Archive for October, 2006

Technology lets me down


Technology’s let me down twice today.
First off the Jeep’s battery was completely dead this morning, so I had to get a taxi to work. Car batteries here seem to last for about a year and a half and then die without any warning. Not Jeep’s fault though.
Secondly, the joystick on my borrowed K750i has suddenly stopped working. Frequent blog readers of mine are entertained, I know, by my regular postings on the twin themes of electrical plugs and on Sony’s shortcomings. This may be the last straw for Sony as far as I’m concerned. Time to return to the Nokia fold, or buy a Motorola to demonstrate my role as a standard bearer for standard cabling across multiple vendors.
I’ve never really liked Motorola phones – I don’t like clamshells and their normal phones come across as a bit girly. A Nokia it will have to be, unless a Sony exec wants to give me a new joystick free phone to placate me. One that uses the same data cables I already have. And will use the Memory Stick Pro cards I already have. And the earphones I already have. And the chargers too.
Looks like I’ll be getting a Nokia.

Sort your grammar out, Prince Charles


Prince Charles made a toe-curlingly awful error in a speech he made in Pakistan yesterday.
He introduced the talk saying that it was a pleasure ‘for my wife and I’ to be in Pakistan. He should have said ‘for my wife and me’.
I blame Aussie soap Neighbours for introducing this common error into daily British conversation in the mid 80s. I’m sure people never used to say ‘between you and I’, ‘give it to him and I’ and suchlike before Todd, Codey, Madge and Lou started to.

Dubai from the Sky


Mrs Saul bought me a trial flying lesson for my birthday, so we spent an hour in the skies above Dubai yesterday.
It was great fun. Although cameras are not allowed into the airport area for security reasons, Mrs S managed to get some good pics with her camera phone. You can see them here.
I was amazed to see how quickly the Palm Jumeirah’s coming on.

Roger Lima Echo 4. Captain Biggles Saul.

Good traffic news at last


There have been a couple of positive traffic related articles in the UAE press this past week. We’ve heard that police patrols will be increased by 25% and that drivers will be fined for not using their indicators when turning. A week or so ago Sheikh Mohammed’s son, Sheikh Hamdan, stated that the city’s fast development could not be used as an excuse for bad driving on Dubai’s roads and gave his support for increased police efforts to combat the situtation.
All of this is pretty encouraging. The poor standards of driving here are one of the few things that prevent life in Dubai being truly world class. Whilst things here may well be better than many other countries, extra police patrols and steady implementation of the law will make life better for everyone. I wish the police all the best with the tough task of managing the different approaches to road safety harboured by their thousands of residents from across the world.
Bad driving is something that always bewilders me. Surely even the most selfish, ego-centric character realises that using your indicators and sticking to some basic rules is probably going to get you there faster than veering in and out and pushing and shoving everywhere? There’s no need to think of using your indicators and giving way as some kind of act of kindness. Go on, be selfish about it! Do it so that the roads run more smoothly, there are fewer accidents and you get where you’re going on time.
The ultimate symbol of a civilised society is a driver stopping for pedestrians waiting at a zebra crossing. At first that might seem like a trivial thing to measure a society by, but think about it – it signifies a respect for other people regardless of their wealth or status in society, a respect for the law, common courtesy and basic safety. These are all fairly good things to start with.
I look forward to crossing the road outside my apartment in total safety in the near future.

Sort your act out, Sony!


Mrs Saul gave me a bluetooth headset as an Eid present.
Being from Sony, I wasn’t surprised to notice that it needs a different charger to the one I use with my current phone. It’ll be going back to be replaced by something that doesn’t force me to carry yet another set of cables with me when I’m travelling.
Sort your act out, Sony. Your customers are sick and tired of being ripped off and inconvenienced by your insistence on ignoring common sense when it comes to the chargers, memory sticks and multiple cables we’re forced to buy and fill up our bags with.

The BBC’s guide to hijab


The BBC has a brief guide to some of the forms of veil that are worn in different parts of the Muslim world.
This might be interesting to anyone who read this post of mine.
One of the trends I’ve noticed in Dubai over the last four years is the increasingly decorative nature of the abayas (a loose black clock like covering) that many Gulf women wear. I’m sure that no decoration was the norm when I arrived. Fashions change, regardless of location and religion.
One interesting note on the traditional men’s wear here, the dish dasha, that I’ve noticed – when you see old photographs of the men from what is now the UAE, they are often wearing a Western style tweed jacket. I wonder when that became popular and when it fell out of fashion? The jacket still seems to be popular in Yemen, based on pictures I see in the press.
50 years ago a suit and tie was the norm for my grandfathers. These days I wear chinos and a shirt to work. What will my son wear? As long as it’s not the tiedie t-shirt, pony tail, fat belly and socks-and-sandals combo you occasionally see at the Sun campus in Menlo Park, I’m not too bothered.

Answer your email!


Funnily enough the typical ‘I’m too busy to answer my email’ people often seem to be busy because they never answer their email – when you know someone who can’t be bothered to check their inbox and respond, you have to call them, even if it’s not a time-critical question. The result? They’re on the phone every day, seven days a week, simply because they don’t use email to deal with less time-critical matters. Which means they’re too busy to answer their email.

Wadi Rhum


Now that Flickr’s been unblocked, I’ve been browsing through some of the pics I posted last year. I came across this great shot of Wadi Rhum in Jordan.

This is one of those photos that I always think was taken by me, but generally turn out to be the work of Mrs Saul.
Earlier this year a British tourist was shot in Amman at the Roman amphitheatre that we also visited. During our visit in 2005 two hotels were bombed in the capital. We met so many decent hard working and friendly people during our week long stay whose lives are probably even harder thanks to the damage these pointless acts will have done to the country’s tourist industry.

Culprit discovered?


In a recent post I mentioned that I’d been stopped and scanned at the final security check before leaving Dubai airport.
Robin Wilton commented that it could have been an RFID tag in my bag that was causing the security alarm to flash as I went through the exit, alerting the staff to my dangerous presence and forcing me to have my bags scanned a second time.
I’d searched my bag but couldn’t find the culprit. I also continued to get stopped – each of my flights since Istanbul have seen my having to scan my bags. The reasons for this have been a bit odd. First I was told there was a ‘sticker’ on the bag, then a ‘sensor’ then that it was my laptop that was setting off my alarm, despite the fact that noone else appeared to have this problem. The best reason I was given was that my case ‘was disorganised’. I refused to believe I was that much worse than anyone else going through.
A thorough re-examination of the depths of my laptop bag this evening revealed a sneaky RFID tag from a memory stick I’d bought before the summer, lurking beneath some recipts. It’s now in the bin, so fingers crossed that my return flight from Mauritious won’t see me stopped yet again.
Flying back from Karachi saw another odd security measure – my large bottle of shaving foam and deoderant had to be removed from my hand luggage. My small bottle of shaving foam and tub of moisturiser didn’t. I wish these rules would be applied consistently – when they aren’t they simply breed indifference and contempt.

Karachi trip


Very successful trip to Karachi last week – saw lots of customers, had some productive sessions with the partner I was visiting and was well looked after by them too.
The Karachi Sheraton is a little faded and could do with a refit and a decent wireless internet connection throughout the building, but the staff were friendly and helpful. Although the view from my room was of the hotel’s air conditioning unit, I could see lots of eagles swooping around.
Karachi traffic has to be seen to be believed. It certainly helps me to understand why some drivers in Dubai behave the way they do. It also explains why a former colleague of mine was amazed when I was complaining about the tough time I’d had getting to work here in Dubai one day. He thought that driving here was a breeze compared to his daily commute in Pakistan. He was right.
The two videos below sum up the streets I saw pretty well. Our driver was excellent – possibly the most patient man in Karachi, as well as the only person who seemed to know how to use his indicators properly.
Check out the highly decorated buses. They’re Mazdas apparently, with the bodywork being done locally. The taxis here are mostly Datsuns, Toyotas and old Mazdas that are still going despite dating from the late 70s. This is presumably a tribute to both Japanese and Pakistani engineering talents.
Although the traffic gave me a bit of a shock, this was a really enjoyable trip. Karachi, or at least what I saw of it, is a bustling active city. The customers I saw were very knowledgeable, keen to listen to what I had to say and keen to educate me on the issues they were facing – those meetings are always the best.
This week I’m off to Mauritius for our SEE region partner event, which should be a little more relaxing.