qatarperegrine: (Default)
I recently pointed someone at my blog and then realized that it's actually rather difficult to find interesting content here, amid the fluff of links to Peninsula articles. Relatedly, sometimes I try to refer back to an old blog post and am stymied by the uselessness of Livejournal's search function. So, I spent a little time this afternoon tagging old posts.

The favorites tag now takes you to my 35 favorite blog posts, from the FAQ I posted about Qatar before I even moved there in 2004 to my list of what I thought I'd miss when I moved back in 2010. If for some reason you stumble across this blog and want to find out what I had to say about living in Qatar, that's probably a good place to start.

Khalas

Dec. 31st, 2010 01:12 pm
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Since I'm no longer living in Qatar, I guess it doesn't make much sense to blog here anymore! From here on out, such non-baby-related blogging as I do will be as [livejournal.com profile] toorsdenote. Please friend/RSS me there!

Edited 4/10/11 to add: I'm now getting spam comments posted to this account daily at least. I can't disable commenting without erasing existing comments, so from now on all comments will be screened, and I will not be coming back to unscreen them. If you are a live human being who wants to comment or ask questions about Qatar, you can reach me through my other journal. If you comment here, your comment will never be read.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Three of my least favorite things about Qatar, all in one week of news.

1. The Qatari government carried out a sting operation against bakeries making obscene cakes. Because, in a country where the labor law is routinely flouted even by prestigious employers like the Qatar Foundation, law enforcement's #1 priority should really be penis-shaped cakes.

2. An Indian maid on her way back to India from Oman lost her passport while transferring through the Qatar airport. Qatar Airways shipped her back to Muscat, but Oman had cancelled her visa when she left, so she spent five days in the airport before becoming delusional and dropping dead. This isn't Qatar's fault, but it's the sort of thing that happens when you have the kinds of immigration policies and bureaucracies that Gulf countries have.

3. The overtly racist nature of Family Day policies at the malls is old news, but this undercover video presents the situation well. Particularly depressing is the fact that the "no Asians" policy is being enforced by a Nepalese guard.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
A nice short interview a Northwestern student did with a pearl trader and former pearl diver in Souq Waqif:

qatarperegrine: (arabic)
When we first moved to Doha, Justin and I drove around taking pictures of company logos in Arabic, in order to put together an identify-the-brand quiz. We never got around to actually making the quiz, though.

Happily, someone else has! Can you name the Companies From the Arabic Version of Their Logo?

We got 100%. :-)

Also, let this serve as a general plug for sporcle.com, one of our chief forms of evening entertainment.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Eek it's September already!

The last few years, some of us have done this little project where we take and post a photo every day for the month of September. Doesn't have to be a good photo, or an artistic photo... just a photo every day for a month.

I like doing it because it makes me look at the world for interesting pictures, and because it's fun to see what everyone else posts.

You're welcome to join in! Just join the Flickr group September I'll Remember and upload a picture every day.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Via [livejournal.com profile] dubaiwalla: a student in Dubai has been jailed for 3 months after saying in an online chatroom that men having sex with men is a personal matter and the government shouldn't interfere.

As a friend succinctly put it:
"Yeah, how dare he incite immoral behavior like having sex with men? Why can't he stick to moral pleasures, like shoving a cattle-prod up someone's ass? ... which the UAE seems to have deemed 'okay'."
qatarperegrine: (Default)
We moved into our new house today. By coincidence, the geographic area that met our location requirements (walking distance to the park, the grocery store, the library, major bus routes) is coterminous with the area that is walking distance to Squirrel Hill's various Orthodox synagogues, so we seem to have become the token Gentiles on the block.

There's something kind of funny to me about leaving a land of modestly dressed women and men who won't shake my hand, only to move into a neighborhood full of modestly dressed women and men who won't shake my hand.

Today's interesting cultural interaction occurred when our movers, who are Israeli, arrived at the new house. Bringing in the first load of boxes, one of them noticed the mezuzah on our front doorway and said, "Oh! You're Jewish?"

"No," I said, "The former owners left that there."

The next time I walked through the doorway, I noticed the mezuzah was gone.

I was somewhat relieved, since I didn't know what I was supposed to do with it -- I think it's supposed to be buried, like an old Torah, but I wasn't sure.

However, then the former owners called to say they'd come by to collect their mezuzot today. So, awkwardly, we had to ask the mover if he'd taken it. He replied that it was obligatory to remove the mezuzah if the new houseowners weren't Jewish, and did not offer to give it back to us. So, I hope the former owners were just coming by to make sure the mezuzot were correctly disposed of, and not because they had any particular sentimental value!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Pittsburgh people: I hate to ask, but we could use one more person to help us move some furniture tomorrow afternoon (1-4ish). If you're made of awesome and would be willing to pitch in, please let me know. We'll buy you dinner.
qatarperegrine: (buddha)
I was recently asked why I stopped considering myself Buddhist. My response:

The first answer that popped into my mind was the last few lines of a poem by the iconoclastic Zen monk Ikkyu:
To harden into a Buddha is wrong;
All the more I think so
When I look at a stone Buddha.


To answer the question more completely, I think I have to recount my whole progression from where I was four years ago (which was, to recap, a panentheist progressive Christian who practiced Buddhist meditation) to where I am now (an atheist), because I think being a Buddhist was just a brief way station along that path.

One of the main things I learned about myself by living in a Muslim country is that my worldview is fundamentally a naturalistic one. My Muslim friends' belief in jinn and witchcraft seemed painfully off-base to me, not because I thought they believed in the wrong set of supernatural forces while Christians believe in the correct supernatural forces, but because I really don't believe in supernatural forces at all. I've never believed in angels or miracles, for example; I haven't believed in an afterlife since I was 12; and I don't know how many years it's been since I believed in a personal God in the sense of a discrete, anthropomorphic being "out there" who influences the goings-on of our universe. I nonetheless believed in some sort of ineffable divinity, and in a Western, mostly secular country, it's fairly easy to overlay some vague belief in the Ground of Being on top of an otherwise naturalist metaphysic and call that Christianity.

Encountering religious people (both Muslim and otherwise) who really fundamentally believe in the existence and power of supernatural forces, though, made me come to terms with the fact that I'm not one of those people. And, to be honest with myself, I had to admit that the kind of worldview espoused by the Scriptures and church tradition was also a supernatural one, despite the efforts of Tillich, Robinson, Spong, et al. to update the Christian understanding of God in the light of a modern worldview that rejects supernaturalism. It began to bother me that I spent half my time in church affixing mental footnotes to every creed I recited or hymn I sang -- for example, mentally noting that by "Christ" I meant "the spirit of compassion and self-sacrifice" rather than "that dude named Jesus who lived a long time ago." I got tired of the mental gymnastics necessary for me to affirm the things Christians affirm.

One day I sat down in the library to read Tillich's "Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions" and read the sentence: "It is natural and unavoidable that Christians affirm the fundamental assertion of Christianity that Jesus is the Christ and reject what denies this assertion." Even though I've certainly read more thoughtful and well-reasoned expositions of the relationship between Christianity and other religions (most notably Diana Eck's in Encountering God), somehow that sentence was my proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Even Tillich claimed that "Jesus is the Christ" is the "fundamental assertion of Christianity," and that's just not something I could assert without all those aforementioned mental footnotes. I realized that if I was finding Paul "The god of theism is dead" Tillich impossibly conservative, I should really stop pretending the wide umbrella of Christianity could (or should) extend as far as where I now stood. In that instant, sitting in the religion section of the CMU library, I realized I wasn't going to call myself a Christian anymore. The thought felt like vertigo, but I also felt the weight of all those mental footnotes lift.

I didn't leave Buddhism in the same instant because reconciling Buddhism with my otherwise secular worldview didn't require the same mental gymnastics. I always appreciated that Buddhism focuses pragmatically on how to alleviate suffering rather than on metaphysics, that the Buddha doesn't seem to have cared about whether there was a god or not, that the Buddha taught that we should test his teachings against our own experience and reason instead of blindly following set doctrine. Because of these things, practicing Buddhism as a secular person didn't feel dishonest or disingenuous.

But as I started to practice meditation more often and listen to weekly dharma talks, it dawned on me that Buddhism is hardly free of dogma. Its teachings on the afterlife are both as central to its teachings and as implausible as Christianity's, for example. And, in practice, the vast majority of Buddhists in the world practice a supernatural religion, whether they are superstitiously chanting the name of the Amitabha Buddha or undergoing body mutilation in order to channel the emperor-gods -- or offering food to the hungry ghosts, as I myself did at a Zen retreat 3 years ago. It's possible to practice Buddhism without these things, just like it was possible for me to practice Christianity without believing in an afterlife, but then we're back to mental gymnastics.

Ethics is a good example of this. I think the Five Precepts are a better guide to ethical behavior than the Ten Commandments. But why do I think that? I am measuring both sets of rules against my internal sense of what kinds of behaviors do and don't cause harm to others, and the Precepts seem like a better approximation of what secular ethical reasoning suggests. But then, if my fundamental yardstick is the utilitarian one, then I don't need the Five Precepts any more than I need the Ten Commandments; I just need to employ ethical reasoning. So why not cut out the middleman, as Sam Harris puts it, and do what I think is right instead of trying to find a religion whose moral code approximates what I already think is right.

On a deeper level, though, I think I stopped practicing Buddhism because I stopped craving the things that I had looked to it to provide. I was initially drawn to Buddhist practice because it seemed to hold out the promise of inner peace and the power to still your own chattering monkey mind. To a naturally anxious kind of person like me those sound heavenly. Another way of saying this is that I wanted to use Buddhism as a tool to help me become the person I felt I ought to be. (I think now that this is a very un-Buddhist reason to practice Buddhism -- although I'd still like to hear an answer to the question I asked of that Zen monk three years ago: isn't the desire to extinguish our cravings itself a craving?) Somehow, perhaps as I've gotten older and a little less insecure, I feel less need to fight the way my mind works on its own. I no longer feel like I *ought* to have one-pointed mind; I have monkey mind because I am descended from monkey ancestors, and on the whole a distractable psyche has served our lineage well. One day I realized that cravings and attachments bring me most of the joys I experience as well as most of the suffering, and that I'm actually not all that interested in extinguishing them after all. So I took off my dharmachakra necklace and prayer beads and stopped calling myself a Buddhist. I still have warm feelings towards Buddhism: my dharmachakra and fo zhu are still at the top of my jewelry box; I'm reading Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist right now; just yesterday I idly looked up the closest zendo to my new house. But I don't want to harden into a stone Buddha; I just want to be a flesh-and-blood Marjorie.

Which somehow reminds me of another poem I love, Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese," which I think comes closest to summarizing my current perspective on spirituality:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Repatriot

Jul. 4th, 2010 05:22 pm
qatarperegrine: (Default)
A month ago I referred to myself as being in the "honeymoon stage" of reentry, which drew objections from a friend who said that it's entirely unnotable that I'm happy to return home and find value in my own culture.

However, it seemed notable to me because people who are repatriating often do experience reverse culture shock. Many of my friends who've moved back to the States have expressed only small senses of loss at the transition -- missing the adrenaline of the roundabouts or the beautiful desert sunsets -- but some have talked about more serious reactions, like feeling an emotional disconnect from the friends and family they'd been so eagerly looking forward to visiting. So it seems worth saying that many people do feel a bit lost or disconnected when they come home.

I expected to feel significant ambivalence about leaving Doha after 6 years; after all, I had reverse culture shock after moving back from only 6 months in London. I felt overwhelmed by American grocery stores, and had a surprising sense of loss about the sudden irrelevance of all the small daily things I'd worked so hard to master, like learning the Tube map or how to hold my knife and fork.

After a month back from Qatar, though, I have to say I'm still genuinely thrilled to be home. The most striking feature of American culture to me over the course of this month has been how friendly most people are to each other most of the time. I think that every day I have witnessed some small act of kindness towards strangers: bus passengers shouting to the driver to wait because a slow-moving elderly person was coming, a jogger stopping to check a loose dog's collar for contact information, a stranger letting me know something had fallen out of my pocket. What's more, every time I've wanted to change lanes, merge, or make an unprotected left turn, someone has immediately paused to let me in. All these moments too are tiny and insignificant-seeming, but they add up to feeling like I am in a community where people are looking out for each other. It's strange, because I would never have said that Doha was unfriendly or that people were particularly unsympathetic to each other. Perhaps it's harder there to feel fellow-feeling for people whose lives are so inscrutably different from your own, or perhaps I'd underestimated how much daily interaction was stymied by language barriers. At any rate, I find my heart embarrassingly warmed by every routine pleasantry and small gesture of decency I experience here.

I'm not really one for national days or patriotism, but on this Independence Day I find myself remembering seeing a typo just before we moved to Qatar that referred to Americans in Doha as "ex-patriots" instead of "expatriates." That would make me a repatriot now. And maybe I kind of am. There are lots of really terrible things about the US, and I don't want to be Polyannaish about it, but I can't deny that it's really, really good to be home.

Zoe's blog

Jul. 2nd, 2010 06:17 pm
qatarperegrine: (fetus)
We have set up a blog for Zoë's birth and early days over at zoecarlson.com. (Why yes, we did check that that domain was available before finalizing our name choice.)

This morning's ultrasound video is on there, and I'm gradually copying old pregnancy updates from this blog to that. More notably, however, that blog is where we plan to post updates when I go into labor, so if you want to be kept up to date when that happens, that's the site you should RSS or bookmark.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I'm in the library, surrounded by books, which is a bit overwhelming after six years in a country where the best places to acquire books are a record store and an office supply store.

So... what should I be reading?
qatarperegrine: (Default)
My CMU accounts are getting deactivated this week. No more qatar.cmu.edu email address! No more OED access! Alas.

A former student pointed out on Twitter yesterday that I'm still using the username qatarperegrine everywhere. I guess it's time to come up with a new username?

I was rather fond of qatarperegrine. Peregrine means a wanderer; it comes from a Latin word meaning a foreigner traveling abroad; it's also the root of pilgrim, and thus has overtones of traveling in pursuit of religious understanding. All three of these meanings seemed to suit my frame of mind when I moved to Qatar. It's also thematically linked to the other two usernames I've used in my life: Sparrowhawk, as they're both names of falcons, and Luthien, as they're both Tolkien characters.

It may be that I overthink usernames a little.

At any rate, I haven't quite decided on a new one, so for now I'm still qatarperegrine. Friends have suggested something Pittsburgh-related -- but being in Pittsburgh is certainly less notable than being in Qatar -- or something baby-related -- but I suspect enough of my identity will be subsumed by parenthood in the near future as it is.

As for this journal, I think that instead of changing the username, I will probably just stop using it sometime soon, so that it retains its identity as a blog about my six years in Qatar. If I do keep blogging, I'll let you know where I move on to.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Props to Nigel for pointing out a glorious example of Qatari self-censorship in action. Here, side by side, are a Reuters article and its redactions in the Gulf Times and Peninsula, with significant differences in red:

REUTERSGULF TIMESPENINSULA
A long-planned $3 billion bridge linking Bahrain and Qatar has been put on hold and the project team scaled back, sources close to the project said, amid escalating costs and increased political tension.A long-planned $3bn bridge linking Bahrain and Qatar has been put on hold and the project team scaled back, sources close to the project said.A long-planned $3bn bridge linking Bahrain and Qatar has been put on hold and the project team scaled back amid escalating costs, sources close to the project have said.
The 40-kilometre causeway linking gas exporter Qatar to the island kingdom of Bahrain was set to play a key role in improving infrastructure connections between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but has been beset by problems.The 40-km causeway linking Qatar to the island kingdom of Bahrain was set to play a key role in improving infrastructure connections between members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), but has been beset by problems.The 40-kilometre causeway linking Qatar to Bahrain was set to play a key role in improving infrastructure connections between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The project, first announced in 2001, had already been delayed in 2008 to change the project scope to include trains, and late last year the countries said work would start in the first quarter and be completed by 2015.The project, first announced in 2001, had already been delayed in 2008 to change the project scope to include trains, and late last year the countries said work would start in the first quarter and be completed by 2015.The project, first announced in 2001, had already been delayed in 2008 to change the project scope to include trains, and late last year the countries said work would start in the first quarter and would be completed by 2015.
That fresh date came and went, however, and the project prospects were further dampened in May, when Bahrain said Qatar's coast guard shot and wounded a Bahraini fisherman who had entered Qatari waters.
The project has seen many, many problems (and there were) also the political tensions,' a source close to the project told Reuters, adding 'the team has been significantly decreased.' “The project has seen many, many problems..,” a source close to the project told Reuters, adding “the team has been significantly decreased.”
The exact reason for the suspension of the project was not immediately clear, although Jassim Ali, a member of the economic committee of Bahrain's parliament, said 'the project has been on hold for some time, but it is not cancelled,' adding cost increases and financing issues had played a role.The exact reason for the suspension of the project was not immediately clear, although Jassim Ali, a member of the economic committee of Bahrain’s parliament, said “the project has been on hold for some time, but it is not cancelled”, adding cost increases and financing issues had played a role.Jassim Ali, a member of the economic committee of Bahrain's parliament, said “the project has been on hold for some time, but it is not cancelled,” adding cost increases and financing issues had played a role.
Contractors for the project, the latest official cost estimate for which stands at $3 billion, include France's Vinci and Germany's Hochtief , Qatari Diar Real Estate and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC).Contractors for the project, the latest official cost estimate for which stands at $3bn, include France’s Vinci and Germany’s Hochtief AG, Qatari Diar Real Estate and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC).Contractors for the project France’s Vinci and Germany’s Hochtief AG, Qatari Diar Real Estate and Consolidated Contractors Company.
A spokesman for Hochtief confirmed the construction phase had never been reached.A spokesman for Hochtief confirmed the construction phase had never been reached.A spokesman for Hochtief confirmed the construction phase had never been reached.
'We got a contract to do some planning (for the bridge), which we did, but a contract for the actual construction was never commissioned,' he said.“We got a contract to do some planning (for the bridge), which we did, but a contract for the actual construction was never commissioned,” he said.
Member countries of the GCC, a loose political and economic bloc, are trying to integrate their economies, with four of them eyeing a joint currency, but have built up little cross-border infrastructure.
The rail tracks on the causeway were to have been part of a planned train network that would connect the members of the GCC, which also include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
People know to expect culture shock when they move abroad. They're generally less prepared to experience it when they move back home, because home is home, right? Only when you experience something that changes you, like living abroad (or going to college) then you can't just come back home and expect everything to be the same as it was.

So, like I documented my first impressions of Qatar when I moved there 6 years ago, I'm going to try to document some of my first impressions of the US now I'm back.

Observations from 3 days back in the States, in no particular order:

  • SO much foliage! And weeds! Plants grow BY THEMSELVES unless you actively STOP THEM!
  • It makes me so happy just to see pedestrians and joggers out and about. It somehow gives neighborhoods a much more "community" feel, which is odd since it's not like the pedestrians are communing with each other.
  • Way, WAY more people have tattoos than I remember.
  • Shopkeepers and other service-type people are friendly. Even the ones processing our driver's license renewal paperwork. I remember noticing, when I moved back to the US from London, that Americans seem to want friendly service while Britain seems to favor polite service. I'd say service in Qatar tends towards obsequious.
  • For some reason Americans don't know how to make a plane take off on time. Why is this?
  • It's weird sitting in a restaurant and understanding what the people at the next table are saying. You have to TRY not to eavesdrop.
  • Most of the shops I've gone in here have been playing music I liked. On the other hand, many of them have also had a TV blaring. TV is worse than I remember.
  • Fresh fruit, on the other hand, is way better than I remember.
  • I'm totally out of touch with American fashion. WHY are the 80s back?
  • SO MANY BOOKS in the bookstore!
  • Nobody's called me "ma'am" all week, let alone "ma'amsir." And I don't get the royal treatment for being pregnant, whereas in Doha being pregnant allows you to skip all lines everywhere.
  • I am for sure in the "honeymoon" stage of reentry. I know that American culture has lots of downsides that I will encounter soon. But I'm enjoying the honeymoon while it lasts. :-)
qatarperegrine: (travel)
I started a list a couple weeks ago of things I imagined I'd really miss about Doha -- and things I was looking forward to about the US. I never finished cleaning it up, but I figure I should post it now so I can see in a few weeks how accurate it was.

Things I'll miss about Doha:
  1. Getting to know awesome new CMU-Q employees every semester; this is the best place on the planet to make friends.
  2. Our students. I will probably never work in an environment so diverse again, or have so many chances to learn from the students I'm theoretically teaching. :-)
  3. The travel opportunities -- I'm so grateful for the amazing places we've visited while here.
  4. Unimaginably spectacular fruit juices.
  5. Bharath's navrattan korma, and Petra's 82-cent falafels.
  6. Breezing into a hospital without an appointment and seeing a specialist 5 minutes later.
  7. Souq Waqif -- hanging out with friends, drinking lemon mint, smoking shisha, and people-watching.
  8. The fact that grocery stores sell my favorite American foods, my favorite British foods, and yummy local stuff.
  9. A4 paper! It's just so much cuter than 8.5x11.
  10. Being part of Education City -- feeling like I'm part of something new and awesome happening in the world.


Things I'm looking forward to (this was written before I knew I'd be going to Pittsburgh):
  1. Not being told by the government what websites i can & can't visit, what movies I can & can't watch, what books I can & can't read.
  2. No "Family Day" (explicit government policies that ban less-desirable people from public spaces at certain times).
  3. News media that is free to talk about societal and governmental failings. Relatedly, having outlets for disagreeing with government policies (protests, letters to editor, voting) other than bitching about them on my blog.
  4. Getting mail in days instead of weeks; in the last few months Qatar has started censoring mail more, so the process has slowed unbearably.
  5. Being treated by waitstaff, cleaners, etc., like a fellow person, not like a superior being from another planet.
  6. Being able to get things repaired in my house without weeks of unanswered email followed by an inability to accomplish anything due to difficulty communicating with repair people.
  7. Walking and taking the bus!
  8. Being more environmentally friendly (not driving everywhere, not running the AC all the time, buying organic food, buying stuff from Goodwill/Craigslist, etc.)
  9. Laid-back drivers.
  10. Mexican food!!!!!


I already know I overlooked a lot of important things. (Things I miss: being treated like a queen because I'm pregnant. Things I'm excited about: TREES! CLOUDS!!!) I figure I should document my reentry shock like I documented my initial reactions to Doha, so I'll keep you posted!
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
I'm in the Doha airport, waiting for my one-way flight to Pittsburgh. Ever since I printed our etickets, I've been flipping over the sheet of paper looking for the return flights; I can't quite get my mind around the idea that there aren't any.

I'm not a Qatari resident anymore. I'm also not a Carnegie Mellon employee anymore, which has hit me kind of unexpectedly hard. I think that this is the right thing to do -- we can't stay in Qatar forever, and with Justin finishing his doctorate and both of us transitioning to parenthood, I think this is the right time for a fresh start. But it's still really, really hard. I think these six years in Doha have probably been the happiest in my life.

Boarding. Next post should be from Pittsburgh!

Coin quiz!

May. 24th, 2010 10:48 pm
qatarperegrine: (Default)
While sorting through our change jar, I found coins in 12 different currencies. How many of the countries can you identify? (Click for full size.)



Bonus question: which of these coins is worth most? least? :-)
qatarperegrine: (Default)
WE'RE MOVING TO PITTSBURGH!!!!!

In, like, a week. Eek.

I'm ridiculously excited.

Questions for Pittsburghy people:
  1. Do you know anyone who's subletting for the summer? We're looking for somewhere to stay while we house-hunt (preferably furnished, and definitely in Squirrel Hill, Shadyside or Oakland).
  2. Comcast or Verizon FiOS? Or are there other options?
  3. Do you have any recommendations for cell phone providers/plans/phones? I was all excited about getting an Android, but I had no idea mobile telephony was so freakishly expensive in the US. I hereby take back all the mean things I've said about QTel.
  4. In the extremely unlikely case that you have spawned young in Pittsburgh: Magee or West Penn?


Edit: In response to several questions -- it looks like Justin will have a couple job options in Pittsburgh, so we don't actually know where he'll be working yet.

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