Monday, December 31, 2007


It appears that I am not the only one to notice (and cringe at) the overuse of certain terms in journalism. See this post from six months ago for the background. See this article for the vindication.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


Today for my last excursion in Qatar, I went to Barzan.

It was used as a lookout for pearl divers (which used to be a big thing here), oncoming ships, and as a lunar observatory. There are two towers, and were built in 1910. Here’s the second tower, as seen from the one above.

My mom and I drove through a little town to get there, but by the towers there was no one around at all. When we got to the first tower, there was a door. I hesitated, then let myself in.

They sell picture frames here that have a door such as this over the picture and you open it up to see it. I assumed it was traditional here, but this was the first time I had seen a door like this. The immediate inside was full of trash, and there were stairs to the side. I went up the stairs to the landing and it was small.

I went over to be inside under the tower

and saw a guano covered ladder. I couldn’t not climb up it, so I went up to the top of the fort, knocking down the guano and I went up.

As I was climbing up, I could hear a bunch of birds fly away. The top wasn’t that big, but it did have a bit of guano.

But it did have a great view of the other tower

and of the city of Doha.

My camera batteries died after I took my first picture from the top, and I left my camera bag at the base of the tower since I had to have both hands free to climb up. So I had to climb up twice, since I had to climb down to get new batteries. I then climbed it a third time after I gave my mom the camera so she could take a picture of my at the top. I think the birds were glad that I was gone.

We then walked over to the other tower. I couldn’t go inside, since the door was inside a fenced off area on someone’s land. By this tower there was a little creek and it was green around it. It was the most green that I’ve seen my whole time here. I guess I didn't realize how much of a desert this place is until I was shocked to see something so green.

There was a courtyard by the tower that I could walk around in,

but it had litter everywhere.

This was a fun little place to visit, and it was only about half an hour from my mom’s apartment. It seemed like no one had been there in a long time, even the trash looked old. Even though the towers look desolated, the area around it had built up. The pictures I had seen of it before (on the link at the top and in other places) have just the towers in the desert. But now there were little dwelling places all around, with construction going on as well. Hopefully someone will clean up the place and the towers won’t fall into complete disrepair in the future.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Al Souq

The souq is the traditional shop/market of the Mideast. There is a big souq in Doha built where a fort was.

The souq has many, many little stores inside. There are a lot of pathways, and it’s easy to get lost and turned around. The alley ways go in all directions and feed into the main street on the inside or to the road on the outside.

In the shops there are all sorts of things for sale, like swords, Iraqi money, clothes, and food. There are also various restaurants. Phonographs are quite popular, for some reason.

Fancy decorations are available,

as are pictures and other random things,

not to mention a boat or two.

Instead of shopping carts, there are old men with wheelbarrows who will cart around your stuff for you.

Close to this souq is the old souq, which has the pigeon masque outside of it.

There are a lot of pigeons.

Across the road from this there are the gold souqs. There are at least ten of these all bunched together.

The souqs are fun to walk around and look. It’s good because there are touristy things to buy (like little magic genie lamps, post cards, pictures, etc.) but also real things that natives buy (food, clothes, pots and pans, etc). You get a good mix of enough foreigners so you can get by in English, but also enough natives so not everyone speaks English and you have an authentic feel.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

“Riding the dunes is like dancing salsa”

Here's my second post on vacation in Qatar (this is the first).

Today my parents and I and some American friends headed south of Doha to the sand dunes and the Inner Sea – a part of the Arabian Gulf (don’t call it the Persian Gulf here) that juts into Qatar. (You can click here and zoom in on the southeast corner of the country right next to Saudi.)

We went in two SUVs and drove until the road ended. There were some camels there,

and I hoped on one for a short ride.

Our drivers/guides deflated the tires a little bit and we drove into the desert, leaving any roads behind us. Unlike the rocky desert in the northern part of Qatar, this was all sand.

I have no idea how they knew where they were going, but they did. We stopped off at a pool of water that is left from high tide of the gulf.

We got back in the SUVs and kept driving. And this was quite the drive. We would go over the dunes, with the driver gunning it, then we would go down big dunes with the car turning sideways. It’s hard to grasp with a picture what it was like or explain it. The closest thing is a roller coaster with a car. My feet would be airborne and my camera would jump off my lap as we went up and down. We would drive on top of a dune a few feet from a 50-100 foot plunge. We went up and down all sorts of dunes like this.

This was about the angle we were at a lot of the time. The dark ground on the left was the flat ground.

They had walkie-talkies in the car. The best was when they started talking in Arabic, then suddenly we would both at the top a huge dune next to each other like a race. Here’s one hill where we went down almost completely sideways.

The height and slope are hard to picture, but this is what it looks like from the rear view mirror.

In the car we were listening to American hip-hop and Latin music, though when we first started going on the dunes he put on music from Pirates of the Caribbean. As we were driving, our driver told me “riding the dunes is like dancing salsa.” I was thinking, “can it get any better than driving in the middle of the desert in Qatar listening to Akon and Beyonce with the driver telling me this is like Latin dancing?” We drove for about 45-60 minutes in the desert jumping over dunes, when suddenly we were at the Arabian Gulf.

The land in the distance is Saudi Arabia. I put on my bathing suit and went for a quick swim.

The water was great. I only wish that we could have spent a few hours there. But after half an hour or so, we piled back in and drove back up to the road, filled the tires with air, and came home.

Edit: I forgot to mention that as we were sliding down the dunes, I asked our driver if he's ever seen cars flip over. He said "plenty of times." It wasn't the most reassuring thing I've ever heard.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Al Zubarah

My parents moved to Doha, Qatar and for Christmas I have come to visit. Here's what I did my first full functional day in the country. And yes, I was wearing my "Disco Stu 2002" tee shirt.I went to the west side of the country with my mom and two other people she knows. We were going west across the country on a highway, and stopped to look at some camels on the side of the road.

They were behind a fence, and were being raised the way Americans raise horses. The desert isn’t sand like I expected, it is mostly hard ground and rock.

We then went to the al Zubarah fort. It was built in 1938 on the ruins of a destroyed castle and used as a defense against Bahrain. The holes in the building were meant for guns to shoot out at intruders. The fort was then used as a jail as late as the 1970s, and as a Coast Guard place until the 1980s. It was then turned into a museum.

When we got there, there was no one there. We just walked on in and went around. After a while some other people arrived.

After going around the fort, we went to the Arabian Gulf. I waded out, it is really shallow and I couldn’t really go swimming.

Then we went to al Zubarah town. It was build in the late 1600s, and most of it has not been unearthed. In its day it was huge – some European maps called all of Qatar Zubarah after the town.

Coins from India, China, and European Africa have been found there. The city is estimated to be 2,000 by 800 meters. It will be much more impressive if it is ever fully excavated. Like the fort, we just walked on in. There wasn’t a place for anything official, it was completely self guided.

On our way home we stopped by the Emir's personal zoo, and could look in through the fence. He had various animals (mostly African) including the oryx - the national animal of Qatar.

It was a great day, I got to see a huge chunk of the country. This weekend I'll be heading south to the more sandy part of the desert and to go to the Gulf down there.


Friday, December 14, 2007


The most annoying thing for me about the media is their insistence on making up words that they think sound cool and are funny, but in reality are not.
In non election years this takes the form of words like "Brangelina" or "Bennifer". In the past few weeks we have been inundated with a flood of news about Mike Huckabee, and in response the media has reared its unoriginal head and given us "Huckacide" (which the inventor, one Rich Lowry at the National Review, thinks means 'to kill oneself with Mike Huckabee', when in fact it should mean 'to kill Mike Huckabee', but I digress), "Huck-mentum", "Huckaboom", "Huckmania", and "the Huckster", to which which we all collectively say: "Huckawhy?" Or better yet: "What the Huck?"


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

no title

Hi everybody!


Monday, December 03, 2007

When Salsanight Attacks

When I went to salsanight and closed the window earlier today, my computer went nuts. About every five seconds a new Internet window would open to salsanight (not my homepage). I tried to close the windows, but they kept coming. Salsanight was everywhere. I turned off my computer, and things are back to normal. Has this type of thing happened to anyone else before?


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Counting down...

Since I've got a dissertation defense presentation to plan out, I naturally decided to blog. Today marks my one week countdown until the defense, which is next Wednesday at 3:30. Its intimidating and nerve-wracking, but having witnessed the defense of the last guy from our group to graduate makes me feel a little better. His was bad, and he still passed, so I think I'll be fine. Thats my strategy for life in general- stand next to someone doing it worse so you look good. Kidding, Jenny, kidding.

Mini-rant: So am I the only one tired of any tiny political scandal being immediately given some nickname involving the suffix "-gate"? Not even real scandals, but just small things a candidate does that makes him/her look kinda bad are now "Something-gate". Attorney-gate, Plame-gate, nipple-gate, Rather-gate aka memo-gate, Trooper-gate. Enough already! Its just not cool anymore.

Speaking of kids nowadays, I've been the teacher for 6 math classes for about two weeks now, with another 4 weeks to go. I always kind of thought that being a high school teacher would make you feel young- not that thats why I'm teaching now, and not that I feel particularly old, but I just assumed that being back in that environment would remind me of what it felt like to be 16. Man was I wrong. I've felt older in the past month than I ever have. Being around these kids, besides being excellent birth control, just makes me want to be even farther away from them in age than I already am.

And finally, after all this time planning for and looking for a job, the last place on Earth I thought I would end up is ... back in Provo. No, I haven't accepted a job there, yet, nor has a job been offered to me, but a headhunter contacted me representing a company down there that was impressed with my resume and wants to interview me. By this point, 6 months into the fruitless job search, I just might accept if the money is right, even if it is back in the last place I wanted to move back to. Provo. But no fear, Seattle-ites, I also just applied to a job in Renton that looks pretty nice.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Great Moments in Pointer History: Video Edition

Long story short, the Brothers Gillins and I made a video called "Pointers for Beginners."

To better understand the premise, watch this one first and read the blurbs beneath the video.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Tank you...

So Lucy really likes praying now, so much so that she doesn't let either of us do it but demands that she be the one to pray at family prayer time. Unfortunately, most of her prayers consist of "Dear Heavly Fater... and... amen!" So every night we usually have to remind her to thank for things and to ask for blessings. Tonight, she started out with her usual "Dear Heavly Fater... and... amen!", and after we prodded her with "Thank you for...", she said "Tank you... Uncle Steven, tank you... Juju, tank you... Nana, tank you... christmas lights, tank you... fire, tank you... food, tank you... Fiona, tank you...Donkey, tank you... Cat, tank you... Shrek, and.... amen!"

Dreamworks: Mission accomplished.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Waxing nostalgic

I've been doing much better lately at living in the present and not pining for the past or longing for the future so much, but there are some things I miss:

--Jon's rants, from why the BYU All Sports Pass policy is dumb, to why he hates rainbow-chip frosting (or was it rainbow chip cake mix?)

--Making fun of Nick for waxing the floor yet again, realizing that I too had homework that I didn't want to do, and offering to help

--Banding together in harsh conditions (no heat)

--Warming up on 35's couch because 18's heat didn't work all winter

--35. Those girls were the best--we never found another apartment like them

--Performing "Toast" in the original trio

--Freestyle walking with Jon

--Singing barbershop

--Banding together in harsh conditions (weird roommate (Darryl))

--Ultimate Frisbee in between General Conference sessions

--Jenny doing improv storytelling on the piano

--Banding together in harsh conditions (weird roommate (Brett))

--Making salsa with Nick
-on official Salsa Nights
-on random late nights with too many habaƱeros, then staying up sweating and watching reruns of Cheers and Taxi

--Making faces at Katie

--Banding together in harsh conditions (no toaster)

--Parley and his great conversions


Friday, November 09, 2007

Change in Intro. to Book of Mormon

Did anyone see the news report on the left sidebar about the changes in the introduction to the Book of Mormon the church has recently made? One of the changes is just the addition of one word. Where it says that all the inhabitants "were destroyed, except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.", they add the word "among" before the words 'the principle', so now it implies that the people in the Book of Mormon were only a few of the people that were actually here. This gives great relief to those who found themselves trying to defend the church from criticism that the church erroneously teaches that the American Indians were all descended from Israel, and not from people who came across the land bridge from Asia which is what all the archeological evidence suggests. I never really had that problem since I kind of just assumed that the book of Mormon people were just a small subset of the people here, and that the B.O.M. introduction isn't scripture anyway.

The other change is the omission of the words "as does the Bible" in the sentence that says it is "a record of God's dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel."

Any idea why they would have changed that?


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fantasy '08

Political junkie that I am, I registered last month on the fantasy 2008 election "stock exchange" hosted by When you register, they give you 10,000 "RCP dollars", which you can use to buy securities for candidates winning or losing races, whose prices are determined entirely by what people are willing to pay for them. After over a month trading I am proud to announce that I am ranked #9, now with about $12,500.

I keep my trading based mostly on the Republican primary, since I just don't understand how most Democrats think, and I feel much more comfortable predicting the outcomes of races on the right. The races in which I have made the most money have been the Michigan Republican primary, and the prediction of who will be the Rep. nominee. I placed about $2200 on Romney being the winner in Mi., and that has earned me about $1700. I placed $5000 on Thompsen NOT being the nominee for the Republican party, and that has earned me about $1000. I put a little money on Romney being the Rep. nominee and that earned me $100 so far with minimal investment. I also put some money on the South Carolina primary, for Romney and against Thompsen, which has lost a little (since Thompsen is still polling higher than Romney there), but I believe that will change soon judging by some recent polling there.

I've put a little money on both McCain and Paul not winning the nomination, since at the time that I did that they were both relatively highly priced to win (in the upper single digits), but that has lost me a little money since they have gone up since then. I think I'll buy more of that since I think they can only go down- especially Paul.

I have not put any money on New Hampshire or Iowa since I think Romney will win those, but his stock costs too much to make it worth purchasing. I also have not put any money on Giuliani since his stock is also very high, and I don't think it will get any higher- yet I don't feel safe betting against him yet.

So barring personal opinion of what you want to happen, what do you think WILL happen in the primary?


Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Chipped My Tooth

And by 'me' I mean a student in the gym class I was subbing for who was not looking where his arm was going as he wildly threw a frisbee, and by 'chipped' I mean a barely visible crack. And moments after I had doubled over in pain, I felt a little deja vu. I've been here before! Oh wait, it wasn't me, it was Cabeza. And it wasn't an arm, it was a hockey puck. And it wasn't a faint crack, it was a large chunk of tooth.

So while that traumatic experience was not mine, it was still hard for me to witness since I have this thing about teeth. When I was in Argentina, a good 50% of all adults (and many children) had visibly rotting teeth. Some would just be brown, in the early stages of rot, but some would be so visibly rotted that they would look strikingly like exhibit A here over on the left. Some were worse. And the breath- just imagine the breath. So on my mission I started having these nightmares where I'd just be sitting there, and then suddenly all my teeth would crack and fall into my hands. These nightmares have subsided somewhat in the 7 years I've been back, but I still get them occasionally. I think I had several after Cabeza's "incident", and as I was hunched over holding my precious, unstained, beautiful teeth, those dreams and those rotting teeth were all I could think of.

The dentist says it should be fine (though he didn't see the crack, and I didn't discover it until later), but if it starts TURNING BROWN (!!!!!) to come see him again for a root canal. I asked him if, after it turns brown, will it be bleachable or something. Nope. It would need a veneer glued onto it.

So the moral of the story is: Nick is tooth-breaking-or-rotting-o-phobic. And don't stand next to teenagers throwing frisbees, or anything else. And duck when hockey pucks are flying at your head.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mormon Eschatology

Or in other words, I like to use big words to pretend I'm smart. But seriously though, I learned the word eschatology back in a New Testament class at BYU and it basically means the study of the last days, the second coming, or the end of the world.
I just finished reading/skimming a book on early Christian history that covered the apostolic period through the papacy of Gregory around 600 (the same Gregory of Gregorian chant fame, but not the Gregorian calender- that was Gregory the 13th). I was struck by how obsessed the early church was about the second coming. There is evidence that even the apostles believed that Christ would come again soon, possibly within their lifetimes. The doctrine of an imminent second coming was ever present on the minds of early Christians, from what we can tell from the writings of the period. This focus on the second coming died down a bit with the realization that maybe He wasn't coming back right away, but tended to flare up again around significant dates like the year 1000 ad (and more recently, the year 2000). Many Christian sects and individual Christians tried to predict the time of the second coming using the Bible and sometimes other extra-biblical sources like astrology or Nostradamus.

It seems to me that the history of the Mormon church's belief in the timing of the second coming has mirrored the beliefs of historical Christianity, only in a much more condensed time frame. When the church was restored, language of building a Zion was common. When the early members spoke of building this Zion, they were not speaking of a nice place where they would all get along and were free to practice their faith, they were thinking of building the city were Christ would reign during the millenium, which would probably happen within their lifetimes (see any good book on early Mormon history- like Richard Bushman's bio of Joseph Smith). This belief in an imminent second coming provided an additional fervor to their belief in the restored church. It was appealing because of all the biblical prophecy in which the Lord promises to gather up his elect before the end times, and lo and behold, here is God restoring His true church, so He must not be that far away from coming! This was reinforced by all the passages in the D&C which say something like "Lo, I come quickly..." or "The time is soon, yea even at the doors, yada yada..." (yada yada not in original but meant for comic effect).

Then came section 130 of the D&C. Joseph inquired about the timing of the second coming- since the church had been expecting it for years and it had not happened yet. God says: "Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter." After Joseph died, many church leaders and members interpreted this to mean that Christ would return in the year in which Joseph was to turn 85, ie 1890, including, I believe, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff. When it did not happen, no one lost their testimonies because that passage of scripture was sufficiently vague and did not come right out and say "Yea, verily I will return in 1890. Prepare ye a hearty feast for my arrival!". But the habit of trying to predict exact years for the second coming (doable since it only says we can't know the hour or the day, right?) persisted.

My grandpa was apparently one of those who persistently was trying to predict the second coming (at least according to my dad and an uncle). He was always paging through the scriptures, trying to find obscure references, tie them to current events, and from there calculate a date.
His patriarchal blessing, as I've noted before, even led him to believe that it was within his lifetime, to comical effect when he finally died in his mid 90's. And if you've ever been to church, you've probably met people who do the same, saying things like "Hey! Did you see what happened in Israel? Any day now!"

And so I come to the poll question of the week. Most of us seem to think that it will not be in our lifetimes. A few others think that if it does, we will be very old. Only a brave few think that it will happen when we are in our primes (40's or 50's). For those who voted, why do you think it will happen when you voted for?


Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Peck of Pickled Peppers

We're getting our first winter storm tonight, so I picked the rest of the garden except for the few things that can tolerate a frost. I've never tried it before, but I canned some pickled jalapeno peppers. I put in some garden carrots, garlic, onions, and red peppers for some color too. The liquid is mostly white vinegar with olive oil and salt.

We have enough green tomatoes to last us a month or more if they all end up ripening. Some of them have split because of the cold and rainy weather we've had.
I've been trying to think of what else we could do with them. I've never tried fried green tomatoes, and they don't sound very good. I some some recipes for green salsa that I might try, though.

I also tried picking a bunch of parsley for drying. It worked really well by just putting it on the oven rack at 200 for about half an hour, and then crushing it. I got about 2 cups of dried parsley- which saves me about 20 cents than what I would have spent on store parsley. Woo hoo. I justify the time I put into it by saying it tastes a lot better than the store bought.