Wondering, wandering, and making sense of the world.


Archive for December, 2011

Stamps and Borders

If you ever want to get a taste of what police/CIA/FBI questioning is like, try to leave from the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv with a stamp on your passport that’s in Arabic (for me, it was Morocco). This was probably one of the more interesting 45 minutes of my life, and while the interrogators were very nice (one man, one woman), they asked for every single detail of my visit as well as my life (what I do for a living, who I work with, name of my girlfriend, all the restaurants I visited in Tel Aviv, etc.), and it didn’t help that I went to Jordan and Palestine on this trip. They also tried incorrectly repeating what I said to see if I would correct them or not (one of the oldest trick in the book, though they didn’t try good cop bad cop).

For those considering visiting Israel, note this advice from Wikitravel:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen block passports containing stamps or visas from Israel. If you intend to visit any of these nations, ask immigration to stamp a blank page, rather than your passport, when entering. Note that those countries will also search for Jordanian/Egyptian exit stamps from land borders with Israel and will likewise prohibit your entry if they find one.

The Israel-Jordan border control was also one of the most time consuming border controls I’ve ever experienced (especially on the Israeli side), and the Swede standing next to me commented that it was easier getting into the Soviet Union back in the day.

Jetting around Europe and the Schengen Area, one forgets how divided countries and borders still are. That’s of course when I don’t forget my passport.


Weird things that happened on the way back to Frankfurt on Qatar Airways

They served Chinese lo-mein as “Japanese.”

There was a 23kg limit to the check-in luggage but unlimited for carry-on.

The captain pointed out a single cloud over Doha as we approached it and commented on the rarity.

Armagnac was introduced as the “Italian-alternative” to Cognac.

The agent at the checkin counter turned out to be the pilot, who was also greeting passengers as they entered the plane.

The emergency oxygen system deployed accidentally and the captain dismissed it as a “misplaced April fool’s joke.”

There was a 14 year old Food & Wine magazine left in the seat pocket.

The airport security at the Doha airport wasn’t looking at the X-ray screen.

The chief flight attendant announced that Jude Law was on the last flight from Doha to Osaka.

They showed the direction of Mecca relative to the plane at regular intervals.

They held a lottery right after dinner was delivered, but no one won because the chosen seat was empty.

One of the toilets was converted into a prayer room.

The in-flight entertainment system introduced “Friends” as an American remake of a (supposedly) famous Chinese sitcom.


Full disclosure: Most of this is fiction (as I was feeling creative), but three of the thirteen are true. Can you guess which ones?


Personal Micromagazines

I am an avid user of Read It Later on Firefox and the iPhone. I particularly like the integration with Google Reader and the Twitter app for the iPhone, which allows me to save posts and links straight to Read it Later. Now I rarely consume articles and blog posts on the computer but instead do it on the iPhone while using public transportation, standing in line, or any other time spent waiting. I no longer need a considerable chunk of time to consume the news or read a magazine. Instead, I am able to utilize all the small breaks during the day.

In a way, I am creating my own micromagazine which is continuously updated, both in addition of new articles and subtraction of articles I finished reading. Compare that to the traditional paper media where a fixed set of articles were compiled together by some editors who don’t even know your name.

Similar phenomena have been happening in other forms of media as well. For the longest time, music was sold in albums, compilations of dozen or so songs encapsulated in some form of hard media. Now people are buying individual songs off of iTunes, Amazon, etc. and creating their own “mix tapes” on their computers and mp3 players.

I’m not arguing against professional curation. I can appreciate a good magazine or album once every so often, but to expect that some nameless editor can create the perfect reading or listening experience overtime is outrageous.

This is another way we are becoming more responsible for designing our own experiences with the aid of new technology.



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