Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Tomorrow is a public holiday (Isra Wal Meraj - the Ascension of the Prophet) and to celebrate this, Etisalat are offering cheap rate international calls throughout the holiday period. I know this because they've sent an SMS to BetterArf telling her so.

But they haven't sent me one! I reckon they've been reading my blog and are a bit upset about what I've written about them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Doubtful Salmon

I've just finished reading 'The Salmon of Doubt', a compilation of stuff that was salvaged from Douglas Adams' assorted computers after his completely unexpected death in 2001. It includes various bits and bobs, interviews and about one-third of a putative novel.

I think DNA was an incredible writer, but frustratingly unprolific. There's some interesting stuff in this book about him trying to get the Hitch-Hikers movie made. At one point he was told by studio bosses that they didn't think there was any demand for 'science-fiction comedy'. Shortly thereafter we got Ghostbusters and some time after that Men In Black. (Also a bunch of Star Wars movies - not deliberately funny but hey). It's a tragedy that the movie that was eventually made was so naff, almost as bad in its own way as the appalling BBC TV version. Sheesh.

Elsewhere in the book he raves about the Beatles, comparing them very favourably to J.S. Bach. And coincidentally it's the somethingth anniversary of the Beatles doing something, and I've been listening to Sgt Pepper's all day. Fantastic stuff indeed.

Spoke Too Soon...

Well, Etisalat was all over the press today proclaiming the return of 'normal' Interweb service. Other mortals expressed doubts that website browsing is still slower than usual, and I have to agree with them. For the last couple of hours it's been back to the August snail's pace.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Normal Service Will Be Resumed...

Today's GN reported that those dishonest scoundrels lovely people at Eat Your Salad expected Internet service to be restored to its usual fabulosity at 7 o'clock Dubai time this evening.

And do you know what? I think it's actually happened.

So, we only had a month of utterly lousy service for which we are expected to pay. Doesn't Etisalat have a PR advisor? Can they not see the immorality of charging people for a service they did not actually receive? Can they not see the goodwill benefit that would accrue from them not charging anyone for Internet service during the month of August?

Apparently not. All they'll say is that they are investing in additional bandwidth so that this never happens again. How generous. We love you, Etisalat.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lazy Blog

BetterArf gave me a bit of paper with some alleged answers to questions in American school science exams. Here are the best ones:
  • When you breath, you inspire. When you don't breath, you expire.
  • The pistol of a flower is its only protection against insects.
  • A fossil is an extinct animal. The older it is, the more extinct it is.
  • When you smell an odourless gas it is probably carbon monoxide.
  • The moon is a planet just like Earth, only deader.
  • Momentum. What you give people when they are going away.
  • Nitrogen is not found in Ireland, because it is not found in a free state.
  • Three kinds of blood vessels are arteries, vanes and caterpillars.
  • Water is composed of two gins, Oxygin and Hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is gin and water.
  • A super saturated solution is one that holds more than it can hold.
  • The body consists of three parts - the branium, the borax, and the abominable cavity. The branium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abominable cavity contains the bowels, of which there are five - a, e, i, o, and u.
  • H2O is hot water, and CO2 is cold water.
  • Blood flows down one leg and up the other.
  • The skeleton is what is left after the insides have been taken out and the outsides have been taken off. The purpose of the skeleton is something to hitch meat to.
  • The tides are a fight between the Earth and moon. All water tends towards the moon, because there is no water in the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in this fight.
  • Germinate: To become a naturalized German.
  • Before giving a blood transfusion, find out if the blood is affirmative or negative.
  • For a nosebleed: Put the nose much lower than the body until the heart stops.
  • For dog bite: put the dog away for several days. If he has not recovered, then kill it.
  • To keep milk from turning sour: Keep it in the cow.
  • To prevent contraception, use a condominium.

Arf arf.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Out Damn Spot

Aargh, I hate to have to do this, but this evening I had three comment-spams in the space of about 10 minutes. I lurve getting comments, but I can live without spam. So I've turned on comment-spam-blocking, which means that henceforth if you wish to leave a comment you have to decipher a randomly-generated keyword and type it into a box.

And you also have to be a registered Blogger blogger. If you are a non-Blogger blogger, or even a non-blogger, you need to set up a Blogger blog and get a username and pasword. You don't have to actually blog or anything, just have a username and password (if you're really clever you can make your computer remember this for you).

Just go to Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.

Good News and Bad News

My writer's block seems to have gone! Write about cooking Keefieboy, that's your ouevre (it's a kind of omelet I think).

More good news today, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum has been voted 'Most Popular Bloke in the Gulf', and quite right too. He is the visionary behind pretty much every major project to be built or proposed in Dubai in the last 10 years.

Crap news also - my rejoicing at the lifting of the 6-month employment ban was premature. Now it seems that you won't get an automatic ban when your employment visa is cancelled after you quit your job if you have an NOC (No Objection Certificate) from your former employer. NOCs are about as common as hen's teeth. Today's news reports say that you can still be banned if you apply for a new visa with a new employer.

The reports re-iterated something that I was just too dazed and confused to comprehend when I read it a couple of days after arriving back in Do Buy from my holiday. It goes like this: (according to 7Days)...

"The move comes as part of recent changes in the law to allow workers to switch sponsors if their employer agrees. Masters and doctorate holders can change repeatedly for a fee of dhs1,500 each time. Bachelor degree holders can change for dhs3,000, while labourers will have to pay dhs5,000."

Workers at various levels are to be charged fees by the Gubment for the privilege of changing their sponsor. Another secret tax, methinks. And who's gonna pay the Dhs 5,000 for a labourer?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ban Banned!

One of the things that has always irritated me about this country was the practice of imposing a six-month ban on workers who tried to change their job. Certain professional categories (doctors, engineers etc) were exempt from this, but for most people it meant that they really could not change their jobs without having to spend at least six months in their home country.

It was a one-sided and pointless exercise.

But yesterday, with immediate effect, (and no warning) the practice has been stopped. According to the wonderful top number one paper Khaleej Times at least.

If this is true then it's definitely a step in the right direction.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Patatas Bravas

SD requested the recipe for patatas bravas. Dunno really. Basically what it is is small chunks of fried spuds with a slightly hot (picante) sauce dribbled over them. Various places that we patronised in Spain had different versions of the sauce, but my version goes like this.

Fry half a finely chopped onion and a couple of crushed garlic cloves in olive oil. Mash half a can of tomatoes and chuck 'em in with the onions and garlic. Add salt and pepper, and two finely chopped dried red chillies (you might use fresh chillies or chilli powder). Maybe some paprika too. Simmer it for a bit. You might want to whizz it in yer blender for a bit to get a smooth consistency. Get the spuds out of the frying machine, stir 'em up in the sauce, throw onto plates and eat. Dead healthy it is.

You might have gathered that my cookery technique can be a bit vague - if it feels right, do it!

And no SD, I never had the Eenglish breakfast, we usually had the regular desayuna - croissant or bread with jam and coffee. Although one day I did have a baicon bocadillo (which came with a little bowl of olives), and yes, it was a bit late in the day, almost eleven a.m., so I had una cerveza with it.


Sunday, August 21, 2005


I generally do the cooking in our household. I enjoy cooking, and there's a few people in this town who reckon I'm pretty good at it. My specialities are the basic mainstays of British cuisine - bangers and mash, steak and kidney pie, rosbif and boudin du pays de York, fish and chips, spaghetti bolognaise and mutton korma.

But you get fed up of doing the same stuff all the time, so I was hoping to get some inspiration during my holiday. Dublin turned out to be a complete washout, food-wise. On my first night there we went out in search of dinner, and ended up in a pub that had an interesting-looking menu. However, they were not able to feed us because it was slightly after 9 pm and the kitchen was closed. That night we ate at a traditional Irish Balti House.

We fared somewhat better in Valencia and Barcelona. Tapas bars are everywhere, all offering a wide range of interesting stuff. Patatas bravas was our favourite. We didn't manage to get a genuine paella - the places we went to in these two cities all offered 'OK Paella' dishes. I think OK Paella is a manufacturer that sells ready-made paella dishes to restaurants - all the restaurant has to do is re-heat them. They looked exactly like the photos in the menu, and tasted like, well, nothing really.

On our first day in Valencia we found a leedle restaurant that obviously catered to tourists as it had menus in Spanish, English, French, German and Italian. Comparing the English and Spanish versions gave us some amusement. 'Patatas a la pobre' was 'Potatoes to the poor thing'. 'Revuelto di esparrago' was 'Mess of asparagus' and so on. Offspring and I had 'rice with meat'. This turned out to be a fairly disgusting plateful of rice with rabbit (on the bone), a bit of chicken and a hunk of black pudding.

Thereafter, we generally bought the makings of a picnic lunch, and had a bunch of tapas for our evening meal. One night we ventured into a very smart place that did an all-you-can-eat buffet thing for about 8 Euro.

So, since I got back, I've been a bit more enthused about the cooking. I've invented my own version of patatas bravas, and I've made tortilla a few times. And yesterday I was a bit bored, so I made a cheeseburger...


OK, it's made of clay and it's 4cm across, but it looks pretty good yes?

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Blog Shortage

My old buddy Persona Non Grata posted a comment on my previous post complaining about the lack of new stuff. Well, here goes.

Since I got back from holiday I've been finding it very hard to re-adjust to Do Buy. I thought I had this down pat - I've never expected Do Buy to be like anywhere else, and on the whole I've just accepted the various kinds of silliness that go on here. After all, I'm a 'guest' here, although I can't quite remember who invited me, and if I don't like it I can always bugger off somewhere else right?

In my absence we've had the blocking and unblocking of Secret Dubai by Etisalat. We've had the promise and unpromise of citizenship for expats who've lived here for 20 years. We've had the strengthening of the ridiculous and pointless 6-month employment ban for anyone who dares to try to change their job. We've had confusion over the cost/validity of visit visas. We have this ongoing tosh about folks not being able to have a visible satellite dish or drying washing on their roof / balcony etc. And the banning of outdoor shwarma stands just puts a lid on the whole shebang.

But what has been worse is a spate of nothing-less-than vitriolic commenting about these issues on other local blogs. Especially Luke the Happy Expat on SD, Emarati / Zen on each others blogs, and some others.

So basically what I'm saying is that I don't actually have a good thing to say about Do Buy at the moment, and I don't want to invite buckets of vitriol from eejits who take one single article out of context, therefore I will keep my thoughts to myself.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dubai, twinned with...

I just remembered a pointless conversation I had with a guy in a pub in Dublin. I was telling him that Dubai and Dublin had a lot in common...the first three letters are the same.

Which got me thinking that it would be cool to be twin cities. And we could triplet with Dubrovnic. Durban could be a cousin city, and the assorted Durhams around the world could be niece- and nephew- cities.

Anybody out there know if Dubai has any real twin-cities?

The Return of the Religious Policeman

A bit over a year ago I stumbled across an extremely well-written blog devoted to the wonderful Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by a Saudi who is blessed with more than the usual amount of brain cells.

Shortly thereafter its author stopped posting.

Now he's in the UK, and is posting a-plenty. Visit The Religious Policeman. Do it now! And be sure to read the archives.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Interweb Woes

Flippin' 'eck.

Our gorgeous ISP, Etisalat, has been having a few problems in providing an acceptable level of service lately. They say that not one, but two subsea cables have been damaged by sinking ships near Mumbai. This has been widely published (and ridiculed) in the press, but until today I have not been online at home since returning from the real world, and so I had no idea how severe the problem was. Today I decided to work from home, and now I know just how crap the situation is. General interweb access is hopelessly slow, FTP (File Transfer Protocol, which I need for uploading files to web servers) is virtually crippled, and I am not a happy bunny.

Etisalat is not at present proposing to give a refund or anything customer-friendly like that, so we continue to pay more than probably any other country on the planet for a service that is nowhere near to working properly.

Ah, the joys of operating an unregulated monopoly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Back in the UAE

Wotcha fans.

We arrived back a couple of days ago, after a totally sleepless overnight flight.

The weather in Dubai is absolutely hideous: hot, humid, so dusty that you can't see much. And I'm swamped with work.

It's good to be back.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Frozen North

We arrived in Yorkshire a few days ago, and I immediately caught a cold. Yakkh! The weather up here has been extremely changeable - one minute hot and sunny, a nansecond later, cold, blowing a gale and raining. Ho hum.