Archive for May, 2008

Attack of the duck faced freaks

28/05/2008

I’ve seen a couple of ladies walking around recently with lips that have been surgically altered to resemble ducks’ beaks.
Glancing at the covers of the Arabic language women’s magazines in the newsagent, I see that having your lips changed to resemble a duck’s beak appears to be the latest fashion.
How exactly did all this start and how do plastic surgeons sell their services? Do people wake up one day and decide they want to look like duck faced freaks or do they see an advert in the paper offering ‘duck faced freak services’ and feel persuaded?
I can understand why someone might want their ears pinned back, a bump on the nose smoothed or hair removed. I don’t understand why people would have plastic surgery that then blatantly obviously looks like plastic surgery.
These duck faced ladies just look like ladies that have had their lips altered to give them a duck face. Why?

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Chris Saves The World

28/05/2008

Our developer’s doing a good job at the moment.
Back in October or November I sent them a mail asking them why none of the doors around the complex closed properly. People were just walking into the shopping centre and leaving the doors wide open, with cold air blowing out and hot air blowing in – a colossal waste of energy.
They said they’d ‘ask their consultants’ to look into it.
Last week all the doors were fitted with something that makes them swing shut automatically. I’ve no idea why this wasn’t done in the first place and can’t guarantee that this change was really anything to do with my email, but at least it’s been taken care of.
We also had free water saving devices fitted to our taps and the showers. These widgets are supposed to halve your water consumption but maintain pressure. I’m in two minds about them – to be of real use, you need an option to switch them on and off. If you’re just rinsing your hands, they’re fine and are clearly saving water. If you’re filling the washbasin to shave, for example, it now takes three times as long.
Mrs Saul claims she can’t wash her hair properly as the pressure’s dropped too much on the shower after the special widget was added, so I had it removed.
Let’s see what next month’s water bill’s like. I’ll put up with waiting a bit longer for a basin or mop bucket to fill if we’re saving elsewhere.
There is one minor annoyance. I emailed the developer asking when the barbecue area would be ready and received a reply telling me that a barbecue area was ‘not part of the concept of the development’. This is odd, as we were repeatedly told there’d be one. The developer’s own website also clearly states that there’d be one – click here and read about the ‘BBQ Zone’.
‘Not being part of the concept’ seems to be the new phrase that’s taken over from ‘but it was signed off by the consultants’ as an excuse for whatever’s gone wrong or hasn’t been done. The fact that the promised free gym will now cost $2,000 per couple per year is apparently because a free gym was ‘not part of the concept of the development’. An apology and an explanation with some detail would surely make customers happier.
Presumably a kitchen sink that’s useable by non-midgets and that doesn’t cause you to splash water all over the place was also not part of the original concept.

English option please, Google

27/05/2008

Google are right to make the efforts they do to localise their products, but they could do with having a link to the English or other language versions of their pages.
I may be accessing Blogger or some other Google service from Dubai, Istanbul or Islamabad, but that doesn’t mean I want to see the Arabic, Turkish or Urdu versions of what Google has to offer.
The search page usually has an English link, but other pages don’t, which can get confusing.

Time vacuum

27/05/2008

Two hours ago some workmen arrived at the flat to fix the varnish on my front door.
They told me it would take one hour. Two hours on, all that appears to have happened is that the front door has been removed and everyone’s disappeared.
I hope, for the workmen’s sake more than anyhting else, that the door is returned before Mrs Saul gets home…

Magic repairs

26/05/2008

Me: Hi, Chris speaking.
Caller: Hello.
Me: Hello.
Caller: Hello.
Me: Hello.
This helloing back and forth continues for the obligatory ten minutes.
Me: Will you please stop saying hello and just tell me who you are and why you’re calling?
Caller: Are you Zafaraan 2, 203.
Me: Yes.
Caller: Your balcony is unblocked?
Me: No, I logged call to get the blocked drainage hole unblocked.
Caller: It is unblocked?
Me: No, that’s why I logged a call.
Caller: Noone come to unblock it?
Me: No, I’ve been out all day.
Caller: Still blocked?
Me: Obviously, yes.
Caller: Ok, bye.
Me: Hang on, why are you calling?
Caller: To see if blocking is there. Someone will call you tomorrow to arrange an appointment for unblocking.
Me: Erm, ok.
Caller: Did anyone come today?
Me: I’ve already answered that question.
Caller hangs up.
30 seconds later, the phone rings again. It’s the same guy. We go back and forth with the hellos again…
Me: Why are you calling me again?
Caller: You are Zafaraan 2, 203?
Me: Yes, nothing’s changed from when you called me two minutes ago.
Caller: Your plug socket fixed?
Me: No, I logged a call for it be fixed. I’m waiting for someone to call me to arrange a time to come and fix it.
Caller: Noone came?
…and on and and on.
Noone called today to arrange to come and fix anything.

Reliability

25/05/2008

This post is interesting.
Reliable driver, reliable car. The mileage both of them have done since 2003 is astonishing.

Flash

25/05/2008

Thanks to the wisdom and foresight of the traffic police, things have got a lot better on Dubai’s roads recently.
It used to be quite normal, driving down the Sheikh Zayed Rd, to have a car drive two feet behind you at 120Kmh +, flashing its lights at you. The flashing lights were a request to get out of the way, whether there were cars in front of you or not and whether it was safe or possible to move to the inside lane or not. The implication was that the person behind you had to be somewhere so urgently that he was willing to kill you and himself to get there as quickly as possible.
This hardly happens now and the roads are much safer as a result. The other day I was wondering what had happened to Mr Flashy Flashy and his tailgating cousins. Had they seen the safety light?
Apparently they now all drive on the Dubai-Highway, making the journey into Muscat a rather nostalgic driving experience for this Dubai resident.

Wallowing in ash

22/05/2008

My patience with the smokers around our pool is running out.
It’s a lovely, community pool, surrounded by very nice greenery.
There are no-smoking signs all around it, but people still smoke. I’m not too bothered about the odd person smoking as they are outdoors after all, but things are starting to get ridiculous. The majority of smokers simply chuck their cigarette ends on the floor around them or stub them out in the earth around the plants on the pool edge. Two obese buffoons were even wallowing around in the middle of the pool the other day, grunting into their mobile phones and tipping their cigar ash into the pool itself.
These aren’t 14 year old layabouts or a bunch of yobs stopping by on their way to the pub. They’re professional, supposedly educated people. Why they want to sit in their own filth and think they can treat the pool like one extended ashtray is beyond me.
It’s one of those typical ‘community’ situations. Since you can’t trust people to be reasonable and courteous, the developer’s simply going to have to come down like a tonne of bricks and strictly enforce the no-smoking policy. Instead of the odd resident enjoying a cigarette outside by the pool and courteously tidying up after them, the hordes of ash-wallowing halfwits will simply have smoking strictly banned. They have ruined it for themselves.

Up and up

20/05/2008

We went to a couple of old haunts of ours over the last couple of weeks, both places we used to go to a lot but haven’t for a while, for one reason or another.
Both had new menus, always an ominous sign…
One place we’d occasionally go for breakfast had increased its price for its English breakfast from 28Dhs to 48Dhs. The other, a Japanese restaurant, had upped its delicious terriyaki steak from about 55Dhs to 120Dhs. A 750ml bottle of sparkling water is now 28Dhs from 18Dhs.
A place I go to once a year in summer, when Mrs Saul is away, did its brunch for 50Dhs two years ago, 65Dhs last year and is now advertising it for 79Dhs.
We’ve been lucky in Dubai over the past few years. Back in London we’d rarely eat out. Even when we did, I would usually find the price you paid was rarely worth it for the food or the ambience, in my humble peasant’s opinion. Whilst Dubai’s never been cheap, it was always good value, for us, at least. We’ve had the chance to enjoy going to places that were well priced with good food and which we’d never go to back home. They’d simply be way out of our price bracket.
Now local prices are going up at the rates mentioned above, we simply won’t be going out to eat nearly as much as before. I don’t think that what’s being charged is worth what you get, rather like back home.
By my reckoning, the average ‘pricey’ restaurant reviewed in Time Out used to quote average prices of between 200 to 300Dhs for two. We’d go and use a voucher to get one meal for free – we like our vouchers. Now I regular read reviews where the price is 500-600Dhs. Not something I’m going to pay for the odd meal out, even with a voucher lowering the cost. It’d be pushing it for a special occasion as well.
I presume what’s driving these prices is general inflation , rising rents and living costs affecting business as much as they affect individuals. What interests me is what portion of these increases is simply what the market will bear. If you can sell X number of English breakfasts for 48Dhs instead of 28Dhs, why not? It makes perfect business sense to charge what people will pay. I wonder how much the market will bear though? There are plenty of people with lots of money in Dubai, but if the ‘average Western expat’, which is what I would presume myself more or less to be, is going to stop going to half these places, I wonder if profit margins are being maintained? Or are tourists with strong Pounds and Euros discovering the ‘good value’ we used to benefit from?
It’d be fascinating to see some real data from a few local restaurants.
Fortunately two of our faves have either remained good value, or haven’t changed their menu (yet). Chicken Tikka Inn, a fantastic Indian grill on Jumeirah Beach Road, has increased its prices – but that means it’s gone from ridiculously good value to very good value. Blue Elephant at the Al Bustan Rotana is still well priced and we get an incredible 50% of food and 15% off drinks with our ‘Rotana’ card. What with the card and various other vouchers they do, they seem to pay us to eat there half the time. Long may that last.
(I’m sure people reading this blog are weeping for me. Poor Chris can’t stuff his face at as many restaurants as before! Luckily for me, Mrs Saul is an excellent cook, so staying in is often far tastier than going out.)

No too pricey…

18/05/2008

Collected the RR today.
The oil leak was fixed easily, by replacing the oil filter – something was broken on it, hence the slight leak.
Wheels were balanced and the car test driven, so it looks like the vibration has gone. I still think it’s pulling to the right slightly, which is irritating – I see no reason why this should still be happening on a car like this. Things weren’t too expensive as there was nothing major to repair.
I’m driving it to Muscat on Monday for some customer meetings on Tues and Weds. A good five hour road trip each way should show whether the steering issue’s fixed.
Fingers crossed this is the last issue for now. I’m getting tired of having the cars in the garage continually. I knew there’d be maintenance costs involved if we bought the RR, I just wish they’d occur conveniently around the time of each service, rather than randomly in between the usual 5,00Kmhs service interval… When it’s working the car is simply beautiful to drive, so we’ll stick with it for now, providing it behaves itself over the coming months. If it doesn’t we’ll bid a tearful farewell, write a rude letter to Land Rover and get a secondhand Nissan which will be boring but thoroughly dependable.