Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

FitBit: Close Friend, Not Perfect

Who wants a perfect friend? I know I am flawed, would a perfect friend want to be friends with me? Ummm . . . probably not, and I would have a hard time living up to a perfect friend.

Having said that, my FitBit is my constant companion. She would like to be my nanny, but I don’t allow her to nag me, I just share time with her where we have things in common.

The cons:

She can’t go in the water (so far as I know, and I have searched intensely to see if it were possible for her to go into water aerobics with me) so I don’t get any credit with her or on my daily stats for all the hard work I do in the pool.

She is so unobtrusive that sometimes I forget her. Not often; she is mostly part of my routine, but the other day, a very busy day, I realized as I was getting ready for bed that she was not with me. I always, routinely, put her on my nightgown. She wasn’t there. I had left her on a shirt as I changed clothes. I had lost stats for an entire five hour period, horrors!

The pros:

She really encourages me to move more. Did you know sitting is the new smoking? Too much sitting correlates to dying earlier than you need to? So when I am watching a show and AdventureMan is not with me, I pull out the running trampoline and run for twenty or thirty minutes as the Kilchers celebrate Thanksgiving or take a friend out to a distant Alaskan island. I don’t usually manage 10,000 steps a day, which is the goal, but I manage more than I would without FitBit; she keeps me aware that I need to move.

Screen shot 2014-12-20 at 9.12.47 AM

She tracks my sleep. I have discovered I am not a good judge of how well I sleep. There are some nights I think I was awake a lot and I discover that no, I might have been awake for a ten minute period, but I slept well most of the time. There are nights I believe I have slept well, but she shows me I was restless 14 times (that can happen when the love-of-your-life has a cold and is coughing). She even gives me a percentage of how efficiently I sleep; I find this very reassuring.

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She also tracks – if you ask her to – food, activities, glucose, weight and some other factors. She will also – if you ask her to – share all your information with your closest 1500 friends.

(Gasp of horror)

No! No! That’s private information!

She also has a partner, a wireless scale that will send the information right to your dashboard, and to your monthly evaluation.

Again, no. No, not for me. I don’t share that information, not with anyone. Some things are just private.

She is faithful. She warns me when she is running out of steam and needs to be recharged. She is always with me, unless I forget her. She’s been with me about a year, and I find that unlike some devices that I quickly decide are not-the-real-me, she is a good, helpful friend. She lets me set the pace, and she respects my boundaries. Her respect for my boundaries allows me to step up my pace to try to please her. :-) She acknowledges my flaws, but she is faithful anyway, and, as I said before, she minds her own business and doesn’t nag me.

All in all, our friendship is a great success.

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Cultural, Diet / Weight Loss, Exercise, Friends & Friendship, Quality of Life Issues | | Leave a comment

John the Baptist and Brood of Vipers

It is a rainy, chilly morning in Pensacola.

Even as I write those words, I smile. Our grandson inherited my cold genes through his father. By cold genes, I mean we are more comfortable being cool than hot. We sleep cool. We need less clothing to stay warm. He told his Baba, AdventureMan, that “chilly is not cold” because he didn’t want to wear long pants, he prefers shorts.

Saint-John-the-Baptist-web

(There are a lot of images of John the Baptist, but this one made me grin; he looks a little Rastafarian, and I hadn’t thought of him as so long haired and skinny, but he was living in the wilderness and eating locusts and honey . . . )

I can still feel the air grow still as the British Ambassador to Kuwait read a very odd scripture about John the Baptist. It was odd because while it talked about John, it was unfamiliar to me. At the end, he said “A reading from the holy Qu’ran” and I was astonished for two reasons. First, I didn’t know that the Muslims recognized John the Baptist (they do, he is called Yahya Yahanna, and they have a beautiful tomb to him in the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, where many visit and pray) and second, I didn’t know I belonged to a church that would allow the Qu’ran to be read as Holy Scripture.

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Life is long, and full of surprises. I love it. I think the ability to be surprised, and to ponder those quick flickers of perspective keeps us young in heart, and young in spirit.

Today, John speaks to us, each and every one. The true path is coming, the word of God embodied in a human being, born a tiny baby, a human baby, God come down into flesh. (My Muslim friends are quivering with fear at this point, waiting for me to be struck down for such blasphemy. They don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, but that he was a messenger, like Mohammed. They also believe Jesus will be the judge at the end of times.)

Life among the Moslems. Bible study with the Baptist. My very Mormon friends. My own very Episcopalian faith. All these influences – and my Alaskan heritage – mashed together with smatterings of others, have gone into making me a very odd sort of Christian.

I’m OK with that.

Luke 3:1-9

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler* of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler* of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler* of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Alaska, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pensacola Christmas Parade

Why do they groan? Why do they grumble and look annoyed when I say it’s time for the Christmas Parade?

 

Once they get there, they have the best time! Who wouldn’t? It’s all noise and flash, great floats and loud bands, dancing in the street, dancing on the sidewalk, seeing all our friends from church and school and waving to friends on the floats – throwing BEADS!

Even 1 year old baby N totally gets into the beads! “Beads! Beads!” she shouts and holds out her hands. She marvels at their sparkle as they hang around her neck.

Here is what I love about Pensacola. It’s been a bad month, with Ferguson, with New York, and in Pensacola 50,000 people gather peacefully and party on the streets. It’s New Orleans with our clothes on, it’s Christmas/Mardi Gras Family Style. We dance, we party, we jump for those beads – and then we pass them along to the children. It’s a long, happy parade, with every school marching band and Mardi Gras group, a local radio station or two, the homeless, the counter culture, drinks in open containers, church groups, neighborhood meet-ups, Jesus is there, with Mary and Joseph – it’s all cool.

When the parade ends, we all go home. Peacefully.

Some may grumble, but for me, they show up, every year, and we celebrate a family tradition, the Pensacola Christmas Parade.

 

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AdventureMan and his helper went down early Sunday morning and pulled a great Bead harvest out of the trees. Little grandson Q carefully sorted them into piles for his friend Chris, his mama and daddy, his two other sets of grandparents and for his room upstairs in our house. 

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December 19, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

Santa Pensacola Style

We stopped by Sonny’s BBQ today to order a smoked turkey for Christmas, and who should be there ordering his own turkey but Pensacola Santa and his Missus, in his red convertible. Good thing it stopped raining, Santa! See you next week :-)

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December 19, 2014 Posted by | Christmas, Community, Cultural, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Happy National Day to Qatar

How perfect that Qatar’s National Day falls on a Thursday so there will be a nice three (at least!) day weekend to celebrate :-)

 

Happy National Day, may you celebrate with joy and may all celebrants be safe.qatar-national-day

December 18, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Events, Qatar | | Leave a comment

ISIS in Mosul Unable to Sustain Economy

From AP via Kuwait Times:

 

High prices, shortages pressure IS – Black markets abound – Strict social laws bad for business

iraqBAGHDAD: Saadi Abdul-Rahman was recently forced to pull his three children out of school in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Islamic State militants have ruled with an iron fist since June. The cost of living has soared there, and the family is barely able to make ends meet, even after putting the kids to work. “We are not able to pay for cooking gas, kerosene and food,” laments the 56-year-old retired government worker. “The situation in Mosul is miserable.”

The economy in the self-styled “caliphate” declared by the Islamic State group bridging Iraq and Syria is starting to show signs of strain. Prices of most staples have more than doubled as coalition airstrikes make it difficult for products to move in and out of militant strongholds, leading to shortages, price-gouging and the creation of black markets.

Resentment has grown among residents under the rule of the extremists, who initially won support with their ability to deliver services. In the early days of its rule, the Islamic State group subsidized food and gas prices through the wealth it accumulated from oil smuggling, extortion and ransom demands. They sold their smuggled oil at a discount – $25 to $60 a barrel for oil that normally cost $100 a barrel or more, according to analysts and government officials.

But in recent weeks, prices have soared in militant-held cities. Items like kerosene, used for heating and cooking, are in short supply, while others, such as alcohol and cigarettes, strictly banned by the group, are making a comeback at higher prices on the black market. Smoking is a punishable offense in militant-held Mosul. But at a warehouse on the outskirts of the city, cigarettes, as well as hard-to-come-by essentials like kerosene, can be found at hugely inflated prices on a black market run by the extremists. There, a pack of cigarettes sells for 30,000 dinars – the equivalent of $26 – more than double the pre-caliphate price, according to residents who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

‘Unsustainable Economy’
The militants “are developing an unsustainable economy,” said Paul Sullivan, an expert on Middle East economies at the National Defense University in Washington. “Eventually the costs of keeping the subsidies and price controls going will overpower their smuggling funds, which are also used for offensive and defensive actions. They can collect taxes, extort money, and so forth,” he said. “But that will likely not be enough in the long run to keep such an unbalanced economic system going.”

In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the extremists’ so-called capital, the breakdown of security along the border with Iraq in areas under Islamic State control has led to flourishing trade with Mosul. Trucks are also able to access the city from Turkey, allowing for a steady supply of fruit and vegetables, wheat and textiles. However, the cost of living has surged since US-led airstrikes began in September, and power and water cuts grew more frequent, residents said.

In addition, the strict social laws imposed by the group have been very bad for business, said Bari Abdelatif, an activist in the Islamic State-controlled town of al-Bab in Syria’s northern Aleppo province. But, he said, foreign fighters were bringing with them lots of hard currency, making up somewhat for the shortfall. Last month, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, decreed the minting of gold, silver and copper coins for the militants’ own currency the Islamic dinar – to “change the tyrannical monetary system” modelled on Western economies. But trade in most militant-held cities continues to be in Iraqi dinars and US dollars.

The start of winter has led to serious shortages of gasoline and kerosene. The official price for a liter of gas in government-controlled areas of Iraq is 450 dinars (40 cents) – but in Mosul, it sells for four times that. Two hundred-liter barrels of kerosene are now sold in Mosul for 250,000 dinars ($220), versus the official price of 30,000 dinars. In the western Iraqi city of Fallujah, under militant control for almost a year, residents have started cutting trees for firewood because kerosene is in such short supply. The city is surrounded by government troops and near-daily shelling often make parts of town too dangerous to visit.

Food and fuel prices have risen sharply as a result – a 50-kilo sack of rice costs 75,000 dinars ($65), up from 10,000 ($9) three months ago. A cylinder of cooking gas goes for 140,000 dinars ($115). That has put many staples out of reach for Abdul-Rahman and his family in Mosul, even with the additional money brought in by his sons, who left school to drive a taxi and work in a restaurant.

Decline in Business
A number of factors are driving the shortages and price hikes, according to residents in Mosul and Fallujah, the group’s biggest Iraqi strongholds. The militants have imposed a tax on vehicles entering their territory, leading to a decline in business. Deliveries are also subject to militant theft, and coalition airstrikes and military operations make many roads impassable. As a result, the trip from the Turkish border to Mosul took four hours prior to the militant takeover. Now, a delivery truck can spend as much as a week traveling the same road, and will pay a tax of as much as $300 for entry into Mosul, residents said.

According to Luay Al-Khateeb, director of the Iraqi Energy Institute and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, the population of the areas under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria is 6.5 million to 8 million people. “They need 150,000 barrels (of crude) a day just to meet local consumption,” he said. “And that is the bare minimum to meet the demands for transportation, bakeries, power generation. That doesn’t mean they have access to such supply,” he added.

Last month, the militants shut down cell phone service in Mosul, claiming that residents were tipping off US-led airstrikes to their whereabouts. Cell signals have not been restored, causing the city to come to a virtual standstill. Workshops, factories and markets are closed and bitterness is growing among business owners. “Most money-transfer operations are done by mobile calls,” said Osama Abdul-Aziz, the owner of a money-transfer office in Mosul. “We have the option of using the Internet, but this method is very slow and sometimes the Internet does not work at all, which causes big delays to our work.” At Mohammed Abdullah’s shop in Mosul, the pile of cell phone scratch cards is growing higher by the day. “Our business and means for living are in ruins now,” he said. – AP

 

December 14, 2014 Posted by | Civility, Community, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Shopping, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Texting Terms Teens Don’t Want Parents to Know

From AOL/Patch.com:

Earlier this fall, a Michigan prosecuting attorney began making the rounds of metro Detroit high schools letting kids know that increasingly normal behavior – sexting – could land them in jail for a long time.

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper stepped up her education efforts after nearly three dozen Rochester area teens faced felony charges after circulating nude photos on their cell phones.

Cooper backs reform of laws that require Michigan prosecutors to charge sexting teens under the same statutes intended to prosecute pedophiles.

But in the meantime, she wants kids to be aware of the serious legal consequences of activity that a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found is a “normal” part of adolescent sexual development.

And because they don’t want their parents to know what they’re up to as they click away on cell phone screens, they’ve developed their own shorthand to keep them in the dark.

A Denver television station tested – and stumped – several parents to determine if they could crack the codes their children use when they’re texting or sending online messages on their phones.

A detective with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office told Denver television station KMGH that parents may be missing some red flags “because they don’t know the lingo or the language.”

Here’s a list of commonly used terms:

8 – it means ate, can also refer to oral sex
9 – Parent watching
99 – Parent gone
1337 – Elite, leet or L337
143 – I love you
1174 – the meeting place, meet at
420 – Marijuana
459 – I love you
53X – Sex
ADR – Address
AEAP – As Early As Possible
ALAP – As Late As Possible
ASL – Age/Sex/Location
BROKEN – hung over from alcohol
CD9 – Code 9 (parents are around)
C-P – Sleepy
F2F – Face-to-Face
GNOC – Get Naked On Cam
GYPO – Get Your Pants Off
HAK – Hugs And Kisses
ILU – I Love You
IWSN – I Want Sex Now
KOTL – Kiss On The Lips
KFY or K4Y – Kiss For You
KPC – Keeping Parents Clueless
LMIRL – Let’s Meet In Real Life
MOOS – Member Of The Opposite Sex
MOSS – Member Of The Same Sex
MorF – Male or Female
MOS – Mom Over Shoulder
MPFB – My Personal F*** Buddy
NALOPKT – Not A Lot Of People Know That
NIFOC – Nude In Front Of The Computer
NMU – Not Much, You?
P911 – Parent Alert
PAL – Parents Are Listening -or- Peace And Love
PAW – Parents Are Watching
PIR – Parent In Room
POS – Parent Over Shoulder or Piece Of Sh**
pron – Porn
Q2C – Quick To Cum
RU/18 – Are You Over 18?
RUMORF – Are You Male OR Female?
RUH – Are You Horny?
S2R – Send To Receive
SorG – Straight or Gay
TDTM – Talk Dirty To Me
WUF – Where You From
WYCM – Will You Call Me?
WYRN – What’s Your Real Name?

December 13, 2014 Posted by | Communication, Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Parenting, Relationships, Values | , | Leave a comment

Middle East Map of Deadliest Infectious Diseases

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This is from AOL News/Upworthy, where you can view the deadliest infectious diseases in all parts of the world.

*A note from GlobalPost on how these maps are set up: The numbers in black boxes show how many thousands of people died from the dominant infectious disease in that country in 2012. Keep in mind that these are absolute numbers, so they’re not scaled to account for a country’s population. They also don’t convey the total number of deaths from all infectious diseases in each country, just the number of deaths from the deadliest disease. You’ll also notice that many countries in the maps are grayed out (like the USA). That indicates the deadliest infectious disease wasn’t among the ones monitored by the WHO.

December 13, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Middle East, Quality of Life Issues | | Leave a comment

When Will Ramadan Start in 2015?

You know I am a planner. When it comes to travel, it pays to know the dates well ahead of time. Vacation spots fill up, flights in and out of a country are fully booked. Ramadan comes earlier every year – it’s time to start thinking about your Ramadan travel plans yesterday!

The following is from “When Is?” a site with national and civil dates from all over the world.

Ramadan in 2015 will start on Thursday, the 18th of June and will continue for 30 days until Friday, the 17th of July.

Note that in the Muslim calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will celebrate Ramadan on the sunset of Wednesday, the 17th of June.

Although Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Ramadan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not.

The dates provided here are based on the dates adopted by the Fiqh Council of North America for the celebration of Ramadan. Note that these dates are based on astronomical calculations to affirm each date, and not on the actual sighting of the moon with the naked eyes. This approach is accepted by many, but is still being hotly debated.

December 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All Time Stats Keep Me Humble

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Wouldn’t I love to think that the most profound posts I write would garner the most attention and the most comments? But the truth is so humbling; the posts I write for fun, or in a hurry have long legs, or so WordPress tells me, and gather up statistics year after year.

I never know, when I write an article, what its future will be. It’s not unlike giving birth – you can input, but you have no control over who that child will be or where he/she will go.

God has the most wonderful sense of humor.

December 11, 2014 Posted by | Blogging, Humor, Statistics, Technical Issue, WordPress | Leave a comment

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