Monthly Archives: June 2007

Charlie Rose or Jerry Springer?

One of the good things about American TV is that it satisfies every viewer’s taste. Viewers who eagerly want to know how Paris Hilton is spending her days in Jail can watch the top news broadcasters such as CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. The same channels that broadcast news about war in Iraq, new immigration laws, and the Democratic vs. Republican debate.

On a related media issue, my top TV personality is no one but Charlie Rose. By far he is the best TV host ever. With only a black background and round table, Charlie Rose interviews his guests with charm and intelligence. His guests are the top thinkers, philanthropist, entrepreneur, medical doctors, researchers on all fields of sciences, columnist, novelist you name it. Unlike Larry King he does not interview the 15 minutes fame kind of celebrities. Though his guests are all the best in their fields of expertise and differ in the way they see the world they all agree that they are the honored one to be on his show.

Watching his daily show alone is enough to know what is happening in the world in the politic, science, medicine, and many other vital fields. I would recommend watching his marvelous show to everyone cares about the world’s fare.

On the other hand, there is Jerry Springer the host of a show that does not make sense to me what so ever. Every episode he brought two, or more, group of peoples (families, boyfriend/girlfriend, mother-in-laws, mistresses, etc) and let them curse and fight in the show. The audience meanwhile shout “Jerry, Jerry,…” I am not sure why. His show has lots of obscenity which turns out what many people want to watch. What really shock me is that according to a documentary about this show nothing is staged all real people. If you watch this show you will know what I am talking about. But as the Americans say “Common sense is not a common sense”. What make sense to you may not make sense to others and this is what our world about; DIFFERENCES.

As I said this is the American TV it satisfies all viewers taste, and I like it for that.

Jordan is the heaven for smokers

Among the many places that I will definitely miss when I return back to Jordan is PanerBread. It is my favorite place to study, read a good book, or hangout with friends. PaneraBread is a bakery and a coffeehouse and they make very delicious sandwiches as well. The reason I like coffeehouses here in the US is the clean fresh air. It is not an outdoor place but the reason I am saying it has fresh air is that it is smoking free. On the other hand, coffeehouses in Jordan are literally foggy with almost every one smoke and with the popular use of the hookah. Unless you are addict to Nicotine and smoke, coffeehouses in Jordan are the last place you want to be, especially for someone like me who hate smoke.

When I was an undergraduate in Jordan, a professor used to smoke in class. He holds a cigarette in his left hand and a chalk in the right hand. Of course as it is the customary in Jordan people never ask you if you have a problem with smoking. I remember also some proctors used to allow some students to smoke during the exam. The smokers’ excuse was that they can’t focus unless they smoke!

My ex-roommate, done with PhD and in Jordan now, was a big time smoker. He never smoked in our apartment. But he was dreaming of the day he will go back to Jordan and smoke any where. I think Jordan is the heaven for smokers. People there smoke everywhere either it is a closed place, in front of infants or in front of people with asthma it does not matter. People will smoke a cigarette after another non-stop.

Till I go back to Jordan I want to breath a clean fresh air as much as I can.

When do you consider a country your “Watan”?

So, the question is what is “Watan”? Is it the country you were born in? Nationality in the Arab world is not given by birth. For example, a baby born in Kuwait will not be granted the Kuwaiti nationality unless his/her father is a Kuwaiti. Or is it the country you lived in most of your working years. Nationality in most Arab countries is not granted to a human based on the number of years he lived in it. Egyptians and Palestinians who worked for more than 30 years in Saudi Arabia (or other Arab Gulf countries) were not and will not be granted that country’s nationality.

Unfortunately, many times I hear Jordanians condemn Jordan and living in Jordan because they can’t find a job or because they have disagreement with the government. In America I meet people from all over the world. Many of those people are in disagreement with their government but they never condemn their country because they consider it as their “Watan”. I saw many homeless in USA holding American flags almost every where they go. They are unemployed but they still love their country; their Watan.

My definition of Watan is the place where you feel you belong. I am in my mid thirties, lived outside Jordan more than I lived in Jordan but I never felt I belong to any place more than Jordan. Although I am half Jordanian and half Syrian (mother’s side) I never felt I belong to any place other than Jordan.

Until we teach our kids to love their Watan we will keep see dirty streets and unethical driving habits. I very much like what JFK said “my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

update: Tunis, as far as I know, is the only Arab country that grant its nationality to new born babies even if neither the father nor the mother are Tunisians.

Teaching in Jordanian Universities

Another two Jordanians I know are returning back with their prestigious doctorate degree. One of them is an Anthropologist, the other is an Engineer. Although the Anthropologist spent more than six years here in the State but he did an excellent work. He has published works and a field experience in his major. The Engineer is working on the latest top wireless technology. When they go back to the Jordanian universities guess what they will work on? Or how the universities will benefit from their expertise? Nothing but to teach classes that has nothing to do with their research area.

The research in Jordanian universities (and in the Arab world) is in a catastrophic level. Every one knows that, I am not saying any thing new. Many statistics were published about the research level in the Arab world. But let me talk about Jordan. I did my Bachelor degree in Jordan and my Graduate degree here in the US and I can tell you there is no comparison between the amount of homework assignments and projects that are assigned to students in the American universities with those in the Jordanian universities. I remember when I was an undergrad student at most there was 20% of the total grade for lab assignments. In most courses no more than 10% for projects and homework. During the semester we almost have nothing to do until the week of exams. Undergrad students in the American Universities are intensely and continuously pushed to do weekly presentations, homework assignments, and projects. So, how can a professor grade all these assignments, quizzes, projects, etc. if he has for example 500 students? Simply, because for every X number of students (depends on the university and the department) the department assigns a TA to help the instructor in the course. Last Winter 2007 I was among six TAs for a programming CS course for 340 students.

Since a professor in Jordanian universities has no helpers, such as TAs, he has to take care of every thing in his course such as, teaching, office hours, grading homework assignments, exams, etc. Being overwhelmed with teaching and grading hundred of students, a professor has no time to spend on his research assuming he is doing a theoretical research that does not require labs or huge finance.

Our Universities should think seriously about starting quality research. As they say in Academia “Publish or Perish”. We can start by changing the way we assign homework to undergrad students. For every course, students have to do a project that may involve small group of students, five for example, and they have to research about the subject, write it in a formal report and present it in front of the class. By the help of their instructor they can improve it and present it to businesses or whoever interested in such work. Or may be it could be extended to graduate research work.