Monday, October 30, 2006

Bahraini Blogger Blocked!

One of Bahrain's most popular blogs, Mahmood's Den, has been blocked by the Bahraini Government. So much for freedom of speech under a democratically-elected Government.

UPDATE 2nd November: following a meeting between Mahmood and MinInf, and his agreement to pull 4 articles about the Bandergate scandal, the block has been lifted.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's a Boy! It's a Girl! No, it's an Onion!

It's been 11 days since I planted my onion and pepper seeds. Nothing happened, so I was beginning to think the seeds were duds - or, much more likely, that I'd planted them wrongly. So imagine my joy when yesterday evening I scanned the containers looking for anything green and I found this tiny little shoot!

Note: picture deliberately blurred to deter stalkers.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Flaming Bloggers

If you read the UAE Community Blog or Secret Dubai Diary, you'll be aware of some down and dirty, and frankly at times disgraceful 'exchanges of views' in the comments on some articles in the last week (especially this). Like a moron I got drawn into some of these threads. For my pains I have been misunderstood, misrepresented and insulted by people who really ought to know better.

At the end of the day there is nothing, nothing at all that you can write will stop these trolls from writing their ignorant, prejudiced and abusive garbage. And there's something about the anonymity of the Internet that just erases all pretence of civility.


Eid Mubarak



Saturday, October 21, 2006

Happy Diwali

A Happy Diwali to all my Hindu buddies and lurkers.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Birthday Boy

It's my birthday! And it's the weekend! Yayyy! It's still Ramadan though, and BetterArf has a rehearsal from 8 o'clock tonight. So the plan is to do Iftar at the MOE Kempinski. I think she has invited a bunch of folks to join us, although this is meant to be a closely-guarded secret.

BetterArf got me some fab presents, including Terry Pratchett's latest book 'Wintersmith' (I love the way he always brings out a new one just in time for my birthday), and Gordon Ramsay's 'Secrets' - full of totally inspirational recipes...can't wait to get stuck in.

HSBC sent me a text message to wish me a happy birthday, but they left out the bit 'and here is some free money to help you celebrate'. Again.

And how old am I? Put it this way: this is the last year I'll be able to describe myself as 'forty-something'.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One Point Four Billion Dirhams. Itisalot.

The lovely Etisalat have just announced a third quarter profit of Dhs 1.4 billion. This is an increase of 41% on the same period last year.

I thought we had laws against obscenity in this country.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mobile Number Buggriation

Our belovéd Telecoms Regulation Authority has just announced that we have until December to sort out our mobile phone books. Currently, all mobile numbers in the UAE have the prefix '050'. If you are calling a mobile number from another local mobile, you can drop the prefix. But from December, that prefix must be dialled. Partly this is because Itisalot is running out of capacity on 050, and they are going to introduce 056 if they get any new subscribers. And of course, du will need a prefix of its own.

I met somebody who works for du the other day. The conversation went something like this:
du guy: Hi, my name is zzz and I work for du, and that's all I'm going to say about that.
me: So I'm hearing that du could use another year or two before they launch?
du guy: zzzzip.
me: ??
du guy:

Hmm. I actually sent an email to du at the end of September, explaining that I had been under the impression they would launch by the end of September and wondering what was actually happening. Sadly I have not had a reply yet. Neither has 7Days, who were getting themselves into a bit of a strop about it a while ago. Anyhoo, the current zeitgeist says they'll get something on the market by the end of this year. But really they'll need two or three years to get their act together. I'm disappointed by the current radio silence: they started off well, but have been completely absent recently. This does not inspire confidence.

Ho hum.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Basil Babies Update 2

Well I don't know about this gardening lark: I thought my basil plants would be ready for consumption by now. I mean, it's been over a week since I planted them, and all I've got are 2-leaved thingies on an inch-long stem! They look like little gaping mouths - maybe I should give them some cheese or something.

I seem to have caught the bug though (as long as it's not a mealy bug - those ugly little gits ruined BetterArf's previous attempts at hort couture). The day before yesterday I planted bell peppers, and yesterday I did some onions. Neither of those have sprouted yet either!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Aramex Update

Finally, proof that bloggers are not just loonies screaming in the wilderness. I blogged the other day about MidEast courier company Aramex. The article had been prompted by this post on a Jordanian blog (Aramex is a Jordanian company).

Somewhat amazingly, the CEO of Aramex, Fadi Ghandour, commented on Hala's original post, and invited her and any of the other commenters to meet him and talk about it. That is just one of the coolest things I've ever heard. Sadly I won't be whizzing up to Amman for the meeting, but I am really, truly impressed. First of all that somebody at Aramex read the post, and secondly that this is how he deals with it. Absolutely amazing!

Any board member from Itisalot or the TRA care to comment?


Walkin' The Plank

If you've been reading MamaDuck's Most Excellent Blog (and if not, why not?), you'll have an inkling that I've gone and got me a part in the upcoming Dubai Drama Group panto. I wouldn't have considered attempting such a thing if it had not been for a phone call BetterArf got from A Person Who Shall Not Be Named, suggesting that there was a role in the panto that would be purrfect for moi. And BetterArf was thinking 'hmm, could be a part in it for me too!'.

We used to be pretty active in DDG until we moved out to the sticks of Djelybeybi and just getting to rehearsals became almost impossible. But this is our last year in DoBuy so we thought it would be bluddigoodfun to give it a go. Also BetterArf and I have never actually been in a show together.

So we went off to the audition. Now, I'm no great shakes as an actorrr, but I can do funny, and this is a funny role. BetterArf is a pro, of course. She read her audition piece and got a standing ovation. I mean, like, wow, you had to be there. Although if you weren't there you could have probably heard her in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

Rehearsals start on Friday. We will of course be plugging the show relentlessly and insisting that you all buy tickets 'cos this is likely to be the last time you can see this particular blogger making an eejit of himself on stage in DoBuy, and certainly the only time he'll attempt to do so in a Welsh accent look you.

Oh yes, 'Walkin' The Plank' = 'Treading The Boards'. 'tis Treasure Island and we is Pirates aharrrrr!


Monday, October 09, 2006


I had a very pleasant lunch with a client of mine a few days ago, and he suggested that they would use ***mex (well-known MidEast courier company) to deliver a CD of stuff to me for the project we are working on. I must have done a big-time cringe, or fallen off my chair, because everyone around the table looked a bit startled by my reaction to the name.

I have blogged about this company previously:

Aramex Does it Again
Banks And Couriers

And today I came across this post:


Which reminded me of a phone call I had maybe four or five months ago from a salesman from ***mex. He wanted my company to sign up for a contract. I think I really spoiled his day. I told him that having been on the receiving end of their service, I would not wish to inflict that on anyone I was sending stuff to - actually what I think I said was 'I would rather die than give money to ***mex'.

He wanted to know more so I told him. Then he started begging a bit, offering free stuff and extra discount. I explained that they could be as brilliant as they liked collecting stuff from me, and I have no doubt that they can do that rather wonderfully because that's where their money comes from, but if they insist on bothering the recipient for idiotic requests for location (when it is clearly written on the package, and especially if they have delivered to that address previously) and lying about when it will be delivered, I will not sign up for that. I want people to be pleased to receive stuff from me, not to feel harassed.

Foo. I felt really really sorry for the guy calling me, really I did. Really. But hey, until ***mex gets its act together on the delivery side (oh and they've only had 24 years to get things organised), I will get out my barge-pole and not touch them with it.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

More Time Wasting

Also on the 'What Famous Leader Are You' site is a test to determine which blockbuster movie you resemble. Now this is weird. BetterArf recently bought DVDs of a load of Frank Capra movies, and she lurves them all to bits. So how apt is it that I am...


A Complete Waste Of Time

OK, this is a silly thing to waste bit o' time. Find out which Famous Leader you are. This is me...
Not sure about the 'emaciated' bit! Or the 'do gooder'. Hmmm...but I did it twice, once with 27 questions and once with 40 and got the same bleedin' answer each time!

Firefox Blocked!

This is just unbelievable. I was trying to download Mozilla Firefox on BetterArf's laptop. You can get to the site ok, you can hit the 'download' button, and you can read and accept the terms and conditions. And then you get the pale blue screen of death.

ItisalotPrometheus): WTF are you playing at now?


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Basil Babies Update

The babies have been busy growing today, and look how they all lean over towards the sunlight. Tomorrow I'll turn the trough round and see what happens - I might end up with zig-zag stalks.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Babies!

Never mind Tom Cruise and wottsername, I'm not asking $3,000,000 for a glimpse of my babies. Here they are, for free!

Actually, this isn't all of them, there's a stack more further down the trough. Sadly a whole lot of them fried in the sunshine today, so the nursery is indoors now.

Aren't they cute? And aren't they tall!


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Miracle Of Life

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that KeefieboyTM is no gardener. But BetterArf has green fingers an' thumbs an' everything. She has ideas that she might get me interested in agroculture when we get our smallholding atop a remote mountain in Arsendabeyond, España. As a prelude to this, she got me a packet of seeds when she was in Andalucia.


Apparently if you stick 'em in soil, by some kind of magic they will turn into basil bushes (boom boom). This seems a bit unlikely to me, but a few days ago I got me some compost, threw it in a trough, glugged some water on it and sprinkled the seeds around. There were no signs of life after a few hours. Nothing the next day. By evening, I was a bit dejected, thinking 'my babies are dead'. But yesterday evening I spotted a couple of dozen tiny green leaves. It's a miracle!

My babies!


Monday, October 02, 2006

Etisalat's Annual Broadband Satisfaction Survey

No doubt you lucky lucky beoble who live in the UAE and are hostages of Etisalat will have been invited to do their annual 'Hostage Satisfaction Survey'. And you've probably thought 'I can't be bothered - the questions are always phrased so that whatever you say makes it look like you actually like Etisalat'. That's what I thought, but then I had a look at it and I have to say it's better than previous years; your options are no longer limited to a range of 'quite good' through to 'excellent', they now have a ten-point scale that goes from 'terrible' to 'outstanding' or words to that effect. And there are free-text boxes dotted around where you can write an essay telling them how great or how crap you think they are.

I was a bit stumped on the satisfaction rating for the proxy though: the question is 'How IMPORTANT the following network and other related aspects for an Internet service are to you?...Internet Filtering/ Content Blocking (feature by which the ISP blocks certain websites)' and the answer options go from 'not important at all' to 'extremely important' - it's very hard to answer that when what you want to say is '99% of censorship is immoral and a contravention of basic human rights so please go burn your damned proxy'.

And it was interesting to see a number of questions asking about the possibility that you may be thinking of switching to an alternative supplier.

Etisalat - this survey is a brave but hopelessly belated attempt at pretending that you give a damn what your hostages think. But you already know that you've lost the vast majority of your hostage base even before the new operator starts operations. You have acted as smug and callous monopolists for as long as I have lived in this country. You have bled us dry.

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Theft: Been Robbed I Have

Somebody has seen fit to steal the header from this blog and use it on their website (in a somewhat horrible Flash thingy). I am not impressed. I have emailed the owners of the site but have had no response so far.

The sad thing is that this is a site that normally I would support in any way I could. But if the authors of it think that that support extends to them helping themselves to my intellectual property without even asking, they really need to think again.

Names will be named.