AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

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How I Feel About the World These Days

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The High Cost of Starting a Business in Jordan

Watching Rami start Toffimelt during the past 3 years has been an eye-opening experience, especially in regards to how difficult the government makes it to start a business. In a country with limited resources, high unemployment, and a crappy economy, the barriers to job creation that the government places are simply absurd.

Here’s an interview with Rami on how difficult his journey has been so far:
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Happiness 101: “Let reality be reality”

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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.

Jordanian Lama Qubbaj Wins International Jiu Jisu Championship

Just found out that Lama Qubbaj, who won gold at the World Jiu Jitsu Championships in November, is now fourth in world rankings. The January rankings by the International Jiu Jitsu Federation also list Lama as the top Asian fighter for the start of the year.

THAT’S BEYOND FREAKIN’ AMAZING.

I feel terrible that I only just found out. Late is better than never, and who wants to miss out on the few silver linings we have in our cloudy lives?

Congrats to Lama, and congrats to Jordan. What an accomplishment.

Overseas Filipino Workers

I’ve always been humbled by the wonderful attitude and dynamics of Filipino communities outside the Philippines. They have an inherent ability to connect, grow, and thrive, even in the most desolate of places.

But there’s another side to that. From an article about a Filipina nanny in New York:

The label confers status in the Philippines, which receives more money in remittances than any other country except India and China. Since the nineteen-seventies, the government of the Philippines has promoted labor exportation as a strategy for relieving poverty and alleviating the national debt. A tenth of the population now works abroad, supporting nearly half of the country’s households and leaving some nine million Filipino children missing a parent. In the past decade, three-quarters of O.F.W.s have been women; former President Corazon Aquino has praised them as “the heroes of our country’s economy.”

Read article

How long did it take to walk from Philadelphia to Damascus during Roman times?

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The Roman road in Um Qaiss, the ancient city of Gadara

Living in Jordan means we get to walk on a lot of ancient Roman roads. Some way or another, the Romans built roads thousands of years ago that function better today than the roads the Jordanian government built last year. That’s the first irony.

The second irony is even better. Gadara was some sort of important cultural hub in the ancient world. It produced a number of notable people, according to Wikipedia, at least:

“Gadara was once called the “city of philosophers”. Among others, Gadara was home to:
Menippus of Gadara (3rd Century BCE), the Cynic satirist
Meleager of Gadara (1st Century BCE), the Cynic poet
Philodemus of Gadara (1st Century BCE), the Epicurean philosopher and poet
Theodorus of Gadara (1st Century BCE), the orator
Oenomaus of Gadara (2nd Century CE), the Cynic philosopher
Apsines of Gadara (3rd Century CE), the rhetorician
Philo of Gadara, the mathematician”

Can you imagine? Our desolate, rural North, home of philosophers, rhetors, mathematicians, and Cynic poets.

I know it was thousands of years ago, but it still feels like it must have been a parallel universe.

Anyhow, I somehow stumbled upon this amazing tool that shows you travel time between different ancient Roman cities.

For example, from Philadelphia (Amman) to Roma (Rome), it would have taken only 22 days on foot, and 19 days in a carriage. Meanwhile, from Amman to Gadara (Um Qais), it would take less than half a day.

Check it out here.

How to Sound Smart When Presenting

This is hilarious.

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[Review] I Really Enjoyed Batman vs. Superman: Critics Need to Chillax

Dude, really, everyone needs to chill out. I won’t go as far as amazing, but the movie was actually good.

A note, first: I have never been a movie or a TV person, but I’ve been a reader of both comic books and sci-fi/fantasy since I was a child.

Enter Batman vs. Superman. And some spoilers, but not really.

I entered the movie theater expecting a train wreck, because the Internet has been going APE SHIT CRAZY about how it is the worst comic book movie of all time. OF ALL TIME? The Internet is weird sometimes. In reality, I was pleasantly surprised to see an exciting, fun, and action-filled movie that has gotten me really excited about all the DC movies coming up.

I blame the drama on Nolan. Obviously, his Batman Trilogy is amazing, but Batman’s comic books are not that grim, nor are they so exceedingly double stuffed with messaging. The darkness worked well with Nolan’s trilogy, but it absolutely does not and should not have to set the tone for every new superhero movie.

That isn’t to say that Batman vs. Superman is perfect. Four things really pissed me off.
1. Batman is not a dumb-ass. He is the smartest guy on Earth.
2. Superman is not a grim, weak, and uncertain little boy (Come on, it’s SUPERMAN).
3. Lex Luthor is an evil genius, not a mentally-unstable madman.
4. BATMAN DOES NOT KILL.

But even with these blatant mistakes, the movie still is enjoyable, and I can’t believe I have to wait till May for the next comic-book movie.

The World Really Does Feel Like This

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Does Engineering Education Breed Terrorists?

I know, that question made me cringe, too.

But think about it. I’m not a sociologist, obviously, but in this country, it’s hard to miss the overlap between being ultra-conservative and being an engineer.

You just need to walk into any engineering department at the University of Jordan (aside from architectural engineering) or any corporate technology department to see how irrationally conservative engineers can be, compared to people who studied humanities or medicine.

I look at my own friends, too. Not a single one of my good friends has an engineering degree, which is saying something in a country that graduates the highest percentage of engineers in the MENA.

Enter this new book, “Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection Between Violent Extremism and Education”. The researchers began with a data set of nearly 500 Islamist extremists, almost all of them men. The researchers narrowed their list to 207 people who pursued higher education and whose majors could be determined. A pattern emerged: 93 of them, nearly 45 percent, had studied engineering. This frequency far exceeded what would be predicted statistically; among male college students from the 19 countries represented in the sample, fewer than 12 percent studied engineering.

You can read this article on Chronicle for more.

Teaching our kids art history, history, philosophy, and real literature will go a long way in ensuring that we don’t continue on this path of self-destruction. We need to teach our kids to empathize, to imagine, to create. We need them to get started on this really early, too.

Yes, math and science are essential. But I would argue that Plato, Picasso, and Alexander the Great are more essential for raising a future generation of Jordanians who are doers, makers, humanitarians, and thinkers.

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