Monday, February 26, 2007

Profile: The FaithMaster 2Kx

A computer program to comfort the human soul and save the world in the process.

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century it is becoming more evident that the close connection between human beings and the concept of “religion” is not going away anytime soon. On the contrary, many of the conflicts we are witnessing in the world today can be explained based on a religious background.

Human beings are weak and vulnerable by nature, mainly because they have not managed to explain or find an effective way to deal with the “death” phenomenon. Add to this the amount of injustice, risks and fears surrounding the daily life, and it becomes inevitable for people to hang on to an invisible superpower that provides answers, promises and protection. [Take for example the student who spends tens of hours preparing for a test (say a Physics test). He will feel an obligation to follow up his studying with a prayer hoping that “Everything goes okay” (fear of the unexpected) and hoping “This one problem he did not study well would not be on the test” (Covering for his shortcomings and laziness). (Of course nine out of ten times this problem WILL be on the test (like say for example: Prove that in a perfectly elastic collision the coefficient of restitution is equal to one.), and he will end up with a 68/80 despite the prayers ! (Yes, I am still bitter about it)).
(Late Caution: You should have skipped the last paragraph. It barely offered anything substantial).

Now, since all the signs clearly indicate that we are quickly approaching the “*acropolis*” [See “the Anti-Christ Conquers the World from the Bermuda Triangle” and similar references], and aside from the subscription to a religious group or not, every self-respecting individual should be wondering: “Am I am being a “good” human being?” and “In the case that there does exist a life after death (hypothetical assumption or deep belief) that features a “punishment vs. reward” system (based on the behavior on earth), where do I currently stand ?”.
That is when technology comes to the rescue.

A simple computer program will be the personal gauge and indicator. A user-friendly, multiple-choice, pull-down-menu based software evaluates the daily deeds versus the sins and converts them into points. The cumulative point total gives a rough estimate on whether a particular individual will end up in eternal happiness or eternal misery, (generally known as Heaven or Hell), in accordance with the guidelines of the particular faith he/she has chosen to follow.

Here is a rough overview on how it works: After installing the program you select your base religion (Anything from unitary religions to the Invisible Pink Unicorn). All the ensuing menus and selections are adjusted for the initial selection, awarding and deducting points accordingly. The first couple of screens are “General” and “Belief”: Generals may contain selections like “gender” or even “skin color” (Unfortunately, some religions do pay attention to such details), while the “Belief” menu is a survey-style questionnaire that will test your commitment to the selected religion (Do you believe in God? His angels? His book? His prophets?...Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your lord and savior? ….Do you believe in spirits reincarnation?...). These will generate “constant points” that does not change on daily basis unless there is a change in the profile (like say you go through a near-death experience and you feel that you should change your answer to the “Do you believe in fate?” question from “agree” to “strongly agree”).

Next, you move to the daily activities section. With the carefully-designed and accurately guided selections this process should not take more than ten minutes to reflect on the day and sum it up (which is well-worth the effort given the fact that this will unveil your final destination. Also keep in mind that there will be PDA compatible version where the selections can be uploaded from a mobile device back to the main program). The daily activities will include: “Worship practices” (Did you pray? On time?... Are you observing the Sabbath?... Did you run the three miles? (There must be a religion out there that considers jogging a form of worship!). “Food and beverages restrictions” are the cornerstone of any religion (Did you eat anything that has a soul? Did you eat meat? Was it pork? Was it Hallal/ Kosher? …Did you drink alcohol? Was it beer, wine, or liquor? Did you get drunk? Did you pray while drunk? Did you drink blood? Was it human blood? Literarily or figuratively? ).

The most complex menu is the one dealing with “Human interactions” and “Integrity”, since practically this is the targeted end result of any religion. Those are probably going to need extensive work by sociological and philosophical experts to compose. (Did you Cheat? Steal? Lie? Harm?...Did you kill anyone? Was it for fun or in the name of religion?...Did you engage in any sexual acts? Same sex? Premarital? Visual ? Oral? Anal?). There could be an added section for “Charity” (Did you give to charity? What percentage of your daily income? Did you brag about it?...) and another one for “Conversion” (Did you try to convert anyone today? How many? How many converted? How many punched you in the face?...)

A few things to keep in mind:

- Before accusations of blasphemy starts flying around, remember that all the standards (all the menu selections and the points added and deducted accordingly) are set by a distinguished assembly of clergymen for each respective religion. Each council will use the necessary and approved references (religious books, historical incidents, contacts with spirits,…) to assure that the program is effective and accurate. It would be unfair to raise the user expectations for eternal happiness, only to send him/her crashing with the biggest disappointment of his/her life/afterlife.

-Within those same lines, and for a close estimation that prevents huge disappointments, the user has to have a very high sense of self-monitoring and be honest with oneself. This is a personal record and if you choose to lie and convince yourself that you are an excellent human being with a guaranteed direct pass to heaven, you will be unpleasantly surprised at the moment of the truth. [On a side note, this daily self-evaluation process may help restrain people’s evil behavior. One may be willing to practice more self control once he realizes that at the end of the day he will have to document confessions of the variety: “Today I prayed profoundly but then I fondled a little kid”.

-The program will offer multiple plug-ins and add-ins (for those less popular religions and newly invented ones) along with automatic updates, just in case some religions’ guidelines change (like say Islam making it official that Jihad and head covers are no longer considered main requirements or Christianity announcing that divorce has become acceptable). There will be also a technical support hotline with two departments: A “universal” department that deals with computer-related issues (installation, bugs, connecting to a mobile device,…) and a specialized (per religion) department that helps with the selection process and which will be operated by a clergyman (or an Indian pretending to be one): [If you are Muslim press 3. If you are calling about a food-related issue press 4… “Mmm yeah, I ate some meat that was not Hallal but I was really in tough situation. What should I select?”… “I can help you with that sir. Go to the food menu. After you select meat, not pork, not Hallal, the link that reads “special cases” will be highlighted and active. If you hit the button you will see that option one is “Afraid to starve to death”, option two is “I did not know”, option three is “It was slaughtered by a Jew or a Christian”, option four is “Hallal meat was of a lesser quality and highly overpriced”. Good luck sir and remember that each option has a different point situation associated with it. Salam Alaykom”. click].

-Note to the followers of some religions who believe that they are guaranteed a free pass to heaven simply based on the religion they selected and who may think that they do not need such a program: it would be a good idea to get your copy of FM 2Kx just in case that some other religion turns out to be the real “true religion”, or some other people are the true “god chosen people”, since there are multiple groups sporting the same claim. If you manage to collect a good number of points they will definitely help you out in negotiating your case.

-The most important upside of this program is that it will put an end to people’s arguments about religion. The point system levels the playing field and normalizes “faith” and “goodness” to the point where people can quantitatively compare their devotion and well-doings whether they are members of the same religious group or not:
Say a devoted Buddhist runs into an atheist. The Buddhist tries to convince the atheist to worship a statue while the atheist is arguing the irrationality of religion altogether. The resolution: “How many points do you have?”… The atheist smiles triumphantly and calmly says: “ I have 5821 points to your 3212, and despite the fact that I am pretty sure that these points are not taking me anywhere, at least I can confidently tell you to take your statue, get off of me, and try to be a better person”.
Two Muslims after a Friday prayer in front of the Mosque… “How come I only see you here on Fridays?”… “I know I am missing out on a lot of points by not coming to the Mosque more often, and I know I also give up many points by cussing and for having a short fuse, but at least I am not engaging in fucked up shady business deals and ogling the hell out of every female’s ass in sight”. He violently pulls out a print out: “I dare you to show me how many points you have Mr. Mosque-guy, huh HUH?”. Then they start punching each other in the face.

Now, that we have found this very practical concept, and given the fact that clergymen and software developers are a dime a dozen, all we need is a smart investor who will realize the potential of a program that will become a necessity to every human being and that is bound to protect humanity from self-destruction and create a perfect world.

Friday, February 23, 2007

NBA: Foul Shots

A few observations from the All-Star weekend and some other negative remarks on league related issues with less than 30 games to play.

-For the past seven years I tuned in for the NBA all-star game hoping for a basketball game to break out. Instead, I end up sitting through a mixture of a bad Harlem Globetrotters impression and one of these street ball mix tapes (but without the actual skills). How hard is it for the supposedly best players in the world to put together 15-20 minutes of solid all-around performance, playing “real” basketball, instead of the bad circus act that got people dozing off by the second quarter? Well maybe David Stern is right when he keeps repeating “The all-star weekend is a celebration of the game”, if by a celebration he means a reflection of what the NBA has morphed into on: A nice “show” at times, and a “popular” product molded into a pseudo-basketball format.

-The tone of the game was set immediately after the tip-off. The first three possessions made it obvious that “Nope, there won’t be a basketball game this year, not when the game is in Vegas and the players (according to eye witnesses) are moving like they are either high, hung-over or both). Two minutes after LeBron James announced: “Buckle up and enjoy the ride” the players, the people watching at home, and even puff-daddy and Jay-Z on the sidelines were looking at each other like “is it over yet ? This is really boring”.

-Judging by recent games, even when the players are showing complete disinterest, there is always the potential that the last 5-7 minutes could bring some seriousness and excitement in case the game is still close. There would be a “crunch time” line-up, some attempts to play defense, some “pride” on the line ….Nope, not this year. The East trailed by twenty points early, and despite that, they kept on tossing alley-oops in the stands, taking quick impossible three-point shots, and miss exaggerated dunks. (How great was going to be if LeBron actually got hurt on that missed dunk?).

-Speaking of LeBron (prematurely-crowned) James, he is easily becoming an average star player in the mold of Vince Carter at best (when was the last time one heard “Vince Carter is taking over the game and carrying his team”). Here is what Bill Simmons wrote in his latest column , proving what we’ve noticed: “After talking to four different NBA connected people: LeBron isn't playing nearly as hard as he did last season; it looks like his only goal right now is to get his coach fired; he's regressing as a basketball player (especially his passing skills and his shot selection);…. he has an overrated sense of his own worth and his own impact in the sports world (as witnessed by the ESPN interview last week when he answered the "What are your goals?" question with two words: "Global icon")…”. Just listen to one of his post game interviews, especially one of those after he misses 15 free throws in a loss and you me get a feel of his current situation.

-You know it was a bad night when the highlight of the game is Shaq kissing T-Mac’s head after McGrady just stood there watching Shaq trying to dunk the ball for the third time after two uncontested misses. Speaking of the “Most overrated center in the history of the game”, he really looked embarrassing in the game. Now that he has lost his patented (butt push-off followed by the elbow to the chest dunk combo) and he lost the protection of the referees who (as usual) give preferential treatment to the league main attractions (recall that at that point Shaq was the only huge superstar in the league (maybe along with Allen Iverson)), it is got to a point where Mehmet Okur is more than enough to neutralize him. This year Shaq played in 13 games, and is averaging 13.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. I cannot say I enjoyed the Shaq era.

-The rookie-sophomore challenge game was equally pathetic but it was definitely more enjoyable. It was only two halves with no unnecessary stoppages (one TV timeout per half). The whole thing took less than an hour and half. The sophomores kept pushing the ball on every single possession with Chris Paul (who was fun to watch) and Deron Williams. The rookie class looked clueless and had no idea how to manage the embarrassment they were subjected to (maybe a little defense and “basketball” could have helped), so they continued to palm the ball around and miss alley-oops and. I enjoyed taking a look at David Lee, Monte Ellis, and even Paul Millsap (Utah rookie big man out of Louisiana Tech averaging 7 points and 5 boards with increasing playing time and getting more involved). I still cannot tell the difference between Brandon Roy and Randy Foye (Is Rudy Gay also the same guy?).

-The local daily newspaper Al-Ghad ran an impressive pre-All-Star set of articles with features on the history on the game and the participating players (Of course without mentioning the name of the writer or the source!). However they put a big emphasis on the All-Star MVP winner which is a very insignificant prize that usually goes to a player from the host city, or to a player whom the coach decided to play more than the other ones. Kobe Bryant winning this year award is supposed to be the official announcement that the image-rehabbing process he went through is successfully over. Within two years Bryant goes from an adulterer, anal-rapist, a whining malcontent who is impossible to coach (according to the book his coach wrote), a selfish ball-hog who does not respect his teammates and who has not won a playoffs serious since Shaq left, to become a team player who makes his teammates better and gets everyone involved, the best player in the league, regains a lot of his lost endorsements and wins the All-star MVP, and all that because he averages five less shots per game than last year, and his team has a .545 winning percentage. Good luck against the Suns or the Spurs in the playoffs.

-The Dunk contest has to be put to sleep. (A plea that has been floating around for the past 5 years, or since Vince Carter officially killed it for good). Until someone manages to do a 720 dunk (Yup, it could be done) or takes off from the three point line (The dynamics analysis of projectile motion may be able to examine its possibility) there is nothing new. Tyrus Thomas kept his promise and did “whatever”. Nate Robinson did not need to show up again (especially that Andre Iguodala and his behind the board dunk was more deserving to win it last year). Gerald Green impression of Dee Brown was nice but even his final dunk was nothing beyond the ordinary. (Greens best dunk remains this one). Now, big men does not usually do well in this contest, but if you manage to come up with an idea that gets an instant nickname, you deserve to at least make it to the next round and Dwight Howard’s “sticker dunk” was just that.

-Charles Barkley is one of my favorite basketball players ever. He proved that being undersized does not prevent a player from being a powerful inside presence. At 6-5 he played with power and determination and dominated the boards. Even now he is insightful and funny an NBA analyst and his race with referee Dick Bavetta was a highlight of the weekend. He made it clear that “he is not a role model”, but he still needs to quit with that bragging-about-gambling stuff. Yeah he can afford it and he is not killing himself despite losing about $50 million, but having such a problem is nothing to brag about. As a candid voice who is quick to give his two-cents on everything and who is aware of the black community poverty problems, losing millions on the blackjack table is nothing to be proud of. Also, since he is still closely involved with the NBA and its players, how can you convince the casual outsider that this guy is not gambling on basketball games and maybe manipulating their outcome (as farfetched as this possibility is)!

-And from the world of the obvious:

True contenders: Dallas (the best and most complete) team in the league, Phoenix (the most exciting team. Steve Nash health and their defense are concerns), San Antonio (Not the usual depth. Francisco Elson is their starting center. They still have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and a decent supporting cast) and Detroit (The only functional team in the East even though they have a similar record to the West’s fifth seed).

Long shots: Utah (Impressive year. Good point guard. Good big men. Not yet). Chicago (Not enough scorers (the leading scorer is Ben Gordon averaging barely 20 a night).A young group with no-playoffs experience. Should have traded for Pau Gasol even if they had to give up Luol Deng).

Playoffs bubble: A team that misses the NBA playoffs is a team with big problems. With less than two months to go the only teams that have less than 20 wins are Philadelphia, Boston, Milwaukee and Memphis. The eighth seed in the each conference has 25 wins. Even Atlanta and Seattle still has distant playoffs hopes. With Dwyane Wade missing extended time for a dislocated shoulder (maybe the whole year) the World Champs Miami Heat has a legitimate shot at missing the playoffs altogether.

Surprise team: In a desperate attempt to change the negativity attitude here let’s give the Toronto Raptors some credit. A 0.537 winning percentage in the East is not a sign that they will win a championship any time soon, but they are leading their division (again nothing to be over joyous about), they won a total of 27 games last year (they already have 29 wins), and they have a nice young group. Chris Bosh is a superstar. The number one draft pick Andrea Bargnani looks like a successful pick, and the addition of Juan Dixon for Fred Jones (the highlight deal of the trading deadline) gives them another outside shooter. Just keep in mind that someone named Anthony Parker (out of the league since 2000) is their starting shooting guard.

Most regressed player: Between being bothered by injuries, distracted by fame and losing interest, Andrei Kirilenko went from being the do it all player to a fill-in. Numbers wise he went from (15-8.0-4-3) to (9-5-3-2).

Underachieving team: the L.A. Clippers have the same group of players that made it to the playoffs last year. Watching their Tuesday game against the Suns they seemed disinterested and simply going through the motions.

Worst off-season signing: Minnesota signing Mike James for four years (25 million dollars) with a trade clause that raises his salary by 15% if traded, then looking to trade him before the first year of the deal is over! No wonder Kevin Garnett is crying during every other interview and is about to go postal on Kevin McHale.

Best player who is not a leader: Gilbert Arenas is scoring a ton of points (with very few assists (how is he a point guard!), calling himself nicknames, calling out teams and threatening to drop 50 points on them (then goes out and scores 9). Good player, but if your own coach is calling out your act (especially questioning your team’s strategy by focusing on defense, which your team does not know how to play anyway), and then your coach complains that without Antawn Jamison the team has no leadership, then you are simply the latest version of Stephon Marburay or Steve Francis.

Random Thought: The other day I found a Denver-San Antonio game in its third quarter. The network shows a display at the bottom of the screen that read: “Currently on the floor: Blake, Diawara, Kleiza, Smith, Evans”, and then I thought: “Yup, looks like a playoffs team to me”. But seriously, Steve Blake! Anthony Parker thinks the league is so diluted with players that do not belong.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Archive: Weekend

A translation of a random thought that was inspired by the style of a friend. The original was written in Arabic at a time before joy and happiness flooded the world.

He opened his eyes at seven, then again at eight. At ten o’clock he made the long-awaited decision to “wake up”, still disgusted. He went through the motions of the human morning routine, and finished a chapter from “The Death of the Peace Process” while brushing his teeth. “Failure is a choice and a process that requires continuous build up and persistence. It is not a matter of fate or genetics”. He collected some items that need to be washed: a pillow case, a green towel, a pair of sweatpants designated for sleeping, and a colorful collection of underpants and socks many of which featured strategically- placed holes that made them relatively serviceable.

The laundry room reeked of cheap beer. He mumbled a few words in the direction of the group of juveniles scattered around the counters sipping from 32Oz cans. “Damn! That early!”, he wondered before remembering the forced extension to his sleeping hours. “Maybe eleven o’clock on an off-day is not a bad idea to proceed with last night’s activities”.

He rushed towards the TV and the computer, simultaneously. Quick and successive sprays of bullet(in)s: Attack, siege, trial, the third day of a Golf open. A column, an analysis, an Op-Ed, a luxurious apartment for sale. Deployment, arrest, assassination, a basketball team wins. “Damn! All that shit happened, even on the off-day! Do I have to care about everything happening everywhere! What is the acceptable minimum? How many critical events would I miss if I abstained for a couple of days?!”.

He conducted a few insignificant phone calls and headed towards a pseudo-grocery store to fetch two bad-tasting, ridiculously-overpriced meals. It is almost noon and his face still features a manufactured look of disgust. “Damn! It seems like today is going to be exactly like yesterday”.

He received a call from one of the last remaining friends. “How about we go….”. He interrupted the caller confidently: “No thanks. I’ve already have some plans scheduled and some very important commitments for the day. Check back with me in the evening”.

He went back to the two machines.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Profile: The State

In a volatile area, trapped between the two occupation hammers and the regressive regime anvil, is it acceptable to ask: “if the life we are living is not the life we have asked for, then what the hell are we holding on to?”

According to the United Nations General Assembly the world currently features (192) sovereign states. Many of them do not possess any basic characteristics of a state beyond a colorful flag and a sleep-inducing national anthem. There has to be something done to end to this chaos and uncontrollable expansion: (it has officially got to a point where every five people who speak with a slightly different accent and share the same great grandfather want to extract 5 squared kilometers, crown a king, and exchange diplomatic relations). Not only partitions of current states should be banned, but also current so-called states should be reevaluated: A simple re-qualification process to separate true countries who contributes to humanity from farms that does not deserve such a designation.

Aside from the Marxist definition of the State, (The state being an instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed masses who will only be liberated through violent revolution and the destruction of the state power apparatus built by the ruling class. (say what!), but that’s a story for a different day), we are at a point where many of these “countries” have been “independent” for a while now (up to sixty years in some cases), and there should be very basic criteria installed which they have to meet to maintain such a status. Otherwise your state-recognition benefits are revoked, and whether you decide to merge, unite, integrate, join a federal or confederal union, get occupied, get under a mandate, get under a protection treaty, fold and go home, or practice your power trip on your own people without any international recognition (a different variation of your current status really) …it is all your choice until you get rehabilitated.

As usual this criteria is better left to a committee of experts at the highest international level, but a few guidelines can be expected: You may lose your state status: If your total area is less than 50% of that of the smallest American state. If your GDP is not at least 5 times that of the smallest American state. If you do not produce (manufacture) anything that benefits humanity besides pedestrian services (and oil). If you cannot provide a steady supply of water, wheat, and fuel to the population. If your judicial system treats crimes such as homicide, corruption and pedophilia lightly. If your definition of democracy is a ballot box (especially if it is intermittent). If the sole decision-making autocratic ruler has been in power for more than 30 years. If your definition of power transfer is heredity…[For more hints and suggestions the committee can just pick up a local daily newspaper. They are usually loaded with signs: “okay…here is another indication that they do not qualify”.]

Well, those who managed to read thus far may have guessed that Abu Shreek is subtly referring to his homeland. (In an attempt to cater to the below average readers, notice this serious attempt Abu Shreek is making to make his nonsense less ambiguous. As for the readers suffering from ADD and reading-disabilities, we offer our sincere apologie).

Honestly, scratch all the above. After all, size does not matter (some may disagree). GDP is overrated anyway (It is still relatively surprising that according to this 2005 list, Jordan trails economic superpowers like Kenya, Yemen and Trinidad and Tobago. Countries like Sri Lanka and Syria almost generate twice as much as we do in produced goods and services!). Bread is also overrated according to both Jesus Christ and Marie Antoinette. Water and oil can be “borrowed” from neighbors and enemies even if it involves contamination and humiliation. The political and judicial reforms are on the way (Just kidding). Even the national anthem tune can be easily replaced by a more energetic explosive version along the lines of “I have been working on the railroad all the long live day” (However, the lyrics have to stay)… There is one thing that matters: A country should be able to CATER to its people to the point that it will give them a sense of belonging and dedication that they would be willing to stand by it through the tough times. This sense of devotion and attachment does not come from the occasional gifts, giveaways or the precious royal visits, it comes from the feelings of dignity and security that would be impossible to find anywhere else away from home.

Let us put it in this simple way: Abu Shreek can confidently say that seven out of the top ten students from his high school and his college class are currently permanent residents of other countries. The other three are just like a very high percentage of the population (from all roots and origins) who are desperately seeking such a chance and “dreaming of the day when they leave forever”. They are willing to choose the retardation and arrogance of the gulf, the bigotry and the estrangement of the west, or a life anywhere from Kazakhstan to Alaska over living around their parents, around their childhood friends, and around the streets they roamed as kids!! At this point the statement (الانسان أغلى ما نملك:Human beings are our main resources) is so meaningless, it makes (نحو أردن أخضر عام 2000 :Towards a green Jordan in 2000) look realistic by comparison.

You want a state, start with a citizen. A citizen that can afford to live a basic life, without having to kiss ass, without being subjected to unending injustice, and without the fear of a short stupid idiot with a thick mustache in a trench coat, watching him through a newspaper (for security purposes) [One wonders if he looks at the computer screen through the same newspaper, simply out of habit]. A citizen living under the law “will go to war” with his county during hardship and tough times, because tough “periods” are much different than systematic enslavement. A country going through some “turbulent” circumstances have its appreciated/appreciating people rallying around it until they emerge out of it together. A (...-entity) in a continuous aimless downspin looks for a replacement population with a better purchasing power.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Mailbag (VI)

A special past-due mailbag dedicated to sports, castration, and internal “ignorance” devices, at a below average articulation level.

First allow me to apologize to those in charge of the following projects: ,, and the late (may it rest in peace), for any trouble they ran into, and for the material that obviously was “not fit to the atmosphere they aim to preserve and promote”. Seriously folks, you do not need to feel ashamed or feel any less than any free-will individual, Abu Shreek completely understands (I am sure Khader understands too), it is just not worth it.

Onto the mailbox, starting with the email of the week:
Sir, I was told about you, and how to get to read you. I was extremely keen to be with you. But when I did, I found myself so confused and lost in every word I read. Can you bless me with your real name and those of your father and mother and tribe, so I can find what Jordanian you are ?May God bless you. Best wishes and kindest regards
Dr. M. A. N., D,Phil. (Full address and Phone Number)

This is easily the e-mail of the year. This is exactly how its unedited version. (The name and the mailing address are the only things edited out).
Either way Sir, I am very glad that you were able to reach me (and be with me), and allow me to apologize for your inability to understand my confusing scribbles. I would like to assure you that it is not your fault that you find this ambiguous (after all you are a D-Phil holder), it is just the inherited nature of the irrelevant issues and the worthless approach of the author.

However Sir, Abu Shreek made a clear disclaimer that he is not responsible for providing takalogues and solution manuals (although they have a chance of being very popular, now that it is obvious that there are some uniformed “intellects” interested in trying to decipher the obvious). Also keep in mind that Abu Shreek target audience is strictly himself and he does not look to cater to the (…) public, even those who hold higher degrees.

On a final note, I really have no problem in providing you with my name and my father’s name (as for the mother name, you have to give me yours first; playground rules), but I am not convinced that it will really help you find “what Jordanian I am”. See, take you for example, even though you proudly provided your family name and all, I did not judge your loyalty to Jordan based on the military coup attempt that your relative lead, nor did I judge your morality based on the performance of your “tribe” member who pioneered homemade porno in Jordan! Thanks for your kind words and god bless.

Do people who comment anonymously also practice a form of self-censorship?
Random commentator.

I know this is a way past-due question on a situation that came up in the last mailbag, and I probably owe you an apology, too. The whole issue of cyber-anonymity is starting to get excessively annoying. Take for example our emailer of the week: he identifies himself by two redundant titles, a full name, a full address, and a phone number! Still, there is no way to tell whether this was sent by the “distinguished persona” himself, or some idiot using his name. Self-identification and self-censorship are personal choices and are natural characteristics of behind-the-screen (pc screen that is) human-interaction, At this point it is obvious there is no such thing as a completely hidden identity (High-tech monitoring will reach you even behind the sun. An investment well worth it), so users make the decision to behave accordingly.

However notice that the relative anonymity of a commentator does not affect the substance in the comment. The point is in the message aside from the messenger. Unless of course, you buy into the notion that ones mother’s birthplace, eyes colors, and Arabic language proficiency are eventually going to dictate his loyalty and patriotism to the homeland he belongs, then you should look elsewhere.

I think you owe Maria Sharapova an apology. In an older mailbag issue you described the phenomenon as being over hyped. Since then she claimed a second Grand Slam title (the US Open) and topp(l)ed the WTA rankings to number 1. If you are jealous of her success and beauty that’s understandable, but let’s not use excuses such as she is too beautiful to be this talented!
Romel Henin-Hardenne ,

Canada/ Kansas

It may look like I may be in an apologetic mood, but this is where the line is drawn. Let us just take a quick look at the overall tennis scene and notice how it is currently more depressing and more meaningless than heavy-weight boxing. Sharapova IS over-hyped, She is not Anna Kournikova-overrated, but she definitely fills in Tennis’ desperate need for a “face of the game” that could generate minor interest among casual fans, despite being an average player (or slightly above average). The fact that she won a couple of grand slams and is currently ahead of a few obscure players in the a random ranking system (a system that is almost as bad as the FIFA world ranking system) does not imply that she is the most dominant player, and the amount of exposure she gets is definitely disproportional to her tennis skills and accomplishments. Let us not confuse a pretty face who can be good at times with a superb athlete [Any time the number one player gets stomped 6-1/6-2 in a grand slam final to an unseeded player (almost unprecedented in women’s tennis) that means two things: 1. The seeding system is a joke. 2. The whole field of players plays at the same mediocre level without any real standouts.

Again, let’s remember that the heydays (80s and 90s) of Tennis are long gone. When I see the domination of Roger Federer (plowing through grand slams and winning the latest Australian open without conceding a single set!!) I cannot tell whether I should celebrate an athlete who is dominating his sport at a historic level or feel bad that this game has deteriorated that much (After all he was playing the final against Fernando Gonzalez!). On the bright side, when was the last time you saw Federer featured in a Canon commercial or appearing at a Hollywood premier?

Who do you like in the game on Sunday?
Every human being who does not live in cave and hence is excited about the Colts playing the Bears in SuperBowl XLI on Feb 4th.

Not only this is the worst conversation starter ever, it is slightly offensive. The answer is: according to Vegas the Colts are favored to win by 7. It is not that the teams are playing a seven-game series where every individual match-up matters, and where coaching adjustments, depth and real skills advantages become factors. It is one game, where a turnover, a tweaked ankle, or a long kick return can change everything. Who knows who is going to be more successful running the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage? Who knows how either quarterback is going to play under game-pressure, and which teams pass rush will able to generate pocket pressure?

Anyway, SuperBowl day is not nearly as exciting as a regular mid-season Sunday. The circus surrounding the game is just ridiculous and the casual fan interest in the game cheapens its status from a clash of athleticism, talent and strategy to an entertainment fest with made-up storylines and endless hype. You know you do not need a two-week break before the Superbowl when you turn on ESPN news and see an interview alert: coming next Colts LB Rocky Boiman (1 start and 15 total tackles on the year). You turn on a morning radio show broadcasting from the location and you find the host going on a 15- minute rant how the toilet in his hotel room won’t flush after he took a big No.2.(money well spent 1310-The Ticket)! The game is going to be dissected to death everywhere (and here is the Dr. Z’s positional comparisons. Here are four things that are worth keeping an eye on :

-Chicago’s defensive ends: They have a 4-deep rotation. Tank Johnson and Isreal Idonije rotate with Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye to try to put pressure on Peyton Manning and will battle against an outstanding line anchored by tackles Tarik Glenn and Ryan Diem .Chicago’ secondary is average at best and if Manning has time, the Colts timing- based passing game will be successful. If the Bears decide to drop deep and give the underneath routes, Peyton Manning is very comfortable with going to his running backs and tight ends.

-Indianapolis blitizing Grossman from the middle: The Bears line is solid. Fred Miller and John Tait can neutralize undersized ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. However the line and Rex Grossman has problems with inside stunts and blitzes that causes Grossman to panic and commit mistakes. Stopping the run is of course the Colts priority but they still want to stop Grossman from getting into a passing rhythm like the one he reached midway in the Saints game.

-Chicago’s Linebackers: With the loss of DT Tommie Harris the solid linebackers group has to work harder to stop the Colts impressive running game. They also has to pay attention in coverage to the tight ends unless Chicago tries to use their nickel back (Ricky Manning jr.), but that will mean solid Hunter Hillenmeyer may have to get off the field.

-Indianapolis secondary against the big play: The Bears thrive on the big passing plays down the field. Brian Berrian, AFL ex-player Rashied Davis and even Mark Bradely are deep threats that can scare the Colts undersized and average-speed secondary. Rex Grossman can through a nice deep ball when he is comfortable and Nick Harper, Jason David and Marlin Jackson have to pay attention especially when the blitz does not get to the quarterback on time.

Do not forget to sign the petition for a national holiday on SuperBowl Monday.

Men ? okay. More elaboration on the question. How can a woman understand a man? or a girl understand a guy? How can she tell if he feels anything for her or if he is just being nice? Is there a magical look? Is there anybody that can like someone from one time? What do men want? And I am speaking as in a real relationship?

Two Words: Big Boobs

If everything is fine and dandy and on its way to perfection and ever after prosperity, what is the reason for freaking out over constructive criticism and questioning. I mean if your roommate is complaining: “There seems like there is a rat in your closet”. “It feels like a rate and smells like a rat”. “what’s in your closet? is that a rat?”….would you kick your roommate out of the house or would you check the closet for your own sake and to prove to him that the closet is rat-free?
Abdullah Ibin Il Moqqaffa’
Min gabro (hanging from his testicles)

Once upon a starless midnight there was an owl who sat on the branch of an oak tree. Two ground moles tried to slip quietly by, unnoticed. "You!" said the owl. "Who?" they quavered, in fear and astonishment, for they could not believe it was possible for anyone to see them in that thick darkness. "You two!" said the owl. The moles hurried away and told the other creatures of the field and forest that the owl was the greatest and wisest of all animals because he could see in the dark and because he could answer any question. "I’ll see about that, "said a secretary bird, and he called on the owl one night when it was again very dark."How many claws am I holding up?" said the secretary bird. "Two," said the owl, and that was right."Can you give me another expression for ‘that is to say’ or ‘namely’?" asked the secretary bird. "To wit," said the owl. "Why does the lover call on his love?" "To woo," said the owl.

The secretary bird hastened back to the other creatures and reported that the owl indeed was the greatest and wisest animal in the world because he could see in the dark and because he could answer any question. "Can he see in the daytime, too?" asked a red fox? "Yes," answered a dormouse and a French poodle. "Can he see in the daytime, too?" All the other creatures laughed loudly at this silly question, and they set upon the red fox and his friends and drove them out of the region. They sent a messenger to the owl and asked him to be their leader.

When the owl appeared among the animals it was high noon and the sun was shining brightly. He walked very slowly, which gave him an appearance of great dignity, and he peered about him with large, staring eyes, which gave him an air of tremendous importance. "He’s God!" screamed a Plymouth rock hen. And the others took up the cry "He’s God!" So they followed him wherever he went and when he bumped into things they began to bump into things, too. Finally he came to a concrete highway and he started up the middle of it and all the other creatures followed him. Presently a hawk, who was acting as outrider, observed a truck coming toward them at fifty miles an hour, and he reported to the secretary bird and the secretary bird reported to the owl. "There’s danger ahead," said the secretary bird. "To wit?" said the owl. The secretary bird told him. "Aren’t you afraid?" he asked. "Who?" said the owl calmly, for he could not see the truck. "He’s God!" cried all the creatures again, and they were still crying "He’s God" when the truck hit them and ran them down. Some of the animals were merely injured, but most of them, including the owl, were killed.
Moral: (edited out).
From: James Thurber, Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (New York, 1940)
Coming Soon: “The insecure boyfriend syndrome”.

Enough with the negativity please. People like you who do nothing but complain, while pushing sticks in the progress wheel and belittling the accomplishments are the reason why we are slow in achieving the goals and enjoying the results. People like you are the ones who questions our status as a major power-player in the region, our serious quest for acquiring nuclear energy (for peaceful purposes of course) , and refuses but to ignore the booming economy.
Delusion-Ali ,
Listening to: Hashmi Hashmi (The version with “Abu” edited out)

A complete analysis of the Jordanian current insignificance on the regional stage may better be left off to experts. I mean, could it get any lower than some local officials expressing their displeasure with some of “our friends” in the mercenary Iraqi government announcing that “Amman is the economic capital of Iraq!”, or do we have to get down to discussing our status among the equally-pathetic Arab farms, where we still appear like an entity that struggles to provide the basic needs for its people, survives on charity, and a state that does not have a clear or firm standing on any issue whatsoever. (On the bright side we are being consistent in being inconsistent. I still cannot figure out if we were with Saddam (support during the war) or against him (the crime of hosting Hussein Kamel).

On the other hand, and in celebration of his majesty’s latest birthday, there was a “forum” in Maan, discussing the main “accomplishments” of the district in the past few years. The accomplishments in discussion are: The tenth governmental university (at a time when the long-established ones has slipped to the community college level), a hospital and a health center (with health insurance to the extremely-poor groups that covers more than 4500 residents), a potential Railroad, and an industrial zone (not too many details given here, since there was a point in time when industrial zones where being promised left and right). If I were the in charge “authority devices” I will issue warrants for the arrest of the organizers and participants of this event, and charge them with “tongue elongation against his majesty”.

Have you really completely given up on the NBA? Come on, it still features some of the best athletes in the world, and is still a superior version of basketball to that played anywhere else. I understand that you kind of replaced soccer with football, but don’t tell me that you’ve replaced the NBA with those steroid injecting, meth-popping baseball freaks?
One of the last 17 remaining NBA fans.

The one word answer to your question is: No. I am still an NBA fan despite all the maddening changes to the game that killed fundamental basketball. I am still willing to watch the games and put up with guards palming the ball, players who don’t care trotting on the field and cruising at 50%, and enjoy a buzzer-beater while reminiscing on the days when an NBA game was fun to watch from start to finish.
All what happened is I ran a little experiment: Given the fact that ones interests continue to evolve and since I am considering some new hobbies (like hiking through Europe for example (especially dinning at Paris)), I made a conscious effort to avoid watching a full game until Christmas day (known as the official start of the NBA season). I got my NBA fix through highlights, box scores, and occasional quarters here and there. By December, I realized that honestly I have not been missing out on much! And I extended the experiment until the week before the All-Star game (Feb 17th).

There are many things I like about this year: (the Suns, the Jazz, the return of point guards who can pass, the gradual return of big men who plays with their back to the basket, the increased scoring, Dikembe Mutombo, rookie Andris Biedrins,…). And many other things I don’t like (The Celtics situation, the Atlantic division in the East being under 500, the all-star fan-voting, Atlanta-Charlotte-New Orleans franchises, Shaq, Gilbert Arenas starting to get really loud (although he had a great first half), the diluted rosters, Jason Kidd stuck with nets,… ).

Programming Notice: -The rest of the All-Star teams comes out tonight.

Do you think Globalization is adding limits and walls between nations and cultures or breaking them down?

Ya Salamm! Are you being serious?! Whats next? A questions about the effect of the Chinese devaluing their currency on their chances of joining the world trade organization or the effect of global warming on the Somalia-Ethiopia conflict? How about the problems in the third-world countries surfacing as a result of bypassing the necessary industrialization stage and indulging in service-oriented investments instead!
Please keep in mind that Abu Shreek is very cautious about red lines that he cannot cross and always focuses on issues that he deems fit, suitable and completely insignificant.

Unfortunately, you are under a two-month (renewable) ban for violating the mailbag submissions guidelines, and for attempting to jeopardize our relationship with influential figures and states. This will naturally deny you the chance to win the valuable “e-mail of the week” prizes.
Everyone else, you are welcome to submit your questions at: