Walid's Wanderings

Reflections on life, good-and-evil, family, humanity, and anything else that occurs to me, usually when I travel. Right now I am on a 6-year trip through Lebanon, the homeland I had never really lived in before.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Not leaving until ...

Well, I spoke to a lot of people yesterday. Most have a cut-off date, somewhere in August, beyond which, if things are not settled, they would consider leaving. The date for us has all along been August 3rd, before we panicked a bit when the American embassy announced that they were going to stop the assisted evacuations. In reality, they will slow down the rate of assisted evacuations, while the venues for unassisted evacuations continue to open up, so there really was no reason to panic. We can stay safe and be methodical about where to go.

As I said in my last posting, we cannot stay in someone else's home for the two or three months that we may need to be there. So I want to send out another APPEAL for information about places where we can rent, without a year lease, a two-bedroom house or apartment for about $1,000 per month. It would be great if such a place could be found in Redwood City or Milpitas in California, but we somehow doubt it and are happy to look further afield. The Vermont/New Hampshire area would be a close second, but those of you in Austin, TX or Columbus, OH or Oragon/Washington should not be shy to let me know if such places might exist near you. I hope you are still reading this, but I will start asking by email over the next few days.

Back to our regular programming

The traffic to Beirut was almost normal yesterday. Having spent much of my life in commuter traffic (or so it seems), I could not help noting that the "flavor" of the commute was a bit different. Definitely Lebanese: people did not hesitate to open their own fourth lane going in the direction of high traffic on a two-lane road after the third lane became slow enough. But there was a difference. The first car to open the 4th lane did not do it at 50 miles per hour. At first I thought that this may be explained by the lack in the current mix of drivers of the super-rich punks who like to make use of the acceleration and braking power of their BMWs and SUVs for positional advantage in traffic. They would have been the first to leave. Later in the day I saw two such drivers, which would have been consistent with a strong statistical correlation between people who drive like that and people who evacuate to their second (or first) homes abroad at times like this. But of course other reasons are also likely. Such as a feeling that gasoline is to be conserved when only about a week's supply remains in the country. Or what I said on Saturday about the ambulances being too busy for road accidents. By the way I saw two ambulances on my trip, so it is clear that at least some are still assisting non-bombing cases.

For those who believe in the wisdom of the market, this conflict will not last long. I bought an HP C8727 black ink cartridge for $24, regular price. My fresh-squeezed orange juice, Toblerone bar, and gasoline were also at regular price. No one is acting as if we are really under embargo, which means no one expects it to last beyond the time it would take to empty the stocks in the warehouses. Thank goodness for inefficient supply chains! Another indication of normalcy was that most businesses had adjusted to the war-time business hours that were the norm in the last war: 8-12 for banks and 9-3 for retail. It was as smooth and universal as switching to daylight saving time. Finally, worse than being treated as a joke, the idea of an embargo had become a humorous advertising slogan. There were only two commercial on the radio (while Christina Aguillera hosted the American top-40.) One paid by the US government to tell us that "opportunities for assisted departure will diminish in the next few days". The other was "United Courier Service", a self explanatorily named business, announcing that they were breaking the embargo and accepting packages for worldwide destinations. Also accepting in-kind (no cash) donations to be delivered free of charge to devastated areas. Good on them.

There was a bit of a scare when someone on the Israeli side announced that they would fell 10 buildings in southern Beirut for every missile falling on Haifa. Some of the people in the university still had family living in the mostly evacuated suburb (think French Banlieu, not Desperate Housewives.) But I guess someone remembered an Israeli high court ruling that punitive home demolitions were more an incentive than a deterrent to terrorists, hence probably more so for a well-organized militia with missiles. It never happened.

Zoom out

I do not feel like playing at being a political analyst today. I'm just thinking. All those people that control the world, and whom we like to vilify or praise as if they were members of our household or frat. Who are they really? They are all politicians. And what to politicians want? They want votes. How do they get votes? By feel like they are just like us and want what we want, and sometimes by making us hate their competition. In combination, these two strategies have the unfortunate side effects of
  1. Making us hate the voters of the competing politicians, and
  2. Making us imagine that the politician we decided to vote against was also a member of our extended family or frat house, but one who really went astray.
Assignment: comment on how the above framework can be applied to the current conflict.

Learning outcome: none, really. Just do it for fun this time around and we'll talk about learning outcomes during the in-class discussion.


  • At 25/7/06 8:07 PM, Anonymous Vikki said…

    hi Walid,
    Would you consider coming to Sacramento?You can get a 2 bedroom apt for 850, and who knows, you might even get some babysittin for free! ;o) We have UC Davis and Sac State nearby as well...just a thought.

  • At 25/7/06 9:06 PM, Anonymous Jo said…

    Hey, if you want me to troll CraigsList or post there for you, I have high-speed and am happy to see if I can land you a place in Silicon Valley. We have an extra room you can use for a week or so if you need it.

  • At 26/7/06 3:00 AM, Blogger Walid said…

    Hi and thanks to both of you.
    Vikki: I prefer to be near the places where I would be looking for a job, but I can visit as soon as I arrange for a car.
    Jo: I assume you mean in Dubai? Not on our list right now, but if we do go there to see my sister, we'll be in touch for a visit.


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