Young and excited I was. A mere eight months after my last redesign, I decided to migrate to WordPress and change the design as well. This one was based on a portfolio project I had done earlier for a web-design class at school. I feel proud of myself looking back at this one now. I had a good eye for webdesign given the useless shit we were taught in school. Thank you, oh beloved Internet, for being my constant savior.

September 2006:

I was really comfortable with this design because it was simple and clean with a lot of white space. I liked it so much I kept it for a good ten years. Ahem. I did at least change the header every couple of years, you better give me that.

header 1

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