Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Torture and our short memory

The New Yorker has a great piece in this week's issue on the legal maneuverings the Bush administration engaged in to make torture part of its policy with regard to prisoners taken in the "War on Terror." It's been on my mind all day, and I keep shaking my head at how completely rotten to the core one would have to be to participate in making this happen.

Salon's also got a really great interview with journalist Mark Danner that touches on how torture has become the new status quo along with badness in general. In speaking about just how hardcore this administration is, he says

They don't care about people concerned with facts. They care about the broader arc of the story. We sit here constantly citing facts -- that they've broken this or that law, that what they originally said turns out not to be true. None of this particularly interests them.

What interests them is the larger reality believed by the 50.1 percent that they need to govern. Kenneth Duberstein said this recently -- he was chief of staff to Ronald Reagan -- that this administration is unique in that they govern with 50.1 percent. He was referring not to elections but to popularity while governing. His notion was that Reagan would want to get 60 to 65 percent backing him, while the Bush people want a bare majority, which means they have a much more extremist policy because they're appealing to the base. It makes them very hard-knuckle when approaching politics, simply wanting the base plus one.

Here's another great excerpt that completely gives name to the frustrating way in which this administration's wrongdoings never seem to amount to anything:

You've talked about our current American world as one of "frozen scandal," an interesting phrase. When you first used it, we were in the Downing Street Memo scandal and nothing was happening. Now, we're immersed in the NSA and other scandals and nothing is happening.

The icebergs are floating by. I've used the phrase to indicate that a process of scandal we've come to know, with an expected series of steps, has come to an end. Before, you had, as Step 1, revelation of wrongdoing by the press, usually with the help of leaks from within an administration. Step 2 would be an investigation which the courts, often allied with Congress, would conduct, usually in public, that would give you an official version of events. We saw this with Watergate, Iran-Contra and others. And finally, Step 3 would be expiation -- the courts, Congress, impose punishment which allows society to return to some kind of state of grace in which the notion is, Look, we've corrected the wrongdoing, we can now go on. With this administration, we've got revelation of torture, of illegal eavesdropping, of domestic spying, of all kinds of abuses when it comes to arrest of domestic aliens, of inflated and false weapons of mass destruction claims before the war; of cronyism and corruption in Iraq on a vast scale. You could go on. But no official investigation follows.

You get revelation and repetition.

Yes, R and R. It's been three years since the invasion and occupation of Iraq and there's been no official investigation of how the administration made use of intelligence to suggest that the intelligence agencies were certain Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Now, the consequence of this is that we live with the knowledge of these scandals, published in newspapers, magazines, books, but we get no official acknowledgement of wrongdoing and no punishment. Perhaps in the end a handful of people will be punished...

Minor figures...

...who were silly enough to get themselves caught -- for example, the military police whose images appear in the Abu Ghraib digital pictures. The actual policymakers responsible for the change in interrogation policy will suffer no punishment whatsoever. In fact, they're still in their jobs. None of the investigations has reached them. Even the people who actually carried on the interrogations themselves we know very little about. . .

. . .When I look at the pieces on the inside pages of the papers about the stealing of funds in Iraq by American officials, when I realize that no one is likely to be punished for this, I think of the novels of [Milan] Kundera, of his vivid descriptions of what it was like to live in Eastern Europe in the 1950s and '60s -- in the Soviet system where everyone realized the corruption, the abuse of power, the mediocrity of the government, the yawning gap between what was said and what was really going on, but no one could do anything about it.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Book craving

I've been dying to get my hands on Twilight of the Superheroes, a short story collection by Deborah Eisenberg that's been getting great reviews. Its title story has people talking about how fiction is finally taking on September 11th as a subject.

Anyway, I popped it on my library list a while ago and have been waiting and waiting.

Today's New York Times has an interview with her, complete with references to how short story collections just aren't big draws anymore. That certainly doesn't seem to be true for this book--and here's hoping that bias will change one day soon (right, Ghida?)

Port stuff, again

David Ignatius of the Washinton Post tells everyone to get over it already about the UAE company operating US ports. Due to Bush's swashbuckler fiscal policy, it's just a preview of what's to come. Read more here.

The real absurdity here is that Congress doesn't seem to realize that an Arab-owned company's management of America's ports is just a taste of what is coming. Greater foreign ownership of U.S. assets is an inevitable consequence of the reckless tax-cutting, deficit-ballooning fiscal policies that Congress and the White House have pursued. By encouraging the United States to consume more than it produces, these fiscal policies have sucked in imports so fast that the nation is nearing a trillion-dollar annual trade deficit. Those are IOUs on America's future, issued by a spendthrift Congress. . .

The best quick analysis I've seen of the fiscal squeeze comes from New York University professor Nouriel Roubini, in his useful online survey of economic information, rgemonitor.com. He notes that with the U.S. current account deficit running at about $900 billion in 2006, "in a matter of a few years foreigners may end up owning most of the U.S. capital stocks: ports, factories, corporations, land, real estate and even our national parks."

. . .Here's how bad it is: The worst thing that could happen to the United States, paradoxically, would be for Arab and other foreign investors to take us at our xenophobic word and decide that America doesn't really want foreign investment. If they pulled out their money, U.S. financial markets would plummet in a crash that might make 1929 look like a sleigh ride.

Rest easier, y'all

Over at the New York Times, Barry Posen's written up a pretty logical essay on why Iran having nuclear weapons probably isn't the big threat many people think it is.

What with all the talk of Iran being the big winner in all that's been going on in Iraq of late, sometimes I'm not so sure what to think myself anymore. Posen kind of walks you through the steps, and he's kinda got me convinced for now.

See what you think.

Trying to get through

How would you like it if a foreign power just up and put up checkpoints down the street from you, not allowing you to get out and do anything you needed to? Go to work, see your family on the other side, etc.?

Often when I talk to people back home in Ohio about what it's like for Palestinians on a daily basis, that's how I desribe it. Because living like that would suck for anyone.

And even though the Gaza Strip crossings were reportedly taken care of once the Israeli settlers moved out (remember Condoleezza helping out?), it's still a mess. Why are we not surprised?

At 3 a.m. on a chilly winter night last week, the tensions at this crossing point were growing. Shrouded in fog, stuck in a long, unmoving line, several thousand Palestinian laborers with permits to work in Israel were beginning to seethe. Before they could cross into Israel, they had to pass the daily security check, and many of them faced lengthy drives afterward. The morning commute can take four hours or more, every working day - most of it spent in line on the Gaza-Israel frontier.

There's more here.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Night of food and film

Samer and I went out to a lovely little neighborhood place for dinner called Swingside Cafe. Rustic Italian--tasty and very filling. Then on to the Guild, where we saw "Tristram Shandy," which was a brilliant postpostmoderny adaptation of one of my all-time favorite books. It was brilliant. Do go see it if it comes anywhere near you. The main guy in "24 Hour Party People" (another great flick you should see if you haven't) played the lead role and was excellent.

Samer's off to NYC early morning. It's going to be a low-key weekend for a change.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The new anti-Semitism

Today Frances put some NPR people in touch with me to possibly discuss the whole port sale brouhaha that's being going on here of late. I guess they were interested in my perspective as someone living here who's spent quite a deal of time in the Middle East. I told them Rami Khoury's more their guy than me (they'd already spoken to him to be on the show.) For one, I've kind of avoided the story just because it's getting too tedious--the whole political-ness of everything Bush does and the way Congress members are now out-vying each other to distance themselves from him. It's all been so tiring of late, not to mention depressing.

But I also avoided the story because I was a bit conflicted about it. I mean, having companies from other countries controlling our ports? It just didn't seem right somehow, perhaps because places of entry into the country seem so linked to national identity as well as security. I didn't know until just a while ago (when Samer told me) that the contracts up for sale are currently owned by a British company; this completely changed any hesitation I'd had before. Not to mention this editorial that I came across in the LA Times which states

Dubai Ports World, like the foreign companies that already run the majority of key U.S. ports — including 80% of the terminals in Los Angeles — does not own the points of entry. It is a contractor that coordinates logistics. And most important, it's not in charge of security. Port operators work with U.S. security officials (port police, the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security) in charge of preventing terrorism.

I listened to Christopher Dickey on "Fresh Air" this evening and was really impressed with his take on the subject as well as his articulate analysis of current events in the Middle East (definitely worth listening to--here's a link). Then I looked at Maureen Dowd's piece from yesterday and was just shocked. I'm a fan of Dowd, but I couldn't believe how ignorantly she attempts to characterize the UAE. This was complete stereotypical tripe. She'd do best to venture a bit out of New York before she writes stupidity about a place and people she knows nothing about.

Kind of makes one think this new anti-Semitism (Arabs are Semites, after all) is the new vogue.

My culinary roots

I wanted to throw something together quick for dinner and had a revelation. There was some chicken in the fridge, I didn't have a load of veggies, and when I opened the refrigerator the peanut butter jar was right in front of me. This could only mean peanut chicken--one of my main staples back in the days when I lived in Cameroon.

It's as easy as pie to cook up:

some chicken
2 or 3 T. ginger
2 or 3 T. garlic
a little hot pepper
Maggi cube
1/2 c. peanut butter (mixed smooth about 1/2 c. water)
salt to taste

You just pound the ginger and garlic with a mortar/pestle, fry the onions, brown the chicken, add a little water and everything else and wait for it all to cook. Super yummy over rice.

So often I forget to make the recipes I learned back in Yagoua, and they're the only ones to this day that I make without consulting a recipe. They're like shorthand to me. My comfort food, of a sort. When I arrived in Cameroon, I had barely ventured out to eating vegetables--fried cabbage and canned green beans were about as adventurous as we got in our home growing up. Tomatoes, okra--I didn't even want to touch them. Until I found myself in my village where they were about my only options. And not only did I have to eat them, I had to cook them, too.

I learned by watching Hadja and cooking with her, and pretty soon I was cooking up big vats of stuff and ladling it over rice for guests seated all around my table. Cameroon's where I discovered my love of cooking as well as hosting people for dinner. It's great I still have all those recipes etched in my memory, if only I can remember to make them more often.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hunger pangs in Palestine

I didn't have time to read much today, but I did come across this commentary on Israel's economic tightfisting of the Hamas gov't that was published a few days ago in Haaretz.

Here's a bit:

The Hamas team had not laughed so much in a long time. The team, headed by the prime minister's advisor Dov Weissglas and including the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, the director of the Shin Bet and senior generals and officials, convened for a discussion with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on ways to respond to the Hamas election victory. Everyone agreed on the need to impose an economic siege on the Palestinian Authority, and Weissglas, as usual, provided the punch line: "It's like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die," the advisor joked, and the participants reportedly rolled with laughter. And, indeed, why not break into laughter and relax when hearing such a successful joke? If Weissglas tells the joke to his friend Condoleezza Rice, she would surely laugh too. . .

The recommendation for a "diet," along with the edicts Israel is poised to impose on the Palestinian people, should have aroused a hue and cry among Israeli society. Even if we put aside the awful political inanity of pushing Hamas into a corner instead of giving it a chance to change its ways, and even if we ignore the fact that Israel plans to confiscate tax revenues that do not belong to it, the policy of the Kadima government raises questions about its humanity. Where do we get the right to abuse an entire people this way? Is it only because of our great power and the fact that the U.S. allows us to run wild and do whatever we want?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"The Case for Impeachment"

The latest Harper's magazine has an essay by its editor, Lewis Lapham, detailing reasons why George W. Bush should be impeached. It certainly got me riled up. I often find Harper's articles shrill and junkily written (no super exception with this one, either), but it's worth a read. For anyone following events leading up to the Iraq war and onwards, the stuff is nothing you haven't heard before, but it sure is infuriating to read it stuck together all in one place.

Why, in the name of heaven, hasn't this guy been impeached (or just not re-elected) ages ago? It's maddening. More than maddening, I should say.

Here's a bit:

We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil; a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal--known to be armed and dangerous. Under the three-stike rule available to the courts in California, judges sentence people to life in jail for having stolen from Wal-Mart a set of golf clubs or a child's tricycle. Who then calls strikes on President Bush, and how many more does he get before being sent down on waivers to one of the Texas Prison Leagues? . . .

As of January 17, 2006, the rap sheet listed 2,229 American military dead in Iraq together with an unknown number of Iraqi civilians; what looks to be the sum of $1 trillion, by some estimates $2 trillion, already committed to The Project for the New American Century's real estate development in the Mesopotamian desert. Better reasons to impeach a president than the one pressed into service against Bill Clinton, whose penis was known to be aimless and shown to be harmless.

A Turkish restaurant without an Ataturk picture

For a few hours this afternoon, I took a little break and went walking with my friend Khadidja. We headed down to Wallingford and stopped in at a little Turkish restaurant, where we drank apple tea--one of Samer's and my favorite things about going to Turkey. They also happen to have that amazing stinky cheese I often crave, which means we'll definitely be going back.

I tied Amina, our little fox terrier, outside and--like I've mentioned before--it was hilarious to see how much attention she got. People are nuts about dogs here. So nuts that some dude walked inside and asked me if it was my dog tied outside, that she was freezing. At the time, it was about 50 degrees outside--far from cold. And in the summer, of course, people are concerned about her getting too hot. Quite a change from Amman, where people would bark at her as they drove by or take off running across the street in fear. She sure is a scary dog (I popped up a picture of her with the boys so you can see just how frightening she is.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Colonialism and mistaken superiority

I was so annoyed when Samer brought in the latest issue of the Economist, with its cover story characterizing the whole Danish cartoon brouhaha as an issue of freedom of speech. What crap! And I'm a pretty big fan of the Economist.

So today I was happy to come across this user-friendly opinion piece by Martin Jacques in the Guardian. It's Euro-centric, but applies to the West in general and its attitude of superiority with regard to the rest of the world.

Here's a bit:

There is a profound hypocrisy - and deep historical ignorance - when Europeans complain about the problems posed by the ethnic and religious minorities in their midst, for that is exactly what European colonial rule meant for peoples around the world. With one crucial difference, of course: the white minorities ruled the roost, whereas Europe's new ethnic minorities are marginalised, excluded and castigated, as recent events have shown. . .

Old attitudes of superiority and disdain - dressed up in terms of free speech, progress or whatever - are still very powerful. Nor - as many liberals like to think - are they necessarily in decline. On the contrary, racial bigotry is on the rise, even in countries that have previously been regarded as tolerant. . .

When Europe dominated, there were no or few feedback loops. Or, to put it another way, there were few, if any, consequences for its behaviour towards the non-western world: relations were simply too unequal. Now - and increasingly in the future - it will be very different. And the subject of these feedback loops, or consequences, will concern not just present but also past behaviour.

Come again?

Michael Morales, a death row inmate in California, will be given a sedative to prevent extreme pain during his execution next Tuesday. Read about it here.

That's awful nice of them, huh?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

From France

A friend alerted me to a recent piece in the New Left Review by Jean Baudrillard, who I haven't seen much of since my days in grad school and enslavement to the kings of theory.

While the article is ostensibly about immigration in France, it also very aptly points a finger at the West in general, as my friend highlighted the following excerpts:

Yet French or European discrimination is only the micro-model of a worldwide divide which, under the ironical sign of globalization, is bringing two irreconcilable universes face to face. The same analysis can be reprised at global level. International terrorism is but a symptom of the split personality of a world power at odds with itself. As to finding a solution, the same delusion applies at every level, from the banlieues to the House of Islam: the fantasy that raising the rest of the world to Western living standards will settle matters. The fracture is far deeper than that. Even if the assembled Western powers really wanted to close it—which there is every reason to doubt—they could not. The very mechanisms of their own survival and superiority would prevent them; mechanisms which, through all the pious talk of universal values, serve only to reinforce Western power and so to foment the threat of a coalition of forces that dream of destroying it. . .

The superiority of Western culture is sustained only by the desire of the rest of the world to join it. When there is the least sign of refusal, the slightest ebbing of that desire, the West loses its seductive appeal in its own eyes. Today it is precisely the ‘best’ it has to offer—cars, schools, shopping centres—that are torched and ransacked. Even nursery schools: the very tools through which the car-burners were to be integrated and mothered. ‘Screw your mother’ might be their organizing slogan. And the more there are attempts to ‘mother’ them, the more they will. Of course, nothing will prevent our enlightened politicians and intellectuals from considering the autumn riots as minor incidents on the road to a democratic reconciliation of all cultures. Everything indicates that on the contrary, they are successive phases of a revolt whose end is not in sight.

Speaking of the supposed "superiority of Western culture," did you hear Condoleezza Rice getting grilled yesterday by the Senate? To hear them talk you'd think she was personally responsible for making sure Hamas wasn't voted in in Palestine. In all the discussions I heard, it was essentially taken for granted that a win for Hamas means the U.S. is doing something wrong. What is true is that the U.S. doesn't have much of a clue how to win the hearts and minds of Palestinians in the first place--and it certainly has never been interested to do so, anyway.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

We're probably on it by now

The U.S. government's database of terrorist suspects now contains 325,000 names--four times more than it had only two and a half years ago.

The Guardian article I came across states

Timothy Sparapani, an expert on privacy rights at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ACLU's response was one of incredulity, and alarm that many people are likely to be on the list by mistake, with serious impact on their lives and few, if any, means of getting themselves off it.

"The numbers continue to grow by leaps and bounds," Mr Sparapani said. He had no idea what methods were being used to add names to the database, but added: "I have to say we're probably adding names faster than we can figure out how to deal with them ... We worry greatly about the potential stain to anyone's life who ends up on this list."

Just ask our old buddy Haitham, whose name is on the list. He had a fun time trying to get out to Seattle to visit us over Christmas.

Cheney haikus

My cousin-in-law sent me a few haikus she wrote on Cheney's latest misadventure. Too funny. . .


Startled from thoughts
of leak investigation--
Movement in the brush.


Perhaps too much gin,
preoccupied by troubles,
Thought I saw a quail.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Them thar terrorists don't count

As you've probably heard, our government's a big fan of democracy. In fact, we're spreading it around the world. Remember Iraq--that former dictatorship that's now got some democratically elected guys and is a world better now?

Unfortunately the brand of democracy in Palestine just won't do. The New York Times ran an article today claiming that high-level officials in both the State Department and Israel are discussing witholding cash to the Palestinian Authority in order to force new elections and get Hamas out.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer states

What is new is the strategy to force regime change by impoverishing the Palestinians even further, according to the newspaper report. As the U.S. and Israeli officials see it, Palestinians would grow so miserable that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's leader, would dissolve parliament and call early elections within months, the New York Times said.

Lovely, just lovely.

Read the P-I article here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Money musings

We got back a little bit ago from our first-ever visit with a money guy. Not because we have money we need to manage, but because we have no clue about taxes here in the U.S. We're filing jointly and trying to figure out what all this deduction stuff means.

Thank God we'll be able to deduct our move to the U.S.--the monumental undertaking of the century. Which means we'll probably end up not having to pay out the wazoo to the gov't. At least for this year.

Roger, the guy we met with, helps people figure out how to manage their money. I guess this is one count in which I don't yet feel middle aged. We have pretty much no savings yet to speak of and have about zero clue about investing and stuff.

So I guess that makes us really behind in the rat race. But we're gonna have to figure it out all soon so we can live the old American Dream. Yippee skippy. . .

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Off to Vancouver

I've been completely lame about posting, and that's because Mom made a surprise visit for Issy's 3rd birthday and we've been running around like crazy.

Tomorrow morning we're off to Vancouver for a few days, so I'm pretty much out of commission for this week. Keep checking back--I'll put up pictures soon!

Friday, February 03, 2006

More proof of what we kinda knew already

This doesn't really surprise me, but here's more evidence that Bush and Co. had it out all along to wage war on Iraq--by hook or by crook.

The Guardian today (article here) reveals contents of a memo of a Bush/Blair meeting that took place in January 2003--two months before the invasion began. Not only did Bush "ma[ke] it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme," but he also

. . . told Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]".

Perhaps not too surprising, yet one more instance of this administration's outrageous and lawless behavior.

Gore Vidal's State of the Union

I don't have a t.v. But if I did, I would still not watch the State of the Union speech that happened a few days ago. It would have just made me ill.

So forgive me for being a bit untimely, but I ran across Gore Vidal's State of the Union speech and it was kind of a hoot--worth checking out. He's apparently been authoring his own State of the Union speeches since the '70s and I don't know how they were back in those days, but man, we sure can use a little comic relief/catharsis this time around.

Vidal says, "Now, we’ve had idiots as presidents before. He's not unique. But he's certainly the most active idiot that we have ever had."

Ol' Gore's my kind of guy.

Prescriptive democracy

Of course, I couldn't finish the day without posting a brilliant article by Robert Fisk. This one's a few days old, but he totally nails the West's dilemma with democracy when the "wrong" guys (read: Islamists) are elected.

There's tons of stuff being written about Hamas getting elected, but I'm feeling a little hopeful. Fisk is, too. Check out what he has to say here, which really seems to make a lot of sense. His look at how Western governments progressively make peace and work with their former enemies (e.g., Japan, Vietnam, even the Dawa party politicians currently running Iraq's government) makes one wonder why the U.S. has such a double standard in the Middle East when it comes to democratically elected religious parties.

Here's an excerpt:

Not long after the Hamas leadership had been hurled into southern Lebanon, a leading member of its organization heard me say that I was en route to Israel.

"You'd better call Shimon Peres," he told me. "Here's his home number."

The phone number was correct -- proof members of the hierarchy of the most extremist Palestinian movements were talking to senior Israeli politicians.

The Israelis know well the Hamas leadership. And the Hamas leadership know well the Israelis. There is no point in journalists suggesting otherwise. Our enemies invariably turn out to be our greatest friends, and our friends turn out to be our enemies.

How terrible to speak with those who have killed our sons. How unspeakable to converse with those who have our brothers' blood on their hands. No doubt that is how Americans who believed in independence felt about the Englishmen who fired upon them.

I certainly hope the U.S. gives it up and just gets down to business before wasting more time by avoiding Palestine.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


I've been running around so much of late that I haven't even mentioned last Saturday's screening. It went really well. At least, judging from the enthusiastic response, it seems people really liked my flick. Up until the screening, I had spent a day and a half of ironing out weird technical details, so I wasn't totally sure the film would project all the way through without any glitches. I was a ball of nerves up until it played all the way through--and, of course, the instructor had to keep it for last to prolong my pain. It was such a relief that everything was fine.

I heard reports from throughout the screening room that people were pulling out their hankies and that the film brought them to tears. In fact, Stacey, who was sitting next to me, bummed a tissue from me early on and was wiping her eyes. I didn't pay it much mind at the time since I was sitting on pins and needles assuming the audio was going to go out at any second (it didn't, thank the good Lord), but I guess Ala's music layered over the dreamy Amman scenes got people a little emotional.

The feedback was great--and kind of confirmed my suspicion that people would not have a problem with the way I arranged the film's different sections. Except now I'd love to show it to more people to get as much feedback as possible.

The weekend was also really special because my good ol' friend Nancy--who I'd been out of touch with for 13 years!--came and spent time with us. It was excellent to hang out, and the amazing thing is that it seemed like it had been no time at all since we were sitting around playing cards with the little delinquent twerps at the Boys and Girls Club. Yep, that's how we know each other--we spent many a long afternoon playing Euchre and basketball those months before I shipped off to Cameroon.

Issy's been a ball of excitement these past few days. Friday's his 3rd birthday, and he's been marching around the house in his party hat singing happy birthday to himself. We've made cupcakes for his pre-school class to devour tomorrow and have planned a party for Saturday. Not to mention, we got a surprise phone call from Grandma today, informing us that she's flying in tomorrow morning for the big day. Plus, she's staying a whole week, which means Samer and I are gonna be doing some heavy dating.