Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teddy Bears in the Sudan

Talk about a collision of cultures--today a court in the Sudan convicted Gillian Gibbons for letting her 2nd year class name their teddy bear Mohammed. If any foreigner in the Sudan had thought about how the Danish cartoons of the Prophet were taken, and if the Sudanese had thought about how precious teddy bears are to the Brits, this never would have happened. To misconstrue that this is some kind of pernicious plot to overthrow Islam is ludicrous. The Muslim Council of Britain was quoted as saying:
"(Gibbons) should never have been arrested in the first place, let alone convicted of any crime," Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Inayat Bunglawala said. "There was no crime, it was a wholly innocent and naive. ... The worst you could say about her actions is that she was inadvertently naive. She should not be put in prison for that."
Schlepp and all the critters of the Home Front Brigade want Gillian to know that we fully support her and find the recent actions of the court in Khartoum to only reinforce negative stereotypes.

My understanding from the press is that a disgruntled school employee made the charge and that students had been taking Mohammed home for the weekend since September without ill feeling. After all, it was the students who nominated and voted for the name.


Monday 3 December update. With the pardon of Gillian Gibbons by the President of Sudan, perhaps some calm will come to a land under seige. Now the correct focus of our attention (and that of the media) should be the situation in Darfur.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving in Ne w Mexico

Schlepp went north to visit the Horaks and Ramsays (Karl's brother's wife's family) for Thanksgiving. The forecast was for a good bit of snow and it did not disappoint. Here TS helps dig the Prius out. For scale, remember that he's just an 8" bear.

Luckily, the snowplows had stayed on top of things and the roads were slick in places with a bit of snow pack, but easily traveled if you used some bear sense.

By the time Schlepp had shoveled Dad's driveway, it was 10:00 and time to leave -- we wanted plenty of time to get back to Albuquerque because the road conditions in Santa Fe were an unknown quantity.

As it turned out, the roads were turning slushy by ten and only a few icy bridges greeted us in Santa Fe. The Interstate was somewhat wet but not at all snowy from Santa Fe south. So the Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 2007 turned out to be not so horrible and everyone's back home, safe and warm.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Home Again Home Again, Jiggitty Jig


This is the way Schlepp handles fatigue while on travel--main-lining Espresso straight from the machine. And fatigue is what we had coming back from Amman.

First there was an entire day of workshop, close-out meetings, workshop luncheon, and team dinner. Then there was an evening to pack, shower, and shave before heading to the airport at 11:00 PM.

Flight to Paris took off at 2:00 AM in an old 737 that was crowded, uncomfortable, and poorly ventilated. Arrived at CDG around 6:30. Here's Schlepp at Gate E-96 so early that none of the shops are open. We worked on the Schlepp Book for a good bit while Debbie slept on the floor. Got Chapter 3 finished as well as the Dramatis Personae at the front.

The trans-Atlantic leg was much more comfortable than Amman to Paris. Arrived in good shape in Atlanta. Had a moment for a light dinner, then home to ABQ before 9:30 PM. All in all, about 44 hours on the go. Whew!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Yet Another Banquet

Had another banquet, this time in Madaba, a town famous for magnificent mosaics. Here Schlepp views one of the pieces under construction. The mosaic in the background is over 4' across. Both of them show the "tree of life," a remarkable symbol that cuts across Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths. Many of these mosaics are crafted by the handicapped and the pieces are only 2 or 3 mm on a side.

Afterwards we ate outdoors in a Jordanian restaurant. There were a large fig tree, grape vines, and an olive tree covering the entire group. More mezza, more shish kebab, more good times. Schlepp made friends with the daughter of one of the participants, as you can see. He is such an international diplomat.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Banquet in Amman

Tonight we had a huge banquet at a Lebannese restaurant. True, there wasn't music and dance like last March, but the service was impeccable and the food limitless. To begin with there were course upon course of mezza (appetizers) laid out on the long tables. There was hardly any room beverages for all the little plates.

After eating our fill of a huge variety of treats, they came around with the main courses, lamb, beef, kebab, chicken. Of course, afterwards there was a yummy desert and deadly strong coffee with cardamon. In a pause between course, Karl took my picture with a variety of the guests and Hanada got me to sample my first "hubbly bubbly," a Middle Eastern water pipe. Finally, the evening was finished with a lovely glass of sweet tea with mint.

A great time was had by all and I did my part for international diplomacy. Tomorrow we have another day of talks and discussion by individual NGOs and then the technical part begins. Wednesday and Thursday the Plone training will take place over at the Royal Jordanian Scientific Society.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Travel Schlepp Visits the Dead Sea

The trip to Amman started off with a bad oman: a two-hour delay due to an oil leak in an engine. Got to Cincinnati with 5 minutes to spare. Luckily, the flight to France was at the gate exactly across the concourse from our arrival gate. Karl and I were the last ones on the plane.

Security lines in Paris were chaotic, but we managed them and our flight left CDG only an hour late.

Arrived in Jordan last night about 9:00. Thank goodness for the Mohammed, the meet-and-greet fellow. Asleep by midnight and in fact slept pretty well after the 23-hour long flight from Albuquerque.

Today five of us hired a car and driver for a trip to the Dead Sea, about an hour away. Its amazing how much elevation you loose going down so far below sea level.

Here I am sitting on a salt-covered boulder on the shore of the Dead Sea. In the distance you can see people floating in the water, where they can't sink because of the buoyancy. On the left is Jordan. In the distance on the right is Israel. The Palestinian West Bank is to my left (your right) outside the picture.