Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Great American Library

Today there is an article in the news about a small library in Vermont that actually sits on the border and is used by both Americans and Canadians. The US government is considering changing that, as they think the unguarded entry to the US is being used by bad people.

Maybe. I don’t know. Post 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security can say or do just about anything in the name of National Security, limit or modify our consititutional rights, behave in ways contrary to everything we believe in, and no one seems to be able to stop them.

And that is not the point. The point is that at one time in our history, an industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, donated money to build libraries throughout the United States, Canada and even Scotland, over 2,000 libraries in all.

In almost every town in America, you will find a library, where you can borrow, free of charge, books on any subject.

When I was a little girl, where I lived was so safe that my mother would put me on the bus with my basket family library books and send me to the library, call the librarian to tell her I was coming, and I could spend hours there, and no-one had to worry about my safety. My Dad would pick me up on his way home from work, and I would have a basket of fresh books – the librarian would pick out books for my Mom.

One day, the desk person was sick, and the librarian let me sit at the desk, checking books ou to library patrons. I must have been six or seven years old, and could barely get on the high chair behind the library desk.

Here is what was so cool. I could read at a very early age, and my nine or ten had worked my way through most of the children’s section, and started choosing books from the adult section. The first time, the librarian called my Mom and asked if it was OK, and my Mom said “if she thinks she can read it, check it out to her.” My library card was annotated to inform all the desk people that I could read whatever I wanted, even from the adult section. Woooo Hoooooooo!

My husband has similar stories, growing up in his home town. He loved the library as I did, and one day, rode his bike to the library and then fell asleep there, hidden from view. The librarian closed the library and he woke up alone and very scared. These were pre mobil phones – I know, I know, it’s hard to believe. His family came looking for him and found his bike, called the librarian, who lived nearby, and she let him out.

We still love libraries. It’s an amazing thing, to be able to walk into a treasury of books, pick up a couple hundred dollars worth, and walk out with just your signature as pledge. The newest books on every subject are available, either in the library itself or through their inter-library loan system. Now, too, most of the libraries have a computer section, where you can check your e-mail or do research online – totally free.

Libraries are staffed mainly by females, I don’t know why, it seems to be seen as a female job. But what power these women have! They are the guardians of so much knowledge! Children and adults come to them and ask all kinds of questions, and they know where to look for the answers!

Isn’t learning how to access knowledge one of the true great secrets in life? So these librarians, the guardians of knowledge, are like Superman, holding the front lines against ignorance, promoting access to new ideas and new ways of doing things, combating the forces of darkness and superstition.

Librarians were a powerful force in my life, and in my husband’s. Has there been a powerful figure in your life who made a difference in how you saw the world, in choices you have made?

May 27, 2007 Posted by | Alaska, Biography, Books, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual | 5 Comments

Creepy Leading Men

Eeeeeeewwwwww! I just half watched an Academy Award special on BBC. What caught my attention was interviews with Peter O’Toole and Clint Eastwood. Can’t remember a word they said – and both these guys did some amazing and memorable movies – but I watched in horrified fascination because they look so awful. Their faces have been lifted a time or two too often, and their faces don’t move when they talk. Clint Eastwood, in his 70’s, has no lines at all around his eyes, just this smooth white skin that makes him look like he has a mask on.

I remember seeing a movie with Michael Douglas a couple years ago, with some hot flash-in-the-pan, and he was wearing MAKE-UP. It was so bad you could SEE the make up.

It’s like Aerosmith performing in Dubai – isn’t he like 60 or 70 years old? Great that he has the energy, but isn’t it time to move on? Keith Richards looks like the portrait of Dorian Gray . . .

and then there is Robert Redford, who just let age happen, and looks natural and graceful.

Is it just me? I like the natural look on men. I think grey hair is handsome. I love those little crinkles around the eyes (on men, not on ME!! Yep, totally hypocritical.) Men with facelifts, men with bronzer, blusher, mascara and eyeliner give me the creeps.

May 26, 2007 Posted by | Cultural, Generational, Lies, Mating Behavior, Random Musings, Rants, Relationships, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Quintessentially Doha

While all the news is about the burgeoning crop of skyscrapers in Doha, these two landmarks are located close to one another, in the old downtown Doha area, when the Sheraton Hotel was way out there – kinda like the Ritz Carleton is now, with the growth of West Bay creeping the city out closer and closer.

The first is quintessential Doha – the crossed swords on Grand Hamad, which turns into Airport Road:

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The second photo is of the QCPI building – Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam – which we all watched with total amazement as it was being built – what imagination! It gives Doha a unique skyline. Even with the imaginative skyscrapers, a skyscraper skyline is just a skyscraper skyline – it all blends. But this building – WHOA! It is so bold, so retro and so forward at the same time – I love it.

This is a view looking across the newly renovated Iranian souks – the old Souk area in Doha:

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May 26, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Doha, ExPat Life, Lumix, Photos, Qatar, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Great Blonde Joke

A blonde, wanting to earn some extra money, decided to hire herself out as a “handy-woman” and started canvassing a nearby well-to-do neighborhood.

She went to the front door of the first house, and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do.

“Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch,” he said, “How much will you charge me?”

The blonde quickly responded, “How about $50?”

The man agreed and told her that the paint and everything she would need was in the garage.

The man’s wife, hearing the conversation, said to her husband, “Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?”

He responded, “That’s a bit cynical, isn’t it?”

The wife replied, “You’re right. I guess I’m starting to believe all those dumb blonde jokes we’ve been getting by e-mail lately.”

A short time later, the blonde came to the door to collect her money.

“You’re finished already?” the husband asked.

“Yes,” the blonde replied, “and I had paint left over, so I gave it two coats.”

Impressed, the man reached into his pocket for the $50.00 and handed it to her……

“And by the way,” the blonde added, “it’s not a Porch, it’s a Lexus.”

May 25, 2007 Posted by | Fiction, Humor, Joke, Words | 4 Comments

Who’s Checking Kuwait’s Toothpaste?

US checks toothpaste for toxins

Toothpaste is the latest Chinese export to raise safety concerns
Health officials in the United States say they are checking all shipments of toothpaste imported from China for contamination with toxic chemicals.

Panama and the Dominican Republic have reported finding diethylene glycol, a chemical used in engine coolants, in toothpaste from China.

The toothpaste scare is the latest involving products from China.

Earlier this year, contaminated pet food ingredients killed a number of cats and dogs in North America.

The toxic chemical, melamine, was found in wheat gluten exports from China for use in pet food, prompting a recall of at least 100 pet food brands.

The tainted wheat gluten was even thought to have made its way into livestock feed.

Low-cost substitute

Cough syrup containing containing diethylene glycol originating from China killed more than 50 people in Panama last year.

The New York Times said a Chinese chemical maker had sold the industrial-grade chemical as glycerine, which is often used as a moistener in products from toothpaste to soap and cosmetics.

CHINESE FOOD SCARES
May 2007 China probes reports that contaminated toothpaste was sent to Central America
March 2007 Melamine is found in wheat gluten exports from China for use in pet food, prompting a recall of at least 100 pet food brands
Nov 2006 A dye farmers fed to ducks to make their eggs look fresher is found to contain cancer-causing properties and 5,000 ducks are culled
August 2006 About 40 people in Beijing contract meningitis after eating partially cooked snails at a chain of restaurants

Diethylene glycol is sometimes used as a low-cost substitute for glycerine and Chinese toothpaste makers have said small amounts of the chemical are harmless in toothpaste.

“We are going to be sampling and testing all shipments of toothpaste that come from China,” said Doug Arbesfeld, a spokesman for the US Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA says China is the second-largest exporter of toothpaste to the US after Canada.

Food safety investigators in Panama said two brands of toothpaste were imported illegally from China through a free-trade zone.

Chinese officials say they are investigating the claims.

The Dominican Republic and Panama have pulled thousands of tubes of Chinese toothpaste brands Excel and Mr Cool from store shelves.

Beijing recently pledged to clean up its tainted food and drug industry after the series of safety scares. The subject was raised by the US in bilateral trade talks this week.

The former head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration is facing trial, accused of taking large bribes to approve untested medicines.

From today’s BBC News.

May 24, 2007 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, News, Social Issues, Technical Issue, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Qatar National Theatre

We went to a program at the very beautiful, very stylish and smartly appointed Qatar National Theatre:

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And, you know me, I love quirky things, so I loved the street that the Theatre is located on:

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Qatar did a really smart thing. There is a road paralleling the Gulf Road, so you can go faster. During the day, however, sometimes you have to stop and let the Emir’s cavalcade go by – I always thought of it as the Emir’s road, but in Qatar, mostly you make up names for the roads and everyone calls it by that name. Like Mannai Circle is where Mannai appliances USED TO BE, same with Volkswagon Circle. And there is no roundabout at the Ramada Roundabout, and when an expat and a local are trying to exchange directions, the results are hilarious!

May 24, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

“How’s That Working For You?”

I love watching language shift and segue like the waves at sea. One moment there will be a gust of adjectives (“cool” “hot!” “baaaadddd!” “fly”) and another there will be typhoon of localisms, like the Valley Gal phenomenon, and from time time time, apparently quiet times. If you are watching closely, however, you will see the waters twitch and a new word or phrase surface, create a few ripples, and then most of the time, fade away.

“How’s that working for you?” is a phrase that doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. Yes, it is a very neutral way of asking how a person is doing.

Underneath, however, it implies disbelief.

Language is so subtle. It’s one of the reasons I will never be fluent in French, or German, or Arabic – I can skim the surface, I can even dive beneath the surface, but there are depths that you have to be a native to plumb.

“How’s that working for you?” keeps the conversation going when an addict defends his addiction.

“How’s that working for you?” keeps the door open when your daughter defends an inappropriate relationship.

“How’s that working for you?” is the response to someone with big talk of big dreams who never gets organized enough to put the dreams into action, but wants credit, although nothing was accomplished.

“How’s that working for you?” is a compassionate response to someone who is lying to herself about an important issue and you don’t want to burst her balloon.

Most people ask the question when there are clear signs that it is NOT working. It returns the ball the the court of the person who needs to deal with the problem.

A person who is not willing to face the problem will respond “Great!” The appropriate response to “great” is “Glad to hear it!”

(“Glad to hear it!” used in this context means “I don’t believe a word of it.”)

If someone asks you “how’s that working for you?” they have sent you a signal that it’s time to re-examine what you’re doing.

May 23, 2007 Posted by | Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Language, Lies, Words | 4 Comments

Good Neighbors Blog

The Qatteri Cat knocked the lid off his cat-box at oh-dark-thirty this morning, but it was so beautiful out I decided to have a cup of coffee, get an early start and maybe take a snooze in the afternoon, when the heat kicks in and I drop out.

As I was visiting Little Diamond’s blog I noticed a blog in her blogroll that I wanted to check out. And WHOA! I’m glad I did.

The blog is Good Neighbors. It has fifteen authors – Lebanese, Palestinian and . . . Israeli. Maybe more, I don’t recognize all the flags. Totally amazing. These bloggers are educated, and highly literate. Even better, they have a noble goal. I urge to to visit them, especially if you are following the current situation in Lebanon.

Here is what they say about themselves on the About page:

The Good Neighbors Website
Building bridges for understanding and cross-cultural dialogue

This site is dedicated to increasing dialogue and understanding between Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Saudis, Iranians, Iraqis, Libians, Sudanese, and Syrians on a cross-country level, as well as to increase understanding, respect and dialogue among the various strata of society within our individual countries.

The aims of the website are numerous and include:

1) discovering and fostering shared common values, interests and beliefs
2) fostering greater understanding for those views and values that are not shared
3) bringing to light “local” issues and experiences (e.g., those specific to a particular segment(s) of a particular country)
4) engaging in constructive dialogue on conflictual issues
5) providing a window into one’s culture and into the daily life and concerns within one’s country
6) educating one another and the audience about the primary social, political, and historical issues in one’s country or one’s group within one’s country.

We all of us participating here are committed to being open-minded, tolerant and respectful of others’ views and opinions even when those opinions and beliefs run counter to our own. We are committed to trying to be part of the solutions to the many problematic issues in our region. We are committed to building a better future. And we are full of hope.

May 23, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Middle East, Political Issues, Social Issues, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trendy Fashion Colors

I love color – well, some colors. And I am very color-sensitive – no, I don’t want that violetty-purple, I want a more blue purple. It matters.

Colors signal emotion, colors express personality.

And there is a group, every year, who decides what THIS YEAR’s colors will be, did you know that? The color choices are documented by Pantone, a company who created a color card flip system so that colors, shades, tints, etc. could be standardized and reliably reproduced by those who need them to be accurately rendered, which is just about everybody in advertising, fashion, photography, etc.

But this is where it gets really cool. If you want to know what color everyone will be wearing this coming fall, or even next spring or summer, you can find it at fashion trendsetter.com. They have the fashion color forecasts from at least ten different sources, with names like apple cinnamon, bijou blue, vetiver and pale khaki coming up for fall 2007-8. You can see the full selection by clicking on fashion trendsetter and the assorted collections there.

May 22, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service | 4 Comments

Artichoke Treat

“Where did you find ARTICHOKES?” I asked the man, and I could see him wondering if he needed to back away from this wild-eyed woman who was staring at the big bag in his basket.

Well, they weren’t really very nice artichokes, kind of scrawny, kind of past-the-sell-date look to them, but . . . artichokes. I adore artichokes.

When my husband was invited to the family house for the first time, to have dinner, my mother served artichokes. My husband, to this day, thinks it was a test to see if he knew how to eat them. I just laugh . . . I don’t THINK it was a test. We ate artichokes all the time.

Here is how you fix artichokes:

With a sharp knife you cut off about an inch of the top, which will include a lot of leaves, and the long stem at the bottom. With kitchen scissors, you cut off the sharp points on the remaining leaves.

You fill a pot with water, put the artichokes in, bottom down, and pour a little bit of olive oil right into the center of all their leaves. Add a little salt to the water, bring it to a full boil and then turn down the heat and let them simmer for 45 – 60 minutes. The artichoke is done when you can reach in and pull a leaf off fairly easily.

(Some people say to cook them less, but I hate a tough artichoke).

You can serve the artichoke either as an hors d’oeuvre, where everyone grabs a leaf and dips into something (be sure to provide a bowl for the leaves) or as a first course, where everyone has his/her own artichoke. You can put a variety of dips in the center of the table (melted butter is classic, oil and vinegar dressing is great, and mayonnaise is also classic.)

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Eating the artichoke:

You pluck a leaf off the artichoke, holding the tip of the leaf in your hand, and dip it into something delicious, then scrape the “meat” off the base of the artichoke leaf with your teeth.

When the leaves start getting thin and insubstantial, you get a sharp little knife, take all the remaining leaves off, and LIGHTLY scrape off the “choke” at the center of the leaf. I emphasize LIGHTLY because the great bonus of the artichoke is the heart, which is underneath those chokes. Once the chokes and tiny leaves are gone, you can cut the heart into small pieces and dip each one . . . sheer bliss.

For me, an artichoke is an excuse to make up a batch of aioli. Start to finish, last night with the blender it took me ten minutes – and that was spending two or three minutes gathering the ingredients. Here you can find the instructions for making Mayonnaise, Aioli and Rouille using the best olive oil and knowing exactly what healthy ingredients are in it, no preservatives, and it keeps in the refrigerator. It also makes great gifts.

So yummy, so healthy and SO so easy!

May 22, 2007 Posted by | Cooking, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Lumix, Photos, Recipes, Shopping, Uncategorized | 3 Comments