Monday, May 29, 2006
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Subject: DUBAI COURTS.
Message: The Notary Public Dept. of Dubai Courts. Welcome you to both new branches in Tawar and Barsha.
Not a summons then.
file under: only in Dubai.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
We Luv U, KT
When in fact, based on a KeefieboyTM survey, 100% of respondents interviewed thought otherwise.
But here's the thing. Any newspaper can print whatever it likes, and can get away with. While there are professional standards that journos are supposed to abide by, at the end of the day if they want to keep their job, they have to please those who pay them. And as KT relentlessly drives into National Enquirer territory, anyone who equates journalism with truth is going to have a hard time working for this organisation.
Which brings us to a Gulf News report today about a journalist who was sacked by the Khaleej Times because he disapproved of the way this campaign is being conducted.
P Chandran, KT's Editor, had this to say:
Nothing special about his case. It keeps happening with the organisation.
Yes Mr Chandran, I bet it does.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
FROM: MRS.REBECCA GARANG.
No.87 John Garang Avenue,
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL (not any more)
Attn: Managing Director/CEO.
Good Day!! I know that you will be amazed to read from me, but please consider this letter as a request from a widow in need of help. I am Mrs. Rebecca Garang, the wife of Late Mr. John Garang, the rebel who rose to become Sudan's vice-president, who died in a helicopter crash last year.
I, on behalf of Garang family decided to solicit for your assistance to transfer the sum of $USD 20M. (Twenty Million United States Dollars) to your personal account, pending if the fund will be safe without any obstruction.
This money was part of the fund secured in a SECURITY COMPANY by my late husband when he was in power. As his wife, he relied on me; my attention was drawn to this said amount in case of unforeseen circumstances. This fear was actualized on the 6th August 2005. when fourteen people died in the crash, including Mr. John Garang, his security staff and Ugandan military officers. (May his gentle soul rest in peace)
Please do not hesitate to contact my immediate brother CORNELUS BONGO, who is in Johannesburg, South Africa on his satellite telephone Numbers: 27-73 185 2620
As he will inform you of the entire procedures to follow:
For your assistance, we have agreed to offer you 25% of the total sum, while 5% will be for expenses which we will incur during the transaction and the remaining 70% shall be for our investment in your country. Finally, you are requested to maintain the secrecy of this proposal.
God bless you abundantly.
Mrs. Rebecca Garang (For the family)
DEWA Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do
DEWA (Dubai Electricity & Water err, Authority, Agency, Alligators) have announced that customers can now pay their bills at ENOC gas stations. This is a good thing, unless you are unfortunate enough to have been disconnected, in which case you must go to an actual DEWA office.
We were disconnected a few weeks ago. I didn't blog about it then because I would probably have broken my keyboard with the ferocity of my angry typing. Here's the story.
Our electricity and water usage has always been modest, and we used to be fairly relaxed about paying the bill. DEWA seemed to be ok with a growing outstanding amount as long as it didn't exceed the amount of your deposit, which for an apartment is Dhs 1,000. I would pay the bill every three or four months, and they never told me how much they hated me.
But, about a year ago, DEWA became a collection agency for the Municipality Property TAX, and also for the Dhs333 per month Gardens Central Cooling charge. (By the way, this charge was waived for people working in Media City, Internet City or Jebel Ali Free Zone, until a year ago, thereby creating another sneaky addition to our cost of living). So our DEWA bill shot up from about Dhs 250 a month to about Dhs 800.
BetterArf set up an automated payment thingie on her credit card, and theoretically we should have been OK. So when the power was cut off a few weeks ago I was fairly sure it was a general failure, and not an act of vindictiveness by DEWA. We've actually had four or five power cuts in the past few months, and they generally last less than an hour. I went and had lunch somewhere, fully expecting the power to be restored when I got back.
I called DEWA, who confirmed we had been disconnected. I asked them if they'd received the automated payment a few weeks ago. Yes, indeed they had, but there was still an outstanding balance of Dhs 1,200. OK, no problem, switch the power back on, and we'll pay that next month.
'Oh, we can't do that, you have to pay it now.'
'Right,' says I, 'where's your Jebel Ali office?'
'Ah,' she says, 'you know the Mazaya Centre near Defence Roundabout?'
'Indeed I do, I've been there several times, but now I live in Jebel Ali, so I need to know where your Jebel Ali office is'.
'The one near Defence Roundabout is the nearest one.'
In case you are unfamiliar with the geography of Dubai, this is about 350 kilometers away (I'm lying, it's about 35 kms, but it involves going on the Sheikh Zayed Road, so it would take at least half an hour, and quite likely a lot longer depending on the congestion / 'accident' situation). This is massively inconvenient. I'm getting a bit angry now, so I ask to be transferred to her boss. This guy is completely unhelpful. I mean completely. He spoke to me as if I was a piece of talking camel dung. I complain that the power was disconnected without any warning. He asks if I had not seen the red writing on the bill. I foolishly admit that I never read the bill, it just goes straight in the round file. He is quite simply unable to understand this, surely my DEWA bill is the most important thing in my world?
I try another tack. Hardly any of the outstanding amount is for electricity or water, it is unfair to disconnect the power under these circumstances, and we have made a substantial payment already this month. He says it's such a huge amount that they had no choice. I'm puzzled by this choice of words and ask him what he means. He explains that it is much more than our deposit, and how does he know that I'm not planning to run up an even bigger bill and then run away from the UAE without paying it? What fucking planet are you on mister, I'm thinking. He sounded like a local, by the way. I withdraw that last sentence. No, I don't. Shit. Anyway, this is clearly going nowhere at all, so I decide to try to get some useful information out of him, while he's on. I ask him when they are going to open an office in West Dubai to serve the huge new population there. He says, with evident pride, that he is not aware of any such plans.
So there's nothing for it, I'll have to risk my life on Sheikh Zayed Road, and waste two hours of my life just to pay a fucking bill. And by the way, this was in the old Beemer when the AC wasn't working, the windows wouldn't open and it was the middle of a hot afternoon. Worse than yeuckh.
The irony of DEWA not having an office in Jebel Ali is that they have about eight king-size power stations there. It's not like they couldn't turn a little bit of one into some kind of service centre. Or rent a shop in Ibn Battuta or something.
And while I'm on with DEWA-bashing, they stole Dhs 2,000 from me. Several years ago we lived in a villa, and the deposit for villas is Dhs 2,000. When we left I tried to get it refunded, but they insisted on me producing the original receipt. I had turned the house upside down looking for it, to no avail. I had gazillions of other receipts, but I must have put this one in a special super-secure place because it was worth money. Buggered if I could find it though. I try logic on them: you've been supplying me with electricity and water for xx years - would you have done that if I had not paid the deposit? Does your computer not show that I have paid the deposit?
'You have to bring the receipt, you worthless piece of talking camel dung'.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Friday, May 19, 2006
After that we got lost trying to navigate to the Irish Village. I have to say I was very impressed by the new airport tunnel, and Sharjah is particularly charming at this time of year.
Tomorrow I am going on another adventure - Abu Dhabi, no less. Wish me luck.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Goodbye BlackBerry Way
BlackBerry service is initially being aimed at the corporate market, with prices to match. The handsets cost Dhs 2,500 - 3,000: fair enough, it is a SmartPhone. But there's a setup fee, a whopping Dhs 22,000! And then there's a monthly usage charge of Dhs 175 for 'always-on' UAE connection and Dhs 295 for international roaming. Oh, and don't forget additional charges for making phone calls.
Looks like TLE is making the most of its monopoly while it can, bless 'em.
After about an hour I got a call from the garage who told me their driver was waiting at Interchange 6 on Sheikh Zayed Road. Wonderful. So I get a cab to take me down there, but I cannot see this big yellow breakdown truck anywhere. I'm wandering around this extremely noisy, hot and dengrous interchange in a state of barely-contained fury. I call the garage and they tell me they'll call the driver and tell him to go to the car park of Jebel Ali Village mosque. SoI walk over there and at least it is quieter (until the massively-overamplified call to prayer starts up) and there's a shady tree I can stand under.
After 20 minutes I call the garage again and they tell me the driver is waiting outside a green mosque. I have no idea where this could be. The Jebel Ali Village mosque is white. It's beside Interchange 6. How hard can it be to find that? Well apparently totally bloody impossible for the breakdown driver. The garage gives me his number and I try to give him directions but his English is not good and after a bit he tells me he has a puncture. Yeah right. So I call the garage and cancel the whole deal. The guy starts giving me a hard time about how I've wasted an hour-and-a-half of their time. I tell him to quit it or I'll bill them for two hours of my time.
I go home, and call my garage again. We arrange the recovery for 8.30 this morning. At 8.25 I get a call from the driver asking for my exact location, and at 8.30 he's in my car park. Off we go to Jebel Ali, locate the car, bung it on the trailer and set off to Rashidiya. We are on the sliproad to join Sheikh Zayed Road when we see motionless traffic ahead. It's not an accident, it's another labour demonstration. After a while the Police get them off the main road, but they continue to block the sliproad for about half-an-hour. During this time, one of the cops is doing some active policing and actually looking at the vehicles in the queue and booking some of them for various bits of wrongdoing. Jolly good fun.
Finally we get on our way again, and have a fairly smooth drive up to Rashidiya. When we get there my driver asks me where I want to go, exactly. I tell him I have no idea, I was hoping he would have some insider knowledge. In the end we call his boss (it turns out they have a branch in Rashidiya that I was not aware of), and he suggests dropping the car off there. It seems they get regular visits from scrap guys, and he'll get them to make an offer. He jokes 'at the very least you'll get Dhs 60 a tonne for the steel'.
I'm not actually bothered about getting any money for it - it was good for eight months and it worked out a lot cheaper than renting a car, so I've had my money's worth out of it. Anyhoo, they remove the plates and give me a copy of their trade licence so I can get the registration cancelled. The GM of the garage asks me if I'm looking for a replacement car, what type, what budget. So I tell him and he says they have an ex-courtesy car that might do the trick. It's a 3-series BMW: high mileage, but very well maintained. It's at their Al Quoz branch (where I normally go, but they never offered me a courtesy car!). I can use it for a day to see what I think.
So, taxi to Al Quoz, and pick up the car. It's 5 years newer than my old one. The bodywork is superb, the interior is clean and tidy and everything works. Bliss! So I'm gonna buy it tomorrow.
Monday, May 15, 2006
It's A Draw!!!
I think both teams would have been very happy to call it a draw, and split the cup down the middle. But no, these Cup tournaments always have to have a Winner, and so it goes to the dreaded penalty shoot-out. As it happened, Liverpool had the luck, because they wear red (previous post: Red Always Wins).
I hate this. Two teams play their hearts out for 120 minutes, and it turns out that at that place and time, they were 'equal' to each other. So that's a draw, isn't it? The penalties thing, golden goals, play till you die, etc, are all just idiotic devices to produce a 'winner', but in those circumstances, for me, the 'victory' is meaningless. There is zero skill involved in these deciders, only luck.
Brilliant game though.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Government Health Disservice
What triggered this was that I had to visit the clinic yesterday to get a fresh supply of the pills I need to take every day. You can actually buy these pills over the counter at pharmacies, but they cost four time more than at the clinic's pharmacy. So, I pay my Dhs 40 consultation fee, wait 45 minutes to see a doctor, and another thirty seconds while he writes out a prescription. I take the script to the pharmacy, where the pharmacist is actually asleep at his desk. I wake him up and he tells me there is a new rule that says clinic pharmacies can no longer supply medicines to expat patients.
This is the first I've heard of this discriminatory and unfair rule - I have seen no mention of it in any of the papers. The logic of it, no doubt, is to save money. But if the health service is struggling for money they can always increase the prices a bit. Cutting off the service altogether is ridiculous! I know for a fact that the majority of the customers at this clinic are very poor subcon or Chinese labourers. Most of them will not be able to afford to buy medications at commercial pharmacies (another of the UAE's price-fixing cartels).
This leaves an interesting paradox. The Jebel Ali Clinic has virtually no national patients - I would be surprised if the total reaches 5%. So you have a fully stocked pharmacy manned by two pharmacists on alternating shifts. They are now effectively being paid to do nothing, which explains why the guy yesterday was asleep.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Beemer/Bimmer/Bummer Update Again
So they hummed and haahed and haahed and hummed and finally gave me an approximate price to fix everything. It wasn't that far off what I'd paid for the thing in the first place. They also said it still might not pass the test, and basically their advice was to euthanise the patient.
I took a cab to the intensive care department, paid them for their fiddling about up until now, and drove the patient away. Several sweaty kilometers later, I picked up a Gulf News and perused the Classifieds section for replacements over lunch. Then I drove home, and just for a laugh I switched on the A/C. Lo and behold, it bloody works!
So I guess the plan now is to see if I can get it registered for the coming year, and if I can then I'll try to sell it.
Oh, and I've arranged to meet a guy tomorrow morning - he's leaving on a flight home tomorrow night and is pretty desperate to sell his Jeep Cherokee! Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day, methinks.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Here's what happened: we were at the Madinat Arena, and as is usual in the pre-show drinks and nachos scenario you elbow your way to the bar and try to attract a server's attention. This I did, when a guy (wearing a dishdasha) standing a few feet away, behind someone who had his elbows at the bar, said 'there's a queue here'. So I went and stood behind him. Other people came and stood behind me.
More sensible people further down the bar were just walking up to it and after a minute or two were walking away with all manner of goodies. But our little queue was not moving at all. After about five minutes we got the organiser of the queue to ask the girl behind the bar, who had had her back to us the entire time and was busy messing about with nachos or popcorn or something, if she was ever going to serve this queue he had built. She looked absolutely astonished, and said it wasn't her job to serve drinks.
Sheesh. We ran and joined the melee further down the bar, and fairly soon our needs were attended to. Oh, but don't get me started on the outrageous prices!
I don't know what the Arena looks like normally, I've never been in there before. But for this show they have built a whole theatre inside the massive hall. Our seats were in the 'grandstand', which consisted of tiny plastic flip-down seats and extremely narrow rows. I felt like a sardine and I'm only little - tall or obese people would have an extremely hard time in these seats. The front section of the hall was 'VIP' seating - real chairs and tons of leg-room.
However, the discomfort of the seating paled into insignificance once the show started. It was utterly magnificent! The set, the 14-piece band, the performers and the lighting were all absolutely first-class. The sound was also outstanding, and I'm sure they were singing live - you could hear every breath, grunt and gasp, but you couldn't see any microphones at all. Anybody have any ideas how that was done? Let me know. Oh, and the costumes, mustn't forget the costumes - this is Dubai, right! Outrageous.
Anyway, it's running for a week - get there if you can, it's absolutely amazing.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.
Everything is gone;
Your life's work has been destroyed.
Squeeze trigger (yes/no)?
Windows 2000 crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.
A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.
Errors have occurred.
We won't tell you where or why.
Only perfect spellers may
enter this system.
This site has been moved.
We'd tell you where, but then we'd
have to delete you.
Close all that you have.
You ask way too much.
First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.
The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao, until
You bring fresh toner.
The Web site you seek
cannot be located but
endless others exist
Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that
To have no errors
Would be life without meaning
No struggle, no joy
No keyboard present
Hit F1 to continue
Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.
Rather than a beep
Or a rude error message,
These words: "File not found."
All shortcuts have disappeared
Screen. Mind. Both are blank
But now I've a wee problem. I've never had quails before, and I have no idea how to cook 'em. Answers on a postcard please.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
I don't actually consider myself to be a member of the Press, but it is fairly obvious that publishing a blog is no different from any other form of publishing, and should be subject to the same laws and regulations that govern what can and cannot be said in a public forum.
Today is International Press Freedom Day, and Gulf News have devoted a fair chunk of articles to that topic. They highlight the fact that since the establishment of Media City four years ago, Sheikh Mohammed (the boss) has made many speeches encouraging the Press to exercise its freedom. But GN points out that the media are still covered by the outdated Press and Publishing Law, and, whatever Sheikh Mohammed says, the law is what counts in court. So there is a huge element of self-censorship.I must admit I am always on my guard about what I write in this blog. I have had experiences in this country that would astonish you, but I will not write about them until I get a personal letter from Sheikh Mohammed saying it's ok. I frequently find myself in a tizz in the mornings, having published something that may come across as overly-critical or true but not acceptable. I did it yesterday in the piece about the Codeine case . I deleted a paragraph that mentioned human rights, lack thereof. I happen to think that what I said was true, but I have no desire to endanger myself or my family.
And you're sitting there, safe in your Western country. You might read the Gulf News stories on their website, and notice that there is no mention of any journo's getting into trouble in the UAE. And that's where the self-censorship comes in again. I know of 3 or 4 cases of media people in the UAE who have got themselves into hot water over things they had written or broadcast. Admittedly these are all from more than five years ago, so maybe things really have changed. But we all have nice lives here and we do not want to put them at risk.
So until we get a change in the Federal Law that says 'you can say whatever you want as long as you can prove it is true (in the case of suspected defamation) and it does not contravene the religious and moral traditions of the country', I will, sadly, be self-censoring like crazy.And sometime soon I'll publish some uplifting articles about how great living in this place is.
Yow! So what's changed in a year? Not a lot. We've had the bright, brave and fearless Emirates Today apparently slapped in the chops and ordered to toe the party line. We have 6Days getting fairly uppity on a few issues and their letters page becoming a sounding box for Brits who don't understand why Dubai should not be a tax-free, sun-drenched replica of Britain. Khaleej Times have sacked all of their journos who could write properly in English. And the Gulf News soldiers on with coverage that ranges from outstanding (by local standards) to pathetic. Oh and Gulf Today still hopes to sell a copy. And the Evening thing continues to be a distribution failure but even when you can find one it's just too uglee to read.
Still no change whatsoever to the Federal Publications Law, but we did have a top judge saying that journalists should never be locked up for anything they write in the course of their job.
So that's a good thing.
On the subject of Klassik Keefieboy, I can't believe how long and boring my posts used to be! And that hospital story. Well! Check it out.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
And this is what it should look like:
But I loved the bit in 'The Spin' section on the back page about Emirates Today twisting my words. Excellent!
Yet Another Mega-Project
So what happened to the block on new developments at Dubailand?
Thirty thousand rooms,
Asia, Europa, Amriki:
Boggle the mind.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Samosas reach sell-by date.
Trumpets sadly toot.