Archive for February, 2007

If cigarette ads followed the same rules as beer adds


I found myself wondering the other day what cigarette ads would look like if they followed the same style as those used to advertise beer.
Most European beer ads and pub logos, the traditional kind at least, feature an image of a middle-aged chap who’s clearly long been fond of his beer. My favourite is Tuborg’s ‘Der Durstige Mann’ (The Thirsty Man).
Imagine if cigarette adverts did the same thing? Where images of humans are still allowed we typically see slender ladies and healthy outdoorsy types puffing on a ciggie. If the beer ad principles were applied we’d probably end up with something like Wayne and Waynetta Slob from Harry Enfield.
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Gherkin skyline


The main difference to London’s skyline today, compared to when I left four and a half years ago, is the addition of Norman Foster’s Swiss Re building, popularly known as the ‘Gherkin’.
This BBC article from 2000 has a picture of what it was thought it would look like. My course was in the building next door.

This was the first time I’ve been close up to it and although it’s shorter than I’d expected, it’s pretty stunning. I expect Dubai will build a replica that’s twice the size of the original.
Walking over London Bridge each morning last week, from my hotel to my course at Tower 42, I was surprised to see a fair amount of construction going on. London’s skyline hadn’t changed that much from the last time I’d spent a few days in The City, but there’s a fair bit of renovation and new building being done.
I really enjoyed being part of the London City throng during my stay. I particularly enjoyed leaving the throng after my ten minute walk and going straight to my hotel room each evening, skipping the train journey home most of the other commuters were facing.
Other things I noticed during my week:
* Lots of City people not wearing a tie. The Hamas and Ahmenidjad look, albeit with a London twist, seems to be getting more and more popular. You need to buy proper shirts that are made to be worn without a tie though, apparently. No good just wearing your old smart shirts with an open collar. Time for me to make a trip to Marks and Sparks.
* Lots of Polish people working all over the place.
* I felt there was more of a ‘buzz’ to the place. To be expected, considering I left at the height of the dotcom crash.
* Free newspapers being thrust in your face every five metres by their enthusiastic ‘sellers’.
* Not so many homeless people.
* Pubs that don’t kick you out at 11.

Sheikh Zayed’s Range Rover


I like this customised Range Rover, used by Sheikh Zayed to inspect his troops a few years ago.

The Range Rover, particularly the Range Rover Sport, is very popular with the local Emirati population still.
Land Rover have probably played more of a role than any other vehicle maker in the UAE’s history, with the early Series vehicles helping to track down the locations of the first oil wells, as well as serving as general purpose vehicles before today’s quality roads appeared.
Toyota have beaten them though – whilst the Land Cruiser reigns in all its forms, from basic farm truck to luxury Lexus, Land Rover’s success is now limited to its luxury Range Rover models. Older Series Is, IIs and IIIs can still be seen, but it’s rare to see a new Defender working as a commercial vehicle. Too expensive, too uncomfortable and (I’m told) not as reliable. Sad.

Elf and safety


During the last two weeks I was in London I was struck by the proliferation of signs all over the place. Compared to five years ago it seems people have to be warned not to do this, to watch out for that and not to step here or there.
This photo of a large metal support outside the building my training course was in is a good example.

Is it really necessary to stick a large ‘!’ on something like this? I don’t think it is. A symptom of too much nannying, genuine concern for people’s well being or desperate measures not to get sued in some US style ‘the hot coffee I spilt on my lap has hurt me’ personal injury case?

The Saul family hit Dubai


My parents and sister came over to Dubai over Christmas and thouroughly enjoyed themselves.
They stayed at Aaron’s flat and enjoyed the view.

My sister dropped her eco-friendly stance after she saw Aaron’s Hummer.

My dad got to drive the Jeep offroad. Here he is going down the Fossil Rock slipface.

People often accuse Dubai of lacking culture, which is a little unfair. As part of the rather uncultural Shopping Festival we got to see some local men performing traditional dancing at the Heritage Village.

My Mrs Saul cooked up an amazing Christmas dinner which we enjoyed at our flat, adding a nice traditional touch to the rather odd experience of my first ever Christmas away from home.
It was great to show my mum and dad where we live and work – once we’ve moved into our new flat I hope they’ll come again.

Some more pics are here.

Linux fame by proxy


My friend Jon Masters has just had his Linux Programming book published. Well done Jon!
I met Jon in about 1999 or so, when I was working at Sun in the UK. Jon was still at school at the time – whilst doing a computer science degree in his spare time – and had met Sun’s UK MD of the time during a visit to his school. I was tasked with inviting Jon to Sun for some ‘work experience’. We spent a very pleasant couple of days down in Totnes where I was looking after Sun’s sponsorship of Pete Goss’ Team Philips project.

Just popping out to the offie*, darling


The ME4x4 website has a nice set of pics from one member who popped out to buy some beer and got rather nicely stuck.
* ‘The Offie’ is British slang for the ‘Off Licence’, a shop licensed to sell intoxicating beverages.

Direct debit at last


Following on from the telco surprise in my last post, I’ve just had two more!
First off, I can now pay my phone, cable and DSL bills by direct debit through my credit card. No more wondering why the cable TV’s stopped working or Mrs Saul calling me up when I’m away to say that the internet’s broken. Go to for more info.
Secondly, a colleague in the office passed on the info that if you have GPRS enabled on your mobile and send an SMS to 1333 with the letter M as the text, you’ll get a reply telling you what your location is. I duly did so and got my location back via SMS, along with a link to a mobile friendly website that told me I was in the general vicinity of my home, which was a relief as that’s where I was. There was also a link to a full web based service where you are supposed to be able to enter your number and find out where your mobile’s currently located, but I couldn’t login for some reason.
Very cool.

3G here I come


I was pleasantly surprised to get a text message from the UAE’s telco telling me that my GPRS service has been upgraded for free to 3G and that the monthly charge has been lowered from 30Dhs to 25Dhs (about $7).
I need to get a new sim card and make sure that 3G roaming charges aren’t too costly, but if things go well I’ll now be fully 3G’d up for my travels. This should make me a lot more efficient work-wise in terms of emailing people promptly, as well as making better use of ‘dead time’ in taxis and airports where there’s no wifi, or the wifi is priced too high.
Granted, I’m a couple of years behind seasoned travellers elsehwhere, but here’s to the wireless broadband revolution. Thanks goodness I bought a 3G phone recently!

Tanks on the streets of London


[Update for Bloglines users – if you click on the link for the article you’ll see two little videos I made of the tank and the fireworks. They don’t show up in Bloglines for some reason.]
Well, one tank.
Last Sunday saw the Chinese New Year being celebrated in London. Trafalgar and Leicester Square were packed.
I was a little surprised to see this Scorpion tank next to Trafalgar Square. The it was parked on the edge of the road, with the crew in bright yellow jackets. They got a bit fed up with everyone crowding around and drive off in a huff.

I’m not sure why it was there – I’ve never seen a tank playing a role in general security in London before and it wasn’t part of a display, as far as I could see. A sad sign of the times?
The noise made by the fireworks at Leicester Square was enough to make you think you were in a war zone, as the explosions ricocheted around the small streets and tall buildings.