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23 April 2011

aqaba, jordan (nov 13th, 2009)

jordanian flag 06so my time was done in egypt. on the advice of some of my teacher friends working in egypt, i'd decided to fly to jordan on my indirect trip home. i'd heard that it would be a sin to miss seeing petra when i was that close. i'd also heard something about aqaba, so i booked a flight there to jump off from. i really didn't know what i was going to do there. i was pretty burnt out from being in egypt so long, so i just wanted to relax. not even do vacationy things, i just wanted to catch up on sleep, have a few drinks, and wander aimlessly. that's pretty much what i did.

housekeeping in aqabathe taxi driver from the airport assured me he knew where my hotel, the golden tulip, was. i had a very general idea where it was from the airport because i'd checked on google earth just before my flight. now, my sense of direction is just south of shitty, but i still knew that we were heading the wrong direction as soon as we left the airport. i'd gotten him turned around with my broken arabic, and soon had him pulling over to ask directions from a police officer. after rounding the block several times because he kept missing the turn off, i was finally at my hotel. i checked in and went to my room to drop off my bags where i found this. yup, those are my bath towels folded on my bed in the shape of a heart and some swans.

i seriously didn't do too much here. as i said, i just wanted to relax. i wandered around town a lot. i made friends with the filipina bar maid at the hotel. she had a boys name like TheMax or something. that saturday night, she invited me to go out with her and her friends to a filipina bar. it was halfway up one of the taller buildings in aqaba. we went in through a shady back door, through some partially dismantled room with lots of insulation and not a lot of lighting. i was starting to get concerned, but soon enough the broken down rooms opened onto a rooftop bar with other filipinos. there was one or two other ex-pats playing pool or throwing darts. we ate pretzel sticks, and i drank beer while they chatted away in their own language, occasionally flirting or making fun of me. i couldn't tell, but then again, i never can. i dawdled doing nothing of much import for 3 days, reveling in the fact that i had no responsibilities, schedules, or timelines to follow, though in fact i did. not on those days, but i DID need to see petra while i was there and i was told i needed to see wadi rum as well. i was off to petra on the 17th, and i did an overnight in the wadi rum desert with a bedouin tour guide and a lovely british couple... kinda, but those are for upcoming and more frequent posts. until then, some pix from aqaba.

gulf of aqaba from hotel 01
a tanker in the gulf of aqaba as seen from my hotel

aqaba mosque
one of the many mosques in aqaba

burger king - arabic
arabic burger king sign... and i can actually read it. there was a popeye's right next door too

aqaba domes 01
i wasn't able to determine exactly what these domes are for

the gateway 01
this is TheGateway. it's the westernized part of aqaba with a McDonald's, an irish bar, chinese restaurant, discos, shops, etc. i spent some time here.

church pano
this is possibly the first (oldest) purpose built christian church in the world, estimated to be built in 300 AD.

weather station
this weather station was pretty cool. i'd like to see more of these in bigger cities. i think it would motivate the people to take part in keeping the environment (and the government's part in it) cleaner. today was a good day, just a bit dusty.

sadly, social networking, work, life, etc., has dragged me away from this original form of getting the word out for me. i'm going to try harder. i should have posts about petra and wadi rum coming up soon. thanks for sticking with me. as per usual, you can click on the pics for bigger versions, and click here for the entire set.

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03 December 2010

republicans are scared of gays in the military (but apparently not in their own ranks)

i'll start this as i have been for a while lately.. wow, it's been a long time. no excuses, just laziness. but i need to do better. i can't believe it's been over a year since i was in jordan and i still haven't posted those awesome pix and stories. i'm getting to it. really.

what inspired this return was an article i read about the republicans blasting the pentagon for it's findings in a "don't ask, don't tell" study. as i read the article, i became incensed at the complete short-sightedness and bigotry by these scared, old white men. we should've left mccain in that damn prison camp. the problem is, as i read the article, all my counterpoints were made by the article, so if you read this, it's like reading the article, and vice versa. sorry. the study showed that 70% of those military personnel polled said that allowing gays would AT WORST make absolutely no difference in their feelings and at best have a positive effect. granted, it also showed that 40-60% of direct combat troops felt it would have a negative effect, but those guys are usually more the macho quarterback type who probably don't realize that they could be fighting next to a gay solder right now who has to hhide it to fight for his country. the republicans said it was a waste of money because the survey didn't ask if they should repeal DADT. immediately, i thought "why the hell would you survey military personnel on THIS policy but not any others, like extended deployments, etc?" (several sentences later, the article brought up the same point). surverying them on their thoughts and feelings on the issue makes sense, but on specific policy... if they had a say in any policy, i'm guessing most of them wouldn't be in iraq and afghanistan. ask them about that one first. i'm guessing they'll say let the gays in if i can get out of here.

the other thing the republicans were worried about was replacing the 12% (~264,000 troops) who said they would not want to stay in the military if DADT was repealed. FIRST, they don't just get to up and leave. that's AWOL or dishonorable discharge, and the job market isn't so strong right now, let alone how badly the government can treat regular discharges. SECOND, it isn't a one way door. if they want to leave when their enlistment is up, they can, but with DADT repealed, gays who might've been afraid of hostile personal attacks might be more willing to fight and serve. you never know how many might be out there who want to fight, but DADT gives them a strong reason not to. this is our modern day desegregation of black and white troops. get on the fucking bus, you scared old men.

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01 October 2010

U.S. religious knowledge survey

recently, the pew forum on religion and public life released the results of their recent U.S. religious knowledge survey. sadly, 86% of THE PEOPLE SURVEYED (not americans as they would suggest... it IS an extrapolation afterall), believe in "god" or a higher power. the problem is, most of these people who believe in god/higher power don't really know the tenets or history of what they believe in. it seems they know that church means dressing up the family on sunday, going to church, feeding the kids cookies so they are quiet during the service, listening to the sermon (a.k.a bible cliff's notes), eating some stale bread and wine, and then going home to watch the game. it's tradition, it's a habit (and a bad one at that, in my opinion). many of these people base their personal beliefs and political stances on a book they haven't read. they cherrypick the parts of their book that support their prejudices (homosexuality is bad) but ignore the ones that just aren't fun [no premarital sex, no pork, no eating lobsters, no rare meat, shaving, or cutting of the hair (still, i think that link is a bit strange too. i think since jesus was basically raised a jew as far as we know, he was a jew who stirred a following and started an offshoot that was probably still based in part on judaism. similar to how islam is based on judaism, acknowledges jesus, and is just a 3rd iteration / prophet from the original judaism)].

as usual, i digress. i find it entertainingly ironic that of the people polled (and again, this is but 1/1000 of a percent of the population) that atheists/agnostics topped the poll with the best scores followed by jews, mormons, and the best catholic score coming in 5th. if you are here, more than likely you know i am an atheist. i was raised lutheran until the age of 14 or so when i went to TheMom and said i didn't believe in god. it didn't make sense. math and science explained a lot more than church did for me, and even though there's a lot that science couldn't explain, that set grew smaller every day, something that doesn't happen with religion. TheMom was heartbroken, thinking she raised me wrong, but i assured it had absolutely nothing to do with that. it had to do with my free will and the thinking/analytical mind i was born with. as i got older, she came out as an agnostic. i hope this wasn't from my doing as i'm not much for proselytizing... as long as no one gets hurt, i think everyone has the right to believe what they want. i believe she was agnostic far earlier in her life, but that just wasn't accepted so she fell in line with what she was supposed to do culturally. i don't blame her for this. it is certainly a safer environment now to walk away from religion, at least in the western world.

i've lived in the hindu culture which i am quite fond of in their acceptance of other religions. sadly, those other religions were massive missionary expeditions which i thoroughly despise. i personally witnessed the bringing of clothes, money, food, and classrooms to the young. the parents were hindu and the children converted to mormonism via the missionary church that was set up. i asked the parents how they felt about their children leaving the religion they themselves were brought up in, and they said as long as their children were happy, the parents were happy. i half believed this. hinduism does seem to be a happy, peaceful religion trying to better oneself. on the other hand, they wanted their children to be happy and children are simple creatures. a new pair of shoes, a crisp clean white shirt and new tie all their own, a snack after the service that the parents couldn't afford. the children would be happier, but could it be said their happiness was bought? still, the hindus i met weren't angry about it, they were just trying to give their children a better purchase on a properous life by selling out their religious beliefs.

as for christianity, i've been reading the bible off and on for years as an education tool, a piece of literature. while i was in egypt, i read the qu'ran during ramadan as is typical of most muslims. i read this, too, as an educational tool. many of the muslims i worked with were excited that i was converting. when i explained that i was reading it to educate myself on the culture and the people, i ran in to quite a few who asked me stop reading it because that was not the purpose of the book. that's not to say they are any worse than some christians i've told about reading the bible keeping in mind a high degree of "suspension of disbelief". there are always going to be moderates and fundamentalists in every religion. i fear the fundamentalists in all of them. the same bible-thumping christians who tout their 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms are usually the ones who claim this is a christian nation, forgetting that the 1st amendment, aside from protecting freedom of speech, also explicitly prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion. we are NOT a christian nation, we are a nation of many, believers and non-believers, and a diverse spectrum in between.

i believe over the course of civilized man, religion on the whole has done more harm than good, but on a personal level, i'm sure it's helped it fair share. for fun, why don't you go here and take the abridged test. i was hoping for a score of 100%, but i missed one. :-(

it's good to have time to be back.

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21 September 2010

NYC trafficking

wow, it's been a while. i've loads of excuses. work has been long hours, more than likely you've heard about TheMom passing, i'm lazy, etc. any of those fit, but now i've slid into a slower paced assignment, and i should have a bit more time to update you diligent readers who keep visiting.

so we'll start with a rant. i'm currently located in the seemingly atrophied town of schenectady. i arrived late coming in from a conference in atlanta, so i lucked out into getting a pretty pimp lincoln navigator because it was the only one left with the GPS i requested. i don't think i've ever ridden in a more tech car. trying to remember it all, it has:

  • automatic water sensing wipers
  • moon/sun roof
  • automatic open/close rear hatch
  • sirius satellite radio
  • automatic raising and lowering stepboards
  • memorized seat and steering wheel location
  • front and rear proximity sensors
  • rear-view camera integrated into the rear-view mirror
  • automatic layflat rear seats
  • full middle row climate controls
  • heated/ACd front seats
  • microsoft sync (bluetooth mobile phone connection through the audio system)
  • multi-colored footlevel and cupholder lighting (yeah, what?!)
  • and of course, the GPS i requested

damn gina. anyways, NY drivers just piss me off, i don't get it. why? i figured, OK, NYC, you always have traffic and you're on your last nerve anyways at all times, but i'm in a sleepy little town. there's no need to be like that. por ejemplo, well, just look at the picture first.

i was being mr. polite ohio driver, waiting patiently in the suicide lane for the 2nd light to go green so i could move forward and carry on my way turning left. as i'm sitting there, i see a car in my massive rear-view mirror come up on my right, and immediately, i knew they were going to be a cock. it didn't take them 3 seconds to confirm that suspicion as he buzzed across the front of me, thus blocking traffic. why? WHY?! i don't get this mindset. you aren't going to get to where you were going any faster now that you are 10 feet ahead of me, AND you are now blocking traffic. i wish non-maiming-but-very-expensive car crashes on these people to teach them a lesson. being a polite driver in NY just doesn't pay.

ANOTHER thing i dislike about this place, maybe not necessarily NY, is the EZ-Pass system. It's a brilliant idea in theory, but the highways aren't built for it. the EZP system was an afterthought on an antiquated tollroad system. the problem is, now if you have EZP, you don't have to stop for get a ticket or to pay your toll... you slow down to anywhere between 10-20 mph, the sensor picks up ur debit, and you take off, but the runways to the various highway offshoots immediately behind the tollgate aren't long enough for several lanes of traffic to merge and cross when 1 or 2 lanes didn't have to slow down in the first place. i'd call it organized chaos, but that would be too kind. it's vehicular warfare with a side of NASCAR pit road strategy. i recall a smart man once saying, "there are no atheists just downstream of a NY tollgate", and i can see why.

another downside to the EZP system is the lemming mentality of it. there are lanes that are specifically for EZP, but EZP can still be used at any cash lane, no matter. i've seen several occasions where apparently the EZP lane has mesmerized the owners into thinking they should stay in a 1/2 mile long line while the cash toll payers (and a few like me who know i can use EZP in the cash lanes) breeze on by, leaving those EZP zombies in my dust. it's a nearly complete reversal of the whole point of the EZP system.

and, abruptly,that is my return to NT. more to come, still lots of pictures from vacations i took last year. thanks for sticking around, and i'll be back soon. i'll SEE if i can get a PTVR up, but i don't want to pull a blogging muscle. friday will be a surprise.

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31 August 2010

i believe i am "becoming"

I beat my machine it's a part of me it's inside of me
I'm stuck in this dream it's changing me i am becoming
The me that you know had some second thoughts
He's covered with scabs and he is broken and sore
The me that you know doesn't come around much
That part of me isn't here anymore
All pain disappears it's the nature of my circuitry
Drowns out all i hear there's no escape from this my new consciousness
That me that you know used to have feelings
But the blood has stopped pumping and he's left to decay
The me that you know is now made up of wires
And even when i'm right with you i'm so far away
I can try to get away but i've strapped myself in
I can try to scratch away the sound in my ears
I can see it killing away all my bad parts
I don't want to listen but it's all too clear
Hiding backwards inside of me i feel so unafraid
Annie, hold a little tighter i might just slip away
It won't give up it wants me dead
Goddamn this noise inside my head

--- nine inch nails "becoming"

i do feel that way. for a while now. i'll have more time in the coming weeks to get things here. i'm sorry i left you for so long. so many things to tell. more later.

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12 May 2010

Movin out

For the sake of TheNephew, i'm slowly moving out of my childhood room (i know, i know). I've collected quite a few books, gadgets, and movies over the years. Posters, clothes, international trinkets and monies. This is a photo of me relaxing in one of my three hammocks in the storage unit i've rented to hold my shite. It's far more room than i need, i only wish i had a 24-hr key so i could pass out in the hammock after a night on the town. Maybe in the next iteration.

Sent from my HTC Tilt™ 2, a Windows® phone from AT&T

10 May 2010

blown away by scale

i am currently located in bellaire, ohio, TheUnitedStates, earth, TheSol system, TheOrionArm, TheMilkyWay, TheLocalGroup, TheVirgoSupercluster, TheKnownUniverse. each of these descriptions is EASILY several orders of magnitude larger than the previous one in the list. that is, ohio is at least 10 times larger than bellaire; TheUnitedStates is at least 10 times larger than ohio; etc. that is just mind-boggling considering as things get bigger, 10x bigger than that is just so insanely bigger that thinking of the next step makes brains cell runs for cover.

say, for example, you place a grain of sand on the very center of the 50-yard line on a football field. this grain of sand represents earth. a scaled sun would be a bit larger than a softball, just about the size of the 50-yard line stripe itself. that may not seem like a huge difference, but in actuality, you can fit about ONE MILLION earths in the sun (and thus approximately 1,000,000 grains of sand in this softball). now here's the insanity of scale... the largest known star in the universe is YZ Canis Majoris. can you take a guess how big it would be? just take a guess, would it fit between the 40-yard lines? maybe, the 20-yard lines? would it be goal line to goal line? think about it and take a guess...

well, if you gave up on guessing, i'll tell ya. granted these are rough calculations, but you'd have to add a football field to both sides of the one we are standing on and (neglecting endzones) YZ Canis Majoris would reach to the FAR 5 yard line on these extra fields. we think of our earth as big. we think of our sun as big. while it takes 8 minutes for our suns light to travel to use from the earth (just to reiterate, going the speed of light), it takes about 8 HOURS for light to cross from one side of YZ Canis Majoris to the other. just for shits and giggles and maybe strokes for people who have a hard time with big numbers. the number of earths that would fit in this big guy... almost 10,000,000,000,000,000. that's ten quadrillion earths in just one star.

that's about as far as i'm going to take the numbers for now, but think briefly... there are BILLIONS of stars each found in BILLIONS of galaxies each found in what might be millions of super-clusters. the scale is just awe striking and humbling. and with that, i need a break or a beer... or both.

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