Thursday, December 30, 2010


We headed out West to celebrate Christmas with my wife's family, and as this was my first official Christmas with them there was much concern that I did not have a proper stocking.

My sister-in-law surprised me by knitting this awesome robot stocking which was overflowing on Christmas morning with all kinds of gourmet treats.

I like this tradition.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Today I saw a woman riding a bicycle while wearing a knee length fur coat. I guess I'm glad to see that in these tough economic times, people are prioritizing what's really important in their lives.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Yesterday at the same eye doctor my eye tech was a Sudanese woman who grew up in Lebanon but now has dual Canadian-American citizenship. Her father teaches at a university in Saudi Arabia and after she finishes medical school in the US she is considering returning to the middle east to provide eye care for under-served communities.

Also, my eyesight it better.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boats, floating.

All week long the highs are in the 30's and now they're predicting flurries; yet here are two guys on their way to the Potomac for some afternoon whitewater fun.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sun Up

Jingoism?  No, not here.  Just a lovely view outside my window early one morning before work.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Locked Up.

A very cold walk along the C&O canal last weekend, we got to see some of the old locks used to transport barges and boats upriver.

It was cold, but the weather was clear and I really liked seeing how much work went into building a transportation system that is now just a relic.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Yesterday I watched a 10 minute animated music video about Dutch defense policy and the implications future world events may have on Dutch defense budgets and priorities. It was definitely a weird Spanish history class.

Also, I am happy that the Dutch film industry is heavily subsidized -good for all of those filmmakers in the Netherlands- but why make them create hip infotainment with a foreboding soundtrack about the possibility of future international conflicts?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Fun.

I wish my school had a giant green dinosaur on its roof. Instead, we just have a big metal statue of Ben Franklin sitting outside.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


In Spanish class today one of the other students was talking about driving in an armored car.  The phrase an armored car literally translates as un coche blindado, but I was really excited when I thought he said un coche blinged-auto.

I soon learned the error of my ways and was deeply disappointed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Listened to a 3 hour lecture on the socio-cultural changes in northern Europe since WWII.  All I really took away from the talk was the fact that the speaker has a nephew in Denmark who is a well known Danish rapper.  Sadly, I did not catch his nephew's name.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Opportunities and Challenges,

At the eye doctor earlier this week the eye tech introduced himself as Michael. He was a young guy and seemed a little bit out of his element. He didn't quite know how to work some of the equipment and seemed really nervous.

I asked him how he was doing and he explained that he was a student at Georgetown Medical and working at the office as part of an internship.

His English was pretty heavily accented and he told me that he was from Eritrea and came to the US two years ago when his wife won a diversity visa. (More info here: This is a big deal. To give you an idea of how hard it is to win the DV lottery, in 2010 only 799 people from the entire country of Eritrea won visas for the US from this program. There are almost 5 million people in Eritrea.)

He was surprised and a bit excited when I told him that I not only knew where Eritrea was, but that a few of my friends from Saudi Arabia were Eritrean (and good soccer players too).

Michael smiled at that and then told me about how life was really difficult in the US, much more than he had ever imagined. "I work all the time, or I have to study all the time. I live in a small apartment with my wife and her sister and their parents. I know there is a lot of opportunity in this country, but I never realized how hard you have to work to get it."

After finishing a few more measurements of my eyes, Michael scribbled in my chart and stood up to find the doctor.  We shook hands and I offered him some trite advice about hard work paying off over time. "Thank you," he said, "but I'm just so tired now."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Peek and Pounce.

I do like living with the cat very much. He's pretty cute and often fun to watch chase around the laser pointer or even just a piece of ribbon. Sometimes while I'm at my computer he'll sit in the chair across from me at the table and just kind peek over every now and then.

But it doesn't take much to for him to go from peek over the table to random attack. I guess you can put the cat in the apartment, but you can't put the apartment in the cat. Nope, that makes no sense at all. Nevermind.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hand in Glove.

Didn't think I'd be so excited about a pair of children's Star Wars Lego gloves from Target; although to be fair I probably should have guessed I would be.

Seems a bit strange that only a few months ago I was figuring out ways to run in the 115+ degree heat, and now I'm buying gloves to run in the cold. I guess that whole tilted-axis-of-the-earth-causes-seasons thing is real.

Oh, and yeah I know you're asking the same question I am: What makes them Star Wars gloves? Shouldn't they be black with a white plate over the back of the hand like the Storm Troopers wear?

No idea. I just liked the blocks.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Game.

On the 92 bus towards U street:

Yeah, I'm on my way to see my son.  We're gonna watch the Redskins game tomorrow.  Hell, I've been watching them play every Sunday since I was a little man.  I moved to DC in 1982 when I was five years old, and watched them play the very weekend we moved in.  My dad and I use to sit around and watch every Sunday. 

I played football when I was a young man too.  Didn't get to go as far with it as I'd have liked.  Nope, the street life got to me and I had to leave school.  I think I could have gone farther if not for that.

Now I'm just working hard, all that is behind me; just looking forward to seeing my son -- and my grandson too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


After our hike we headed into Thurmont, MD (Pop. 5,588) and had a late lunch at the Kountry Kitchen. I had a crab-cake sandwich and Lydia had a crab salad sandwich. They both came on a pretzel roll, which is exactly what it sounds like and totally delicious.

On the way out to the car we notice that all of the parking meters in Thurmont had been decorated with spooky figures for Halloween. These two were especially disturbing.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Hiking this weekend in the Catoctin Mountain Park, home to Camp David (formerly Shangri-La). The weather was absolutely perfect and aside from the continuous roar of motorcycles on the mountain roads nearby, it was a beautiful place to spend the day wandering around.

The leaves are just starting to turn green to yellow, but as you can see here it was mostly yellow.

But also red.

And a few that weren't quite sure which color they were.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fashion Forward.

Lydia and Mike and I saw Jamie Lidell and his band perform at the 9:30 club earlier this week. It was a really fun show and Jamie's backing band was fantastic. (Including the creepy but talented keyboardist, Mr. Jimmy.)

The big question of the night was, what is Jamie wearing? Was it a cape? A euro-serape? Some kind of haute couture Snuggy?

Here's a slightly blurry camera phone shot of Jamie Lidell wearing what he described as a "striped, fur-lined poncho." And of course, now I really want a poncho of my own.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


A large middle-aged woman walking out of my neighborhood Safeway: "This a cheesy motherfucking Safeway!"

And as this is my local Safeway, I kind of took her criticism personally.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It was a Different Time.

The capsule description for Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 film, The Holy Mountain:

A grotesque tale rich in allegory and sacrilegious imagery as a thief is first crucified then enlisted by an alchemist to join a group of elites who seek divinity and immortality. 

A different review sums up the movie in one sentence: A surreal 1970's mind trip.

To which I can add little other than it was a totally entertaining movie in the sense that I was never sure what was going to happen.

I held something of a running dialogue with myself during the movie, which Lydia did not seem entirely pleased with.

Me: Oh, that lady's got a monkey! Now Jesus is carrying a sculpture of himself. Look, they're in the eyeball room. That man has goats. The lizards are wearing hats!

Lydia: Do you even hear what you're saying?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Time Flies

In just 48 hours:

From the Magic Kingdom to the Big Apple.

From 118 and clear to 78 and raining.

From Shwarmer to Gray's Papaya.

From Niqabs to hot-pants.

From Starbucks to Starbucks. (Although, at least in the Starbucks in the States I can order a Chai Latter and drink it in the company of women.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm Out.

The Riyadh to Kuwait flight was 100% full and populated by about 80% Indonesian housemaids (presumably transferring to a Jakarta flight in Kuwait). Only one of the women had a black eye.

As the plane lumbered down the runway and finally lifted into the air, a group of the women let a cheer. I'm guessing I had a much better year than any of them, but I still cheered a little bit with the group.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Just Wondering.

On the phone:

Army Colonel: Adam, I've been looking for you. Can you come down to my office I want to give you something.

Me: Is it a hug?

Army Colonel: Um, no.

Me: Oh, okay. I'll be right there sir.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Buy Dairy! (VII)

And today we will end this series with my favorite flavor of milk (vanilla) and my favorite animated spokesman (Maher the Adventurer). His thobe is looking much more normal here and he appears to really be enjoying floating through the air, propelled only be the sheer magnetic power of a small box of flavored milk drink.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Buy Dairy! (VI)

Alright, now we've ditched the rocket powered rollerblades and we're riding a jetski on a lake of strawberry flavored milk. That probably makes way more sense, right?  Also, we have some kind of a bulky cellphone/radio in a holster on our belt.  Just because.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Buy Dairy! (V)

Right , right, I know this is not dairy. But I wanted to show that box drinks with animated characters were not limited to milk products only.

I don't know this guy's name (perhaps we should just call him Caesar Jr.) but I do really appreciate that he has a bird resting on his head. Nothing relaxes me more than just kicking back against a pile of mangoes with a bird on my head and stretching out.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Buy Dairy! (IV)

And finally we have Power Cow's friend anthropomorphic chocolate piece doing some kind of jig in front of a pasture of cows under a rainbow. Calming really.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Buy Dairy! (III)

Okay, sure, I get it. Milk comes from cows and therefore obviously kick-ass, awesome milk comes from Power Cow. Makes sense to me.

I don't quite follow why Power Cow wears both a cape and a backwards baseball cap, but I don't want to appear insolent in front of Power Cow lest he command his army of anthropomorphic chocolate pieces to attack me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Buy Dairy! (II)

Rollerblades!? Rocket-packs!? Rollerblades with rocket-packs attached!?

The only thing better than that would be if someone chemically sweetened my box of milk with vanilla flavoring and then dumped a ton of sugar in.

Part of a complete breakfast. A complete breakfast that will give you diabetes.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buy Dairy! (I)

Yes! Just what you've been waiting for, more animated dairy product spokespeople/things!

First up: Maher the Adventurer. If you think Maher seems a bit too much like an Arab version of Dora the Explorer, then I ask you this: Where is Maher's pink backpack? And while we're asking questions: What's up with Maher's thobe somehow truncating into a pair of pantaloons? And why does his ghutra look kinda like a mid 19th century imperial British pith helmet.

I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I do know that I like chocolate milk. Thumbs up Maher!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just Two More.

A couple more good finds from my desert visit a few weeks ago.

I found this one just outside what was probably a fox's den. It's hard to tell from the rust if this thing was outside for a few months or a few decades, but the trap was still primed and ready to snap shut. I dropped a rock onto the main plate and the jaws snapped closed before the stone could even bounce away.

This guy was unrelated to the fox trap, but likely got separated from his herd and died. The combination of extreme heat and sandstorms tend to do a pretty nice job of stripping these skeletons bare in a short period of time.

Friday, August 27, 2010


It's been almost a year and I'm still amazed by just how much of this country is endless stretches of empty sand.

Well, maybe empty isn't the right word. Just hidden. I'm guessing lizard tracks?

Yep, I'm still a sucker for pictures of dried mud.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

From Beyond.

As you very likely know, Saudi Arabia sits atop massive oil reserves. There is also a fair amount of seismic activity in the region, and as you might imagine extreme heats are not uncommon.

Any of these could be great explanations for rocks that look like this, but I prefer to simply assume that it comes from space.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Rumors are True.

I'm borrowing a friend's car while he's away, a large four wheel drive SUV, and I took it to the gas station last night. The car was completely empty and I filled the main tank, and a sub-tank, for a total of over 30 gallons of 91 octane gasoline. My final bill:


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Desert Ecosystems.

Life in the desert is a delicate balance, teetering on the edge of blah blah blah. Here are some pictures of plants I saw on a recent desert trip.

It rained about a week earlier, so most of these plants had taken advantage of the unseasonable hydration and tried to grow.

Some where more successful than others.

I especially liked how these little ones sprouted seeds (kinda hard to see, but they're there), and then grew these intertwined wooden limbs around the seeded center to protect them.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Everything is Fine.

It was well over 100 by the time I went for a run today (I know, I'm very smart) and while out on the trail and thoroughly enjoying Dan Black's re-imagination of Busta Rhymes' music I noticed a police jeep parked in the shade with the hood up. I stopped to see if everything was alright.

Me: Kol shee tamaam? (Everything okay?)

Policeman: laughing Aywa, tamaam. (Yeah, fine.) he gestured to a book he was holding Kitehbee. (My book.)

This was clearly one of the smarter cops around here. Pretending to have a broken jeep as cover to sit in the shade and read a book; I'll have to remember that one.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Seeing, Believing, etc.

There is a story (perhaps apocryphal) that up until the early 80's the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Baz, insisted that the earth was flat. According to the story, he only changed his mind after Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first (and only) astronaut prince flew on a NASA mission in 1985. Upon the prince's return, he told the Grand Mufti that he had seen the earth from space, and it was in fact quite round. Well, confronted with a firsthand account from a member of the House of Saud, what could Bin Baz do but change his ruling.

Now, when geologists and historians tell me that most of the Arabian Peninsula was once underwater, I do believe them. But let's just say that after finding seashells and sharks teeth scattered about in the middle of the desert, I now believe them even more than before. Sometimes you just really want to see, and hold, the physical proof for something to really seem true.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You Never Know.

On today's episode of 'Extravagant Junk Found Outside a Palace' we have: A full size skee-ball machine.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Heston was Right.

And did I mention there were monkeys? Right, there were monkeys. Baboons actually. And aside from being very cool to watch scramble around on the cliffs and walk like gymnasts on the road-side barriers, the troop of baboons that crept up to the place we were trying to take a nap and bared their teeth at us were really frightening. Lest we forget, those damn dirty apes are filthy, vicious animals that could easily take a healthy bite out of your arm, or simply just steal your lunch.

Either way, once the troop made it very clear that they were not going to leave us alone, we climbed back into the car in search of safer, non-primate infested places to nap.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Off-Season.

We made our way out of town and into the nearby mountain range, home to the Abha Intercontinental. (It was closed for Ramadan, but looked lovely. No worry for us, we planned on camping anyway.) Just across the parking lot from the Intercon was the Abha Hang-Gliding association area -also closed for the season. The site consisted of a 100 meter long tarmac that went to the edge of the cliff-side and then came to an abrupt end.

Naturally, we felt the need to stand at the edge and stare off into the valley for quite a while. It was pretty incredible to be at eye-level with the clouds. It was also a bit of a shame we were there during the off-season; an afternoon hang-gliding or hot air ballooning over the valley would have been incredibly fun.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wait, Where?

This is Saudi Arabia? Where are the camels, the endless stretches of empty desert, the religious orthodoxy?

I just returned from a weekend camping trip in the southern province of Abha, a couple hundred kilometers from the Yemen border, and it feels like a whole different country down there. People dress quite differently, houses are built in a different style and they have the tallest peak in the country, Jabal Sawda.

At a little over 10,000 feet high, you can imagine that the weather was cooler and there was a significantly different climate than what I've been living in.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gaining Strength.

At work today my co-worker asked me to join him for breakfast in his office. He presented me with a tray full of freshly boiled, unpeeled Yams, “straight from Cairo.” We huddled together in his office, peeling the potatoes with our finger and throwing the skins into the trash bin under his desk. “Eat more Adam,” he said, “you need to be strong for work.”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lost in Translation.

Dream interpretations; Ethiopia edition.

Endale: I had a dream last night that a hen was wearing army boots and kicking my girlfriend. What do you think that means?

Me: (Smiling) I haven't a clue, but that definitely has to mean something.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hey You.

Girl, let me holla at ya; Ethiopia edition.

To a girl waiting outside the movie theater for her date: "He's not coming. He's at home waiting for his socks to dry. But I'll buy you a ticket."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

All Together Now.

Globalization is a fun buzzword (and frankly kinda dated at this point) that means different things to different people. To me it is:

Drinking St. George's beer in a jazz club near the little Mogadishu neighborhood of Addis Ababa while an Ethiopian cover band sings Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder and Sade.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Back At It.

Captain Nadec strikes again, this time in the form of shelf-stabilized, spreadable cheese triangles.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Woman I will Marry.

Discussing wedding vows via Skype:

Her: Have you thought at all about what you'd like to say.

Me: Well, I definitely want to talk like a robot.

Her: Uh-huh.

Me: And then I thought I'd read a bit from the Quran.

Her: Okay, well why don't you just read from the Quran like a robot.

Me: (Scandalized) That's disrespectful! There were no robots at the time of the Prophet.

Her: Really, how do you know?

Me: Whoa, you're right. I don't know. I think you've just opened a whole new field of Islamo-Robotic theology.

Her: Islamabots!

Me: Yeah, Islamabots. I would so watch that if it was a cartoon show. (Singing) Islamabots! Saving the universe!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What we talk about when we talk about pirates.

Sitting in Maui-Wowi, a Hawaiian themed (men's only) smoothie shop in downtown Riyadh:

"Wait, I always get scurvy mixed up with rickets. Which one is rickets?"

"Rickets is the one that poor kids who work in coal mines get because they don't spend enough time in the sun. Scurvy is the one that pirates get because they only drink grog and not enough citrus."

"Right. So, then what's shingles?"

The waiter eavesdropping nearby our table turned away, bored, and went back to watching the Women's Field Hockey game on TV.

"Shingles is like chicken-pox, but way worse. Hey did you know that when you say you're groggy in the morning it comes from pirates being hung-over from drinking too much grog the night before."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Healthy Heroes.

Yes! Flavored UHT milk action heroes are on the case, ready to ride motorcycles and punch the air and, uh, wear multiple bandanas. Drinking delicious, flavored shelf-stabilized milk has no been so much fun.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It Would be Pleasant.

I'm not suggesting that I want to be an imperialist or that colonialism was a good thing, just that British government reports were more fun to read than modern US government reports.

(1957) The Yemenis began to use artillery and heavy machine-guns to fire across the Protectorate border at British troops and local tribesmen.  British forces were obliged to silence these weapons by shell-fire and rocket attacks.  In spite of Yemeni provocation British measures remained purely defensive and no aggressive action was taken.  The Yemenis had no such scruples.
-          Sir Bernard Reilly - Chief Commissioner and Governor of Aden Protectorate 1931-1940, Colonial Office 1947 - 1960

They were obliged to silence these weapons.  The Yemenis had no such scruples.  I would love to write phrases like that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Quandry.

Uh, wait. I can't remember. Do I cut the red wire and then the green wire, or is it green then red?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


High of 115 today, but I was possessed with a strong desire to go for a run. So I consulted with one of the few other people here who are crazy tough enough to run around in the sun.

Um, he's the white guy. Anyway, he suggested wearing a hat, regularly dousing my head with water and basically dealing with it. I took his advice and had an excellent run today. Now I am no longer confined to the swimming pool for the rest of the summer.  Great success.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Very Pleased.

Today's creepy 1984 inspired government entity is: The Ideological Security Directorate. It doesn't quite qualify as double-speak, but George Orwell would be pleased.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Note Quite Right.

The Saudi Masterbaker Co.  Nope, that just doesn't sound right.

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's a Dry Heat.

I ran track and cross-country through high school and have many fond memories of long afternoon runs along the American Rive bike trail.  We trained through early June and there were definitely days where we ran six to seven miles in the mid-afternoon heat that hovered around 95 degrees.

With that in mind I figured I could run in the desert too.  After all, a dust storm yesterday brought the daily high down to only 109, that's much better than 119.  So, with heavy dust still lingering in the air I made my way outside for a short run today.  Not really my best idea.

Thirty minutes later and I made it back home in one piece.  I want to say that the dryness was actually harder than the heat, but then when I got inside my house I sprawled out on the carpet for about 20 minutes and was unable to get up without feeling very dizzy.

I guess this means it's back to the pool for me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Forecast.

You'll no doubt notice that the daily low is 91 degrees. Yeah, and it's only mid-June. Just wait until we actually get into the hot part of the year.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia current conditions: Sunny, extremely hot.

Mostly Sunny
116°F | 91°F

116°F | 91°F

116°F | 91°F

114°F | 91°F

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cup Fever.

Mall competitors in a local cell-phone sponsored videogame World Cup tournament. The Grand Prize: the winner gets beaten up by the cool kids who hang out at the food court.