Queen’s birthday

Today is the birthday of Jordan’s Queen Rania. One of the interesting facts about her from Wikipedia is that she once worked for Apple Computer. That might explain her YouTube channel. But as a teacher who has seen firsthand the type of corporal punishment used in Jordan’s public schools, what I most remember about her is her campaign against child abuse, a courageous stand indeed in that part of the world.

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State Fair

Foot long hot dogs.

foot long hot dog

foot long stand

Coffee grinder attached to bicycle mechanism.  The coffee is, of course, fair trade coffee.

coffee grinding machine



apples honeycrisp

Seed art.

seed art cat

seed art

The best food is here, although the sound from the stage on the right is a bit loud. Egad, I must be getting old if I’m complaining about loud music.

international bazaar

olive neon sign



There are also cows, horses, sheep–lots of sheep, pigs, rabbits–and yes, goats, but they were all asleep.  The sheep and goats are not together as one might expect–they have separated the sheep from the goats.  Sheep are in the “Baa” building and goats are in the “Swine” building.

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Sacred space?

And now:

A mosque window in January.

sacred space-mosque window in january

(Forward of the white lines on the floor is facing Mecca.)

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Mowing day

Time to mow the lawn across the street.  Escaping from my watering hose, a praying mantis.


mantis on fence

(you can see the wings and eye better in higher resolution)



Then, after breaking the Ramadan fast, some melon-flavored sheesha.

melon sheesha

Note: To offset the sad news of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s death a few minutes ago, here are some photographs of signs in

Chinglish (be sure to click the little arrows on the side to see all the photos).

Snippets: “sumu tsoho” and Joyce

Some fragments that don’t fit anywhere:

Sumu tsoho

The latest Ramadan saying is sumu tsoho صوموا تصحوا or “it’s good for your health” (possibly part of a longer Koranic passage?). The idea is your children might not want to fast just because Allah wants them to. So you give them another reason.  Good reasons and real reasons, as it were.  Only which is which?  I can imagine cave people saying, “Oh, they’ll never believe in germs, tell them the gods want them to do it.”  I’ve been getting this one on the back channels, and it’s working so far–I’ve now completed a third day of fasting where I only intended to do two.  It’s cutting into my exercise, so we’ll see how it goes. I don’t believe the “so-and-so lowered their blood sugar by fasting” business.  That would be only temporary, plus the potential elevated insulin levels would be immediately life-threatening, and not just damaging in the long term, as uncontrolled blood sugar levels would be.  It would be interesting to know more about the physiology of fasting.  I do like the idea of breaking habits, in this case by substituting with other habits from Ramadan in other years. And don’t forget “placebo effect”. The mind-body connection is well documented, but poorly understood.  If you believe you will become closer to God, and you carry out the very physical steps to accomplish it, can anyone say you will not become purified and enter some type of jenna?


I want to continue to document my progress with Joyce’s Ulysses, partly to make sure I keep some focus on it, publicly, and increase my chances of completing it. I am still reading Stephen Hero, which by everyone’s account is an unhelpful digression, yet I continue to be engaged with this in a way I could not get engaged with Ulysses when I first picked it up. Stephen Hero was meant to be the writer’s personal notebook so to me it represents a backstory about what he is trying to accomplish by his writing and how he comes to the conclusions he comes to.  You can also get some idea of his writing process, since the editor notes the marks that Joyce made on the manuscript, crossing out words and delineating chapters.

The writing style is more accessible, but already some of the things that were barrier to my reading of Ulysses are being used here. The punctuation for the conversation is  bit off-putting. Joyce uses an indent, then a long dash and a space to indicate change of speakers.  At least I think that’s what it indicates.  Other writers have used similar marks for things that were not conversation. (I’m trying to remember where I saw it–was something similar used for the pronouncements of Zeus or the thoughts of a spirit in a play?) The effect is more like the characters are thinking instead of speaking. Also in long strings of dialogue, you lose track of who is speaking.  Slowly I am getting used to it, and it doesn’t cause such an abrupt break in the momentum of the reading as it did at first.

Joyce also makes frequent use of the word O, but used in the sense of “oh” and not as the evocative “O” that is still found in traditional English (O little town of Bethlehem, O Holy Night). Could it be an archaic usage?

But consider something like this, where Joyce’s protagonist is considering a major essay he will present for his coursework:

He could not persuade himself that, if he wrote round about his subject with facility or treated it from any standpoint of impression, good would come of it.  On the other hand he was persuaded that no-one served the generation into which he had been born so well as he who offered it, whether in his art or in his life, the gift of certitude.

“Certitude”, yes, now I have had to dig out my computer netbook and prop it next to my hooka for a few lookups  (naïf? soutane?) which seem to be necessary to even get through this early book of Joyce’s. According to Answers.com:

The noun has one meaning:

Meaning #1: total certainty or greater certainty that circumstances warrant
Synonyms: cocksureness, overconfidence

It’s the old writing advice. Delete all the “I think” type modifiers and qualifiers that dilute your viewpoint and make you sound insecure.  Forget the “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him” philosophy.  Even if your subject is vague and unknowable, state everything with confidence.  Become the Buddha.  Did anyone ever receive a paycheck for not knowing something?

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Time Widgets

wristwatch 150This icon-making business is a lot harder than it looks.

I have noticed the post I was using to check international times has now dropped off the end of the recent post list. That means if I want the information close at hand, I will need some sort of link on the side bar.

So here is a symbol for the international time clock website, for current local time in various cities.

phone 150And a similar icon for a different link–this one can be used for planning, i.e. “If it’s 9 AM in Amman, what time is it in London?”

Now, to eliminate clutter, why can’t these two icons be combined into a double button, each side linked to the appropriate website?  On the left is “local current times around the world” with all the appropriate adjustments for daylight savings and so forth.  On the right is the time zone converter.


World Clock 75 px widget buttonplan time widget75 button

Okay, it’s done but I don’t like it. A simple link might have been better.  But I’m not going to change it now–maybe later.


Something simpler. The time zone converter link can be accessed from the world clock link.   So one icon and one link. In orange, I think.  A clock-world-orange.

clock world orange3 150 button

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Why would someone deny themselves food and water during daylight hours for the entire month of Ramadan, one might ask?  One word.  Qateyef. (pronounced something like (guh-TAH-yuf). When Ramadan starts, these qateyef grills spring up like mushrooms all over Jordan. Here is the shop of Abu Ali, the best qateyef maker in all of Amman, and the line waiting for his qateyef that stretches five floors down a stone staircase.



And here is how to make them.

Buy a package of freshly made qadeyef at your local Arab store (the mosques ladies make them at home with Aunt Jemima pancake mix).


Put your favorite filling–okay, “favourite”– on half of the qateyef.  Fold it over and pinch the edges together (they are a little bit sticky). On the left is cheese “mostly ricotta” mixed by the bakery (but with a little extra sweet and salt flavor) and on the right is chopped walnuts.

2cheese and walnut

At this point, some Jordanian cooks will float the qateyef briefly in a boiling attar bath.  I don’t do this because 1) they come out too sweet and 2) I can’t keep them from falling apart in the pot.  So I heated these in a pan in the toaster oven. Here is the attar that will get poured over them:


The ingredients are sugar, water, orange flower water, and lemon juice. I guessed at the proportions and it came out perfectly.  Put the warm qateyef on a plate and drench them with the attar. Then enjoy.  Many like to smoke an after iftar argila. This one has apple flavored tobacco (tufaa تفاحة ). The tobacco goes in the top, covered with aluminum foil with holes poked in it.  A glowing piece of charcoal is placed on the top.  In the U.S., argila charcoal is hard to come by, so many use self lighting charcoal that comes in commercially prepared rolls wrapped in aluminum foil.  All you do is remove one perfectly round piece of charcoal, hold it over a lighter or a burner until it is glowing, then put it on top of the aluminum foil.

4qadayef with argila

I am still missing a couple details for Ramadan.  For one thing I haven’t done any charitable works yet, so I will have to start sorting my clothes and find something to donate. The other thing is that one-thirtieth of the Koran is usually read every day, but it is done in a special mosque service called taraweh. The mosque is really too far away to participate in that–on a regular basis at least–so I may have to find a substitute reading activity. Already I have some ideas.

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Iftar إفطار means “breakfast” in Arabic (pronounced “IF-tar”).

During Ramadan, when the sun sets, it is traditional to break the fast with dates and water. (From sunup to sundown, one abstains from food, water, sex, and tobacco.) Then comes iftar–the evening “breakfast”–often served to large crowds as part of the daily charity requirement of Ramadan.

Here is a traditional Arab meal: pita bread “hobez” خبز , felafel فلافل , hommous حمّص‎ (with olive oil–zait zaytoon زيت زيتون and sumac السماق , a red powder–sprinkled on top), and black tea with fresh mint (shai na-na شاي بالنعناع ), the mint having been pilfered from my nicely spreading Jordanian mint plant (thank you, nameless mosque ladies) the last time I went across the street to my old landlord’s building to mow the lawn.

There will be desert حلويات heluwayat, oh yeah.

Ramadan Kareem moon

I have finally gotten around to making a Ramadan Kareem image for my side bar.  This image of the moon is courtesy of NASA.ramadan kareem

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Ramadan Kareem – images

Ramadan Kareem. رمضان كريم

[The traditional greeting means “Ramadan is generous”.]

Some Ramadan images :

ramadan kareem

ramadan kareem mosque

ramadan tan1

Image credits:

#1 Yellow with mosque silhouette. Artist: Tarqdz.  More from the artist’s gallery.

#2  Sepia tones with mosque. Artist: Saeed33Gallery from same artist.

#3 Yellow with brown calligraphy. Artist: NABDH. More from the artist’s gallery.

Have been listening to this Ramadan Kareem animation playing on a loop.  The sound quality is surprisingly good–wish I knew what it was from.


Note: I am fasting today, the first day of Ramadan. (“The rest of the year is for you, Ramadan is for Allah.”) It’s easier when Ramadan falls in December, as it did when I lived in Jordan, and the sun sets earlier.

When is sunset?  According to Channel 9, today’s sunset is at 7:39 PM.  The Bridgeview mosque site says adhan at 7:43 (the call to prayer is when the fast can be broken–many the time I waited for the call to prayer to light up a cigarette at a Jordanian bus station) and the iqamah at 7:48 PM.  (The DC mosque I link to in my sidebar says adhan 7:57 PM, iqamah 8:07 PM) Technically the Koranic answer, which depends on neither websites nor wristwatches, says sundown is when a white thread cannot be distinguished from a black thread.

Since it can be difficult to stay occupied without eating or drinking (Moslems are also supposed to abstain from tobacco and sex), until sundown, here are my Ramadan links from other years–from a definitely non-Moslem perspective:

Insha ‘Allah (two examples of Salma Arastu’s calligraphy for Eid at the end of Ramadan)
Ramadan kareem, are you fasting? (image of King Hussein mosque in Amman)
Pokemon Eid cards?–what is going on in Pakistan (more Salma Arastu artwork thumbnails for Eid)
Fasting music for Ramadan–mystical planets (links to Gustav Holst downloads)
Spiritual recordings for Ramadan 2008 (explanation of duas and some dua links for YouTube and others)
Is the reward of goodness aught but goodness?-Koran translation and recitation (Koran portals and some links to recitations)