Monday, October 30, 2006

Flying from Fes to England today

Ryan Air discount carrier has just begun flights between London and Morocco. My ticket, leaving Fes tomorrow (Tuesday Oct 31st) and returning Thursday, cost only 64 Euros for the return trip. At that price, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to head to the city of rain, curry and shopping.
With a baby due Nov 25th, I'm leaving it a little late. But there wasn't much ticket flexibility, the cheap flights only started this week.
The plan is to fly in, stay with a friend, buy as much as I can (within the 25 kilogram plane weight restrictions) and fly back to Morocco on Thursday morning.

Ryanair flies to three different airports in Morocco. Fes, Marakkesh, and Oujda.
From these three airports, they fly to three different European destinations. Marseilles, Frankfurt and London.

Tickets can cost as little as thirty Euros, if you are flexible and play with the dates.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Is myspace getting worse, or is it just me?

I'm getting more and more and more errors on Myspace. It started with the attempt to use the new feature that searches my gmail and Yahoo address books for people using myspace. It didn't work.
Then I was getting invisible messages. "You have one message." and when I went to my inbox, it was empty, except for saying, "message 1 of 1," with nowhere to click.

Then it was the searches for a friend, then searches through the highschool database. Nothing worked.

I'm beginning to think myspace is a dud. It would be one thing to fix previous errors. But they don't get fixed. They just build, one glitch after another with nothing ever getting corrected. Is there someone else out there having problems with myspace?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Canada's Clean Air Act, or Harper's Hot Air Act?

In the past I've been very critical of Harper. But to be realistic, it's not as if the Conservative government has a magic wand to simply pass laws that will bring Canada's runaway pollution problem into check overnight. In that, I'm a realist. As much as conservative sniping annoys me, the Liberal partising sniping about Harper's impotence environmentally is just as irritating.
Canada is a country balancing the windfall from a massive oil boom and the repurcussions of the environmental damage the boom creates. Drastically cutting pollution, at least in the short term, is a pipe dream.

We've made promises to big businesses, oil companies, and America to continue processing the oil sands for decades to come. Besides that, the oil boom money is damn nice.
Unfortunately, Harper can't do a whole lot to fix the great dilemma of pollution and global warming in the short term. That said, I am extremely disappointed in the policies and goals he's outlined. They seem flat and push the burden onto future leaders to pick up the slack.

Europe has the right idea, and here's a hint on how to impress the Green sreaming electorate while pandering to their dependence on the oil boom economy. The electorate wants something they can see, some environmental plan to distract them from the oil companies dessimating the environment. A ray of hope - not some mimicing of Bush's fancy names for Legislation.
Mr Harper should understand that most Canadians don't like George Bush. Judging by the polls, the majority of Americans are starting to lean this way too. Try to distance yourself from Bushm. For example, the Clean Air Act you outlined sounds scarily like the Clear Skies Initiative outline by GWB.
Furthermore, your plan is completely lacking environmental responsibility for the current government.

Here are the Clean Air Act ideas, taken from Glove and Mail website.

Highlights of the Conservatives' proposed Clean Air Act

Canadian Press

• By 2011, develop new regulations for vehicle fuel consumption.

• By 2025, set national targets for smog and ozone levels.

• By 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 45 and 65 per cent from 2003 levels.

• No mention of the Kyoto Protocol and the emissions targets the government of Canada comitted to in 2002.

• Harmonize vehicle emissions standards with those of the United States over the next 12 months.

• Harmonize regulations with those of the U.S. for volatile organic compound emissions in consumer and commercial products over the next year.

• Over the next three years, discuss and set “intensity based” targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, rather than total emissions targets, for major emitters.

• Negotiate with provinces to create harmonized system for mandatory reporting of air emissions, reduction of regulatory overlap.

• Create environmental damages fund from non-compliance fines to be applied directly to cleanup.



There is nothing really enforcable and simply the same tired promises of keeping an eye on polluters in the future.

Consider this. Rather than say, "We want to cut our greenhouse gasses by 50% by 2050." Try showing us some numbers we can imagine in the voterships lifetime, this year even. For example. "Canada wants to increase its renewable energy resources by 2% per year, and derive 30% of it's energy needs from renewable resources by 2015, including solar power, wind power and increased hydro projects."
Perhaps raise that goal to 40% by 2020.

Why not offer future tax breaks or lower road taxes on low emissions or hybrid cars?
Perhaps, due to market forces, it's not the best econonomic idea to push through right away, but a five or ten year plan for gradual e-friendly tax breaks could be extremely popular with the electorate. Not to mention tempting Toyota and Honda as campaign contributors - Gasp, campaign contributors with a non-environmentally threatening agenda! It would also push the big American car companies, who have trailed Japan in the Green revolution, to get a move on.

Will Canada revoke dual citizenship?

It's only a rumour at the moment, and the article states that little more than talks are taking place within Canada about the issue of dual citizenship. What startles me though is the xenophobic knee jerk reaction of most Canadians partaking in the ensuing debate.
They ask questions as to why would anyone want to have dual citizenship when Canada is such a great country?

See G&M article here.

The majority of the responses reinforce Canadian's closed-minded racism. "Joe the nobody who's never left the country doesn't understand why dual citizenship might be a good thing, why should other people have it?"
"Once in Canada, why would anyone want to leave?"

Personally, I hate passports and nationalities and even borders. The amount of time I've wasted jumping through bureaucratic hoops to obtain visitor's visas, not to mention the money, is a nightmare.

And if it's a pain for me, imagine my wife who's Moroccan. She needs a costly and time consuming visa to go almost anywhere in the world.
Yet she is Moroccan, and she would probably choose Moroccan nationality over Canadian nationality if she was forced to make a choice.

Why is this a problem for me?

I'm a travel writer who travels through Africa. If my wife obtains dual citizenship, I can continue in my career path because a Canadian passport actually gets me into other countries.
But if she doesn't get Canadian citizenship because she refuses to renounce her Moroccan identity, we'd likely get blocked at some point on the journey. Thus a small Canadian policy could either destroy my career, or cause strife in my marriage by having me unfairly push my wife to make an uncomfortable decision.

All this frustration based on a rumour. Something they are merely discussing and reviewing their policy of. Fortunately, there have been no changes yet, so there's nothing to be worried about. But to revoke people's dual citizenship is wrong.

It's a policy idea pushing us back to when Japanese Canadians were interned in prison camps. A xenophopbic idea to please a xenophobic group of closed-minded people.

"Why would anyone want to have dual citizenship?"

Because some people like to explore the world! Because some people like to live in new countries and seek diversity and culture. Dual citizenship opens that window for them. If obtaining documentaion to live a rich and diverse lifestyle is unCanadian, sorry Joe Muppet. There are other parts of the world than your big patch of land and its stamp of approval.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The tricky issue of the veil in Britain.

At a striptease in Saudi Arabia, all the men were shouting, "Show us your face."

A fierce debate is going on in England. Should women wear the Islamic veil? Is this a sign of segregation in a country trying to integrate Muslims? This issue has been pushed to the forefront since the onslaught of home grown terrorism.
My solution - post David Blunkett to deal with Muslim integration, I don't think he really cared one way or the other whether a woman was veiled or not.
Teehee.

Seriously though. Is it a sign of segregation and refusal to partake in British culture? Yes, to a point it is.
Do I agree with the veil - I wouldn't want my wife to wear one.
I don't think it is a necessary part of the Islamic religion so much as a symbol of certain cultures and countries known for their oppression of women. To me, the veil is a sign of a woman's subservience to her husband.

All that said, I have to bring up the argument that Britain today gives people the freedom to express their views through their dress. In a world where people have pink mohawks, wear vampire white makeup, get piercings and tattoos everywhere, wear their jeans halfway down their bums, and so on, what exactly is defined as fitting into British culture?
Alternatively, while I'll take the stand it is the choice of a women whether she wants to wear the veil in public or not, I also feel that if people go to Britain without being ready to accept certain cultural norms and freedoms, they might be more comfortable staying back in their home countries. If their style of dress is so fiercely important to them, perhaps they shouldn't have left in the first place.
In many stricter Muslim families, women are not allowed out unescorted by their male protectors. (Husband, father, brother.)
Yet here in England they not only are allowed out, but are actively partaking in British political debates, discussions, schooling, and life. So, while it's okay to partake in British society in some ways that defy their cultural norms, they cling fiercely to something that holds them back from really achieving these freedoms.
In my opinion, the veil is a symbol of being held back. Of staying anonomys and unimportant, and though a voice comes from behind the veil, it's a faceless and power-stripped voice which to me shouts. "This is what my husband is allowing me to say."

If that's what a person wants, then so be it. Otherwise, "Show us your face."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mechanics in Africa

Throughout my journey across Africa in a Beach Buggy, and during my last two years here in Morocco, I've had several visits to the mechanics. When you know a good one, they can be impressive. A job it would take me more than a day to muddle through, these guys finish in an hour.
Back in Canada, I had to change the bearings on my Ford Contour - a nightmare of a job because the placement of the wheel bearings was probably designed by either a drunken monkey, or because Ford intentionally wanted to make the job nearly impossible so people would be forced to bring their cars to a Ford mechanic.
For the job, I needed a strut condenser, but not just any strut condenser, one that would fit into the tricky tight space the contour designed.
The job took me three days. Granted, I'm no mechanic, and the first bearing, just to figure out how to bypass the strut condensing problem, took me almost two days. Once I got a system in place, the second bearing took a couple hours.
On the Honda Civic, here in Morocco, the guys took about an hour to change both bearings, and most of that time was waiting for someone else at a nearby garage to press the old bearings out and the new ones in.
And then there's the price. The bearings themselves were about US$80. The labour, for say two guys at an hour each, cost just over US$20.
A hundred bucks to do a bearing change job they probably would have charged triple or quadruple for in Canada or the States!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Leafs are on track.

It's been a promising start for Toronto. What surprises me the most about the league right now is the closeness of it. It's not only going to be the Maple Leafs in a dogfight to make the playoffs, it's going to be a dozen or more teams in each division.
The key for the Leafs will be consistency, they can't afford to take a mid season slump like last year. It killed them.
Sundin's 500th goal puts him at sixth most among active players. Ahead of him are Pierre Turgeon 511, Joe Niewendyk 561, Joe Sakic 575, Jaromir Jagr 593 and Brendan Shannahan 602.
The only player who might be out of reach in the long term is the younger Jaromir Jagr.

Far from dominating, the Leafs may have taken points on five of their six games, and five straight since their first game. Yet under the old system, their record would be 2 wins, 1 loss and 3 ties, or just one win over the .500 mark.
Nothing to get excited about.

The Senators are another team who will be in the dogfight after losing highly touted defenseman Chara to Boston and potential MVP Martin Havlat to the Chicago Blackhawks. Currently sitting atop of the scoring race, Havlat is a major factor in an apparant turnaround of the Blackhawks so far this season.

Ottawa seems to be the victim of salary cap limitations, if not their own stupidity. Their good drafting, trading and team building led them to become, "Le dynasty de merde," or one of the best teams to never amount to anything. They are dissolving faster than Calgary Flames who dumped superstar after superstar in an early nineties cleanout. The difference being the Flames dynasty actually won a cup before trading their best players for second and third liners. (Doug Gilmour for Gary Leeman teehee.)
Highly touted goaltender Gerber has shown signs of potential , but on other nights has been more reminiscent of The Goober.

I'm still laughing over the sweep of Ottawa by Toronto in the playoffs a few seasons back. Jeez, I lived in Ottawa then. I've been in Africa for five years!

Do presidents only get impeached in the movies?

Do presidents no longer get impeached, or resign in shame? Does that just happen in the movies?

The last one was Nixon (resigned on the cusp of being impeached) during Watergate for wire tapping the democrats.
Hasn't the Bush administration passed the Patriot Act allowing them to listen in on coversations legally?

Watch Swordfish to learn more about the Patriot Act, it was what the hero had originally been jailed for after destroying the same concept with a virus?

In the movie the Pelican Brief, a major energy giant company strategically assassinated environmentally friendly judges in order to pass votes for oil contracts on a Nature Reserve. The president was in the end brought down by the fact that this company had donated to his presidential campaign.

The current regime's largest campaign contributor was major energy giant CEO Kenneth Lay, the man responsible for the Enron scandal = the biggest corporate ripoff in American history.

Bill Clinton almost got impeached for lying about an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinski.
George Bush lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, invaded a sovereign country based on those lies - without UN approval (illegal under international law), - and caused, directly or indirectly, the deaths of more than 655,000 people who would otherwise be alive today had he not invaded.

Bush (via his cronies) revealed the name of a CIA agent (a serious crime) in a smear campaign against her husband and the CIA who disputed Bush's Iraq WMD claim.

I could go on and on, but these are a few of the more solid and obvious "crimes."

***

Article II, US Constitution:

Section 4 - Disqualification

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, AND Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.


Are US presidents no longer impeachable?


Definition: TREASON - This word imports a betraying, treachery, or breach of allegiance.

The Constitution of the United States, Art. III, defines treason against the United States to consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort. This offence is punished with death. By the same article of the Constitution, no person shall be convicted of treason, unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
--b--


minor - Threatening the country's security via revealing the name of a CIA agent.
major - making decisions based on lies which helped the cause for recruiting of American enemies.

(There has to be something illegal about this, if not then at least very dodgy?) - The Republican campaign taking money from near defunct corporation Enron which went on to steal billions of dollars from American citizens.
Being the root cause, and prime exascerbater of significant and shock level oil price increases that resulted in the significant increase of GWB's personal wealth and the wealth of his friends.

Advice for aspiring writers.

1) Legitimate publishers and agents don't advertise in magazines. These are vanity publishers, and no matter how bad your work is, they will tell you it's good enough to publish, but they want to split the costs of publication.
2) Real agents and publishers NEVER ask you for money. If an agent or publisher asks you for money, it is a scam, designed to take money from aspiring authors. You will never see a cent of that money returned.
3) If an agent thinks your work has the potential to make them money, they will represent you and take a commission on the money you make. They won't ask for an advance, ever.

4) And my last piece of advice, which I've mentioned way back when starting this blog, is to go to the website www.critiquecircle.com
Even if you only submit one piece of your work, (you have to critique others to get feedback yourself) you will learn something.

Okay, I should stop procrastinating on my blog now and get back to work.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Is Ignatieff floundering?

While the media has been criticizing Liberal leadership hopeful Michael Ignatieff as anti-Israeli for his harsh comments on the Qana tragedy, (calling it a war crime) I think he stated the plain truth. While Ignatieff is still not my first choice, I retract my previous position in that I would never vote for Ignatieff as PM. Not that he's grown on me, but Steven Harper has just taken such a stance of such ignorance that I could never support him.
Even though I don't like Bob Rae, I'd choose Rae over Harper. I'd even choose the NDP or the green party over Harper.
Ignatieff's intelligence and affluent responses to difficult questions have impressed me. Israel needs a strong Canadian PM to take a stance against their transgressions while pushing for peace and dialogue. It bothers me that other Liberal leadership hopefuls have remained bothersomely quiet on the issue.

In the first days of the invasion, I waited to see if I agreed with Harper's initial "Measured response," approach to Israel's invasion. I even gave him the benefit of the doubt when he didn't retract the statement after Israel went on to destroy the infrastructre of a predominately peace loving country and kill over 1000 of their civilians.

But his latest ignorant support of Israel, casting a blind eye to their war crimes and and destruction, including the environmental catastrophe on Lebanon's coastline, means I can never, ever support Harper. I'm taking Ignatieff's side on this issue, and if a few pro-Israeli politicians want to cross the floor and pander to the miniscule Jewish vote, let them do so, you're not wanted in a Peace loving Canadian political party. Ignatieff is catering to the common sense vote of people with a clue about Middle Eastern politics. I'd be willing to bet there are more of us than there are hard-core even beyond stupidity Israel supporters - even in Israel!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Harpercrite strikes again

Harper the hypocrite says Liberals are anti-Israeli.

I'm tired of the Israeli card being played, over and over and over again, as though the rest of the world should be held accountable for saving their few remaining numbers from the Germans in WWII. The holocaust was awful, tragic and the blackest mark in mankind's recent history. But that doesn't give Israel the right to commit war crimes today. Nor should it give them the power to protest and lobby every time someone points out one of their murderous mistakes. The most recent case being a war crime committed in Qana. But the list is long and very disturbing.

Ignatieff called it right, saying Qana a war crime, but he also reiterated that war crimes were committed by both sides.

I don't support Hezbollah and think their claim to victory is a baffling joke. They merely rode out the storm, fired a few rockets from their hidden bunkers and tunnels, killed the odd Israeli, and disappeared again. Meanwhile Israeli retribution destroyed the infrastructure of Lebanon and resulted in ten times the casualties, military and civilian, than Israel themselves suffered. I don't see how being the underlying cause of the destruction of one's country can be considered any kind of victory for Hezbollah, moral or otherwise.

Moving on, Harper should not blindly support Israel while ignoring the devestation felt by the Lebanese people. The region is a pit of snakes, and unless you tread carefully, you're going to get bitten.

Ignatieff is first lambasted for saying he didn't lose any sleep over the deaths in Qana.
I feel bad about them, but I didn't lose any sleep either. Admittedly, it was a bad choice of words.
He compensates by saying Israel committed war crimes in Qana.
Suddenly the Jewish lobby is up in arms and like a little kid in a playground, Harper jumps up and down and calls Ignatieff anti-Israel.

Harper - what happened in Qana was a war crime. How does pointing out the fact make Ignatieff anti-Israeli?

I'm disappointed in the media for reporting such drivel.
I'm disappointed in Harper yet again.
And I'm disappointed in swathes of the Canadians for following Harper's idiotic line as can be seen by the comments page of the G&M article about Harper's anti-Israeli accusation. I thought Canadians on the whole were smarter and better capable of seeing a situation for what it was.
Blindly nodding at whatever BS a country's leader happens to say has been an American problem recently (sorry to the American minority who doesn't blindly nod.) Apparantly it's a Canadian phenomonon as well.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Iraq death count estimate - 655,000

Check the BBC article out here

655,000, or 2.5% of Iraq's population. That's a staggering number! One in twenty five Iraqies killed since the beginning of this war.

In comparison, if one in twenty-five Americans were killed, that would add up to 7.5 million Americans. So far the count is around 3000 though, including non-American troops.

While the underlying blame lies squarely on Bush for creating this quagmire. There is something wrong when Muslims systematically assisinate and mass murder other Muslims for little reason other than to create havoc and destroy what remains of Iraqies dreams. Or perhaps the reason is simply to see America fail. If enough Iraqies die, America will be embarassed for the stupid mistake they made of invading.

Bush is suffering from the lowest support ratings of any president in history. Hovering around 40% - what shocks me is that there are 40% of Americans stupid enough to keep blindly supporting this buffoon.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Wake up America!

America today reminds me of dysfunctional African countries and their unspirited, at times fearful, acceptance of the people in power. "They will steal their share and then someone else will take their turn," tends to be the common line.

People in Iraq are being blown up, rounded up and shot, and tortured worse than at any time under Saddam Hussein's regime.

The Valerie Plame affair still confuses the hell out of me as to why it just was just shruggingly reported. It's as though it's no big deal that Bush told a deliberate lie to the American public in order to justify the Iraq invasion, and then when called on that lie, Bush (and we all know the decision came from him) punished the whistle blower by committing a federal (national security endangering) offence by revealing the name of a CIA agent (who happened to be the whistle blower's wife.)

Watergate, Lewinski? They don't even compare!

Yet the biggest headlines dominating American media in the last six months is about a Republican's innappropriate comments to a young man. Not a boy, but a young man, and there is a significant difference! Sixteen year olds are old enough to go to war in the United States, which IMO, can be vastly more emotionally scarring than a few dirty gay comments posted over the internet by some old codger.

Murder, war crimes, torture, who cares.
An old gay politician caught writing a dirty comment to a young man. Prepare the guillotine, American values are under threat.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Is Mr Foley's neighbourhood bringing down the Republicans?

Mr Foley, the republican embroiled in a scandal about explicit sexual messaging with a sixteen year old is not only under fire, but the Democrats are going for blood, trying to milk this situation into a full blown, bigger than Monica Lewinski scandal and getting everyone associated with this guy fired.
Seriously though, what's the big deal?
I'd like to point out that the age of sexual consent in the majority of US States is sixteen - the age of the young man he was sending sexually explicit emails to. Therefore, depending on the state, I'm not aware of any law being broken. While his acts are questionable, and indeed raise suspicion of him being a possible pedophile, it doesn't mean he is one. Indeed, in my books, he is just a dirty old man.
How many "normal" guys do I know who don't actually click on the "barely legal eighteen" sites when searching the net for porn. The fact that he is a gay and attracted to young males should bear only a minor difference to a man dreaming of sex with the women he sees on barely-eighteen-sites on the net. Sixteen is a grey area, seventeen less grey, eighteen considered perfectly acceptable. Is there really that much of a difference?

Then again, what should I expect from a nation who practically declared a national family values emergency when a boobie was shown for a split second during a superbowl halftime show.
There are a lot of things the Republicans should go down for, and I could blog about them until I am blue in the face. But this is not one of them.

An early turning point for the Leafs

I know it's only the second game of an 82 game season, but if there was ever a turning point in the Leafs fortunes, it occurred last night. Coming off a 4-1 loss at home, heading to their arch-rivals home arena, I feared a repeat of last season, where the buds were continually undressed and embarassed by a powerful Ottawa team.
Last night, the Leafs responded. In fact, they did the undressing of Ottawa, in a romping 6-0 victory.
I only wish I could have watched the game. Not even the radio internet link worked, whether it was my connection, software, or just too much traffic. The internet was acting funny last night, this blog wouldn't come up at all and another site kept crashing on me.
Go Leafs Go.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Go Leafs Go - my weekly hockey junk

The Leafs recorded their first loss yesterday to the loathed Senators. Like last year, I'm hoping this isn't the start of another dismal appearance against the team who seemed to single-handedly dismantle the Leafs playoff hopes last season. Since the Leafs play the Sens up to eight times, they need to come away with at least a few wins. Tonight in Ottawa will be a big test for the Buds and may well spell success or failure for the rest of the season.

IMO, the Leafs single biggest off season blunder was letting Eric Lindros go. The guy wanted to be in Toronto, and was willing to take a bargain-basement salary just to stay. I make an early prediction and say the Leafs will lack offense this season. Sundin can carry the top line with a couple other good players alongside him, but Tucker needs a quality centre to bolster the second line, and the big E could have done that. Injury prone or not, we're talking about a guy who was touted to be the next great one until a few concussions slowed his career down.
The Leafs have depth in young defense, and should have probably passed on Hal Gill who I doubt will do much to impress this season. Instead, they should have given a couple cheaper young kids a chance while investing in best you can buy defense coaching.

Finally, big news on the sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins to Jim Balsillie, owner of the massively popular Canadian company Research in Motion. The only reason the Pittsburgh Penguins ever survived in the hockey market was because of Mario Lemieux. Without him, the team would have been hauled away from Steel town years ago. As if some freak of nature occurred, they managed to haul in the next generation superstar in Sydney Crosby as well. But the city has lolligagged on building a new arena and talks have spun around moving to another state - Bad idea!

Where is the best market - the Toronto area is massively underserved. Per capita, there are more hockey fans in Toronto than probably any other major city in the world. Look at New York, with the Rangers, the Islanders, and the Devils. Count the Sabres too if you're talking about NY State.
In Toronto, Leafs tickets are always sold out. A second team, with the star draw of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Staal would be dynamite. South of the border, you're taking your chances on both a weak US dollar and questionable hockey markets.
Choose your Canadian city soon, Winnipeg, Quebec City, or the GTA. There's a dynasty in the making with talent that hasn't been matched since the Oilers broke into the league in the eighties.

The Leafs would be crazy to decline the possiblity of another team in the area. There are enough dedicated Leaf fans to sell out tickets forever, with or without a rival team nearby. It would also set up a rivalry for the history books and bring the best thing in hockey today back to the country his talents were made in.

The only thing to figure out now is a great name.

Recently edited out of a chapter.


I recently edited this section out of my Egyptian chapter. It's a tough chapter, where a lot of things happened, but not a lot of it is noteworthy or interesting enough to include. Anyway, this is one of the ministories which didn't make the final cut. Please note that this is a few editing rounds short of being polished as I cut it out at an early stage.

You'll probably notice sections of strong writing, and sections not so strong. Hopefully it will provide a look into my editing process anyhow.

#


Pierre’s shiny bald head and snappy clothes made him look like Lex Luthor. He laughed heartily, argued in class with the teacher and blamed them when a language concept escaped him. Other students avoided him, whispering to each other about how obnoxious he was. He didn’t have a big crowd of friends at the school. In fact, I was his only one.

At the end of each class, with Arabic grammar and vocabulary scrambling to get a foothold in our heads, we often ended up at our favourite backstreet café. With one hand, Pierre held the ebony handle of a sheesha water pipe, bringing it up to his mouth and inhaling deeply. While the sheesha gurgled, he’d use his other hand to roll a set of dice onto the backgammon board and move his pieces around.

#

Cairo’s weather was generally sunny. In my entire time, there was one brief rainstorm, a pelting of acid rain that sent black droplets down my skin as I sought shelter in a nearby shop. Another day, I awoke to an eerie brownness which dulled out the sun. A hamseen, as the Egyptians called it, is when strong winds from the desert pick up the dust and sand and leave the entire area in a cloud of dust.

On a cool January afternoon, Pierre and I sat playing backgammon in our favourite bustling alleyway. An enormous Egyptian man had locked onto us with his eyes from far across the alley. Sweat beading down his forehead, he walked straight toward us, grabbing a napkin from a nearby table to wipe his brow. Nearly out of breath, he said, “Do you want part in Egyptian movie?”

Pierre eyes shot up. “What film? Who’s the director?”

The shady-looking, overweight man brightened. “It’s a movie about the mob. I’m not sure who the director is. You can learn more about it at the office if you come with me.”

Pierre bumbling with excitement and me not-so-enthusiastic, we followed him down a few narrow streets, up three sets of concrete stairs, and into a small, unfurnished apartment with cracking, pollution-stained orange paint. Four Eastern Europeans chatted in some Russian-sounding language. They leaned against the wall with expressions of anxious boredom. A chunky British girl, her dark hair frazzled and her jaw set in an exasperated-end-of-day at the office look, came out of a separate office with a clipboard. She saw the six of us waiting and checked her watch. “The associate director should be here in a minute,” she said.

Two hours later, the associate director still hadn’t arrived. I took a deep, frustrated breath. “I gotta go.”

On my way out the door, the British girl, her voice filled with panic, rushed toward me. “Wait!” She took my arm and shuffled me into a separate room filled with wire racks of pants, dress shirts and long-tailed coats – it looked like a charity shop. “You can take your clothes off here,” she said, standing by the door.

“But we just met. What kind of Egyptian film is this?”

Her face went bright crimson. “Uhh,” she stuttered, “Abdul’s going to get your dimensions and fit you with something for the role.” Her slim Egyptian colleague slid between her and the door and looked me up and down.

“Oh,” I winked at her, “maybe later then.”

The man took out his measuring tape and determined my lengths and widths. They then did the same to Pierre and we agreed to show up the next day and meet the assistant director.

“Please wait here,” the British girl said. “The assistant will be here any minute.”

“That’s what you said yesterday,” I said.

“I know, I know, but he’s coming.”

Pierre and I still sat in the concrete stairwell two hours later. “Forget it.” I stood up. “I’m done.”

“I’m staying. I really want to do this and see how movies are made.” Pierre remained in his seat.

“They’re not paying you to sit here for hours every day. Waiting around on the day of the shoot is one thing; they give you twenty bucks at the end of the day. But, it’s been four hours now just to sign up. It’s ridiculous.”

Eventually, Pierre was given a time and place to be at for the shoot. He showed up for the next two days at six in the morning, but the filming was cancelled both times. Still undeterred, he returned for a third day and waited with several other foreigners in a café next to where the camera crew had their equipment. Ten hours later, having not acted but just waited, they paid him the meagre wage. Worse still, the company misplaced two pairs of designer pants they’d asked him to bring. He spent another two weeks harassing the studio before they were found and returned.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tidbit of the month - sort of

This is a story which I'm not including in the book. Although it has points of interest, it takes a long time to get across and, I'm afraid, sounds a little whiny.

A ten page passport extention doesn't last long in the Middle East. Since getting ten more pages inserted in Ethiopia, the next country Sudan took up two pages with their stamp happiness, Saudi Arabia had taken up another three, Jordan had taken two pages, and, after a month in Egypt, the extention had taken up their second page. I had one blank page left.

With the passport in hand, I headed to the Canadian embassy. The marble-floored, white-walled room, had glass barriers protecting the employees; probably more for safety from irate Canadians than from terrorists.
A woman behind the desk explained the procedure to get a new passport. "You need your birth certificate, your social insurance number, this application, and..." she pointed to a section on the application. "This needs to be filled in and signed by an Egyptian official stating that they have known you for two years or more."

"But," I said. "I already have a passport, why would I need all that. I could return to Canada with this passport, see, there's still one page left. It doesn't make sense to have all those documents."

"Those are the rules," she said. "That's what you need for a new passport."

I had two problems. First, my birth certificate was at my parents house in Canada. My parents were in Florida for the winter. Second, I had barely known any Egyptian person for more than a couple months. How was I to find an official who'd known for two years?

It wasn't until the sixth month of my stay in Cairo before I managed to obtain my birth certificate from overseas, which had been lost and needed to be reordered by my sister. A dentist friend of Selim's signed the statement that I was in fact, Daniel Sturgis.

While my new passport application was being processed, I met an American at one of the pubs I frequented. He worked with passport control and immigration at the American embassy.
"I was wondering," I said, "What are the conditions on issuing a new passport to US citizens at the embassy?"

"That's easy," he said. "We just interview the person in and ask them a few quick questions like What US highschool did you attend? What street did you grow up on? What was your zip code in the US? If the answers come quickly," he snapped his fingers, "we check a couple facts and issue them a new passport. It's usually pretty obvious."

"What if the answers don't come quickly?" I asked.

"Well, then we double check the facts to make sure they aren't lying, and if everything is alright, we replace their lost passport."
"Oh, their lost passport," I said. "What if they have there old passport and its run out of pages, or is going to expire."
He looked at me as though I was stupid. "No questions asked," he said. "We make sure the passport is genuine and issue them a new one."

"Right," I said.