Archive for February, 2008

Transaction cancelled

13/02/2008

Back home to Dubai from Jo’burg, ready to give my bank a rocket for blocking some simple transactions on my cards. Both my HSBC visa and my Citibank were blocked at one point or another during this trip. No call from HSBC to check where I am and only a belated call from Citibank after I’d been obliged to use another card. Irritating!

Archbishop’s musings

10/02/2008

Mr Wilton has a far more erudite post on the current controversy surrounding the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent comments than the draft I had put together.
My brief thoughts on the issue –
– It’s been good to see some editorials encouraging people to read what was said in its entirety before making judgements, statements and wild allegations.
– It’s a shame that intellectuals on any side of the religious fence can’t air their usually non-inflammatory thoughts without the press jumping to instant, tabloid friendly, flame fanning conclusions.
– In an era increasingly filled with pointless law suits, I like the idea of sensible, independent common-sense arbitration, providing all that’s involved is simple, common-sense arbitration.

Abu Dhabi’s Green City

10/02/2008

Abu Dhabi’s new green city is good news.
Up until now, quite understandably from an economic standpoint, there’s been little use of green energy in the UAE (to the best of my knowledge), but things change quickly and big investments are now being made.
I was once told by someone who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew the supposedly eccentric English owner of a shop in Dubai selling solar power equipment, that the best customers were Afghans working in the more remote areas of the UAE on farms and suchlike. Needs must and decades of hard times had meant that these particular customers knew how to live off the land better than anyone else.
My father recently installed solar panels too, beating Abu Dhabi to the green punch.

Chris meets John Abraham

10/02/2008

A couple of years ago, I was briefly touched by Bollywood magic. Whilst buying some walkie-talkies at a small electronics stand in one of Dubai’s malls, Bobby Deol walked past me coming out of a tobacconist’s, much to the excitement of the Indian guys manning the till. I had no idea who he was, even though the chap taking my money looked at me as if I were an idiot and told me that it was *the* Bobby Deol!
Today, whilst standing in passport control in Johannesburg, John Abraham was standing a mere six feet away from me, in the queue for South African and African state passport holders, for some reason. That queue tends to move more quickly, so maybe his superstar status wangled him some preferential treatment. I should really have asked for his autograph, but he was being mildly besieged by some of his fellow citizens, so I didn’t.
The local Dubai press usually has Indian stars in their tabloid sections alongside Western stars, so I’m vaguely familiar with the more famous names and faces – I just can’t get into Bollywood films though, even though I tend to watch lots of them by proxy when staring at my neighbours’ TV screens on various Emirates routes. Two exceptions are Lagaan and The Ballad of Mangal Pandey. Highly recommended if you are a fan of films with evil, be-whiskered colonial types and don’t mind fast-forwarding through some of the longer song and dance sequences.
I wonder if I’ll ever get to bump into Aishwarya Rai?

Das ist Service!

10/02/2008

Seven or so years ago, I got my first WAP enabled mobile phone – a Nokia 6310i. Whilst on the 371 back from Richmond station to the shared house I was living in in St Margarets, I gave the WAP browser a go, keen to live the mobile revolution, currently the focus of most of the presentations I was giving at Sun at the time.
I wasn’t able to get to Amazon’s UK WAP page for some reason, but Amazon’s German site worked. I bought an album by Catatonia. The process was slow and fiddly, but it worked and my album duly arrived a week or so later. That was pretty much the last time I ever used a mobile phone to access the internet until getting my current Sony – seven years later.
Today, in my inbox, was a mail from Amazon.de telling me that Catatonia’s former lead singer has released a new album. Now, that, dear readers, is what I call service. It is also what German speakers might possibly call ‘Service’.
If I do buy it, I will still not be using my phone to do so.

Audio show off

08/02/2008

Saul Towers has had its TV and audio upgraded. Out with the small portable hifi and in with a Bose 321 surround sound system in the living room, with iTunes streaming to it over the network from the ‘house’ laptop. The other two rooms now have a Bose Companion 3 and 5 respectively, soon to be hooked up to streaming music. For now the spare room has my work laptop attached to to the Companion 3 playing music over the network.
I can’t believe the clarity of the sound coming out of these things – I feel like I’m listening to my favourite songs for the first time. Fortunately we don’t have neighbours below us for the moment, so I’m making use of the thumping bass while I can. Wonderful.
The new Sony TV is fantastic too. Playing Wii boxing on a 40″ LCD is much more fun than on the relatively ancient 21″ TV we used to have.
There are some niggles – I’m mildly confused at the mass of cables required to get everything hooked up. The Bose 321 is not working quite right with TV and DVD playback either – there is a slight lag between sound and video that is driving me mad. It’s about a second out of sync and I can’t work out how to fix it.
I still need to decide if it’s worth having a dedicated PC hooked up to the TV. I can see the advantages but we’ll manage fine without one for now.
Once I get the minor audio video sync irritations sorted out and make sure everything’s definitely cabled up as it should be we’ll have a fantastic setup. The next step will be trailing through every furniture shop in Dubai to find a TV cabinet that meets Mrs Saul’s strict specifications…
That’s enough showing off for now.

Just getting things done

06/02/2008

I love this column by The Times columnist Matthew Parris.
In short he praises a UK government minister who ‘just gets things done’. She’s not into a miraculous vision for re-birth and renewal, seismic shifts and reform agendas.
I’ve pasted a key couple of paragraphs below for those who don’t want to read the whole article.
I love this attitude! I try to apply it to my job at Sun. Aim high, but in the absence of mega resources, let’s try to do simple stuff to make things work better.
Copyright, trademark, etc,The Times
…then something else extraordinary happens. Asked on Newsnight to describe her vision for change, she replies: “I don’t have a vision for change.”
Jeremy Paxman is completely stumped. “I just want to make things work,” she explains.
“Ah – you mean the Reform Agenda?” “ ‘Reform’ is a bit strong,” she replies. “There are some useful improvements to be made. It doesn’t require any fundamental change or reorganisation; we just need to sharpen up our act. Results are what count.”
For over all this time, Audrey Williamson has never once made a speech about vision, change or visions for change. She has never claimed she has a dream, or a “passion” for education, the NHS or anything else. There is little in her oratory about rebirth or renewal, new beginnings or a town called Hope. Principles, values, core values, moral compasses, prophecy and all the visionary and inspirational qualities that politicians peddle these days are absent from her vocabulary. So is the language of revolution and transformation. She has not promised a “new” Britain. Vows, pledges, promises, covenants and constitutions are crayons too bright for her palette. Mrs Williamson just wants to make things work.

Camera Obscura!

05/02/2008

I took Mrs Saul to see sickening schmaltzfest PS I love you the other week. It was full of cliched US rom-com scenes, overdone sentimentality, contrived slapstick and Irish men saying ‘ho horrrr’ and ‘bejaysus’. I quite enjoyed it.
The only thing that rescued my dignity was discovering the name of the band whose song ‘Hey Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken’ is played during the opening credits. It’s not on the ‘PS I love you’ soundtrack (no, I didn’t buy it, I checked the track listing on Amazon), but a quick Google and I found who recorded it – a Scottish band called Camera Obscura.
I’ve now got all three of their albums on permanent rotation. Think Belle and Sebastien’s best with a bit more production and more conventional rhymes. Brilliant stuff – well worth an hour and a half of ‘ho horrr’, ‘bejaysus’ and contrived slapstick to have discovered it.

Camera Obscura!

05/02/2008

I took Mrs Saul to see sickening schmaltzfest PS I love you the other week. It was full of cliched US rom-com scenes, overdone sentimentality, contrived slapstick and Irish men saying ‘ho horrrr’ and ‘bejaysus’. I quite enjoyed it.
The only thing that rescued my dignity was discovering the name of the band whose song ‘Hey Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken’ is played during the opening credits. It’s not on the ‘PS I love you’ soundtrack (no, I didn’t buy it, I checked the track listing on Amazon), but a quick Google and I found who recorded it – a Scottish band called Camera Obscura.
I’ve now got all three of their albums on permanent rotation. Think Belle and Sebastien’s best with a bit more production and more conventional rhymes. Brilliant stuff – well worth an hour and a half of ‘ho horrr’, ‘bejaysus’ and contrived slapstick to have discovered it.

Nice view

04/02/2008

Mr Aaron, a friend of ours, visited his new apartment recently for a snagging session.
You can see his photos here. Nice views!
We moved into our apartment in October to discover that hardly any of the snags identified during our September snagging visit had been addressed. I’ve just read an email saying that someone will be visiting me today to discuss the outstanding issues. Sadly the email didn’t bother to check if I would actually be in the apartment or not when this person is arriving. I won’t be, as the person visiting will find out, but hopefully we can have the ‘discussion’ tomorrow.
I wonder who will finish this process first, me or Aaron?