Monday, June 25, 2012

Last Post for a Couple Weeks

My music download goal was a failure.  I only got 63 albums out of the 100 I was aiming for.

On the bright side, I just downloaded 63 new albums.

The last four were Yo La Tengo's Fakebook and Painful, as well as The Singles Collection and Demon Days by Gorillaz.

For the next few weeks, I'll go from UAE --> Italy --> Michigan --> South Dakota.

There'll be poker in South Dakota.

Hope your summer is starting well.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Download Pace is Slackening

Busy with school work, I guess.  Oh, and the fact that my laptop monitor flickered for a few minutes and then went almost entirely black this afternoon.  It would've been better if it had gone completely black.  Then I would've been able to see nothing, and I could've been justified in giving up.  Not the case.  My monitor instead got so fucking dim that I was just barely able to see what I needed to see if the light was just right and if I squinted really hard.  Then suddenly this evening, it was working again.  Needless to say, I'll be buying a new laptop over the summer.

New music downloaded over the last few days:

Autechre, Confield
Autechre, Oversteps
Circulatory System, Signal Morning
Devendra Banhart, Cripple Crow
Devendra Banhart, Nino Rojo
Devendra Banhart, Rejoicing in the Hands
Lower Dens, Twin-Hand Movement
Lower Dens, Nootropics
Broadcast, The Noise Made by People
Jack White, Blunderbuss
Best Coast, Crazy for You
The Mountain Goats, The Sunset Tree
The Mountain Goats, The Life of the World to Come
Okkervil River, Black Sheep Boy
Calexico, Hot Rail
Radiohead, The Bends (I've owned it and lost it twice)
Gorillaz, Gorillaz
MGMT, Congratulations
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig Lazarus Dig!
Cat Power, The Greatest

So that puts me at 59 out of 100.  I'm leaving Tuesday night (early morning) at 2 a.m.  So that gives me Saturday, Sunday, and part of Monday.  I don't know if I'll be able to pull it out, especially in light of the fact that tonight I am downloading the last three episodes of The Walking Dead Season 2.

In any case, I've had some pleasant surprises in the new music I've downloaded.  I've also had more than my share of duds.

Matthew Dear, as I recall, was especially good.

I'll be running around getting ready to leave over the next few days.  Then once I'm abroad, the Internet will be patchy, as Internet tends to be when traveling.  In any case, I'll be back in the states around July 14th or so.  If you don't hear from me before then, I'll resume my blogging then.

I'll probably get a chance to blog about poker.  I can't wait to sit down at a live table again and be bored off my ass waiting to flop a set.  Once a nit, always a nit.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

After Final Exams

After final exams are finished, I calculate and submit the course grades.  Then I crack a beer, sit back, and prepare to enjoy myself.  Because the begging emails are coming.

Here are a couple from tonight:

Iam Ahmed Alkhaili from section 12:30.
Sir I was planing  to get an A, because I did my best on final exam.
If raise me to 80 I will aprocheat that.

Funny how he somehow finagled the letters c-h-e-a-t into the word "appreciate."

I'm student in your class ..
You give me c+ and I got in yor quizes good mark 
When I see it 77 I was surprised .. I do very well in last final essay eaxm 
Please I had a donation from police and I should get in GBA 2.5 please raise my mark to be (B) plaese plz .. 

Two observations.  First, these students are always surprised.  They're in a perpetual state of amazement.  They do D work, I pity them enough to bump them up to a C plus, and they are amazed that they didn't get an A.  The degree of delusion--or mental retardation--would be pathetic if it wasn't endlessly entertaining.

Second, based on this kid's email alone, I should flunk his ass.  He got one of the lowest scores in the class on the final exam.  In his mind, he "do [sic] very well."  And what kind of police station is going to donate money to a fucktard?  One in the UAE, apparently.  I pity his GBA.

You can see my class above.  The front of my room is at the bottom; the rear at the top.  Actually, because I didn't want to draw 40 heads, consider each head above to represent 3 1/3 students.

To get some sense of the abilities of my class, look at the mouths.  A closed mouth means a fairly intelligent student.  These people tend to occupy my first row.  Occasionally one can be found in the second row (see row 2, middle).

Then the mouths start opening (row 2, left end and right end).  These guys can survive in society.  They remember to breathe.  Their hearts are powered by instinct, so they get no credit for that.  But all in all, they aren't bad.  

In the back half of class, I have my mouth breathers.  I have really learned to appreciate the education that I got in the first world.  You know, the kind that inspires critical thinking and creativity in addition to the basic stuff that we have to memorize.  That sort of education really changed the way a first-worlder's brain works.

These kids use logic like monkeys humping a greased doorknob.  It's messy.  It's spastic.  It's pretty funny.

And the best part is if they're Emirati--and most of them are--they could very easily be my boss as soon as they graduate.

But not today!  Today I fucking owned their asses.  They were trying to cheat up a storm, until one of the fucktards in the back rows handed in his test early and left.  Up until that point, there had been endless whispering and roving eyes.  I looked at the empty seat, and it hit me.  I could solve them like a four-piece jigsaw puzzle.

I walked over to the seat, sat down, and turned myself to face the entire room.  There wasn't a single student out of the reach of my periphery vision.  The students in the front row were the furthest, but what did I have to worry about them?  They were all getting As.  Also, I had the benefit of being near the whisperers.  Slowly, a realization dawned on them.  If they were poker players, the realization would have been that I had position on them.  I had the fucking button.  If they were chess players, it would have been that I had the white pieces . . . and I got to start the game by moving twice.

There was nothing they could do.  I was right next to them.  They were helpless.  If they raised, I'd three-bet their monkey assses with J6 offsuit, and they'd have to fold.  Because they don't know how to play poker.

If you haven't guessed by now, cheating is sort of normal here.  Rampant.  To someone who went to school in the States, it really rubs me the wrong way.  The sort of shit they pull on me would get their asses expelled in any first-world university.  When I tell them that, they look baffled.

Why can't we help each other? they must wonder.

Well, not today, fucktards.  Today you got soul-owned.  If you had a better education growing up, maybe you'd have developed the critical thinking required to work out a counter-strategy . . . like studying.

Today was a good day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Final Exams

I've said before that many of the students in the UAE are rude and seem to have a comically exaggerated sense of entitlement.  I want to give you an example from today's final exam.

They received an essay exam.  One of the questions required them to do some calculations.  Obviously, I had sent a couple of emails reminding them to bring a calculator.

Student raises his hand.  I walk over.  He points at the question requiring calculations and says, "How to do this?"

I respond, "With a calculator."

He says accusingly, "I don't have a calculator."  He holds his hands up as proof.  His point is clear: It is my fault that he didn't bring a calculator.

I say, "Do your calculations by hand.  On paper."

He says, "I don't have paper!"  He is trying to gain steam.

I reply, "What is your test made out of?"

This appears to baffle him.  And I think, If that comment baffles him, then this dude should've been aborted.

In his dreamworld, I should have gotten him to bed early.  I should have read him a bedtime story and set his alarm.  Then when he woke up, I should have made him a nice breakfast and thrown some coffee down his throat.  And after dressing him, I should've put some pens and a calculator in his pocket and drove him to campus.

Then I should've found him a seat and told him to sit.  At just that moment, I would've realized that I forgot to remind him to take a dump!  And at exactly that moment, he would've shit himself.  And then he'd turn to me and say accusingly, "I don't have toilet paper."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Walking Dead Season 2

I really went on a run of good television shows lately.  Game of Thrones.  Game of Thrones Season 2.  Breaking Bad Seasons 3 and 4.

Now that I'm watching the Walking Dead Season 2, I can see a real drop off.  Weaker plot, weaker acting, just not as interesting.  But it's really not fair following up those two shows.  If I watched it first instead of last, I'd likely think it to be much better than I do at present.

Downloads now at 39/100.  Pace is good.  Added five albums today.

The Dismemberment Plan (3 albums): The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified, Emergency & I, and Change.

Rancid, . . . And Out Come the Wolves

Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel . . . 

I don't know much about Fiona Apple, despite her fame.  This album just came out, and all of the reviewers fell on their faces in sheer awe.  I've listened to the first three or four songs.  Pretty dramatic, but good.

Rancid's album has some songs that I liked a long time ago.  It also seemed like a fun album to get.

I was jumping from one music-review site to another and saw the Dismemberment Plan mentioned twice last night.  I don't think I'd ever heard of them before.  Anyhoo, Emergency & I and Change were both lauded as being genre-crossing and imaginative, so I got them as well.

Now I have a decent-sized stack of music that I am too busy to listen to . . . because I am downloading music so much.

Tomorrow I give my biggest class of students an all-essay exam (to keep them from cheating).  Several of them have gone to complain, in the vague hopes of getting me fired, so that they would get a test where they could just draw a circle around four options:





No multiple choice for you, fuckballs.  Write shit down on paper and have it make sense, or fail.

It is quite fun watching the desperation of students while they are taking a test that their minds can't handle, when I know full well that a group of them--Future Fs, I call them--have tried to remove me from my job.

Life is good.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Stockpiling Bowie and Eno

34/100 albums downloaded so far

I really started picking up Bowie and Eno albums.  My last update had me at 23 albums.  The eleven I've downloaded since then are:

David Bowie, Aladdin Sane
David Bowie, Heroes
David Bowie, Low
David Bowie, Hunky Dory
Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures
Joy Division, Closer
Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Brian Eno, Music for Films III
Brian Eno, Neroli
The Walkmen, Heaven
Bruce Springsteen, The Rising

Mostly just a bunch of old school stuff that I never got around to owning before.  I never knew how many solid albums Bowie made.  Eno is a long-time favorite.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I Think It Is Time We Sent a Chimp into Orbit

I'm not kidding.  This should be happening.  Today.

First off, I think it's important to remember that astronauts make anywhere between $65k and $100k per year.  That's not fantastic, but it's not bananas.  If we replace these space jockeys with one or two chimps, we could literally pay them bananas.

The chimps would be self-trained.  What I mean is, we toss a couple of these fellows into a ship, launch it into space, and then we rely on positive reinforcement.  If the chimp starts scratching its ass, no banana.  If the chimp goes to sleep, no banana.  If it starts smashing the controls, no banana.

But if it grabs the steering wheel (this space ship will have a steering wheel like a 1973 Chevy Malibu) then--bink!--a chute will open, and a mechanical arm will lift a banana in front of the chimp's face.

So now we've got the chimp at the wheel of a billion-dollar spaceship with a leather steering wheel.  The next step will be fairly crucial.  We've got to change what he sees.  A little software can fix that.  Instead of planets in the distance, he'll see bananas.  Before we know it, he'll have found the thrusters and be rocketing towards them.

We've done it before.  Until now, however, we haven't given our chimps sufficient freedom.  Power.

The most obvious danger, of course, is that the chimp will navigate to the nearest habitable planet, find aliens, intimidate them with his superior intellect, teach them the ways of man, become their Chimp King, develop nuclear weapons, and launch them towards earth, thus ensuring our oblivion.  I can't think of a good solution to this problem, except for trying our best to find the most peaceful, fun-loving chimp we can.

To keep him peaceful, I suggest we dress him in pink, let him play with dolls, and play "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" by the Eagles, as well as a selection of Nick Drake and Simon and Garfunkle tracks.  When he destroys the dolls, we should have humans nearby whose job it will be to weep loudly and uncontrollably.  Gnashing of teeth will earn our criers a salary bonus of 10% and an enhanced dental plan.  The candidate who empathizes the most with our professional criers and stops his antics will become our Space Chimp.

Of course, we might end up selecting the smartest chimp.  The one who sees through our strategy and finds the optimal defense.  Yes, in the end, we might choose an evil mad genius chimp.  In that case, double the likelihood of the earth getting nuked.  That's a risk we'll have to take.


Music Downloading Goal: 100 new albums by June 26th

Progress: 23/100 (bold means downloaded, italics means I've listened to it)

At the bottom of this post are the first 20 that I've downloaded.

Aside from that, I picked up three more overnight:

Clams Casino, Instrumental Tape 2
The War on Drugs, Slave Ambient

I'm at the point now where I have no freaking idea what I'm downloading.  I've never even heard of these bands before.  The reviews seem solid, however, and discovery is fun.

I guess I'm learning something about myself.  I just read a book where sharks played a prominent role.  Those fuckers will eat anything.  Maybe that's how I'm becoming about music.  Well, not exactly.  I won't touch country.  And most pop sucks.  But I'm branching out into jazz, house music, and such, and it has been worthwhile, even if I do occasionally download complete trash. See The Rock Steady.

Considering this download run and my last download run--about a month ago--I've got about 230 new albums or so in my collection.  Life is so much different than when I was a kid, saving my quarters for my next chance to ride with my Mom or Dad to the local Tower Records to that I could plop down $1.19 on a 45 of the newest radio hit.  Technology rules.

Japandroids, Celebration Rock
Mount Eerie, Clear Moon
Kate Bush, 50 Words for Snow

Panda Bear, Tomboy

Hot Chip, In Our Heads (very fun dance album, I've heard)
The Weeknd, House of Balloons
John Maus, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves 
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972
Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
Matthew Dear, Black City 

Panda Bear, Young Prayer (their first album)
Dinosaur Jr., Farm
The Tallest Man on Earth (four albums): Shallow Grave, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird, The Tallest Man on Earth (EP), and The Wild Hunt
The Smiths, The Queen is Dead (always fun)
David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust (my favorite Bowie album)
Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring for My Halo
Fuck Buttons, Tarot Sport

Friday, June 15, 2012

20 out of 100

Music Downloading Goal: 100 new albums by June 26th

Progress: 20/100 (bold means downloaded, italics means I've listened to it)

Japandroids, Celebration Rock
Mount Eerie, Clear Moon
Kate Bush, 50 Words for Snow

Panda Bear, Tomboy

Hot Chip, In Our Heads (very fun dance album, I've heard)
The Weeknd, House of Balloons
John Maus, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves 
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972
Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
Matthew Dear, Black City 

Panda Bear, Young Prayer (their first album)
Dinosaur Jr., Farm
The Tallest Man on Earth (four albums): Shallow Grave, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird, The Tallest Man on Earth (EP), and The Wild Hunt

Adding two more classics:

The Smiths, The Queen is Dead (always fun)
David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust (my favorite Bowie album)

as well as a couple of newer albums:

Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring for My Halo
Fuck Buttons, Tarot Sport

Time for a break from downloading--at least until bedtime, when I will probably queue up another half-dozen.  At this pace, I should finish my goal early.

Finished Breaking Bad, Season 4 today.  Really incredible last four episodes.  Ending was truly chilling.

Good stuff.  Hope you're doing well.

Downloading Music Update

Days Without Facebook: 8 (hardly think about it anymore, though they've sent another 3 emails asking me to check notifications)

Album Download Goal: 100
Albums Downloaded so Far: 13 (bold means downloaded, italics means I've listened to it)

I started off yesterday planning to download these:

Japandroids, Celebration Rock
Mount Eerie, Clear Moon
Kate Bush, 50 Words for Snow

Panda Bear, Tomboy

John Maus, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves 
The Weeknd, House of Balloons

Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972
Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
Matthew Dear, Black City

I picked up the ones in bold.  I've listened to four of them--Japandroids, Mount Eerie, Panda Bear, and the Weeknd--and been doubly surprised by the last of them, which is a straight-up R&B record, which I actually like.  Very fun.

Before I dropped off to sleep, I did some more searching and downloaded these additional albums:

Panda Bear, Young Prayer (their first album)
Hot Chip, In Our Heads (very fun dance album, I've heard)
Dinosaur Jr., Farm
The Tallest Man on Earth (four albums): Shallow Grave, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird, The Tallest Man on Earth (EP), and The Wild Hunt

With the Tallest Man on Earth, I actually just wanted one album.  The one I wanted, however--Wild Hunt--was part of a single downloadable file containing the dude's discography.  No real risk, so I figured why not.

I'm playing the Kate Bush album right now.  Songs are longer and mellower than anything else she's ever done.  It's a pretty good one for chilling out and having breakfast, which I'm about to do right now.

* * * 

Finished the Kate Bush album.  It's pretty freaking dramatic, like most of her other stuff.  Hard to handle listen to a whole album of it, despite the dominance of piano, my favorite instrument, in most of her songs.

After that one, I popped in Hot Chip's In Our Heads.  True pop dance album.  But well made.  First listen is a very enjoyable one.

Almost finished downloading Sufjan Steven's Age of Adz and Tim Hecker's Ravedeath, 1972.

I love it when I have the time to do this.   Download, burn, play.  It's more than a full-time hobby.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Days Without Facebook:  7

My goal is to download 100 albums before I fly out of UAE on June 26th.

Here are the first bunch that look interesting.  But really, a lot of these are shots in the dark:

Japandroids, Celebration Rock (maybe too pop-oriented for me)
Mount Eerie, Clear Moon
Kate Bush, 50 Words for Snow (I've been putting this album off; too afraid it'll really suck)
John Maus, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
Panda Bear, Tomboy
The Weeknd, House of Balloons
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972
Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
Matthew Dear, Black City

All of these are from the last two years or so.  There are also a bunch of classic albums that I want to check out.  Anyway, this looks like a decent start.  If you've heard any of these and think they're trash, please send me a warning in the comments section.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Downloading Goal

I finish my work in UAE in about 8 days.  I leave on June 26th, 13 days from now.  Over that period, I have the goal of downloading 100 new albums.  And because I don't want to download any shit, or at least to give myself the best chance of not downloading shit, I will have to do considerable research.  Time to get started.  Updates forthcoming.

Varg Vikernes, Norwegian Black Metal Nazi

Have you heard of the nutbag Varg Vikernes?

If anyone deserves to have an adjective precede his name at all times, it is the nutbag Varg Vikernes.  Or perhaps the fucktard George W. Bush.  These two are running neck and neck in the race for the mandatory adjective.  Nutbag.  Fucktard.  Nutbag.  Fucktard.  And at the wire . . . photo finish!

To start, the nutbag Varg Vikernes makes shit music.

One of his more recent albums, Darkness, produced under the band name Burzum, has been reviewed as a piece of work "as pointless as it is bad."  That's being really fucking kind.  It's like saying Paris Hilton is a little slow.  But that review, despite being understated, pretty much applies to whatever shit he produces.

But his bad music isn't the most notable part of the guy.  He stabbed a bandmate to death in 1993 and got the maximum prison sentence under Norwegian law.  He was paroled in 2009.

Check him out.

Let the picture speak for itself.

The worst part?  Even murder might not even be his biggest claim to fame.  In addition to making shitty music and stabbing bandmates, this nutbag likes to run around burning down churches.  He was convicted of four counts of arson--four churches--and was suspected in others.

Now, if a regular run-of-the-mill arsonist liked to run around burning down churches, he'd probably try to show a little tact or strategic thinking.  Perhaps.  But not this nutbag.  The cover of his Aske EP, which was released in the midst of his arsonism, looks like this:

In case you're wondering, that's a picture of a church.  That has been burned to a crisp.  By.  An.  Arsonist.

That album cover puts him firmly in the running for the Dumbest Nutbag Alive Award.

In 2003, while on short leave from his minimum-security prison--wait, let me stop here.  There are major problems with how that last sentence started.  While on short leave?  From a minimum-security prison?  Get with it, Norway.  Christ.

In 2003, while on short leave from his minimum-security prison, the nutbag Varg Vikernes failed to return.  He was found shortly thereafter in a stolen Volvo with the following things in the car with him:

A laptop
A compass
A GPS device
Numerous maps
A fake passport
A handgun
Numerous large knives
A gas mask
Camouflage clothing
AG3 automatic rifle

Aside from this goofiness, he flipflops on the Nazi thing.  On Monday, he's a Nazi.  On Tuesday, he's no longer a Nazi.  Wednesday, Nazi again.  The Nazi choice keeps him up at night.

In any case, he's out of prison.  He's making albums.  The last one got a 3.3 score on out of 10.

Another reviewer once introduced him as the "murdering bigot fuckhead Varg Vikernes."  I like it.  I like it a lot. 

It beats the hell out of "nutbag."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Facebook Denier

It has been four or five days since I have logged onto Facebook, something that says a lot considering how habit-forming I am.  If I find a website that I like, I'll typically visit it three or four times a day.  If I find a website that I don't like, I'll visit it once or twice a day.  In other words, if you want to destroy my world, you don't need to do any more than send me 100 websites to check out.  I won't ever leave my apartment.  Some of the websites that I visit include yahoo, google, wikipedia, metacritic, pitchforkmedia, pokerandbridge blog, pokergrump blog, and anothergreatblog.  The last few on this list are better than the first few.

Facebook was another one of the gang.  Facebook was also the most disappointing.

I log on, and someone has posted a link to an article that I should read.  Except the article tells me that Obama was born in Africa.

I log on, and someone has posted a link to show me which song was #1 on the day that I was born.  And the song sucks.


I would just delete my account, but my facebook-using family might be upset.  So I'm trapped.

In this case, passive resistance seems the best option.  The winning move seems to be to refuse to log on.

A friend said, "That won't last long.  They'll try to get you back.  They'll send you an email after a few days."

I figured she was right.  And she was.  Today, sitting in my inbox, is a facebook message that basically reads, "All of these friends have posted updates!  Check it out!"

I'll pass.  The only thing that kept me visiting that site was my OCD.  And I already know now, thanks to facebook, what happened on the day of my birth: UK historical decimal postage stamps were first issued for sale in Britain.

Facebook is the death of trivia.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Student-Teacher Friendships II

If you somehow made it through my ranting last post, good news and bad news.  Good news: my boss's boss backed me up.  Bad news: the complaining student comes from a powerful family.

Students of powerful families tend to keep whining until they reach the head honcho.  Let's see what happens.  If the kid gets that high, he'll make himself into a multiple choice question.

This kid is:

(A) Childish
(B) Crazy
(C) Mildly retarded
(D) All of the above










Correct Answer: D.  But you knew that.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Teacher-Student Friendships

Mostly, I teach Emiratis.  Emiratis tend to be cold, distant, and private.  Somehow, a friend of mine--and a co-worker with whom I work closely--finds a way to befriend his Emirati students.  It's quite a feat.

Except for one thing.  I don't believe that these Emiratis are his friends.

I guess now I sound like the cold and distant one.  But let me tell you a story.  This teacher friend of mine--let's call him Ralph--befriends one of his students, whom we'll call Ahmed.  A university group goes on a trip together for school purposes, Ralph and Ahmed included.  During the trip, Ahmed tries to make a move on a female student and totally faceplants.  His failure is cartoonlike.  Now, does Ahmed cry or become angry or depressed?

Ahmed tries to get Ralph fired.

He claims that Ralph was irresponsible in his duties observing the group, among other things.  Long story short, his attempt fails.  Ralph does not get fired.  So what does Ahmed do next?

He comes back around to Ralph, hoping to re-friend him.

A westerner hears this story and thinks, What the fuck?  This guy is crazy, stupid, or both.  But it turns out that this sort of behavior is normal in this part of the world.

The same friend, Ralph, gets into an auto accident.  The other car is driven by an Emirati.  It is clearly the Emirati's fault.  It is clearly the Emirati's fault in large part because Emiratis can't fucking drive.  You almost wish they'd drive drunk, because their sober driving makes you think a child on a major sugar high is behind the wheel.  When the cops arrive, the Emiratis try to throw Ralph under the bus.  They use every argument that they can muster.  The cops take a look at the scene and say, "This is clearly not Ralph's fault."  The cops begin writing a report claiming that the Emiratis are responsible for the accident.

What do the Emiratis do next?  All smiles, they walk up the Ralph and try to shake his hand.  Suddenly, everyone is buddy buddy.

All of this is prelude to what happened to me today.

One of my students--let's call him Fuckball--is also Ralph's "friend."  Now, Fuckball comes into my office complaining about various things--his absences, the zeroes he received for quizzes he was too fucking lazy to show up to take . . . general Emirati student complaints which boil down to one essential complaint: I am lazy and it is your fault.  I politely listen to Fuckball until he is finished.  In his own way he says, "I am lazy.  It is your fault."  Then I inform Fuckball that I do not give special treatment to any student, and so therefore I will not help him with his complaints.  However, I say that if he does well on the final, he could still end up with a B or a B-plus.

How's that, Fuckball?

Fuckball doesn't like it.  He stares at me for a while.  I think for a bit and realize that I am done talking, and so I stare back.  We stare at each other for a while.  Very boring game.  Then he gets up and leaves.

And immediately goes to complain to the boss of my boss.

Now, complaining to the boss of my boss has different meaning in the UAE than it does in the first-world.  In short, Fuckball is trying to get me fired.  And here's the thing: Fuckball, being an Emirati, is too fucking fucked up to realize that he's trying to get me fired.  He's the Emirati driver who crashed into Ralph.  He's trying to throw me under the bus, but he lacks the social awareness to realize it.

If he fails to get me fired, he'll be friendly to me later.  He'll want to shake my hand.

Now, you might think: Why worry about it?  It's just a whining student.  Forget about it.  The boss of my boss will back me up.  But in this backward place, some students have power.  They come from influential families.  Occasionally, a teacher or administrator is fired, put on a plane, and flown out of UAE forever.  Because of a student complaint.

None of which appears to bounce off of Fuckball's brainpan.

And Ralph somehow gets involved.  The boss of my boss mentions the incident to Ralph.  And Ralph calls me.  And Ralph says, "It's an odd situation being between two friends . . ."

And I think, He's your friend?  I'm somehow on the same level, Ralph, as some fucking moron who is trying to get me fired? For Ralph, the answer is yes . . . until the day arrives when Ralph does the wrong thing and pisses off Fuckball and Fuckball finagles a way to toss Ralph's ass into a taxi and tell him that he's got 24 hours left to stay in the country.

Ralph thinks his students are his friends.  I'd bet a year's salary that these friends would laugh at the notion.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Breaking Bad, Season 3

Over the last three days, I've seen the entire season 3 of Breaking Bad.  Pretty fantastic.  I'm in a hurry to download season 4.  Please don't give anything away!  I'll probably have seen all of season 4 by Wednesday.

A few glitches in the season, however.  Episode 8 seemed to be about 17 hours long and took place mostly in a hospital waiting room.  Also, episode 10--"The Fly"--was about a fly that Walt was chasing around his laboratory.  Poor guy ended up looking far crazier than he really was.  Lots of cringe-worthy moments in that episode.

However, the near-confession between Walt and Jessie, in which Walt *almost* confesses to watching Jessie's girlfriend die without lifting a finger to save her, almost saved "The Fly."  The episode would've worked if it was darkly funny, like the episode from season 2 where the junkie had his head crushed by an ATM machine . . . and the other characters couldn't resist repeating the line "that junkie who had his head crushed by an ATM machine" over and over.  Oddest punchline ever, but it worked.  "The Fly," on the other hand, didn't work.

The last two episodes of the season however--"Half-Measures" and "Full Measures"--were brilliant.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Man Named . . .

Finishing up the semester, I had to run over to the university printing office to get some certificates ordered.  The UAE being a third-world country, a simple task like this requires more than a simple phone call or email.

You have to

(1) travel across town

(2) meet some guy you've never met before and will likely never seen again


(3) pretend like he's a good friend.

In most cases, he isn't around.  And most of the time--since folks here rarely answer their office phones--you can only find out if he's there or not by traveling across town to his office.  The efficiency here is a model for the rest of the world.

Today I'm lucky.  I travel across town.  The guy is in his office!  I introduce myself.  He introduces himself.

"I am Jihad," he says.

I keep my face blank.  Part of my brain wonders if he's joking.  But then I remind myself that no one jokes in this country.  Still, it's hard not to laugh, or at least smile.  I know not to repeat his name, for fear of losing my composure.

I sense that a man named Jihad would not respond kindly to me laughing at him.

So, long story short, I have a new friend named.  His name is Jihad.  He's going to make 32 certificates for me by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Brief Update

A fantasy one.  It's fun to think of the various races.  In any case, this is why I haven't blogged in the last day or so.  Too much daydreaming and note taking.  I like what I've come up with so far, which basically boils down to a skeletal sketch of three different races and a single plot line for one of the races.  The only character that I see so far is a king who suspects that he is gradually losing his mind.

Folks keep coming back to check out the Nicolas Jaar page and, apparently, play the youtube video.  That's cool.  I played his album again tonight.  Keeps getting better every time.

My fantasy baseball team went 10-0 two weeks ago.  This week I'm sitting at 1-9.  And so it goes.

I keep looking around to see news about PokerStars returning to the U.S.  Nothing.  I got an email from Stars yesterday informing me that they were returning to Spain.  I never knew that they left.

If I wanted to write a novel, I wonder what a good strategy for success would be.  I imagine it would take me a long, long time.  So I guess I would want to keep my monthly costs low.  And I would also want to avoid distractions.  Like TV shows.  And the Internet.

So maybe the best plan would be to move to a country with ridiculously cheap housing, good food, and patchy wireless.  India, anyone?

Monday, June 4, 2012

People Who Want Money for Charity

Every so often, my world gets briefly interrupted by an acquaintance on facebook or by some other social means--but mostly facebook--who announces that he's going on a 10-mile walk or 3-day bike ride for charity.  And he wants my help.

Except I don't hear a (mild) plea for help.  Instead I hear an offer.  An invitation to bet.

I hear my acquaintance saying, "Do you think I can ride a bicycle 60 miles over 3 days?  I bet I can.  Do you bet I can too?" when really all he wants to be is altruistic.

In his mind, my reward for accepting his offer is that I can piggyback on his goodwill and throw some dough to the unfortunate masses.  In my mind, however, I'm trying to calculate his odds of success.

Usually his odds are pretty good.  But I should have the option--shouldn't I?--to answer, "No, I don't think you can.  I'm putting my money on the Don't Pass."

Craps--the game from which Don't Pass originated--is frankly beautiful, in my opinion.  I used to deal craps.  It's a complicated game, fun to deal, also fun to play.  The best part of craps is that at any given time, you can bet that the roller will win or lose.  So satisfying.  You can bet against someone.  You're allowed to be grouchy--or realistic--which tends to be another word for grouchy these days.  In almost all cases, a Don't Pass bet is a better bet than a Pass bet.

Craps is why I try to avoid casinos.

Now all of this might sound odd or pessimistic, but I argue that my attitude is actually good for charity.  And I'll tell you why.

Imagine a 65-year-old who wants you to commit $5 per mile for a 10-mile walk he plans to do this Saturday.  The forecast is for 95-degree heat.

In this case, I want to say, "Okay, I'm in.  Put me down for $5 per mile on the Don't."

"The Don't?" he'll inevitably ask.  "What does the Don't mean?"

At this point, you'll have to inform him that you are betting for charity that he will fail.

Naturally, he'll be offended.  But what is more important here--staying in the good graces of a middle-class acquaintance or doing your absolute best to funnel your cash to the poor?

A 65-year-old looks me in the eye and tells me he can walk ten miles in that kind of heat?  I'm calling bullshit.

Think of the alternative, which happens to be the current state of affairs: You can't bet on the Don't.  Society frowns upon it, everybody frowns upon it.  You are not allowed to wager that someone will fail.  It seems morally wrong.  So society takes the high road and the charity gets zippo when the oldster craps out on the fourth mile and walks into the nearest Taco Bell for a Number 5 with cinnamon twists and an extra large Coke with 4 cups of water on the side.

With my Don't bet, the charity gets $50.  A $5-per-mile bet that this delusional do-gooder can't walk ten miles in 95 degree heat.

If I'm allowed to bet the Don't, I win.  Charity wins.  I suggest that we introduce the concept of Don't Pass to charity events.  The only obstacle seems to be the ego of the participants.

* * *

As I was writing this, I thought of a potential Curb Your Enthusiasm episode.

An acquaintance approaches Larry David and asks for money for a charity walkathon.  Larry agrees to pay the guy $20 per mile if he can finish.  For whatever reason, the guy can't--or won't--finish.  Afterward, he comes to Larry asking for $200 bucks.

Larry thinks for a bit.  He says, "No."

"No?  What do you mean no?" asks the walkathon non-finisher.  "Are you saying you won't donate to charity?"

"Pretty much."

"I can't believe this.  Why?"

"I signed up for $20 bucks a mile."


"$20 bucks a mile for ten miles."

"Where are you going with this, Larry?"

"$20 bucks a mile for ten miles . . . if you can walk ten miles."

"Larry, are you craz--"

"How many miles did you walk?"

"It was 92 degrees."

"The heat is my fault?"

"The heat is the charity's fault?"

"How many miles did you walk?"

"Three miles, Larry."

"And now you come to me asking for $200 bucks."

"It's for charity, Larry--"

"But you didn't hold up your end of the bargain!  I paid for ten miles!  You gave me three!  And you want 200 bucks."

"Are you telling me that you're going to deny $200 stinking dollars to a charity because I couldn't walk ten miles in 92-degree heat?"

"Tell me this. What do you do?"

"What do I do?  Larry, you know I'm an attorney."

"Okay, good.  I hire you to represent me in court.  You tell me it'll take ten hours of your time, and you say that your rate is 250 bucks an hour.  'Fine,' I say.  I give you 2500 bucks.  But you finish the job in 3 hours. Are you going to keep all 2500 bucks?"

"This is different!"

Larry, conciliatory, "Tell you what.  I agreed to pay you 20 bucks a mile.  You walked three miles.  I'll give you 60 bucks."



* * *

Finished the last episode of season 2 of Game of Thrones this evening.  Awesome.  I won't give anything away, but I found it very satisfying.  Too bad we'll have to wait until April of 2013 for a fresh episode.

Because everybody keeps dying in this show, I thought it'd be fun to give odds that various characters will survive.  Even money bets seem dangerous.  Here are a few of my guesses:

Tyrion -- Even money to survive (this dude is the smartest of the bunch)

Dragonslayer Lannister -- 5-1 odds that he survives

Robb Stark -- 4-1 (he's King of the North, but he's got a target on his back)

Tywin Lannister -- 20-1 (he's old and likes to fight; seems likely to be a dead guy quite soon)

Cersei -- 12-1 (everybody hates her)

King Joffrey -- 50-1 (most likely to get killed by somebody soon)

John Snow -- 3-1 (he's a prisoner in dangerous territory but seems like a survivor)

Targeryen dragon woman -- 8-5 (she seems like she'll be in the mix till the end of the series)

Arya Stark --Even money (crafty and good with a sword already at her young age)

Tannis -- 16-1 (just failed in a takeover attempt, but he'll survive a bit longer)

Sansa Stark -- 4-1 (also crafty, but might be overplaying her hand by pretending she wants to stay with King Joffrey)


Crackhead Manager

I have an idea for a new video game.  I call it Crackhead Manager.  I want it to be available on Wii, PS3, XBox, PC, and any handheld apparatus you might tool around town with.

The premise of the game is simple: The government has granted you a non-government organization (NGO) and provides you with funding for the purpose of finding, corralling, and rehabilitating crackheads.

The game will be a meritocracy.  The more crackheads you find, corral, and rehabilitate, the more money the government will give you. 

To start, you'll be equipped with night-vision goggles, a taser, and a two-bedroom apartment with barred windows and a deadbolt on each bedroom door.  (Alternatively, you can upgrade your equipment to include a tranquilizer gun as long as you are willing to downgrade your apartment to a treehouse.)  As you find, capture, and cage the town's crackheads, the government will send you dough, which you can use for assorted upgrades.

Some of those upgrades include:

Barbed wire
Toadies (to fetch you tacos)
Police vans (mobile prison)
Armor-piercing bullets (for killing cops who are trying to arrest your crackheads)
Italian suit
Cocaine (which you might need on long stakeouts)
Crack (bait)

As with most games, the objective is to build your empire.  However, you can choose a variety of paths to domination.

1.  Business Model.  Perfect your crackhead-catching skills, dominate and kill the other crackhead-catching NGOs, and form a monopoly.  Expand to other towns, states, countries, and eventually the world.  Run crack out of business.  Develop a coke habit in the process.

2. Reality Mode. Or you can do what other NGOs do: nothing. Sit back and watch the crackheads overrun the planet. Stockpile popcorn, Jameson, and Hot Pockets, and watch the apocalypse from your window.

3.  Aggro Mode.  Turn the game into a first-person shooter by targeting the drug dealers and the suppliers.  No drugs = no crack = no crackheads.  Turn the entire world into a rehabilitation center.  Get ripped to shreds by a sober and pissed off populace as a result.

4.  Attack the world of the crackheads, who have a surprisingly cohesive world, with their own government (anarchy), currency (back alley handjobs), and leaders.  To invade and ultimately destroy this world, you'll have to challenge a series of crackhead bosses, progressing in difficulty from Lindsay Lohan to Nick Nolte to the zombie corpse of Amy Winehouse to the unchallenged King of Crack, Robert Downey Jr. (dressed as Iron Man).

How did you know I'm still on drugs?

Sunday, June 3, 2012


I picked up the DVD set to Game of Thrones Season 1.  Fun show!  Such a huge cast of characters running around stabbing each other.  It's a fantasy show, which tend not to do so well in television, so maybe this is opening some doors.

My favorite is a midget named Tyrion.  Or maybe he's a dwarf.  Am I insulting him already?  Maybe he prefers little person.  Sorry, Tyrion.

Anyhoo, he seems to be the smartest of the bunch, but that isn't saying a whole lot.  He's with the Lannister family, which are the richest in the realm, and they're competing with the Starks, the family that gets the most air time and therefore the most viewer sympathy, as well as five or so other families for the Iron Throne.

All want to be king, but a prior king got stabbed in the back--literally--by his second-in-command.  His replacement ended up being gutted by a boar.  So I don't know why they're racing so madly for the position.  In fact, all of the characters appear to be hurtling themselves, at varying speeds, towards death.

Which is another interesting facet of the show.  Main characters die.  One got beheaded.  Another dude vying for the throne got stabbed by a black, wispy spirit demon that sprouted from the vagina of a sorceress.  Freaky ass shit.

Anyway, after season 1, I had to get going onto season 2, so I ended up downloading it online.  Because the "hero" of season 1 now has a stump where his head used to be, the average viewer might have difficulty knowing whom to root for.  After all, you might pick a dude to cheer on and see his throat slashed in the following episode.

No true heroes, but many villains.  Really cool concept.  The final installment of season 2 airs tonight.  I hope it ends as well as season 1 did.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I just have to get through one . . . more . . . week of classes.  After that, I can take ten days to prepare the final exam for these goofs.  My God this place tilts the shit out of me sometimes.  After my last class, I'll hole up in my bunker and pray for June 26th, the day I fly out of this shithole.  Hollllllllllllllllllllllld.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fucktards in the Cinema

There is little to do in the UAE, unless you really fucking love malls so much that you're willing to fly 5,000 miles to shop in an Arabic one, so going to movies becomes one of the only options when you're crawling up the walls from cabin fever, or else you just want some time out of the apartment.

So today I went out to see Snow White and the Huntsman.  Now in the U.S. I would never even think about paying $10 to see this movie.  I doubt I'd pay a buck to Redbox it.  Because in the U.S., there are options.  In the UAE, Snow White and the Huntsman is the premiere experience that my town has to offer--that or standing out in the heat and praying for sunstroke.  So I ponied up and took my seat.

Then the real strategy begins.  Sitting in the theater, I mean.  Because you don't want to sit next to an Emirati, one of the nationals.  These people can be nice face to face occasionally, but in general they have the social skills of plasterboard.

For example, they'll come up to you and say, "Hello sir, how was your weekend?" and then immediately follow it up with, "You look sick," when you're feeling fine, or "You look tired," when you slept 8 hours.  A friend of mine who lost 20-plus pounds had a former student come up to him and say, "What happened?  You used to be so fat!"  Only an Emirati can make an insult out of losing weight.

So, the theater.  You sit and you wait.  And you really have to wait, because these nitwits roll into the film after it has already started, take the seat right behind you, and then launch into conversation like they're sitting in a fucking coffee shop.  Or else they text each other, or they just outright answer phone calls.  Mental fucking midgets.

The movie starts, and I don't even need to look around.  I know I'm moving, because the fucktards behind me are already yammering away.  So I move up a row or two, but before I know it, I hear a phone ringing.

Obviously, in a first-world country, a ringing phone in a movie theater would be the subject of embarrassment and someone hurrying to shut the fucking thing up.  Not the UAE.  A gentleman that I'll refer to as IQ 80 answers and talks for a good five minutes . . . and everyone around him is acting like he's acting normal.

Another phone rings.  I look back and--shocker--find out it's IQ 80 again.  Probably talking to his cousin/third wife.

Now one thing that these morons seem to hate is to be embarrassed, especially by an outsider.  So I had half-convinced myself that I was going to confront the guy after the movie and just say, "Do you know how rude you were?"  That's the line I had settled on, because I mean the guy's just totally clueless, and if I come up to him and start berating him, he's just going to think I'm the Ugly American.  Which I might be.

But the best part is what I had forgotten.  Because as the movie ends, I turn around and most of the fuckers have already left the building.  Late to arrive, early to leave.  Most of them don't understand a movie in English anyway, and the Arabic subtitles is about a week's reading for them, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Aside from the need to go to work, I have no clue why a foreigner would ever leave his apartment in this shithole country.