Archive for June, 2011

When cats attack


Biscuit the cat is much loved and well looked after.

Sadly, she has an annoying habit of suddenly biting you.

One moment she’ll be fast asleep on your lap, then, as you angle the laptop to take a nice photo, this happens.

You then have to do this to remove her.

She will then stalk your arms, until you manage to scruff her and throw her off.

How do we stop this behaviour?

I think my colleagues are starting to think I am self-harming.  Look at the pain in my eyes and the damage done to my poor arm.

The joys of air travel


I am glad I have never had to witness this sort of thing on the flights I have taken.

The worse I have seen is usually at the airport itself.  If you’re flying out of Karachi or Adis Ababa, my top tip is to try to use the loo at your hotel rather than use the facilities on offer in the terminal.

Footprints on the loo seat weren’t uncommon on some of the routes I used to take.

On a flight to Morocco, a man jumped up as soon as the plane landed, opened the overhead locker and deposited a pile of dirty underwear on the passenger below when his bin bag of clothes split.

A colleague once found a turd floating in the washbasin on a  plane.  The logic being that certain people on the plane had never flown before, didn’t use sit down toilets and therefore assumed that the basin with water flowing in it was the right place to deposit things.

Apart from that, I’ve been pretty lucky!

Too much Batrol


It appears my new car is the choice of the Sheikhs of the UAE.

This should be the cue for a long discussion discussing why the hell Land Rover is not the vehicle being featured here, but that would make me me want to cry. Sort it out Land Rover!

Things I don’t usually have to consider


During a discussion with a customer about having a back up 3G network connection should their main WAN link fail…

‘Yes, but what if the American Navy start jamming the signal like they did for a while last summer’.

Fair point – and not something I would usually have thought would be a concern.

The joys of Beirut.



The Patrol has just had its 1,000Km service, although it’s done nearly 2,000.

So what’s the verdict?

Sadly, I haven’t had the chance to take it into the sand yet – I think I’ve missed my chance for a proper trip as it’s too hot, though I may try to do a quick half hour or so just to get the chance to try things out. I have taken it over some wadi like terrain.

I am loving driving it. It handles like a barge, has the turning circle of an oil tanker and is hardly a performance vehicle, but it’s still great fun. It’s big, comfy and ridiculous. It should also be extremely reliable…

During the wadi trip, the ride quality transformed as soon as we hit the dirt track – the car seemed far more responsive and ‘assured’. In four wheel drive, things got even better.

Despite having the ‘Safari’ trim, mine came with a retro style cassette-radio and AC with four fan settings, as opposed to the CD-radio and thermostat temperature controlled system other Safaris seem to have. I have a rear diff-lock though – should I ever need something like that. So, in 2011 and at the age of 36 my first ever new car has the same audio features as the car I was driving when I was 17. The speakers are good though, with decent bass.

Can’t wait to take into the desert. I will be terrified, but I really hope I’m lucky enough to really use this ridiculous vehicle to have as much fun as possible doing what it was designed to be capable of.


Whilst I was buying the Patrol I did a test drive of the new 2011 Patrol, just for fun. There is no way I would buy the new one – the older rugged charm and offroad features of my model have been replaced by a hideous Japanese blobby styling disaster that is powerful but which would quickly shed its front and rear bumpers after ten minutes in the desert. Driving it was ok – it clearly had a more modern feel than my Patrol, but I felt the interior was strangely small and restricted for such a big car.

I also got to drive Ronski’s new LR4. Streets ahead of the new Patrol in terms of styling and extremely powerful – flooring a 5.7 litre V8 was great fun.

My overall verdict, in terms of comfort, interior design, power and ride quality, is that Mrs Saul’s 2003 Range Rover still tops the lot. I think it still looks great, has the best driving position, best laid out interior and fantastic drive quality. Even if the LR4 now outguns it in terms of horsepower, the Range Rover still leaps forward when you need it to, as well as handling like a sports car compared to the Patrols.

Let’s not talk about reliability though…

Some pics from Amman


I was in Amman last week. Definitely one of the prettiest cities I get to see these days.

I thought the font used by this taxi company was quite appropriate. These guys aren’t quite in the same league as Cairo and Beirut’s maniacs, but they were still pretty scary. Fortunately only one of the cabs I used had helpfully tucked away the seatbelt clips.

scary cab.jpg

Now that I am ‘Middle East only’, much of my time when travelling for work seems to involve gridlocked traffic scenes such as these.


My friends are all well aware – and slightly tired of – my fondness for good ice in my drinks. The Sheraton Amman not only had an ice machine on each floor, but the ice machine had its very own room. (Good ice too – Sheraton’s often have ice machines, which I like.)


The local English language media continues to cover events of world importance. I am convinced that Ceryl’s sacking is an Iranian conspiracy.


The revolution will be anglicised


One thing that’s struck me about the ‘Arab Spring’ is the amount of English being written and spoken by the people involved.

As I read the English language press and watch English language TV, it’s natural that I am more likely to see a homemade placard with English on it, or watch an interview with, say, an English speaking Egyptian in Tahrir Square or Benghazi. I am sure that even Finnish TV has been able to find a Libyan rebel who can give an account of what’s going in their viewers’ native tongue.

Tunisia aside, it’s clear that English is the language you’re most likely to see written or hear being spoken by the Arabs involved in each side of the current conflicts in the Levant.

When I first came to Dubai, it was a big surprise to find how easy it is for an English speaker to get around the Arab world without knowing much Arabic. You’ll see plenty of signs in English and if people do speak a second language, it’ll generally be English, even if it’s just a few words. I imagine many Western viewers who’ve never been to this part of the world have been surprised by the amount of English on view and being spoken by those involved in the activities of recent months.

It strikes me that this use of English in the placards and graffiti used by demonstrators, as well as the ability of people to speak to Western media in English, has meant the unrest in the region has made much more of a positive impact on how the protestors have been perceived by the rest of the world.

European viewers are used to seeing TV images of ‘angry Arab mobs’ waving banners written in an alien alphabet, or listening to an angry invective in Arabic with a voiceover dispassionately translating what’s being said. These scenes tend to come over very negatively.

This time around we’ve seen images of ‘passionate groups’ waving banners with slogans we understand – often witty ones. The ‘angry Arabic invective’ from a demonstrator has been replaced by a ‘passionate dialogue in English’ with someone protesting for freedom.

This blog is absolutely not the place to discuss the rights and wrongs of the Israel and Palestine situation. However, I have long felt that the Israelis’ ability to field a representative in a nice suit and tie who can explain the situation in clear American or British English has been a major advantage in winning the PR battle. We see unruly youths shouting slogans in Arabic and are then shown a slick representative of officialdom who speaks more on ‘our level’. Who comes across better?

The demonstrations taking place recently have been a reversal of that situation in many ways. A stilted government representative in a shabby suit is filmed speaking uneasily in Arabic, using terms that really only resonate with the people of that country or of the Arab world in general. The camera then cuts to a trendily dressed bloke on the street who explains his side of the story in language that resonates better with those outside the Arab world looking in.

To misquote Gil Scott-Heron, the revolution will be anglicised. If I wanted to crush sedition, this sort of thing is exactly what I’d be doing as well.


Working with Emiratis…


…is something I’d love to do. Aside from the occasional government customer, I rarely, if ever, work with UAE nationals.

It’s quite different in Bahrain, where you’ll find plenty of Bahrainis working in the IT sector at various levels, both at government and private customers and at resellers and systems integrators as well. In Kuwait you’ll find Kuwaiti systems administrators and also IT managers at private companies.

In Oman my experience has been that there are a lot more younger guys working outside of the government sector now – most of our partners seem to have some people in ‘apprentice’ like roles. There are even some ladies in the IT sector now, doing sales, and doing a great job at it.

I know that Emiratis get more money if they go and work for the government, but I can’t help thinking it’d be great if some of the guys just bit the bullet, accepted they’ll get less, lived at home, saved money and got going with a decent ‘starter role’ that could lead to something really great. If that didn’t work out, the government sector would still be there.