Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Following some suggestion of getting the voice a bit louder, I called today the ministry of foreign affairs to complain about the “queue jumpers” and the problem of getting the stamps in one place and the certification in another. So I was put through with the vice counselor affairs manager.
In my conversation with him he mentioned two points:
1- That they are being strict about the معقبين or “queue jumpers”, and that there is police and criminal security أمن جنائي outside the ministry to suppress this phenomenon. I have to admit that this phenomenon is way less than before, but still exist.
2- As per the stamp thing, and this is something very strange, he said that the stamp money goes to the ministry of finance وزارة المالية. So the two processes are separate and will remain separate until judgment day.
So in summary, raising a voice will only guide us to the excuses available for our inconveniences. Meanwhile we can still dream of a better situation in our blogs.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Last weekend I was invited to attend a conference in Bosra, a two days one night event, that has to do with oncology. The conference was sponsored by a drug company, and as usual there was an educational part and an entertainment counterpart.
The road to Bosra takes about 75 minutes or so. There is one hotel there, Bosra Al Cham, which I think only worked on the day we arrived. Otherwise it is a ghost hotel. I can’t say it is fancy but there were a couple of touches that reflected the local culture. First there is the black stones used in the building, I just wish it was all black; it would have fitted well with the rest of the ruins. Second, inside the hotel there is a place made as a bedwin sitting place with an old coffee grinder (مهباج), and a coffee grill (منقل). And thirdly, few colored straw plates decorating a wall.
The rooms had two beds, each less than a twin size. The TV was not as big, 13” at most. At least the rooms where clean, and who needs the luxury here anyway. No one would spend more than a day here for tourism purposes.
There were 3 quick lectures in the evening, then dinner. There was a performer too, but no one danced. I think he was happy with our table because we kept cheering and applauding. And I think he was happy because it is business for him, probably the only in a long time.
Next day we where taken in a sightseeing tour. Bosra, for those who don’t know it, has one of the biggest and most complete, if not the only, Roman amphitheater. I have visited Bosra many times before, but not a single time we bothered visiting anything but the theatre. In fact, I never knew anything else existed. But to my surprise there was a whole city beyond the theatre, ruins of all ages from B.C. to nowadays (nowadays sightseeing includes trash, writings on walls, and people living in ancient ruin houses). There are mosques, churches, pillars, houses (some occupied by people), shops, and of course baths. I am including some pictures.
The theatre is amazing, I don’t know how many it fits, but there is a festival in Bosra every year, and concerts every now and then (I believe the hotel also works then). Before the French discover the theatre, it turned out that it was covered in whole and made into a castle by the Arabs upon the فتوحات اسلامية (damn Arabs can’t keep anything neat or leave it alone).
It is sad to see that such an important place is not well cared for, that no signs tell you what building is what, and that people live in places that should be under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Paper Certification

I think one of the most humiliating experiences here is trying to certify some papers from the Ministry of Exterior Affairs وزارة الخارجية. Not infrequently some of us still has to do what is called "Under supervision forms" for the sake of postponing military service while studying abroad.
The thing looks as follows: you have a certain piece of paper that says whatever, and I mean by whatever is that no one in the emabssy really reads what the "study certificate" says. Being employed is not equivalent to studying, nevertheless embassies signature and seal can be attached on anything no matter how bogus it is. This, is for the good luck of applicants of course. Anyway, next you have to put stamps on the paper: stand in line for 15 minutes
Then, certify the paper: stand in line for 20 minutes, at least
Then, make copies of the paper: stand in line for another 5-20 minutes (it depends)
Then, recertify the copies: stand in line for another 20 minutes.
If you are a girl, that gives you automatic bypass to be in front. Waiting on all lines shrinks to 2-3 minutes.
This is a hopeful estimate, the other day I went to do the papers. The first day I did the stamp. I tried to stand in line, but there were so many people lines vanished into a crowd. I gave it a try but got stuck between those going in, and coming out. I had to make my way out jumping off the fence.
Needless to mention that the place is not spacious. All are bound to some kind of body rubbing from others. One has to put up with smells of sweat, uncleanness, or other things. And you'll have to keep your hand on your ass just to make sure no one is pickpocketing you.

Now if I write my suggestins here, someone will say: save your time, you're just pissing against the wind, no one will get wet but you. So I'll leave the solutions to your imagination.

Recently Read

The Perfume, by Patrick Suskind: a tale of an odorless guy who has a nose that can distinguish every smell in the world. His life is centered around things that smell (identities I think), but he alone has none. And as he grows up, to become one of the best perfume makers in France, incognito of course, he started to murder young virgin pretty females who have beautiful body scent. He wanted to make the absolute perfume which he did eventually. He finally get murdered and eaten by some people whom the scent he made drove them crazy. Maybe the novel symbolizes the search for identity, but I don’t know.
I am a very bad book critic, but I didn’t like it as much, despite the great publicity surrounding it. I spent in fact seven months looking for it because it was out of print. I know it is playing in movie theatres now. I don’t know why it got so much hype.

Boys of our Neighborhood أولاد حارتنا, by Najeeb Mahfouz: the famous Mahfouz novel that was banned in Egypt and now allowed. It is an interesting story, and it is not a mystery why it would be banned then. The boys of the neighborhood have tales that are told by someone who is documenting the “myth” of their neighborhood. In fact the boys represent Adam, Moses, Jesus, Mohamed, and the last is a modern or an atheist fellow. It shows how religions, though created or arose for a good cause, there is always a regression to what things has been in the previous era. Naturally the people are always fucked up, and those who represent the religious and political posts dominate in unfairness and unjustness. I liked the dialogue very much, and the way the stories were made to mirror the lives of those of yore.
The conclusion is that, فالج لا تعالج and as one of my friends used to say: عوجــــــــــــــــا

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Tip for Valentine

Celebrating the occasion of Valentine, here is today's pearl..
If your girlfriend asks: “How deep is your love?”
The wrong answer is: “Cervix.”


Again, the world turned red, as if enough blood is not spilled everyday. At least this is harmless. This year for Valentine we spent the night in the Carlton Hotel. Not my first choice given the noise (which I am sensitive too), but we had a good time. The singer Hamzeh had a hoarse voice, he tried to sing but he neighed instead. So the D.J. took charge.
As a bonus, it seems, we had the luck of having a belly dancing item. The belly dancer arrived, a young girl in her twenties. I am not sure whether I can call her a belly dancer, maybe a belly - I could see that - but no a dancer. I am pretty sure I have a better ass shaking skills. The only thing I could think of as I look at her… is a fresh jelly plate coming out of a refrigerator wobbling all over. In fact this is what happens when a DD size is fitted into a C cup. And with all the artless jumping around, you’re bound to see some areola every now and then. Bottom line... a walking disaster, artwise.
And oh… for the first time probably, I select a good Valentine (or any other occasion) present. I am usually bad in that.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Passport

My old one was about to expire, so I thought it is time to have a new one that is valid for more than two years (now that I don’t have to do military service). I asked about what papers would I need from relatives (because there is no other trusted source available), and they all said get a proof of residency سند إقامة.
Although I was offered to have an intelligence agent go with me to make things go “smooth”, but being stubborn and adventurous I figured I’d do it by myself. So the first visit to the IPD (Immigration and Passport Department) they asked for some papers (the usual military permission) and made me file a telegram to my home state.
After few days, I returned to continue the process. The officer asked me for some more papers which I had, and some that I hadn’t (which of course no one bothered to ask the first time) including my foreign passport and a ترقين قيد from the ministry of higher education (I still don’t know what that word means), because I am not under their supervision anymore (as if they ever did). The second one was a piece of cake, but to go back home and get the passport was a real waste of time, knowing Damascus traffic jam. The officer was not convinced I don’t need the other passport, so I went home. Needless to mention, no one asked for the proof of residency.
The Third time I went, and had all the papers, including the foreign passport which no one bothered to ask for it. This time a different officer was in charge of my papers, and after the usual hopping inside the department to get a form from one place, a stamp from another, filing it in another, and stamping it from another one, I was able to file the papers.
The keyword is, I believe, “doctor”.
Oh, you’re a doctor! What kind? Can you check these results for me?? I have a headache, is it serious? My eye is blinking for a couple of weeks, am afraid I have a stroke. And so on. I offered no less than three on site medical consultations, each delaying my process for no less than 5-10 minutes.
I also had to fingerprint my written vows, as if my mere presence and the officer witnessing it was not enough.
Finally, next day actually, I got the new passport, mistake free.

It is such a waste of time the way everything goes. Would it harm them if instead of 20 officers doing different trivial things, they allow the same 20 to do the job from A to Z??? Thus saving time and hassle. How about an answering service which you call with your old passport info, they would ask few standard questions and then let you know what you need. And most importantly, change its location to a more civilized area where people can breath. What about placing a photocopy machine inside the utility so people wouldn’t have to go back and forth to make copies of things that are not thought of? And, in this department, they can really improve work (as they did in national banks) through bonuses and salary raise. Few more Syrian pounds per passport, or service dedicated to salary improvement will not harm anyone (those are people who are going to travel and have higher expenditures anyway), so instead of getting a stamp here and a stamp there, get a fixed fee (including possible copies); mine didn’t cost more than 1700 SP, and I didn’t bribe anyone. And with some effort they can computerize the telegram thing so it would be instant.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How Do you know you are growing old???

1- You have too many memories
2- You forgot most of them
3- People start calling you عمو
4- You start saying: "in my days..."
5- Hair grows on your... ears
6- When you look in the mirror, you see someone else
Here are some suggestions by others
By Fadi:
7. you compensate by poking fun at others for being young
8. you don't play fun games like 7ole Mole!
By Gray-fox:
9- you stop eating lolipops, and find something to divert you of them :P
10 - you get to be in shape, which will be a rounded shape :P
By Maher:
11-when you have more than 30 candles on your birthday cake
12- when someone calls you BABA.
13- when someone pees one you and you think it is cute..
By Me again (Beesso):
14- When you look down, you don't see your genitals
15- When you look down, you don't see your toes (getting older)

And I welcome any other suggestions.


I am tagged by the gray fox from his throne. And I guess it includes talking about me, myself, I, moi, and أنا.
So here is a short version of 5 things about myself. I may attempt a longer one later, as I don't like to speak about myself (except in this blog, which has been running for 18 months).
1- I am stubborn
2- I like sushi
3- I think I am smart
4- I tend to forget
5- I tend to forget



In the past week or so, I felt like playing PC games. So I went to a store, and needless to say all games here are pirated, and I bought a game.
Upon installation there was a certain faulted file that couldn't be extracted.
A bit afterward I got another game from another store, and this one downloaded nicely. But apparently my video adapter or monitor display was not compatible, so I couldn't play it.
So I went to the store and swapped the game for another. This one downloaded completely and installed. Upon playing the Installation CD is required. The machine couldn't identify the same CD that the game was installed from.
Afterwards I swapped the first game from the first store. and when installation was complete. There were no characters, no animations, just background.
I decided to play it smart and try it on my laptop.... Ta da, it worked, but there is very little a 5.5 year old laptop with 128 mb of RAM can do.
So I figured it is my destiny no to play PC games.
Instead you guys should try Soukoban if you like brain teasers. You'll thank me, I'm sure.

Lecture Update

Overall, my lecture on Sunday went very well. A 45 minute display of how to find targeted medical information on the web with live online display.
I spotted only three who where sleeping, that is a plus. There were a good number of attendings and residents. No post lecture discussion unfortunately, but what pleased me is that many came asking for some of the material I presented or the lecture itself.
This is the six time I speak in front of a public since I came, and I seem to like more as time passes. It's good to feel authoritative (being a lecturer is a source of authority over those who are listening, and probably don't know half as much as you do in a certain subject).

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Upcoming Events

I will be lecturing on "Finding Medical Information" in Tishreen Hospital on Sunday. This is an internal lecture, so not for the public I believe. I think it will go well.