Happy Birthday Queen Rania

I have been reminded that today is the birthday of Jordan’s Queen Rania. She turns forty today.

What a queen.  She has a YouTube channel that she uses to fight religious intolerance, she writes books* for children that empower girls and bring people of different cultures closer together, and now she twitters. (bio: A mum and a wife with a really cool day job…)
Near and dear to my heart, she has also taken on the controversial issue of child abuse. Wikipedia:

The Jordan River Children Program (JRCP) was developed by Queen Rania to place children’s welfare above political agendas and cultural taboos. This led to the launch, in 1998, of JRF’s Child Safety Program, which addresses the immediate needs of children at risk from abuse and initiated a long-term campaign to increase public awareness about violence against children. The deaths of two children in Amman as a result of child abuse in early 2009 led Queen Rania to call for an emergency meeting of government and non-government (including JRF) stakeholders to discuss where the system was failing.

Looking at her sizable wikipedia article, I also see she has a Norwegian award, the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav.  But this line in the explanation of the award stopped me up short:

The list is collated alphabetically by last name, those recipients not possessing a last name, such as royalty and most Icelanders are collated by first name.

I never thought about it before, but royals are certainly in the classification of people who only need one name–Cher, Liberace, Twiggy, Elvis…..

But Icelanders?

(Thanks, Jake.)


The Sandwich Swap. (Amazon) Tells the story of Lily and Salma, two best friends, who argue over the ‘yucky’ taste of their respective peanut butter and jelly and hummus sandwiches. The girls then overcome and embrace their differences.

Maha of the Mountains.  A young girl’s determination to get an education and the challenges she faced. (read online)


The power to control time

Today I happened to wonder whatever became of the DJ at my local hometown radio station, and started googling, as one can do these days.  It turns out he’s retired, no surprise there, but then I ran into the name of someone I had long forgotten,  TV personality Captain 11.  Every day when we came home from school we would plop down on the floor in front of the TV and wait for the after school cartoons to come on.  At the appointed time, a ponderous voice would intone:

One man in each century is given the power to control time.
The man chosen to receive this power is carefully selected.
He must be kind.
He must be fair.
He must be brave.
You have fulfilled these requirements; and, we of the Outer Galaxies designate to you the wisdom of Solomon and the strength of Atlas.
Eleven. (cue reverb)

Then Captain Eleven, aka Dave Dedrick,  would appear, surrounded by children, (the “crew members”)  and tell the children to “wave one hand, wave two hands, wave both hands and one foot, wave both hands and both feet–by this time the children were jumping up and down–then the Captain would say “freeze” while the camera panned over the sea of children trying to hold still.  Then the birthday kids would get to flip the switches on the “time converter” control panel to start the cartoon.  The camera would focus on one of the spiraling “twirlitzer wheels” then fade to the cartoon.

They were good cartoons in those days too: Bugs Bunny, Warner Brothers, sometimes Mighty Mouse with yet another space theme, “Hi, boys and girls! Here we go, rocketing into a fun-filled, exciting cartoon show. Hold onto your seats as we blast off to visit all of your favorite cartoon stars.” Twice a week we had Batman and Robin, and on the weekends, Rocky and Bullwinkle, with lots of fun sight gags for the kiddies and cold war jokes for the grownups.

There is a clip with part of the opening “One man in each century”
monologue here, as well as the Captains sign-off at the end, encouraging the kiddies to brush their teeth and say their prayers.

I met Dave Dedrick once; I must have been about five years old.  My father was taping an educational video at the KELO studio.  The guy he was talking to said something to him, then my dad turned to me and told me it was Captain 11.  While I was still trying to process that, Dave Dedrick turned around and showed me the Captain 11 set behind a curtain.

I/O Magic 22X External Disc Drive

Another update: problem solved:

The disk drive is now able to copy disks.  The fix: hp CD-R Lightscribe disks. This is one of the disk types recommended by the manufacturer, oddly enough. (I have added a photo of the box with the other supported formats at the end of this epistle.)  And yes, contrary to what is written elsewhere on the web, it runs on XP.

In retrospect, all my problems were caused by bad advice from the Staples sales clerks.  New disk drives may be compatible with all types of disks, as they told me, but google tells me older disk technology may not recognize all disk types; you may actually have to read the package and use the types recommended by the manufacturer.  Also, CD+R is not the same as CD±R, as I was told; wikipedia lists it separately.  The number after the X is apparently just a speed indicator and may be safety ignored.  But dealing with Staples  is a bit like walking into an XKCD cartoon.  If the kids say a disk drive is broke because it isn’t compatible with all disk types, then that disk drive becomes broke for that very reason, even if it works the way the manufacturer says it will.

Today is Aug. 21; I first published this post on Aug 12. How many people are willing to continually work on a problem for that long, returning  disks, researching the problem on the web?  When television first came out, there was one repair shop in town, and when a TV was in the shop, it stayed there for months.  Today we want instant fixes.

Note: If you are thinking about buying this disk drive, go to the  Staples page for this product and read their many, many negative reviews. Basically everyone has the same problem I’m having.  It doesn’t work in XP; and it burns one disk, the one that come with it, then refuses to recognize any more disks in the device.


Last spring I bought the I/O Magic 22X External Disc Drive to process some photos and videos from a family event. I am just now getting around to opening the box. Besides the family videos, I also want to use it to back up a rare audio CD album, and possibly download an audio CD from an online vendor.

The disk drive is probably long out of warranty, but fortunately there were no problems with it.  I plugged in the A/C converter and plugged the other end into the DC 12V input.  The cord wobbles back and forth in the jack, but the electrical connection itself seems secure.  The USB cable also connects in the back and is only about 42″ long, fine if you have desk space, or if you want to move the drive every time you use it, but not long enough if you want to keep it on a shelf.  There is a power switch on the back, also a small fan.

The disk drive came with a Nero 8 Essentials CD, a blank Philips CD-R 52x Lightscribe Disc, and a Lightscribe Direct Disc Labeling CD containing four programs for drivers, software, and templates. The guy at the store (Staples) recommended Memorex DVD+R Lightscribe 16X to use with it. [Bad idea, as it turned out.] They are a muted gold color and Teh Google tells me they print in grey scale, so no danger of not being able to tell that disk apart from an original.

Note: There is an installation manual available on the manufacturer’s support page.

I turned on the disk drive and used it to install the Nero 8 software.  The drive worked on power-up (on Windows XP) without installing additional software.  The Nero software took several minutes to install, but not the hours reported in some online sources.  It installed one, not three or more icons, as reported elsewhere, but although I did a custom installation, I must have missed unchecking some boxes, because once it was installed, my music wouldn’t play on Windows Media Player any more.

The Windows Media Player has been making me unhappy lately, overwriting with Chinese characters the track information I have painstakingly edited, and separating CD’s that belong together in a set so that I have to go searching for them in various sections of the alphabet, apparently assigned at whim.  If I change the album title to make it show up in the part of the alphabet I want, it loses the CD altogether, and I can only find it again by going back to MyMusic in the Start menu. Still, I’m used to the Windows product and don’t have time to learn the new Nero system right now.  Who knows, I have Roxio installed as well, but have never used it either; maybe in the end I would prefer that program.

The Nero program uninstalled cleanly (through the control panel), again contrary to what has been written elsewhere.  The Lightscribe programs also installed without fanfare, although they do have to each be installed separately.

So now everything is connected and I can just burn some disks, right?  No.  I just found out that the files I have been ripping to my music folder are not the same quality as CD’s, they are in some compressed format, not as compressed as MP3, but not CD quality either. So now to get the recoding formats sorted out.

As an interesting sidelight, there is a curious format, no longer used, called Mini Disc. It is a higher quality than cassette, but not as good as CD, and is used in Japan for transferring cassette and LP recordings to CD, also there is some application for direct recording, for those who are into the performing arts.  Ebay has a few minidisc items for sale, and there are some fan sites with information, largely outdated, like this one and equipment lists like this. Apparently you have to plug it into the audio output of an external amp to use it–does anyone still have those?

As far as CD quality, looking at the dropdown box for the Windows Media Player, a CD can be ripped in several formats (but is burning different?). Windows Media Audio is apparently the default.  Its two lossless formats appear to be Windows Media Lossless and WAV. Likewise, online music stores vary in quality; WAV appears to be the only lossless format. There can be  DRM issues with online stores as well.

In the end, I’m going to have to just put a disc in and try it.

Image below: side of box with list of supported formats.

Ramadan images

In the last week, the number of people looking at my blog doubled and then tripled as Ramadan approached and everyone was searching for images of Ramadan calligraphy.  In other years I have linked to Salma Arastu’s work–I loved the calligraphy she was doing five years ago, also her 99 names of Allah in tiles the color of stones, but the more chaotic patterns and pastel colors she has been using lately don’t appeal to me, so I have gone searching for something different.

This year I found the expected calligraphy, also some images of the Koran strangely lighted (Ramadan is the anniversary of the revelation of the Koran by an angel), a couple of wallpapers, one manga, and for some reason–and I’ve never noticed this before–a lot of lamps, both oriental-style lamps and railroad-style lamps that could have come out of the Old West.

Here are the images, along with links to the artists:

Above: “Ramadan”  Artist: Saeed Al-Madani from Dubai, UAE

Below:  “Ramadan” Artist: mh2aa

Above: Islamic Wallpaper 2: Ramadan by t4m3r
Below: Ramadan prayers by mekaeel (a wallpaper with a Ramadan prayer)

Above: Ramadan Kareem2 08 by razangraphics

Below: Ramadan kareem by 3arif

Above: Ramadan 2007 by YoonzDigital
Below: ..Ramadan ..Kareem..by w-melon

Above: Ramadan Karim by ~max-melyanos
Below: Ramadan Kareem by imadesign

Below: Fasting Ramadan by badr-ex

Wait, “play with your fanoos“??!?

Posted in Islam. Comments Off on Ramadan images

Ramadan mosque

Ramadan Kareem.

In honor of the beginning of Ramadan today, here is a photo of the Mosque of Omar at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, taken by a companion from the stairs on the west side in 2000.

Inside this mosque it is said are the footprints of the Prophet’s flying horse, left imprinted in the stone on the night of Lailat al Miraj, as well as the entrance to the Well of Souls, the omphalos of the universe.

At this point I have no special plans for observing Ramadan this year, this is just a shout-out to my Moslem friends at their holy season.  But if someone were to approach me with a plate of guidief stuffed with walnuts and smothered in orange flower syrup, who knows….

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GED Links

In the U.S., students who don’t finish high school can take a high school equivalency test that will give them a credential called the GED, used in place of a diploma for employment and college entrance requirements.  There are several websites with study questions and practice tests to help students prepare for the exam.  Community colleges also offer classes in GED.

For students who want to study for the GED on their own, or who want to supplement their classes with computer exercises, this “GED Notebook” website has a list of GED links.  The GED can also be taken in Spanish; there are a few Spanish-language resources listed.  For students who  need to brush up on their keyboarding skills to be able to touch type more quickly, the site also lists several free websites for keyboard practice.

Posted in Education. Comments Off on GED Links

Iraqi music live

The BBC is now streaming some very nice oud and guitar music on  BBC Radio 3 World Routes. (Thanks, Canahan!)

Update: Very nice station; I enjoyed the classical bit afterwards too.   I remember listening to BBC News on a little longwave radio in Jordan every day, but it was never like that.  We don’t have a strictly classical station here in Chicago, but we do have world-class jazz–although much less of it since Dick Buckley retired and took his record collection with him.

The Iraqi program–BBC proms (?) Ilham Al Mafai and friends on oud and guitar–which  comes up if you do a site search for Iraq, is still available here.

Posted in Iraq, music. 4 Comments »

Where the bee sucks

William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1:
Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly.
After summer merrily:
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough

The bees are back.   These photos were taken early in June. The bee on the dandelion is actually two bees–I didn’t notice until I had the images in the computer and was playing with the zoom.  (Photos are clickable.)

To go with the photos, here is a honey poem from Federico Garcia Lorca:

La miel es la palabra de Cristo,
el oro derretido de su amor.
El más allá del néctar,
la momia de la luz del paraíso.

La colmena es una estrella casta,
pozo de ámbar que alimenta el ritmo
de las abejas. Seno de los campos
tembloroso de aromas y zumbidos.

La miel es la epopeya del amor,
la materialidad de lo infinito.
Alma y sangre doliente de las flores
condensada a través de otro espíritu.

(Así la miel del hombre es la poesía
que mana de su pecho dolorido,
de un panal con la cera del recuerdo
formado por la abeja de lo íntimo)

La miel es la bucólica lejana
del pastor, la dulzaina y el olivo,
hermana de la leche y las bellotas,
reinas supremas del dorado siglo.

La miel es como el sol de la mañana,
tiene toda la gracia del estío
y la frescura vieja del otoño.
Es la hoja marchita y es el trigo.

¡Oh divino licor de la humildad,
sereno como un verso primitivo!
La armonía hecha carne tú eres,
el resumen genial de lo lírico.

En ti duerme la melancolía,
el secreto del beso y del grito.
Dulcísima. Dulce. Este es tu adjetivo.
Dulce como los vientres de las hembras.
Dulce como los ojos de los niños.
Dulce como las sombras de la noche.
Dulce como una voz. O como un lirio.

Para el que lleva la pena y la lira,
eres sol que ilumina el camino.
Equivales a todas las bellezas,
al color, a la luz, a los sonidos.

¡Oh! Divino licor de la esperanza,
donde a la perfección del equilibrio
llegan alma y materia en unidad
como en la hostia cuerpo y luz de Cristo.

Y el alma superior es de las flores,
¡Oh licor que esas almas has unido!
El que te gusta no sabe que traga
un resumen dorado del lirismo.

Two beekeepers have done an English translation of the above Lorca poem, also they have a list of bee poetry, from Neruda to Homer to Shakespeare.

But see if you really need any more bee poetry after absorbing this haiku from Matsuo Basho:

The Bee

How reluctantly
the bee emerges from the deep
within the peony

Bloom where you are planted?

Posted in macro. 2 Comments »