Friday, June 21, 2013

It's a Dry Heat, Kinda Like Living in a Pizza Oven

This morning, when I got up, the temperature was 105°; before the day is over, it will top 120°.   Kuwait is a quarter of the way into what it refers to as the hottest 40 days of the year.  Last year, I described the way the heat felt when the breeze picked up as kissing a blow dryer that is set on permanent High. I think it could also be described as what it must feel like for a pizza taking a trip through the oven at a pizzeria. But it can't be that bad, after all it is a dry heat.
As for me, it is time for my eyes to see something other than sand colored everything. Later tonight, I will hop on a plane and head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany for a week of rest, relaxation, and hanging with family. I am so ready for a break and I am ready for some German hospitality which will of course include a certain beverage for which Germans are famous. I am counting the hours.
I will not be making an entry next week, but I will talk about the trip and share pictures when I get back. 
The whole time that I will be there, the high temperature in Bavaria will be about 80°. Oh yes.

Pix Of The Week

Parking is almost always an issue in Kuwait. However, parking on top of a police car is never a good idea.


I wonder where all the taxi drivers were while the cop booted every single one of them. I have seen pissed off taxi drivers over here get into physical altercations with each other. I cannot believe that they would've just sat by and watch their cars being booted.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Guilty Pleasure with a Razor's Edge

In 1981, I was passing through Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport on my way to my parent's house while on leave from Germany where I was serving with the US Air Force.  I was decked out in my best uniform and was ready to impress my parents -- the pride I felt was deep.  As I walked past a mirror, I noticed that I really needed a shave after my 14 hour flight.  So, I wandered into a barber shop and sought one out.  It was, without a doubt, the worst shaving experience of my life.
The barber was new or just unskilled. First she failed to leave the hot towel on long enough to soften my beard, then the razor was either dull or held at the wrong angle.  As a result I left with a spotty shave and blood pouring out of several cuts.  Years go by and I never did that again.
Guilty Pleasure lists have been around for a long time, but with better communication and social media people are sharing their own thoughts.  One of the things that is often on many of these lists for a man is a Traditional Wet Shave.  I have ignored this one due to past experience.  But, after being here for a while and seeing how it is done in Kuwait, I decided to try it at least one more time.  I am not sure they even do this in the United States anymore due to various blood borne diseases and I was concerned about that here as well.  Here they use a disposable straight razor which I have never seen before, so maybe they have adopted that in the US by now as well. 
I went to my high end hair cuttologist Bilal at Spaloon and told him to finish off the haircut with a Traditional Wet Shave.  This surprised him because he had been trying to get me to do this for a while but I always declined.  He smiled and nodded then set about cutting my hair.  After doing a terrific job at that, he brought over a steam machine and had me lay back in the chair while he adjusted the device's jets towards my face.  This machine   takes the place of a hot towel here, and actually was not unpleasant. A gentle warm fog of steam was pulsing on my face rather than an overheated asphyxiating towel.  The vapor had a pleasant scent to it, but I am not sure it had anything to do with shave preparation.

After a bit, Bilal returned and made a big deal of showing me he was unpackaging a new razor just for me.  I was concerned a bit about the fact it was disposable -- ever use a Bic shaver? -- but being adventurous I let it pass.  He then put some sort of gel on my face, not heated shaving cream, and then proceeded with the shave.  There were no pulls or scrapes or cuts.  None.  Bilal used the razor to skillfully shave straight lines around my mustache, sideburns and goatee.  And in less than 10 minutes it was done.  After a moment he spread a bracing astringent on the freshly shaved area and followed it with a warm damp washcloth to clean off the residue.  The finishing touch?  A local aftershave which I can only describe as having pleasant frankincense like scent with some added spices -- an Arabic scent.
I ran my hand over my face and could not find a missed spot.  The edges around facial hair had a very sharp, well groomed appearance and my skin had a nice glow.  This must be the Guilty Pleasure that I had read about.  It was an utterly enjoyable experience and at 4KD (about $15) it didn't break the bank.  I can see doing this again at some point.  A Traditional Wet Shave, at least at Spaloon, is indeed the epitome of the term Guilty Pleasure
NOTE:  I have received no compensation from Spaloon for the mention of their shop on this blog.  I do recommend both the shop and specifically Bilal for anyone needing such services.
Pix Of The Week

No animals were harmed in the skillful lifting of this Pix from 248AM

I think there is an untapped cottage industry opportunity in Kuwait for people who can translate Arabic to English for signs.  It is so needed.

Pretty sure will never have a need for Funky Pooping, but if I do I guess it is nice to know it is available


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pigs Fly, Taxes Are Abolished & I Defend Paradise Lost...Possible Signs of the End Times


I hate Paradise Lost. I dislike John Milton for writing it. I hated it when I read segments of the poem in high school, I hated it when I had to read the whole thing for English Literature class in college, and I hated it when I had to write a summary of stanzas for a creative writing class in graduate school.  I think that every copy of the book should be tracked down and locked in a vault somewhere to prevent anyone else from ever being tortured by it unless they purposely seek it out. 

I further think that any curriculum that calls for Paradise Lost to be read should be immediately called into question and rewritten as Paradise Lost is not a great work of epic poetry but is a great example of how words on the page can be used to torture people.  It is long-winded, is filled with archaic language which has no poetic lilt to it that might accidentally make it enjoyable, and lacks any attempt at trying to make the words on the page in any way pleasing to the reader.  Beowulf is a better example, of the form even though it is not English.  

That is earnestly how I feel deep down in my heart. But what happened recently in Kuwait upsets me and puts me at odds because of my deeply felt beliefs about Freedom of Speech and the danger of banning books.  Recently, a bookstore had the book confiscated and the shop closed because it had a copy of Paradise Lost  openly on display on the shelf. The owner of the bookstore tried to find out why it had been seized since apparently there are copies of Paradise Lost in the Kuwait University library available for unrestricted access.

Here's the complete story from the Kuwait Times:

‘Paradise Lost’ leads to bookshop closure  
KUWAIT: A bookshop in Salmiya was closed because it was selling John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost.’ The closure of the bookshop happened after an inspection from the Ministry of Information in mid-May. Two lady inspectors pretending to be customers walked into a bookshop in Salmiya and started asking about many books which, according to the owner of the bookstore, are banned in Kuwait. When the inspectors finally asked about “Paradise Lost”, the owner told them that it was available. “So, they asked me if they could have one. After having a look at the book in their hands, they announced that they were from the Ministry of Information and the book in their hands was actually included in the list of banned books in Kuwait,” the owner told this reporter. “I was surprised and shocked,” the owner of the bookstore said. “The inspectors asked me to show my license. 
They also asked whether they could get some 100 books randomly from my store. I requested them to reduce the number to 20. They agreed and gathered 20 books randomly from my store, including a copy of ‘Paradise Lost’,” the owner recalled. The following day, the owner went to the Ministry of Information to check the situation with regard to the confiscated books. “I was informed that I have to wait until they check the content of the books which were confiscated, including ‘Paradise Lost’. But I was shocked when they informed me that I have to close down my bookshop until the investigation is completed. I informed my lawyer about it and he advised me to abide by the verbal advice from the Ministry of Information and close down temporarily,” she disclosed. According to the owner, there are copies of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” at the library of Kuwait University. “How come that book, ‘Paradise Lost’, is available in the state university and we can’t sell it. 
I took pictures of the books to show that they are available in their own library,” she lamented. Further, she mentioned about an incident, told to her by her lawyer: A Kuwaiti woman was banned from travelling outside her country because she had ordered a banned book (from Amazon) from outside of Kuwait, despite the fact that she was unaware of the book being banned. “Some airport personnel called her one day to inform her about her package. When she went to collect it, she was told by the airport personnel that the book she had ordered was banned in Kuwait. 
She was slapped with a travel ban. She is a Kuwaiti. She managed to travel outside eventually, but she faced a court case for ordering a banned book,” explained the bookshop owner. “I was frightened with this story, which the lawyer shared with me. But I am an expat, and maybe they are going to do the same. I hope it would not affect my status,” she noted. She pointed out that there was no freedom of expression in Kuwait, as bookshop owners and even customers were slapped with cases for wishing to read literature. “You have your package in the airport opened. The package was not only opened, but also confiscated. They were able to successfully file a case against her and she was banned from travelling,” the owner said. “We are not talking anything that can be deemed offensive against anyone; we are talking about literature from ‘Paradise Lost’. 
Besides, if we were informed about it, we would probably not sell it. The problem is we weren’t informed. The idea of banning any book is very offensive to me or to any book-loving person,” she concluded.

One of the greatest rights protected by the US Constitution is that of Free Speech.  That protection covers all forms of expression:  spoken, written, and visual.  Over the course of my life, I have heard a lot I disagreed with – but that is exactly why it is protected, to prevent suppression of unpopular ideas.  Which is why political correctness should be feared because its result is censorship of expression and thought. 

I think all the peoples of the world should consider the example of basic protections found in the Bill of Rights and emulate them.  It is a great starting point for the universal freedom of man.  Then if someone is feeling mentally masochistic, they can get a copy of Paradise Lost  from the locked vault I suggest, and find out how Adam and Eve screwed up when they let Satan hang around.

Pix of the Week

This is Omar Borkan Al Gala.  A few months back it was publicized that he was forbidden entry into Saudi Arabia because he was "too handsome".  Over time it was revealed that the deportation never really happened and was probably just a publicity stunt to further his career.  Nice to know the Middle East has its own Milli Vanilli.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Another Day, Then Another...

As I lay in bed this morning, drifting in and out of sleep between snooze bar pushes, it occurred to me that I had passed yet another date expected return from overseas (DEROS) without returning anywhere.  In simple terms, today I start my latest extension. If I had not extended, instead of lying here in bed in Kuwait, I could be lying in a bed in the US with the possibility of a Waffle House breakfast just outside the door.

It is unlike when I was on Guam and Graham-Rudman extended my tour there for an additional month without warning, asking, or even saying thank you afterwards. The feeling is a bit different, because I voluntarily did this. In some ways the whole G-R thing was similar to sequestration event because it was being done due to the government running out of money.

Anyway, after hitting the snooze bar for the third time, Falkor jumped up on the bed, pawed at my hand, and then offered his head to be scratched behind the ears. The dog knows what he likes and how to get it. While lying there thinking about the day ahead it occurred to me that I have no cereal in the house since my son ate it all during his recent visit. It was nice to have them stop by and I’m glad he is back in the United States safe and sound from Afghanistan.

After slapping the alarm clock one last time, I got up and turned on the coffee pot. I then went into the living room, put on my shoes, and headed out the front door to take Falkor for his morning walk. The weather here has been getting hotter, with days usually topping off at about 115° but the mornings still relatively cool. After a few more weeks of hot weather and as the days getting longer, it will be over 100° in the morning when I take the dog out.
Falkor’s patrol of the neighborhood was successful, as two cats who were blatantly napping under parked cars proceeded to relocate after he barked at them a few times.  He gets such a sense of self satisfaction in victory when they finally take off after he barks of them.  After all, it is his job to keep the cats in line -- just ask him.
Once back at the house, I jump into the shower, get dressed, and then retrieve my cup of coffee before taking a seat in the living room to watch the news in case something urgent happened in the world overnight. Oklahoma seems to be getting another pounding by Mother Nature, during the years I resided there, we were threatened by many tornadoes but I can only recall actually seeing one. I hope that everyone there is okay.
After making sure that Falkor has water and food for the day, I jump into my vehicle and had for the base. The traffic is light but steady. I don’t encounter any lunatics who are trying to pass emergency lanes or force their way across lanes without signaling or even bothering to look to see if anyone else is there. After driving past the refinery, a small village, and a span of desert I arrive at Camp Arifjan.
Many of the folks working the gates have been there for three or four years and since I have been here for over a year myself many of them know me by name. It is somewhat comforting but at the same time reinforces the fact that today, I start another extension and I start counting down to another departure date…173 days away.
Pix of the Week
This came up when I was searching for "Time" pictures. Anyone else remember it?