Friday, October 31, 2003

This week Ramadan began. In honour of everyone's misery, they let us all come to work two hours late. It's like a four day work week. Just not as convenient. I think people handle the hunger pretty well. They generally stay out of squabbles and disputes. And their driving doesn't deteriorate that much (not that it could).

Last week I caught I a student cheating in my exam. Printed copy of notes that answered on of the test's questions was in his hands during the test when he knew he was not allowed to have anything in his desk. Father didn't believe it. He had just found the paper in his desk and was trying to hand it in. So dad came into school and we had a meeting with the principal. I could tell it wasn't going to be a good one when he started with "I have three children in Al-Bayan and, while I think it's a good school..." In the end when he didn't get his way, he decided to make his statement by pulling his kids out of classes in the middle of the day to take them home. Is it any wonder that this kid is the little sneak that he is when dad so charming.

This weekend, we attended a little Halloween party at our friend's apartment. There are a couple photos of the event in the recent photos section. At the end of this week, the first quarter ends. Is the year passing that quickly?

Today is the day we make our first even mortgage payment. Out little house has been rented for the winter. Someone we know from the ski community in Winnipeg will live there with a couple other people. At least it should be well taken care of. Plus it's comforting to know that someone has committed to paying the bills for the next 6 months.

Monday, October 27, 2003

We went to a party at our Latin dance teacher's house last night. It was a pretty standard Kuwaiti affair: bad music, a bit of half-hearted dancing and way too much food. Except for when salsa or meringue music came on, then there was at least energetic (and cramped) dancing. After a couple of hours of dancing, and the second playing of the "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes" song we called it a night. It is good to get out and meet a few people who aren't teachers. Ernesto, who can dance the meringue like his hips are afloat on stormy seas, is a Porto Rican who drives a transport truck up into Iraq. Unfortunately, the party DJ's like their music loud, so having a conversation with people is a challenge.

We have been leading a quiet life since we got back. A few parties to keep us busy on the weekends. But, we've stayed away from restaurants. There's lots of tutoring and exercise. We've worked out a system whereby we earn our pocket money based on the number of times we exercise each week.

Karla bought me a DVD player as an early Christmas gift (it was on sale) and I paid for the home theatre speaker system out of my exercise money. Our CD player stopped working and we took advantage of the misfortune to upgrade. We can still listen to regular CDs as well as CDs with mp3s on them, plus we can watch DVDs. It will even accept a CD with pictures on it and run a little slide show. But trouble started on Wednesday when a student asked me in class to hold onto her DVDs. Well, she forgot them and I brought them home. I popped one into the DVD player to see the wrong region screen - a screen I was not supposed to seen after being promised that the player I bought was a multi-region player. In fact, none of the three would play. I went to bed Wednesday night thinking about what I would say when I went back to the store.

Thursday morning I got up early and while I sipped my coffee, I decided to check on the internet to see exactly which DVD players were multi-region and which weren't. After a bit of surfing, I had a pretty extensive list scribbled down, (including the cheaper model I had almost bought t hat didn't have the surround sound outputs). I read that some players have a switch inside the controls which region's code it accepts. Just for the hell of it, I thought I would do a quick search to search to see how difficult it would be to alter ours. My first Yahoo result took me to a page that described a process of pushing a few buttons on the remote in the magic order. And sure enough, in a matter of 30 seconds, I had adapted our DVD player to accept discs from any region.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Has anyone notice that Karla never makes an entry here? Friendly suggestions that she take a more active role in (or complaints that I am taking over) website content can be sent to her directly to her.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I was driving home (alone) today, when good old Bruce Springsteen came on the radio. VOA's Roots and Branches (folk music) programme was doing a show on baseball song and "Glory Days" made the cut. Apart from reminding me of Bruce's own glory days with his Born in the USA album, I really could hear the bit that influenced Dan Bern in his lyrics and vocal style. I read a BBC review of one of Dan's shows that described him as a "Salvation Army Bruce Springsteen". I could hear the straightforward storytelling style and enjoyment in Bruce's voice that makes Dan so fun to listen to. Bruce doesn't have Dan's unconventional values or his senses of humor and the ridiculous, but he did have a hand in it.

I also watched a shop called "Rough Science". It was a reality documentary. Take five scientists, drop them at an old lumber mill in New Zealand, furnish them with simple tools and a box of junk - old radios, pots and pans, wire, elastics, zip ties, a bag of sugar, etc. and give them a job to do. In this case, it was to find and accurately weight gold. The geologist scouted the rivers for good places to look for gold, the electronics whiz started building a metal detector, one set to work building a scale and using a bag of nails and wire to make it accurate down to a tenth of a gram, the botanist went into the forest to find plants that would strain the gold flakes out of the sediment as it ran through a sluice. No alliances, no hissy-fits, no insects to eat, just some good old fashioned resourcefulness. There may be hope for TV yet.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Today is Sunday, the second day of our week. Sunday is the only day that Karla and I can come home together. Every other day of the week, one of us is carried off by tutoring. We get home first, then go tutoring. But today was payday for me, so it all seems worthwhile again.

The highlight of my day, other than being able to drive home with my wife, was an episode of Seinfeld and a Surfer on Acid (Kuwaiti style - made with real coconut milk because Malibu is only 20% alcohol and therefore an inefficient product to smuggle). Karla is about to kick me off of the computer and send me back to Midnight's Children, which might be my new highlight of the day - but so far the book hasn't really grabbed my attention. In fact, I look at the six hundred pager and wonder how long it will take me to get through it.