Monthly Archives: June 2011

Picture America: Mobile Compact Shelving

Here is a smart way to overcome the problem of small spaces in libraries. These moving shelves are in the School of Journalism library at University of Missouri. Such shelves are used especially in the basements.

“In 1908, Walter Williams established the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia, the first such school in the world.” [source]

Moving Bookshelves

p.s. The shelves stop automatically if someone moves between the shelves or were obstructed by an object.

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The Arabic guide to living in the US–The Law (Part 1/2)

Disclaimer: Since this post is about culture differences between Arabs and Americans some people from either culture may feel offended by some issues discussed here. The purpose of this post is to educate and inform Arabs of the culture and way of life in the US. Therefore, this post means to offend no one. I would like to hear your opinion if you feel some issues discussed are not entirely true.

Part I: In Arabia

In general, Arabs are not the best nation when it comes to following orders. We just don’t like to be told what to do. We fail miserably when it comes to following orders that come from a higher authority. For example, we don’t like it when we are told to stand in a queue whether it is in the bank or the post office. Also, we don’t lean toward abiding to traffic laws. We don’t stop at stop signs and we stop or park where the sign says no parking or no loading. Double parking is the norm not the odd.

I have to explain though (for non-Arabs) why we do this. Simply, because in most Arab countries citizens don’t elect their governments and usually these governments are known to be corrupt. And since we don’t have a say of how the country is run we don’t respect the government and we don’t like to follow what they tell us to do, unless of course we are forced to. Hence, the rebellious attitude against some laws, as long as it is possible to break. Since the ruling of the Othman followed by the English/French and even later after the WWII we can hardly remember a presidential or a prime minster election. In the last 40 years elections in the Arab world is limited (except for Lebanon and maybe Sudan and Mauritania) to voting for the parliament and the municipality president.

Part II: In America

In the US, since people have a say of how their country is run they have a sense of responsibility in following what their government tells them to do. They believe the government’s sole objective is serving the citizens and working for the sake of the country. They can disagree with the government on how it handles certain issues and can openly disagree with their president. All this made the Americans feel proud of their country and its constitution. They feel responsible in being punctual and following orders and regulations placed by their government.

Since humans are anarchic or can easily be chaotic in certain situations laws need to be forced. This is why police officers in the US are respected and feared at the same time. They have power granted to them by an elected government. As soon as a police officer identifies himself to the citizen he will be in charge. The citizen needs to follow the police officer orders or else bad consequences may occur. The charges could range from “failure to obey police officer” to “resisting arrest.”

In Jordan, if a police officer stops you for a traffic violation you step out of your vehicle and try to argue with him and if needed you may pat on his shoulder or hold his arm in a friendly way hoping to convince him to give you a warning instead of a ticket. Here, nothing like this can happen. You should not step out of your vehicle unless you were told so and never ever touch a police officer.

Part III: Stories

This post is already long so I will stop here.

In the next post I will continue this post (The Law). I will talk about the two most critical issues related to this topic: 1) Arabs think of the US as a country with one law not as many states, each has its own law. 2) Not knowing the law is not an excuse for breaking it. I will also give some examples and true stories happened to Arabs.

David Cameron Yelled At In Hospital

I just love the UK. Here is one reason why:

David Cameron Yelled At In Hospital By Surgeon David Nunn

An ITN Newsvideo shows an angry doctor killing the mood during British Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to a London hospital.

According to Dangerous Minds, Cameron, his Deputy, Nick Clegg and Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, were visiting Guy’s Hospital in London on the day that plans were announced for changes to the National Health Service (NHS). A senior orthopedic surgeon grew angry that camera crews and press photographers had not followed hospital procedure and failed to roll up their sleeves.     [source]

You may agree or disagree with what the surgeon did or whether he lacked professionalism or not. But the fact that he yelled at the United Kingdom’s prime minster and the prime minster’s agreeable calm reaction says something about this country’s politics and history.

If only Jordan, if only!

Happy news for husbands on father’s day

Congratulation husbands and dads the secret for more sex is revealed now.

Better Dad and Husband = More Nookie

Research shows that when men do more housework, women are more satisfied with their marriages, and couples fight less. Moreover, couples who consider their division of household labor fair (it doesn’t have to be 50/50, but the wife has to think it is fair) have sex more frequently!    [source]

If this is not enough, your wife finds you sexy while you are doing the dishes. To her you may even be sexier than George Clooney, all what you have to do is fold washcloths. If only Raymond (from Everybody Loves Raymond) knew that.  I wonder if this would be a good motivation for Jordanian husbands to do the dishes.

Though many women find men doing housework hot (choreplay, anyone?), who knows whether men performing family work is the chicken or the egg. What we do know is that when men do their share around the house, their marriage is likely to be healthier — and sexier.      [source]  

Students Feedback

101_0348Summer session started last week. This semester I have 24 students. I teach a programming language course. I have Engineering, Science, Business, Music, Anthropology, and Phycology students. They are freshman up to Graduate students. Every semester, I ask the students to give me a feedback about the class and to write any comments or suggestions they have about the class. I usually ask them to fill out an anonymous poll on line in the middle of the semester. This semester, I wanted to hear their opinions and concerns a little bit earlier.

Today, I handed them index cards, instead of the usual online survey, and asked them to write any comments, suggestions or concerns about the class. I also asked them not to write their names so they don’t feel afraid or shy from saying what they really think of the class or about the teaching.

Students sometimes are shy when it comes to criticizing the class. These feedbacks are very helpful to learn what the students are thinking in an early stage. I address their feedbacks and concerns in the next class and we discuss their comments and suggestions. Some of these comments or suggestions are valid others may be not. Students love the idea and I always get very useful and interesting comments and suggestions. Some of these suggestions were very helpful for my teaching. Others sometimes are goofy and funny like “I like your accent” and “I like your hair.” Although, I am not sure of the later if it is a mocking statement, since I don’t have hair, or a compliment.

Before the end of the semester, the department asks the students to give their feedback about the instructor and the course. The instructor can only see these feedbacks after the grades are registered. I will talk about the process and what kind of questions in these evaluations in a later post.

Online Communication Etiquette

Although it has been millions of years since the humankind started communicating face-to-face, we still see many fall behind in this real life course. To make things worse, we now are introduced to a new kind of communication that we have never learned how to deal with in school or at home; the online communication etiquette.

Our parents taught us to say “thank you” and “excuse me.” These are complete, powerful, nice, and kind statements that mean a lot and serve a purpose. In school, we developed even better communication skills. We learned how to talk to strangers, how to acknowledge others and how to engage in a discussion with more than two persons.

My real world communication skills are very good. I know when to listen and when to speak. I know when and how to initiate a conversation and when the other party doesn’t want to engage in the conversation. I know when my students are nodding their heads as a result of agreeing with me or comprehending the material, and when they are nodding to fool me that they are following but in reality they are not. I know when to shake hand and when not.

On the other hand, my skills and etiquette in the online communication are very bad. Neither my parents nor my school taught me what to say or do when a stranger send me a Facebook friend request, or when someone doesn’t answer my Facebook friend request. Or someone doesn’t follow me back on twitter. No one informs you that they stopped following you on twitter, out of a sudden. All these behaviors are considered very rude in the real world. Imagine speaking to someone in front of you and he/she doesn’t answer you or even acknowledge your question.

When I joined Twitter I followed people but many of them didn’t follow back. Being new to twitter I unfollowed them, thinking it is rude not to follow back. Later, I decided it was naïve to do such thing. And since I wanted to hear news about Jordan I had a following mania. I followed more than 300 most of them tweet from Jordan. In the beginning, it was fun to be on top of what is happening in Jordan. It was great to be able to follow the news about #March24 Protest Camp in Amman . But then months later, more than 150 of those who I followed didn’t follow me back. So, I decided to unfollow.

As I said, I lack the etiquette of online communication. I just followed and unfollowed people twice in less than a year. Of course I didn’t inform them because they were not following me in the first place. I am not saying that everyone you follow should follow you back. It is, in some case, unreasonable and it is their choice to follow you or not. But not following back could be interpreted for different reasons. And since we lack the online communication etiquette we will never know why someone is not following back. It could be one or more of the followings:

  • It could be a polite message to the follower that you can follow me but I wish you don’t
  • They have thousands of followers and hence they can’t follow back everyone
  • You are not adding much to their online presence. I think I fall in this category since I only tweet my new posts. Twitter still not my thing
  • You tweet too much, or your tweets are useless, or any other reason that they don’t feel they should follow you back
  • Some individuals think it is prestigious if the number of their followers is more than the number of people they follow
  • and whatever other reasons

I found I have a problem with my online communication etiquette when I started using Twitter and when I started receiving comments and subscriptions to my blog. I never for example thanked any of my blog subscribers. I even didn’t acknowledge their subscriptions which now while I am writing this feel it is very rude and unprofessional. I wasn’t sure if I should do that or not. I think it would be a nice gesture but I never did it. I wasn’t taught what to do and what not in such case. It is totally a new realm for me. No one knows if we should acknowledge every comment to our blog or not. I know some Jordanian bloggers like Rand and Whisper do it. For some other bloggers like the Black-Iris it could be almost impossible with thousands of readers per post.  I many times feel I have nothing to add to the comment on my blog but maybe a thank you would be enough. But again, it is a new communication skill that I need to learn about.

Facebook communication etiquette is much easier to learn than Twitter. When I send a friend request I always send an email with it. Informing the person that they should not feel obliged to accept my request. Some people reply back when they don’t feel comfortable accepting this request others ignore to reply back.

We all know to be successful we need to have a good communication skill. There are thousands of publications, courses and events about learning, developing and acquiring these skills. Unfortunately, most of these, if not all, publications are limited to the real world communication. Maybe it is time for the people in the social networking to start addressing these issues and start an online communication etiquette course. I am sure some on top of this business people already started addressing this issue but I think it is still undeveloped and in its early stage. 

For everyone who reads and comments on this blog I would like to say thank you. And a special “THANK YOU!” to those who I have never thanked or acknowledge before, my dear subscribers. I know it is late but I am learning a new skill, the online communication etiquette. Without these comments and subscriptions I would never know if someone out there is reading my posts or not.

Living in the United States

I am fortunate to get the chance to live in three totally different cultures; Middle East, South Asia, and North America. I am also lucky that I got to teach in the Middle East and in the United States. I taught in three universities in Jordan and I am teaching college students in the United States since 2005. Although, I didn’t teach in Malaysia but I am aware of the culture of classrooms since I did my Master’s degree there. I have met so many people from different backgrounds. The classroom helped me learn a lot about these different cultures.

These encounters with so many students from different backgrounds and cultures enlightened me in so different levels. The more we know about other cultures the better we become. There is no culture that is better than the other. There is so much to learn. Blessed are those who meet with people from different backgrounds and can learn something beneficial from their rich culture.

This introduction is my way to justify why I can start my new project; a series of posts named “The Arabic guide to living in the United States.” These posts aim to educate Arabs planning to visit, study or live in the United States about the culture and the way of life in the US. I am sure Americans and Europeans have many books that talk about the Arabic culture for those who are interested in living or studying in the Middle East.  However, I am not aware if there are any Arabic books about the American culture or way of life in the United States.

I will talk about what topics to discuss and what not. How to order your cheeseburger and bebsi (Pepsi). Why Arabs keep their chins up (literally not metaphorically) when they go to locker rooms. Where to live and where not to go. The danger of taking a wrong street. I am going to talk about some laws, sports, dogs, homosexuality, holocaust, religion and many other topics.

I already, collected more than 30 topics. I am going to write about each one in no particular order. If you have suggestions, comments or want me to talk about a particular subject related to this guide email me or leave a comment.