Monthly Archives: July 2009

25 minutes + 45 minutes = Timeless Agony

This is how much time it takes to do laundry here in the US. It takes the washing machine 25 minutes to clean each load and then 45 minutes for the dryer to complete the task. I hate doing laundry so much I do it once a month or until the last surviving clean underwear. I sometimes buy new boxers just to buy extra couple of days without having to do my laundry.

One good thing for not having a washer and dryer in the apartment (not that I can if I want to) is that using the complex’s laundry room allows me to use four to five washers at the same time. Otherwise, using a single machine will waste the whole day for me.

Nevertheless, the agony I am referring to is not the time it takes to do laundry or the time I spend searching every pocket and corner of the apartment and my car for quarters, rather it is the time it takes to fold the clothes. Between hanging, folding and organizing it is a task that I really hate. Not to mention the dilemma of trying to match pair of socks among the huge pile of clothes, and of course the usual mystery of ending with an odd socks. It is a problem so common they have a scientific name for it called combinatorics or the math of arrangement. Makes you wonder when someone genius will invent disposable clothes to solve all humankind problems.

note to self: start collecting quarters for the next laundry day.

American English for Jordanians – 1

I don’t know how good English is taught in private schools in Jordan but if you studied English in public schools and you are planning to come to the United States then this post is definitely for you. Why you may ask. Because most probably your English teachers taught you what is known as Jordanian British English; it is neither British English nor it is an American English.

I was shocked to learn that even my English alphabets were pronounced wrong. I found it very frustrating when sometimes Americans didn’t understand me. My first reaction was those ignorant Americans, they don’t even want to make an effort to understand me. Do I really have to repeat my Subway order four times before I point to the picture so the Subway employee knows that I want a “Chicken Breast Sandwich” not “shiken breeest sandwitsh”. I hated when people ask me what I do because I could not understand why Americans do not know what a “bee utch d” program is. For the record it is PhD, pronounced “pe ach de”.

Wait till you learn that even if you pronounced the word correctly (you may think) it may not be enough for the other party to understand you thanks to word stress and syllables. Try asking the waitress or waiter for “WooTar”. With my thick Jordanian accent the “T” sounds like an Arabic alphabet (“طاء”) which is not even close to any American English alphabet since the “t” in the middle of the word is called flap “t” that sounds more as a “d” than a “t”, go figure.

more to come…

Ethnic Jordanian

I know Wikipedia is not the most trusted source of information but when it comes to data about a country I think someone should take responsibility to correct this information unless the data below is correct. In the list below, it seems “ethnic Jordanian” refers to Jordanians who consider themselves as Jordanians from a Jordanian origin, they add up to only 17% of the Jordanian population 1% less than the Iraqis! [source]

I have been away from Jordan for too long so I am not sure about the numbers below but I think 17% is too small. Beside, the sum of these percentages is not equal to 100%. What do you think?

Ethnic and religious toleration: Jordan’s population has a very diverse background.

60% – Palestinian

18% – Iraqi

17% – ethnic Jordanian

~5% – Armenians, Chechens, Circassians, other

PhDs and gold mining

“The research problem is like a gold mine. Once the mine has been there for a long time, you need to mine/dig deeper and deeper to find a piece of gold. If a research problem has been exhausted, you have to work harder to find something new.”

My adviser

The dilemma: It is difficult to find new solutions to classic research problems since many researchers had already studied the problem. Nevertheless, new research problems are also difficult because you have to establish the path to the mine before finding the gold, no one to follow or seek help from.

The moral of the story: Intelligence can get you a PhD but luck can lead you to the gold faster than yours or your adviser’s expectation.

Recommended reading: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

A lesson in world geography

Subject: A conversation between me and a salesperson who wanted to exchange pleasantry, mistakenly thinking I am a rich tourist, before trying to sell me something which I forgot what it was.

Place: South Asia

Time: 1998

sp: Hello!

jaraad: Hi!

sp: Where are you from?

jaraad: Jordan

sp: Oh! Where is that? (smiling)

jaraad: It is near Iraq. (At that time I assumed everyone knows Iraq because of the Kuwait invasion and desert storm, etc.)

sp: I am not sure where that is.

jaraad: You know, near Saudi Arabia. (Thinking he should have seen pictures on TV of Muslims, Hajj, Mecca (Makkah), etc)

sp: I am sorry. (Shaking his head with some embarrassment)

jaraad: You know Palestine and Israel? (I though again okay there is no way he never heard of the Middle East conflict. This is it!)

sp: (still have no clue where in the world are all these countries.) Is it somewhere near Argentina?

jaraad: Exactly!

You may think that this salesperson was trying to goof around or make fun of this foreigner but no he was an extreme case of no geographic sense what so ever.

When to quit?

“Yeah, I’m a great quitter. It’s one of the few things I do well. I come from a long line of quitters. My father was a quitter, my grandfather was a quitter… I was raised to give up.” George Costanza (Seinfeld)

Beside “quit smoking” or “quit drinking/drugs”, the word quit is usually looked at as a negative behavior. We are taught not to quit and learned that only losers quit. What people don’t like to admit is that sometimes quitting requires courage. Quitting your cubical job to follow your dream job somewhere else requires gut. Parents may get a heart attack if they just hear that their son or daughter planning to quit school to start his/her own business. It is something almost never heard of especially in Jordan where people, mistakenly, believe that one can’t survive without a college degree.
I am not pro-quitting but I think quitting is overrated. When to quit is man’s worst decision making dilemma. In our social life, there are many scenarios that I can think of were quitting is good. The most important one is the decision that a married couple has to make when their marriage is right on the edge. Should they continue hoping that things will become better? How long they should stay together before they decide that their marriage is no longer possible? In some cases divorce might save their lives and their kids’ future.

The department of transportation came up with a brilliant idea to save money and time for both the drivers and the rest of the world. They planted “Dead End” signs at the entrance of every neighborhood that leads to nowhere. Unfortunately, we don’t have such privilege in our life. We have to struggle before we find that we reached a dead end.

In the research field, there is no crystal clear answer to when should a PhD or a researcher stop or quit his research if he is working tirelessly with no gain. Pursuing a dead end research is a waste of money, time, and one’s self. How far should a PhD student or a researcher go before he decides that his efforts will lead him no where? No one can answer this question or find a formula to when to quit because no one knows the future.

On the other hand, should one pursue his dream whatever the consequences. Believing that his tireless efforts may one day lead him to success? Thomas Edison said “I have not failed 1000 times. I have successfully discovered 1000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” Imagine how many years humans would have lived with no light bulb if Edison quitted his dream after his 999 trial.

So, the everlasting question is should one quit when things are not in his favor or continue hoping for the best? Also, when one should decide to quit before wasting years on something that may lead him to a dead end eventually?