Fifteen Hundred Saudi Camels Compete for Miss Camel Title

camelbeauties2.jpgSaudi women could never be subjected to the indignity of a beauty pageant, but Saudi camels aren’t so lucky. This week, camels are competing in the Mazayen al-Ibl competition of the Qahtani tribe, according to a Reuters article.

“The camels are divided into four categories according to breed — the black majaheem, white maghateer, dark brown shi’l and the sufur, which are beige with black shoulders.”

There’s big money in it too. Sponsors have provided 10 million riyals ($2.7 million) for the contest, and the winner can receive one of 72 sports utility vehicles. Now how is a camel going to drive an SUV?


Related posts:
Camel cheese doesn’t play in Mauritania
Wild Camels in the Desert: Legacy of the U.S. Army Camel Corps
My new camel avatar
The Ship of the Desert at Wadi Rhum (photo)

American blog tagging: the Thinking Blogger Award

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Jordanian blog tagging. Now I have been tagged–by an American blogger–and have discovered the American version of tagging.

When Jordanians tag, they basically answer social questions about another blogger. What concerns Jordanian bloggers? Where they met (in cyberspace, of course). Whether they are shy, outgoing, or a rebel. What TV character they are reminded of. What they would do if they were to spend a day together.

And what are American blog taggers concerned about? Thinking. Ah, how American. Ideas. Critical thinking. Expanding your world. And now someone thinks I’m a player in the great American thinking adventure. Cool.

thinkingblogaward.jpgSo here is the Thinking Blogger Award, bestowed on me by Bob. I’m touched.

And here are the rules:

1. If, and only if you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. (Optional) Proudly display the “Thinking Blogger Award” with a link to the post that you write.

If you will follow the link in Rule Number Two, you will find several explanations for the birth of the award. One explanation has to do with the criteria for Technorati rankings, which are based solely on number links. Technorati measures quantity, not quality.

In fact, there is a whole array of these commercial rating companies. One energy company has a blog with nothing but press releases–with a curious machine flavor to its writing–and an array of icons at the bottom of each “article” to click for the following social bookmarks:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

A bot trawls the net and links their “articles” to real blog articles. Sooner or later some blogger–but not me–will click something on this robot-generated bank of social bookmarks and tell one of these commercial enterprises that someone is reading this non-blog. No one is reading it of course, but someone has figured out how to manufacture the appearance that someone is reading it.

The Thinking Blogger Award, then, is a grassroots attempt to select blogs based on interest to bloggers themselves, and not just the number of links or clicks measured by an impersonal commercial enterprise.

So here’s what I have bookmarked right now, and who I am tagging as Thinking Bloggers:

Islam: Pluralism and Interfaith Dialogue « The Moderate Observer-thoughtful articles on a variety of subjects by different authors

Online Education Free-online dictionaries, translating tools, weird stuff

About « Ireneo’s Memory-a collection of links to bizarre stuff, like how to use a condom to start a fire, or a vase made of honeycomb (before our cellphones destroy all our bees)

Organizations and Markets-academics talk about ordinary Stuff in an unordinary way

Jenn’s Sunday Sermon « The Lady Speaks-reflections on current events with a historical lens by a Christian, “a real one, not a Talibangelical.” They also spell the f-word and the s-word with lots of asterisks.

Tag, you’re “it”.

Besides these five Thinking Bloggers, I have to mention Bob (the one who tagged me) at Neither Clever Nor Witty and “Jim” at Irregular Times, which Bob already mentioned, both of which I read weekly if not daily. For me, thinking isn’t enough, it’s just the foundation. These guys both have an underlying dry sense of humor and an appreciation for the tongue-in-cheek.

Now I am remembering a warm, moonlit Jordanian night in the desert, at a house with grapevines lining the walk up to the front door. My little house-brothers, aged 4 and 6, were playing tag with the children at the house we were visiting. Jordanian children play tag exactly the same way as American children, except they count in Arabic. Why do the adults play tag so differently?

Max Karson tests boundaries of Virginia Tech shooting hyperbole, gets arrested for thoughtcrime

Why do some people have a sense of humor and others not? Some people find sarcasm and satire to be hilarious while others do not even recognize them as humor. You have to explain to them when something is tongue-in-cheek.

Max Karson is a 22-year-old student who tests the boundaries of such humor and frequently runs afoul of them. This time he has been arrested in connection with remarks he made about the Virginia Tech shooting. Apparently he made a statement in a classroom at the University of Colorado that he was “angry about all kinds of things from the fluorescent light bulbs to the unpainted walls, and it made him angry enough to kill people,” according to the police report. It was claimed that students were afraid of him because of his statements, but another student had a different view of the class discussion:

“Max is honest, and people aren’t always willing to hear what he has to say,” said the student, who didn’t want her name published.

She said Tuesday’s debate started as an effort to understand how someone could go on a killing spree like the Virginia gunman’s.

Karson — who circulates a controversial underground publication called The Yeti on the campus — told his peers that he thinks institutions provoke anger in people, which eventually causes them to “crack,” the student said.

“He said, ‘Anyone who has walked on this campus and hasn’t wanted 30 people dead is lying to themselves,'” she said.

When Karson was asked why institutions make him so mad, the student said Karson used the women’s-studies class to illustrate his point: The room was in a basement and had unfinished walls and fluorescent lights.

According to a police report, Karson said: “The basement room with fluorescent lights and the unfinished wall make him angry enough to kill people.”

“But I didn’t feel threatened,” the student said. “He was just theorizing in an intellectual discussion about why people kill.”

In the meantime the Wikipedia article on Max Karson may be deleted. In the discussion about possible deletion, one writer who identifies as a university professor states,

After the shootings, most instructors initially encouraged honesty and openness in classroom discussions about Virginia Tech. The classroom was a “safe space” where no single opinion/emotion was privileged as “right” or denounced as “wrong.” For many of us, the freedom to speak openly about our emotions was an important component to the healing process. Nobody went so far as to support the killer; but some empathized with his pain and loneliness; others said they’d decided to be more sensitive in the future toward social outcasts like Cho Seung-Hui. The tone completely changed, however, when Karson was arrested. Not wanting to be the next arrest victim, students and professors reverted obediently to reiterating the politically correct… attitude. Karson’s situation opens the book on a whole new set of questions: Can professors still allow critical thought? Are all ideas equal, or are some more equal than others? Should we encourage dissent, or should we fear its consequences?

yetisorry72.jpgKarson’s underground paper, the Yeti, is currently unavailable online. I was able to read a few excerpts of it in other publications, though, which were unexpected enough to make me relax and crack a smile, but too heavy-handed to approach giggle status on my humor scale. I suspect Karson’s best writing is yet to come when he matures a little and learns a more subtle touch.

A new widget button: Astroweather

I’ve been waiting for this button.astro-weather-blue.png

When I was a graduate student, every month I used to pick up a free copy of Lightworks inside the outer door of the neighborhood bookstore near the campus. It has all sorts of astrological advice and advertisements, and features Guy Spiro’s Astroweather, which will show you times of planetary configurations throughout the day and explain what you can do about them.

It was nice to think that some of my frustrations might be due to the stars, or at least to something out of my control. I was particularly fascinated by the idea of the moon being “void of course” which I take to mean it’s not under the protection of a particular planet. In a world that values decisiveness and has any number of self-help books that will help you overcome procrastination, here was someone saying there are times when the cosmos does not want you to make decisions, and that you must wait until the proper time to start a new enterprise if you want it to prosper.

After I graduated I missed the little catalogue with the New Age art on the front, but of course everything has a website. Now after updating their website, they have thoughtfully provided a little button for people who want to link to the site.

UPDATE: 8-9-07 Guy Spiro’s Astroweather has not been updated for some time–since May 31, but no explanation was given on the website.  I left the widget up, though, since people do go on vacation this time of year, and its sister site, Lightworks, was also on hold. Now the Astroweather website is completely unavailable, so sadly I will take the button off of my sidebar. I hope Mr. Spiro is well.


UPDATED UPDATE: Mr. Spiro is indeed well and is writing again |here|. The Monthly Aspectarian is being published again too. And AstroWeather is now available in Chinese as well.  I bet there’s a story behind that.

Related posts:

~Potato-shaped asteroids guide my horoscope for the week–is this Pluto’s fault?>

Apophenia, the Virginia Tech shootings and the Discordian “23 enigma”

169px-inkblot.pngDiscordians who are following the Virginia Tech shootings will note the number of people killed was 32 (23 reversed) and that the shooter’s age was 23. According to wikipedia the Discordian “23 enigma” states that “all events are connected to the number 23, given enough ingenuity on the part of the interpreter.” We also find that Virginia Tech’s first campus-wide information system was called ERIS, the name Discordians give to the Goddess.

criminal-are-made-not-born.jpgAlthough the hyperbole-crazed media is referring to the Virginia Tech shootings as “the worst” in American history, another mass murder claimed more victims. The 1927 Bath, Michigan school disaster killed 38 chldren and 7 teachers, 45 in all. A description of the mass murderer Andrew Kehoe:

He never farmed it as other farmers do and he tried to do everything with his tractor. He was in the height of his glory when fixing machinery or tinkering. He was always trying new methods in his work, for instance, hitching two mowers behind his tractor. This method at different times did not work and he would just leave the hay standing. He also put four sections of drag and two rollers at once behind his tractor. He spent so much time tinkering that he didn’t prosper.

Curious description, that. He spent so much time tinkering that he didn’t prosper.


Related posts:

Conspiracy Theories, Paranoia, and Tin-foil Hats: What THEY Don’t Want You To Know


Potato-shaped asteroids guide my horoscope for the week–is this Pluto’s fault?

The world has not been the same since Pluto got demoted from planet to asteroid.

A few months ago I put a horoscope button on my right widget column, mostly so it would be easier for me to check my horoscope. The site doesn’t provide the code, so I had to save their horoscope symbol to disk, then upload it to wordpress with the link attached to it. Not an artistic endeavor, but it got the job done.

Here is my horoscope for this week:

Due to a rare conjunction of three potato-shaped asteroids in your astrological House of Productive and Forgivable Gaffes, you have cosmic license to make a lot of really cool mistakes. I’ve gathered some witty remarks you can invoke to disarm anyone who might be critical of your messy experiments: (1) “You’re just jealous because the little voices are talking to me and not to you.” (2) “When I have to choose between two evils, I enjoy picking the one I’ve never tried before.” (3) “Do you have a clear conscience? A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.” (4) “I don’t suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it.”

So what is this supposed to mean? After you get done laughing, of course? Potato-shaped asteroids? Since when do potato-shaped asteroids figure in a horoscope?

The Jordan Times used to have a really great horoscope for learning English. Every week I would bring my copy of the paper to class and my English conversation students would pick their horoscope out of the paper and read it to the class, adding a little to their vocabulary in a fun, and therefore easy to remember way. Even the devoutly Moslem in the group found no offense if the horoscopes were read with the understanding that it was for entertainment only. Allah is to be worshipped and not the stars.

Oh, but this horoscope button….I do so look forward to whatever jolt away from the mundane I will experience from it each week, and I suspect they are also quite serious about guiding your life.


Related posts:

~A new widget button: Astroweather

Camel cheese doesn’t play in Mauritania

“For Mauritanians cheese is simply milk gone sour. They think it’s revolting,” says Nancy Abeiderrahmane, the owner of Tiviski dairy in this northwestern African country. The dairy produces milk from camels, cows and goats plus yogurt, but their specialty is camel’s cheese, according to an article in the April 10, 2007 online edition of the Jordan Times.

I don’t know about camel cheese, but camel milk is pretty good. If you have a cup of tea with fresh mint you can mix it half and half with camel milk, fresh from the camel. Obviously it’s not pasteurized when you drink it like this. I’m not entirely sure what the risk is from unpasteurized camel milk, but I have had plenty of unpasteurized cow milk in American farm homes and never heard of anyone getting sick from milk in a home environment.
Camel cheese looks like the soft, round French Camembert, but is said to taste like goat cheese. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says it has three times as much vitamin C as cow’s milk, and also has significant amounts of vitamin B and iron.

Abeiderrahmane has potential customers for her unique camel cheese lined up at European department stores like Harrods in London and Fauchon in Paris, but has not been able to start exporting camel cheese because of the EU regulations. Mauritania has not eliminated hoof and mouth disease, and the country lacks laboratories for testing animal health.


Related posts:
Fifteen Hundred Saudi Camels Compete for Miss Camel Title
Wild Camels in the Desert: Legacy of the U.S. Army Camel Corps
My new camel avatar
The Ship of the Desert at Wadi Rhum (photo)

Posted in Arab culture, Camels. Comments Off on Camel cheese doesn’t play in Mauritania

Jordan King Abdullah urges caution in U.S. troop pullout, seeks nuclear technology

kingabdullah72.jpgJordan’s King Abdullah is about the most knowledgeable world leader I can think of, especially on the subject of the Middle East. We in the west are fortunate to have someone of this caliber who can explain the concerns of the Middle East on a cultural level we can understand.

Yesterday in an interview, King Abdullah cautioned against an immediate American troop withdrawal, saying, ” …Iraqis themselves are divided between those supporting US-led coalition forces in their country, those rejecting and resisting them as occupation, and those that seek to disrupt the political process and national reconciliation efforts.” He urged national reconciliation and preservation of the territorial integrity of Iraq. The King continued, “Withdrawal from Iraq without setting a timetable and without preparing the necessary conditions that would ensure a strong central government able to run the affairs of the state and an Iraqi force able to ensure security and stability, may only worsen the problem and contribute to increasing violence and conflict among Iraqis.”

On the subject of seeking nuclear energy, the King said, “Jordan has for years sought alternative energy sources that will alleviate the increasing burden of importing energy amid rising fuel prices. In order to address these challenges, we in Jordan feel, as do other countries, the need to secure the transfer and establishment of nuclear energy technology as an alternative to importing oil for generating electricity and water desalination.”

I haven’t heard about the desalination thing for a long time. It usually comes up in context of cooperating with Israel in a Red Sea-Dead Sea hydroelectric and water replacement scheme.

It looks like Iraq may be on its way to becoming a Shiite nation controlled by Iran through Moqtada al-Sadr, who has considerable influence over the Iraqi government. Historically Sunni Jordan’s ties with Sunni Iraq have been strong. Jordan certainly would not relish a Shiite Iraq on its border, or even the Shiite fragment of the former Iraq. Could this apparition of an Iranian puppet on his doorstep have anything to do with the King’s sudden yearning for nuclear technology?

Perhaps the Iraqi Sunnis are also reconsidering their support of the insurgency.


Related posts:

Prosperity, stability, a crucial model for other countries: Text of King Abdullah II remarks at opening of Dead Sea G-11 Economic Summit 5-19-07
Transcript of Interview, Jordan’s King Abdullah 4-10-07
The Amman Message: how Jordan understands Islam–text of remarks by King Abdullah II, November 2004
Transcript of interview with Jordan’s King Abdullah May 9, 2007 with Egyptian Al Ahram daily
Remarks by King Abdullah 5-21-07 to Nik Gowing, BBC World, at the side of G11 Economic Forum


Posted in Iraq, Jordan, Middle East, peace, الأردن. Comments Off on Jordan King Abdullah urges caution in U.S. troop pullout, seeks nuclear technology

Moqtadr al-Sadr demonstration in Najaf, curiouser and curiouser

Where is Moqtada getting his support from? The U.S.? Iran? Both?

The widely publicized anti-American demonstration in Najaf today supplied a few curious details and more than a little cognitive dissonance. Consider the following details:

~The demonstration was put on by Moqtadr’s supporters.
~Although security was provided by Iraqis, Americans were consulted about the security details.
~Americans provided air support for the demonstration’s security.
~A prepared speech by Moqtadr denouncing the U.S. was read at the rally. It referred to the four year anniversary of the toppling of the Saddam statue.
~American officials made cheerful statements. Official military spokesman Steven Boylan gushed that the Iraqis

“couldn’t have done this four years ago. This is the right to assemble, the right to free speech–they didn’t have that under the former regime. This is progress, there’s no two ways about it.”

~Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, who depends on Moqtada for political support, was conveniently in Japan at the time, discussing loans for rebuilding Iraq.
~Moqtadr has not surfaced since the U.S. said he had returned to Iran for the Feb. 14 troop surge at the request of the U.S.
~Moqtadr’s supporters say he’s in Iraq.
~While Moqtadr’s supporters were demonstrating against the American presence, American troops were busy in the town of Diwaniya, fighting al-Sadr militiamen who had refused Moqtada’s call for them to stop fighting. Rumor says there are several Moqtada militias that have broken off from Moqtada and are operating independently. Is the U.S. taking care of a rogue militia for Moqtada?
~Wars and demonstrations in the Islamic world always start on a Friday after mosque.
~The action in Diwaniya started on a Friday. It was initiated by the Shiite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the main rival to the al-Sadr organization.
~The demonstration in Najaf started on a Monday. Businesses were closed down, vehicles were prohibited from the city, buses rerouted. Lots of planning.
~A small number of Sunnis joined the demonstration, including the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading fundamentalist Sunni Arab group.
~Al-Jazeera reported Israeli flags drawn on the ground, which the crowd stepped on with their shoes, an insult in the Arab culture. So was this really an anti-American rally, a show of strength for Moktadr as a message to Shiite cleric al-Sistani, or just a matter of “round up the usual scapegoats”?
~ While the widely reprinted AP story waxed eloquent over “a sea of women in black abayas”, I counted 34 black abayas in only one NYT photo. All other photos of the demonstration showed only men. Arab women rarely march in demonstrations.

najafflag-cropped2.jpgSo tell me, was this dissent, as the military spokesmen so jauntily exulted, or was it a government-sponsored demonstration?

And hey, aren’t they still using that Iraqi flag with Saddam’s own handwriting on it?

Posted in Iraq, Middle East. Comments Off on Moqtadr al-Sadr demonstration in Najaf, curiouser and curiouser

“You have been owned”: An Easter homily with internet slang

I try to keep up with the latest generation. As far as the music, I’m hopeless, the same with recognizing celebrities. But the language interests me very much, and while I don’t usually “get down on the rug” (i.e. with the children, meaning use slang not appropriate to my generation), trying to follow the latest trends in language is a lot of fun.

Sometimes it gets nasty though. On a recent thread about Newt Gingrinch (careful–the thread is NSFW, internet slang meaning Not Safe for Work–meaning inappropriate or “adult” content) an ugly side of the new slang was revealed. One blogger was posting the bad-guy laugh MUWHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAA!! and boasted I love “owning’ socialists!!, while another bragged 13 years old and owning!! What new thing was this? Do people want to be evil now? What is this “owning” thing? How do you own people? E-slavery?

Wikipedia always gets me through these generation gaps and was equally helpful here. The word is a form of the language “leet” or “1337”, an internet shorthand using numbers and other symbols to represent letters. The older meaning of “owning” means to gain unauthorized use of a computer system, to hack a computer, or to tie it up using multiple pings or denial of service attacks. The newer meaning ranges from something as seemingly innocuous as winning games, to making a fool of someone, to dominating someone.

The urban dictionary definitions are similar. Agreed-on definitions are (1) Make a fool of someone (2) Total and undeniable dominance of a person (3) to be defeated in a computer game, causing the winner’s ego to inflate like a party balloon as if such a victory has any tangible significance side that of his stinking socks-infested dorm room. These people will frequently create animated GIF’s of violent sports events where a player gets clobbered by his opponent, complete with blinking neon “PWN3D!” captions, and post them on their blogs to indicate that they should not be messed with. (4) a term used by hackers to describe gaining possession of a system (5) An overused gamerboy term. Using this term is now considered the most potent contraceptive available.

Sure enough, there are entire websites devoted to providing code with GIF images of someone getting urinated on or dousing themselves with gasoline and setting themselves on fire. To be sure, there are some images I thought were funny– an anxious mother clutching a baby in New Orleans as Bush plays the guitar, Colin Powell speaking into a U.N. microphone, or a deer at the wheel of a convertible while the hunter is trussed on the back seat.

Games used to be a culture’s way of teaching children the skills they would need as adults, but what are the games teaching here? Winning, dominating, totally humiliating your opponent? If the next international challenge is going to be the conflict between the West and the Middle East, what diplomatic skills will Americans bring to the conflict? And considering how American bubblegum culture spreads throughout the world like wildfire, they’re probably playing the same games in Baghdad right now. What will be the influence of this gameboy culture on the youth of the Middle East?

Every generation has to deal with the bully issue, and this generation is no different. They had bullies two thousand years ago, too. We are reminded of this again at Easter with the old passion story. The Roman soldiers mock and humiliate. Jesus gets “owned”. And God gets the last word.

Posted in Curiosities. Comments Off on “You have been owned”: An Easter homily with internet slang