Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Have I just gotten used to it, or is there actually less pollution in Tehran this summer? I mean, I can actually see the mountains and black junk is not coming out my nose (yet). By no stretch of the imagination is the air clean, but it does seem to be better.

One reason might be that the stinky, diesel spewing, public buses are being replaced by new natural gas buses. You get behind one of those buses and you don't smell a thing. It's great.

Oh yeah… and one more thing about my Dad…
Last night before I went to bed, I was thinking about mushball when I remembered the Dear Abby part of the story… so here goes.

There were a few times when there were not enough men for both teams. On those days (which were rare), my father would play for both teams. He would stay in the outfield the whole game, taking just a couple of minutes each inning to bat. I did not understand how he could play for both teams. I remember asking him, "How can you play against yourself?" I don't remember his answer, but I do remember his laugh.

What I did learn is that it is possible to be both competitive and cooperative. And everyone has more fun when the two are combined.


Sunday, June 20, 2004

Happy Father's Day

And mother's day, and any birthdays I know I have missed.

My father wants cards for father's day. Honestly, he should just be happy that I can remember it at all! ;)

But I do… So this is dedicated to both my parents and to my whole family.

When I told my mother that my family would always be more important to me than K, she said, "K is your family." Such a simple thing to say…such an important message to me. It is because of the lessons I have learned from my own parents that I have learned to treasure my own relationship. This is the first thing that I have to thank them for.

I am disorganized, scattered, and unfocused. I have my parents to thank for this. These qualities have made my life endlessly interesting and really quite wonderful. So this is the second…

Once we get past two, there are too, too many things to say. The one thing I want to stress is ho amazing it is that small things become so important to your life. I remember little conversations, one-time events, an hour or two spent with family and friends. These memories have such power. I keep learning from them and enjoying them.

For instance, I remember watching my Dad play mushball (16 inch softball) at our grade school's field. The police came because a classroom window had been broken. "Are you kidding," one of the men said. "You think we could hit this mush ball that far? It had to be one of the golfers." My dad went up to bat next and hit the ball farther than anyone had ever seen the mushball hit. "Good thing the cops weren't here to see that," one of the men commented.

I remember sitting with my mother and brother at the Chinese restaurant near my mom's store. My brother was complaining about my father's temper. "Why is it that he gets mad at me one minute and is my best friend the next?" my brother asked.

"Would you prefer it if he held a grudge?" my mother asked.

That was that. No more complaining.

And I remember jumping from a dune on the shore of Lake Michigan and wishing that my parents would let us go into the water that was over our heads.

I cannot describe the good luck I feel at having been born into my family. I only wish that I could spend more time than I do with all of them. Thanks you guys.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Tornado country

Just in case you *do* live in tornado country, The Onion has this helpful advice:
The Onion | Infograph.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

All earthquake, all the time…

Iran is a rumor mill. After the earthquake in Bam, there were all sorts of rumors. Some people said that the earthquake was caused by an underground atomic test. Others said that the people of Bam were warned the night before. Every little tremor in the country was reported on which gave people the illusion that the small tremors were not normal. People have said that America has a new satellite that can predict earthquakes all over the world; others have claimed that x-rays will give them the information they need to predict the "Big One."

Every time you turn on the television here, there is a discussion about earthquakes. Predicting an earthquake is still impossible; predicting an earthquake is possible; what to do in an earthquake; what not to do… that sort of thing. Honestly, I am not interested in long-term predictions. I do not care if you can tell me that in the next 10 months there will be an earthquake. That's like telling someone in Oklahoma that there will be a tornado this summer. What I want is a few minutes, but I'll settle for a few seconds. This article says that a few second warning is indeed possible: (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/science/20040602-9999-1c2warn.html). If you give me a few seconds, I'll go outside with a mattress on my head. How about it? Is the Iranian government willing to spend $20 million on an earthquake warning system? Seems like a good deal to me.

More talks with taxi drivers
"The problem with Iran," the driver told us, "is that we are not free. That is our problem. Khatami has been great. He has opened things up a lot and life has gotten better for us."

"I don't know why the government is complaining about America in Iraq… for 8 years, during the war, all we heard was how bad Saddam Hussein was. Now they want us to be unhappy that America removed him? Why? America did the right thing, and they are still doing the right thing."

"When the new government comes in, there will be a civil war. The government bothers young people too much. Young people cannot take it anymore. We will have a civil war."

"Make sure to tell Americans that we are not their enemy. Iranians are not the enemies of America."

Friday, June 04, 2004


At about 10:25 every evening almost every television set in Iran is tuned to channel 3 to watch a show that almost everyone calls "Bamshad" but which is actually called Nokhte Cheen (Dotted Line). If you walk down the streets of any city in Iran at that time, you will hear the sound of the show coming from almost every home. If you don't have a tv yourself, all you have to do is open your windows and listen. People with satellites turn to the domestic channel for this program. Advertisers have learned that Iranians watch this show. As a result, it now has the most advertising of any show I have seen in Iran.

The show is funny. Even for me, with my limited understanding of the nuances of Persian and day-to-day culture. Bamshad, while not exactly the star, is irresistible. Fat himself, he wears a very obvious fake belly that accentuates his weight. At first this character annoyed me, but like everyone else, I have grown to love him. Especially when he sings.

Just two nights ago, the topic of the show was the earthquake. The characters ran out into the streets, camped in a park, kept their hands on the walls to anticipate tremors, and pretty much gave us all an opportunity to laugh at our own behavior. We also were treated to Bamshad's singing. He sings one song about how "you" broke "your" promises. You can hear people singing this song themselves in every corner (that I have been in) of Iran.

Before and after Bamshad, there is news and anti-American propaganda. One piece of anti-American propaganda features the statue of liberty spinning against a red background. Her flame morphs into a cup of skulls. Her face morphs into a skull as well. A man sings an anti-American song while the words to the song run along the bottom of the screen: kind of the bouncing ball effect. K's niece was thrilled to discover that the statue actually existed in America.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Who doesn't like a song they can sing along to? Having a good voice doesn't matter. It's just singing that matters.

Iranians love their music. They love their own pop music and their own classical music and their own folk music. On a bus crowded with hip, young students, the driver was playing Haida (I am sure most of my transliterations of Farsi or incorrect. Just say them aloud with an American accent, and you may have an idea of what I am hearing), and the students were all singing along.

In an intercity taxi, our driver was playing a selection of Iranian tunes, and everyone was singing. On one cross-country trip, I heard the pop star Mansour so much that my dreams were permeated with his lyrics for weeks (Divuneh shod divoneh: I am going crazy; Beza bereem: Let's go; Azizah delehman: My sweetie).

Music does not divide generations (yet) in Iran. Sure, people listen to Western and Arabic pop, Electronica, Haitian and African music, and too much Celine Dion,… Sure Eminem graffiti is everywhere along with Metallica grafitti… but most Iranians also listen to and love their homegrown music as well.

The day after the earthquake, threats of aftershocks kept everyone running in and out of their houses and places of work all day. First our neighbor walked up and down the street getting people out of their houses. "They say an earthquake is coming." Everyone came out of their houses. I tried to explain that I thought earthquake prediction was not quite possible, but apparently there was a small quake that only I and the seismograph noticed. (There are probably tons of those small quakes every single day.)

Second, K's brother called to tell us that the police were calling schools and telling them to take the students out, so we went outside again. Then a friend's mother called… then the tv news said to leave your house. The next day's news said: don't worry. This news made everyone worry more.

People are scared of Tehran. K's family keeps telling me to come visit them. "No way are we coming to Tehran," people outside the city say. It's not hard to imagine an earthquake destroying Tehran. In fact, it is hard not to imagine it.

I have been terrified of earthquakes my whole life. I blame it on my Old Testament childhood. All those Bible stories must have seeped into my unconsciousness somehow. Not that being scared of earthquakes is not smart, just that I don't really know why I have always been scared of them.

Thanks to Kaveh for this link:
To the USGS info on the quake in Iran.