My Top 10 Most Influential Books

As a child:
The Berenstain Bears Books, Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Naughtiest Girl in School, Enid Blyton
The Fear Street Saga, R. L. Stine
Remember ME, Christopher Pike

As a teenager:
Pandora, Anne Rice
The Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling
The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkein

As an adult:
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol
Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

This is the story of the books that influenced me the most. There were lots of them.

You see, I fell in love with books way before I learned to read.

I was just a little girl, and there were two things I really, really wanted. Mountains and mountains of candy was the first thing, but it’s the second thing that counts: I wanted to grow up so I could learn how to read all by myself.

I loved books with all my heart and soul, thanks to my mother’s unlimited patience. Every night, she and I would huddle across from her painting of Snow White on my bedroom wall, and we would read from a book with a silver spine. I was three years old.

Then I learned how to read, and what followed was a life full of books. Here are the ones that influenced me most.

The painting of Snow White

1. The Berenstein Bears

Right around the time I turned six, I discovered picture books, and became obsessed with the Berenstein Bears. I have no idea how I got my hands on them, but I had the entire series, and I read them over and over again. This was my favorite book:

It had my two favorite things in the world. It was a book with gorgeous illustrations of candy all over. I loved re-drawing that book. My favorite part to re-draw was the candy typography:

2. Enid Blyton
I was maybe 8 or 9 when I decided I was too old for picture books and moved to Enid Blyton. She had a gazillion titles under her belt, and more importantly, her books were well-stocked in my favorite bookstore. I read “The Naughtiest Girl in School” series several times, and I loved it so much that I tried to mimic her writing style and write my own books.

3 and 4. Fear Street Saga and Christopher Pike
Inevitably, books written around World War II stopped being cool and I started reading more contemporary fiction.

I started with Goosebumps and The Baby Sitters’ Club, but my favorite was The Fear Street Saga. It was full of history, magic, and a rich timeline.

When I became a little older (11 to be precise), I switched to Christopher Pike, a FANTASTIC writer of young adult sci-fi/fantasy. He had dozens of books revolving around vampires, the colonization of space, witches, magic, and technology.

It was certainly R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike that turned me into the hardcore lover of fantasy and science fiction that I am today. I still re-read old books of theirs when I have an hour to kill (especially when I’m at the beach), and both writers are excellent.

5. Pandora by Anne Rice
I was 12 and quickly growing over books written for girls my age. That year, during the bi-weekly trips to Jareer Bookstore that my parents always made sure I took, I spotted a book with a purple cover with “Pandora” typed in black letter. Thus started my love story with Anne Rice. It’s hard to explain how much Rice influenced my life’s choices, my beliefs, and my interests. Her words were such a big part of shaping the person I am today.

I learned what it meant to be a “virtuouso”, that the Italian master Vivaldi wooed the world with Four Seasons, that Botticelli painted the most beautiful artworks ever seen. I learned about the philosophy of Ovid, the historical significance of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and how a Stradivarius is one of the most precious objects on earth. I have to say – I owe Anne Rice my A’s in art history classes.

6. Harry Potter
I was 14 when I was first introduced to Harry. I spent the next 13 years eagerly awaiting Harry again. You see, I grew up with him. With Harry, I finished middle school, started high school, applied to universities, got a degree in Fine Arts and Design, went through my first job ever. It is not often that a story becomes so embedded in one’s life. I still miss Harry.

7. The Lord of the Rings
1136 pages of pure euphoria. One of my the most beautiful times of my teenage years is those few weeks when I completely got lost in Tolkien’s work. I literally got lost. I don’t think I did anything else that summer vacation. I just read and re-read The Lord of the Rings until I had my favorite parts memorized. I fell in love with his syntax, his languages, his characters, his world. Becoming a Tolkien fan changes you. “The Lord of the Rings” is the best literary work of all time.

8. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol
This is the outlier in the list, but for god’s sake, it’s ANDY WARHOL and I LOVE Andy Warhol. This random book of random thoughts is one of my favorite reads. The random wisdom is crazy. I know most of it by heart, and sometimes I have conversations with Andy in my head based on quotes from the book.

Roba: “People are so stupid.”
Andy: “I think everybody should be a machine.”
Roba: “Yes, you’re right. I love robots, everyone should be a robot. Robots are better than people, Isaac would also agree. Sometimes, people drive me so crazy it’s a miracle I don’t fall apart.”
Andy: “I never fall apart, because I never fall together.”
Roba: “Yeah… you taught me that well. There’s no need to assume that anything is together in the first place. People think too much.”
Andy: “I really do live for the future, because when I’m eating a box of candy, I can’t wait to taste the last piece. I don’t even taste any of the other pieces, I just want to finish and throw the box away and not have to have it on my mind any more.”

9. Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov is a personal hero of mine. I’ve never read an Asimov book that I did not enjoy, but his “Foundation” series just BLEW ME AWAY. It’s so rich and philosophically beautiful. I wish I had his talent for delivering difficult abstract concepts in easy and fun language.

10. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
One of the best writers of the past 50 years. I spent a month reading every single book and short story he ever wrote. I couldn’t get enough of his words.

So, there you go. My list of top ten books that have influenced me. What are yours?

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Food Box: Amazing Fusion Food at Amazing Prices

I LOVE it when a restaurant goes from “just okay” to “oh, my God this amazing”.

The first time I tried Food Box, I really enjoyed it. It was nice and simple food, but I was far more impressed with the cool packaging than with the food itself.

So when I walked into the new Food Box Abdoun branch, I was expecting the experience to be pleasant, but you know, just that. After all, the average item costs less than 4JDs, and anything good in this city is damn expensive.

Then we sat down and the chef started preparing the dishes.

HOLY CRAP. It was the best food I’ve had in ages, and I am not exaggerating. The vegetables were so fresh and full, and I could taste the good ingredients.

food box jordan pasta

The first thing we tried was red penne pasta, which is such a difficult dish to perfect in it’s simplicity. I’m more pesto than tomato with my pasta, but I enjoyed this plate very much. The tomato sauce tasted fresh and tangy with the basil, and the penne was perfectly al dente.

food box jordan meat noodles food box jordan chicken

Next on the menu was squid ink pasta with beef and chicken (separately, of course). Both platters were rich with freshly-chopped vegetables, and the squid ink pasta tasted quite distinct. Interesting for sure, but this was the dish I enjoyed least, because everything else was just amazing.

food box jordan fish

The chef served us this delicious fish platter with garlic rice. I have no idea what it’s called on the menu, but OHMYGOD. It was so damn delicious I was craving it already an hour later. I’m not sure what the sauce is, but it just tasted so unique and rich. I especially loved the strange velvety texture of the batter.

This tiny platter tasted like a fusion of Chinese, Cajun, and English fish and chips. If you like sea food, you must try it with the garlic rice on the side. The presentation was great too.

food box jordan ravioli

Finally and last on the list was another item I loved. I honestly can’t decide what I enjoyed more, the fish or this delicious, freshly-made ravioli.

You see, I LOVE spinach ravioli, but I HATE it when the spinach loses its texture and becomes a lump of greenish, mis-shaped something. That’s usually the case with spinach ravioli in Jordan, because it’s frozen. Spinach is a beautiful plant, but it has to be fresh to be beautiful. I mean, how disgusting are frozen spinach safaye7 (Arabic pastries)? They just lose the texture.

This is what makes Food Box’s ravioli amazing. They make it themselves and ohmygod… every bite was amazing. Look, even though they served us massive amounts of food, not a single bite of the ravioli remained. We even scraped the sauce. Actually, I want it now.

food box jordan after lunch

Yes. So I guess I finally found a new food place to fall in love with. I hope it’s always this amazing :)

You can try it out by visiting their Abdoun branch next to Falafel Al-Osra (Hammoudeh DVD area).

food box jordan gucci

food box jordan door


On August

Oh, my God. It’s the last days of summer.


Lisa Frank.

The days of TBA are over, my love.

Patterns of hunger

Impatience ruining an otherwise lovely picture

Yes, I actually bought this

E-ink is magic

Thursday and the living is easy

Askimo in my fridge

Ben Zheiman


Pictorial Archive of Life

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

2014: On January | On Februaury | On March | On April | On May | On June | On July | On August


Best burger in Amman?

The search for Amman’s best burger has started.

What is your favorite burger place in Amman? Vote today!

Best burger in Amman? free polls

How did I come up with this list?
I asked this same question on Facebook. All burger places with three or more mentions were added to this list.

What happens next?
I will personally review the top three, and the winner will be the one that has most people votes + best review.


Are you a rational person? Here’s a checklist to remind you to be

You know, it’s actually really difficult to be rational. I am always conscious of my brain trying to be stupid. I learned that in my first year in art school. It took me a year of yelling at my brain to STOP SEEING THINGS WRONG. Our preconceptions often screw with the way we perceive objects, leading us to distort them when we put pencil to paper. It’s even worse with thoughts, ideas, and concepts.

Your brain is stupid. And this is why this rationality checklist is really useful. In its simplicity, it’s a bit surprising. Go through this list and ask yourself “When did I last use this habit?”

This list is from They provide examples in the link for each item that I did not include in list below for the sake of brevity.

1. When I see something odd – something that doesn’t fit with what I’d ordinarily expect, given my other beliefs – I successfully notice, promote it to conscious attention and think “I notice that I am confused”

2. When somebody says something that isn’t clear, I notice and ask for examples.

3. I notice when my mind is arguing for a side (instead of evaluating which side to choose), and flag this as an error mode.

4. I notice my mind flinching away from a thought; and when I notice, I flag that area as requiring more deliberate exploration.

5. I consciously attempt to welcome bad news, or at least not push it away.

6. I notice when I’m not being curious.

7. I look for the actual, historical causes of my beliefs, emotions, and habits; and when doing so, I can suppress my mind’s search for justifications, or set aside justifications that weren’t the actual, historical causes of my thoughts.

8. I try to think of a concrete example that I can use to follow abstract arguments or proof steps.

9. When I’m trying to distinguish between two (or more) hypotheses using a piece of evidence, I visualize the world where hypothesis #1 holds, and try to consider the prior probability I’d have assigned to the evidence in that world, then visualize the world where hypothesis #2 holds; and see if the evidence seems more likely or more specifically predicted in one world than the other (Historical example: During the Amanda Knox murder case, after many hours of police interrogation, Amanda Knox turned some cartwheels in her cell. The prosecutor argued that she was celebrating the murder. Would you, confronted with this argument, try to come up with a way to make the same evidence fit her innocence? Or would you first try visualizing an innocent detainee, then a guilty detainee, to ask with what frequency you think such people turn cartwheels during detention, to see if the likelihoods were skewed in one direction or the other?)

10. I try to consciously assess prior probabilities and compare them to the apparent strength of evidence.

11. When I encounter evidence that’s insufficient to make me “change my mind” (substantially change beliefs/policies), but is still more likely to occur in world X than world Y, I try to update my probabilities at least a little.

12. Handling inner conflicts; when different parts of you are pulling in different directions, you want different things that seem incompatible; responses to stress.

13. I notice when I and my brain seem to believe different things (a belief-vs-anticipation divergence), and when this happens I pause and ask which of us is right.

14. When facing a difficult decision, I try to reframe it in a way that will reduce, or at least switch around, the biases that might be influencing it.

15. When facing a difficult decision, I check which considerations are consequentialist – which considerations are actually about future consequences.

16. I try to find a concrete prediction that the different beliefs, or different people, definitely disagree about, just to make sure the disagreement is real/empirical.

17. I try to come up with an experimental test, whose possible results would either satisfy me (if it’s an internal argument) or that my friends can agree on (if it’s a group discussion).

18. If I find my thoughts circling around a particular word, I try to taboo the word, i.e., think without using that word or any of its synonyms or equivalent concepts. (E.g. wondering whether you’re “smart enough”, whether your partner is “inconsiderate”, or if you’re “trying to do the right thing”.)

19. I consciously think about information-value when deciding whether to try something new, or investigate something that I’m doubtful about.

20. I quantify consequences—how often, how long, how intense.

21. I notice when something is negatively reinforcing a behavior I want to repeat.

22. I talk to my friends or deliberately use other social commitment mechanisms on myself.

23. To establish a new habit, I reward my inner pigeon for executing the habit.

24. I try not to treat myself as if I have magic free will; I try to set up influences (habits, situations, etc.) on the way I behave, not just rely on my will to make it so.

25. I use the outside view on myself.

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Freddie Goes Opera


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