Monday, March 11, 2019

Alphabetizing Apps

Recently, I spent about thirty minutes (that estimate may be on the low side) arranging the apps on my phone: I couldn't find what I was looking for.

All of my apps were organized within folders: Audio, Books / Magazines, Finance, Productivity, etc., and I was happy with my categorical organization, largely fabricated by the phone itself, which suggested names for folders when I merged similar apps together. My aim was to avoid thumbing through screen after screen of apps, but I soon discovered a problem with my method. I couldn't find what I was looking for. I was constantly opening the wrong folder when looking for less commonly accessed apps. I got used to going to a certain place to open something, but if I added a new app, or a new folder, the locations shifted and threw a wrench into my efficiency.

So, in an effort toward even greater efficiency, now, they're all in alphabetical order. As an English teacher, it's a hierarchical format to which I am intrinsically attracted. Anyway, now, I often have to scroll across multiple screens to get what I want; however, sometimes the name is not obvious (for example, the Merriam-Webster app is called Dictionary). Actually, it seems obvious after I write it here...

A color wheel.
Anyway, I saw that some acquaintances had organized their apps according to a color spectrum. It looked colorific, but it was not for me. For one, I didn't have so many apps; I tend to retire apps that go unused for very long. Secondly, I was sadly underrepresented in certain colors.

Angela just downloads apps and leaves them where they lie, although she moves more frequently used apps to the first screen.

Whatever your app fancy, our phones--our little buddies that we take into the bathroom--are serious parts of our lives. We dress them up with decorative yet protective cases. They're smooth and warm, and we hold them in our hands almost everywhere we go, and we fall asleep gazing into them. They have personalities and they promise us the unexpected.

Friday, January 25, 2019

One Night in a London Borough

My first night in London, I walked around The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which is what is written on the white signs that are posted in various places. It is also where my hotel is situated. I am quite sure that most neighborhoods aren't like this one, full of flashy cars, hotels, and upscale brick apartment buildings lined up like soldiers watching over their little neighborhood gardens that are enclosed in iron and bristling with shrubs and old-growth trees, leafless and fingery, poking up their branches to the damp winter sky. It's another world, removed from the hubbub and hullabaloo of the city center.

After a pint, it's nice to walk back to my hotel along the quiet tree-lined sidewalks in a crisp evening after the light snowfall. The bells of St. Mellitus ring at 9PM. I stop and peer into the living rooms of strangers, lights and televisions turned on. I see the inhabitants in repose, in conversation, reading. I can see the books on the shelves, and the pictures on the wall, their other possessions and treasures arrayed in each room. In the yellow light, some look as if they have been there a long time. I can almost read the titles of some of the books. I squint my eyes and try to. I feel so close to them, looking at their lives on display, the people who live in these places, somehow part of their evening, or they are part of mine, but I feel connected just walking past. It has nothing to do with the desire for wealth or opulence, and it's something that we don't have in Doha where everyone lives behind compound walls and people's lives are guarded or hidden.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Dust Storm Distillery

A dust storm yesterday afternoon made the sky sickly yellow, and the light in the LAS Building took on a strange hue, which made it feel somehow more wintery. Weather warnings arrived by e-mail and after-school activities were cancelled. Dust storms are not a regular occurrence, but they do not happen that often. As each day passes now, it feels more important to capture these kinds of things.

Anyway, we were sitting around in the living room wondering what to do last night, and then Angela noticed that there was a free concernt at the Qatar National Library (QNL), a stone's throw from where we live, featuring members of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra playing the Johann Strauss Vienese New Year's concert, and she wanted to attend. So, even tho the weather was nasty, we pulled on our shoes, hopped in the car and sped off to the library.

The performance hall of the QNL, a large curtained area occupying a central part of the library, was full when we arrived, and we walked to the top of the seating area. The concert, which started at 7PM, lasted about 90 minutes, and included a brief intermission for the adhan or call to prayer. The performance was quite lively and both Angela and I really enjoyed it. I recognized many songs, but Angela had a much stronger connection to her past, and recalled listening to the concert or watching it on TV with her family when she was younger. Vito wasn't as thrilled as we were, but he suffered thru it.

This morning, the sky still looks dusty and the wind is blowing, so Vito's baseball game this afternoon might be cancelled, but we will probably have to wait a few more hours to hear from league officials.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Back to Work

The spring semester started today. I taught three composition classes: one 50-minute section every other hour until the end of the day. I have one more literature section--a new class--tomorrow morning. Anticipating a smooth semester.

When I came home from school, Angela had taken down all of the Christmas decorations, and there was a pile of unwanted stuff in boxes in front of the apartment door. As we are leaving Qatar at the end of the school year, we are not taking everything with us, starting with the Christmas tree that, among other things, a German couple that we met when we first arrived left to us in our first year. I can't say that we loved it, but, for the price, it served us well, and helped to keep our tradition alive.

More will disappear in the coming weeks and months. We can't leave everything to the last minute...

Friday, November 23, 2018

13 Ways of Looking at a Turkey

My annual Thanksgiving poem--this one based on the famous poem by Wallace Stevens--and a partial video accompaniment at the end...

Among eight Thanksgivings in Qatar,
Seven of them maintained
The preparation of a turkey.

Angela and I were of one mind,
Like an oven
In which there is one turkey.

Last night, the turkey floated in brine.
It was a small part of the potluck.

A husband and a wife
Are one.
A husband and a wife and a turkey
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The tender white breast
Or the dark meat of a leg,
The turkey resting
Or just after.

You filled the living room window
With transparent reflections.
Slices of turkey
Cooled in their dishes on the table.
The holiday
Rose to its crescendo
Of culinary coincidence.

O well-fed friends of Doha
How can you imagine another meal?
Do you not see how the turkey
Brings us together
Even if you do not partake?

I knew storied cuisines
And delectable, gastronomic gambols,
But I know, too,
That the turkey is involved
In what I know.

When the turkey was consumed,
It signified where some would sally
And where others only circle.

At the sight of the turkey
What's left of it in the yellow light,
Even its most intimate adversaries
Raise a glass on the occasion.

She woke with a start
And in her blue nightgown grumbled.
At once, a fear pierced her
In that she mistook our turkey
Or our lack of it.

The year is winding down.
The turkey must be celebrated.

It was Thanksgiving all weekend.
It was sunny in our desert.
And it was going to get windy.
The turkey bones
Yearned for your return.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Rain Reprisal & Work Resumption

So I will be returning to work today and it is a strange feeling. The Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) Building, the building that houses the Academic Bridge Program (ABP), the school in which I work, was closed for one week due to complications from the severe rain that fell last week. In fact, the damage from flooding was so bad that the school has been relocated to the HBKU Student Center for, at least, the next two weeks. Other buildings did not seem to have received so much damage, but our building is one of the oldest on campus. I have my doubts about returning to the LAS building at all this semester, but I really don't know how long it will take to repair the damages.

Last Wednesday, after three days in post-storm limbo, the ABP staff convened at Education City Headquarters for an emergency meeting, and staff members learned about the severity of the rain and its ensuing flood damage to the LAS building. We also learned about our plan to relocate. The plan involved returning to the LAS Building on Thursday to retrieve necessary materials (books, papers, etc.) so that we could get up and running as soon as possible. I grabbed essential items from my office and stuffed them into the backpack that I had brought with me--other colleagues filled large cardboard boxes or had even brought suitcases! I also unplugged my computer and put the various components into a box and labeled it with my name so that it could be delivered to the Student Center. No one was sure about whether or not we would have computers to use in the temporary space, so common consensus demanded packing up the ones from our offices.

In the meanwhile, yesterday, on the way to Vito's piano and theory lessons at Katara, in a sardonic twist almost exactly one week since the previous storm wreaked its havoc on the city, a small thunderstorm seemed to crash down upon us from out of nowhere, shocking the sky with flashes of lightning, flooding many roads with heavy rain, and shaking trees hard enough to break off limbs and tear branches asunder. It was so intense that we thought we should have turned around as we had done during the previous storm, but we had had already gone too far to turn back. It was raining so hard when we arrived at Katara that Vito actually stayed in the car waiting for the rain to lighten a bit and he missed most of his piano lesson. The thought crossed our minds that the rain might be strong enough to, if it lasted very long, cancel school again. That was Vito's hope, at least. Fortunatley, it didn't last long and, after the music lessons had finished, we returned home without further incident.

Anyway, ABP staff reports back  to work today, but without students. At first, we will receive a tour of the new classrooms in the Student Center, after which we will break up to have departmental meetings. We are really just moving into our new space today to prepare for the students' arrival and the resumption of instruction tomorrow. Hopefully, repairs can be completed to the LAS building in a timely manner so that we can get back into our offices and classrooms as soon as possible!