Archive for April, 2009

Differences between [redacted] and [redacted]

April 30, 2009

EDIT: Now with bonus self-imposed censorship!

Part 1 in a saga of epic proportions:

In [redacted], if you wanted to get propositioned by a scrawny [redacted] prostitute, you’d have to pick the right bar (preferably near the [redacted] Naval [redacted]) and then fight your way through the [redacted] punters.

In [redacted], you need only wander 100m from your hotel in search of food, and you will be literally flooded with offers to spend some [redacted] and contract new and [redacted] diseases.

I seem to have a knack for finding the most [redacted] [redacted] parts of any city I visit. I guess that’s like a kind of really [redacted] super-power.

Howto: Vegetable Soap.

April 30, 2009

20g
INGREDIENTS:Sodium Palmitate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Aqua, Glycerin, Fragrance(parfum), Titanium Dioxide, Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, Triclocarban Tetrapsdium Etidronate, BHT*.

MADE EXCLUSIVELY FOR FLORA GROUP OF HOTELS.

*I can only assume that this is the vegetable content.

Dubai(ous)

April 28, 2009

Apologies for the terrible pun thing. I am planning on getting a lot of mileage out of it.

Anywhoo, tomorrow I’m off to Dubai for the weekend, to attend a course on behaviour management. Should be a hoot. There’ll be tales to tell I’m sure. With pictures even.

Dubai has a kind of mystique these days, a tiny, fabulously rich desert kingdom where which is reinventing itself as a cross between Michael Jackson’s Neverland and the world’s largest shopping mall. Those are supposed to be analogies but actually it already has the latter, and it may be going the way of the former.

When I tell people I live in Bahrain, Dubai is often the nearest touchstone.

“Don’t they have like a 3rd of all the cranes in the world there?” Probably

“I heard you can ski in one of the malls” Yep

“Aren’t the building [insert as appropriate] an airconditioned beach/a series of islands that look like a world map/the world’s biggest phallic symbol/a theme park twice the size of Disney World (Dubai Land) etc” Most Certainly. And more besides.

All of this in a country that has practically no natural resources (oil accounts for a mere 6% of GDP and isn’t expected to last more than 20 more years), where the native population is out numbered 20 to 1 by foreign workers, and where not even 30 years ago you would’ve been hard pressed to find a paved road and the tallest constructions were minarets.

How could a place like this possibly exist?

Only briefly, unsustainably and perhaps soon catastropically failurely.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but it turns out that other people have done a much better job than I, so I will turn you over to them:

This guy sums it up pretty well:

Short of opening a Radio Shack in an Amish town, Dubai is the world’s worst business idea, and there isn’t even any oil. Imagine proposing to build Vegas in a place where sex and drugs and rock and roll are an anathema. This is effectively the proposition that created Dubai – it was a stupid idea before the crash, and now it is dangerous.[smashingtelly.com]

The New York times wrote a piece about the mass exodus of expat workers

And the inimitable Johann Hari followed up with some of that  Olde Time Investigative Journalisme.

With this guy providing some valid counterpoints to what’s in danger of becoming fashionable “Dubai Bashing” and Hari’s somewhat hyperbolic style.

So go forth, educate thyself.

All this stuff does make me appreciate that, despite suffering from many of the same foibles as Dubai (wholesale environmental destruction, exploitation of 3rd world labour, restrictions on speech and where I can get a beer) Bahrain at least has a vision for the future that amounts to more than “we’re gonna have the biggest shit”. There is a genuine desire and drive towards weening the country off the rapidly drying oil teat and bringing home the realisation that they won’t always be able to throw money at nameless filipino or sub-continental folks to do all the jobs they don’t like doing. The country has a self-improvement plan on the books, but it remains to be seen whether it will be able to deliver on it.

Bleh.

I didn’t proof read this. Its 11.30pm and I haven’t packed yet.

Non-advertising magisteria

April 27, 2009

Lately, all of the google ads on sites I visit seem to fall into one of two categories:

i) variations on the theme of: “Jesus – he’s  a real swell guy”

ii) “how I cured my acid-reflux, instantly!”

It’s like the forces of religion and science are battling it out for the right to cure that achy burny emptiness in my gut.

Going down?

April 26, 2009

Like many people, I find myself, at times, thinking about things. Also stuff.  Surprising I know.

One of the things I have recently spent precious energy on neuralising (converting my body’s stored chemical potential energy into heat, thus increasing the amount of entropy in the universe and hastening our march towards eventual cosmic heat-death in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics) was elevators.

I did the bulk of this thinking whilst standing in the harsh fluroescent non-bience (I invented that word just now) that exists outside my apartment door, that mysterious land of dropped cigarette butts and hushed midnight conversations (with bonus giggling and/or crying),  watching the numbers tick closer and closer to the target floor (mine) and then right past. And then sitting on G for a while. And then going up again. And then rapidly vacillating between the 15th and 16th floor for no apparent reason. This is what the elevators in my building do.

Anyway this got me to thinking that somebody somewhere must be in the business of designing the algorithms that govern elevator movement; when to send a car up, when to send one down, when to introduce that phantom 9 year old kid that pushes all the buttons and then mysteriously disappears just before you get in (leaving only a faintly unpleasant sulphurous odour).

It just so happened that my elevator car’s brownian motion brought it to my floor before I could crack the mystery of elevator behavioural science (eventual conclusion: whoever designed the control software for my building is either incredibly incompetent, or a sadist) but, in one of those funny little coincidences that people like to attribute to various imaginary friends, I happend to stumble upon this article not long after:

Up and Then Down – The lives of elevators.

Which, if you managed to parse those ridiculously convulted sentences and realise that I was talking about elevators, and you happened to be a person who found such things interesting, is a good read.

About elevators.

7 days of this kind of rambling. How exciting for you.

A Pledge

April 25, 2009

I will write something every night this week.

This is something.

What?