27 March, 2011

Earth, what?

I think it all started with Al Gore, the savior of the environment.

Did Al Gore forget to turn his lights out during Earth Hour?

Did you guys know that yesterday evening 8:30 to 9:30 PM marked that 'hip' thing called 'Earth Hour'? It has been, I believe, a total of 3 Earth Hour years for our family for every year that we have been here. And boy oh boy, the hype keeps on increasing about shutting-off-shutting-down for an hour supposedly to conserve our depleting resources.

Say what?

I say whoever coined this term needs a kick up their -- ya' all know what I mean here -- for it is THE most absurd of all theories for preserving/conserving our natural resources. Shutting down for an hour every year just for the sake of shutting down to prove oneself hip and attuned to world affairs is also not the right way to do it. And the way the people here publicized this whole gig while having horse races and rich parties on borrowed credit. Ah well, I guess that's hip.

How about whichever entity that coined this term makes a greater effort in educating everybody if they seriously considered the 'depletion of our resources' theory credible to mankind's existence on this planet. But, looking at this whole thing 'out of the box', I would say those same individuals have a vested interest in an alternative form of energy, the final price of which to ordinary citizens is still being worked out, as we speak, debate, and watch from the sidelines.

Judging by the way this whole scenario is unfolding, I would say we all better be prepared for a 2, 3, or 4-fold increase in our utility bills in the near future.

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed." — Mahatma Gandhi

P.S.: One of the reasons I admire Sheikh Zayed was for making Al-Ain greener than the rest. I doubt if his children would ever catch-up, match-up, whatever.

26 March, 2011

Sheilas in shelas and impressions on oppression

Australian Sheila in dress-ups
In Australia, "Sheila" is a term for a woman. It's fairly archaic now - generally only used by rusty old bogans (tasteless morons) from the outback (countryside), and rarely comes without the obligatory sexist smack on the bottom and a demand for a "frosty one from the icebox" (beer from the fridge). In the Middle East, a sheila is a head covering, pronounced with an "ay" vowel sound rather than "ee", and also spelled shaila, shela and shayla. You will see plenty of "Sheelas" in Australia, but "shaylas" are few and far between.

In countries like Australia, France and the USA, any dress that covers more than what they deem “normal” is seen by some as a form of cruelty or domination. The first thing most Australians would think upon seeing a woman in traditional Arabic dress is "she's from a different world", followed by "that poor thing, her husband/father makes her dress like that" and "she must have a terrible life." And it's little surprise. Australia's Muslim minority only takes up about 1.5% of the total population, and many have assimilated to the point where conservative dress has been abandoned. The only time we see any traditional arabic dress is on TV, when we see Iraqi women wailing with grief over their son's bloodied bodies, or rows of Taliban-governed Afghan women in blue burqas with only a gauze for vision. Of course we associate it with misery and oppression.

Read more here

25 March, 2011

More Art....

From the Economist....

THE citizens of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) do not enjoy a vote but they relish a bit of artistic agitation. Earlier this month, Art Dubai, a fair, coincided with the preview of a sprawling group show, the Sharjah Biennial. In the lush ballrooms of Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah hotel, around 80 galleries from more than 30 countries exhibited their wares. A half-hour drive north, in the bookish, alcohol-free emirate of Sharjah, three curators had installed the work of artists from 36 nations in a range of ruins and cultural heritage buildings as part of a show called “Plot for a Biennial”. For a short while the two emirates were the hub of the contemporary art world.......

Rest of trhe article is here:

Foment of the moment

Even at art fairs democracy is hard to sweep under the carpet


Interesting Documentary / Interview (Aqeel The VHS Collector)

I stumbled upon an interesting documentary titled "Aqeel the VHS Collector"; you can read a little about the background of the video here. Well worth a watch.

Aqeel The VHS Collector from Moath on Vimeo.

20 March, 2011

Saadiyat in a limbo

'More than 130 artists have said they will boycott the Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi over what they say is exploitation of foreign workers, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.'

(click on image for full article)

This pertains to Saadiyat Island and their spin-off projects of borrowed culture & art.

I wonder if this boycott threat would make any difference?

Would it prompt the concerned bigwigs to speed-up corrective measures enabling this artificial island to be up & running at the earliest?

16 March, 2011

The Farmer's Market - Souk al Bahar

It's Friday morning. I've been in Dubai long enough now that I don't accidentally call it Saturday any more. To my right is the aroma of fresh cut herbs and earthy vine ripened tomatoes. To my right, the alluring nutty aroma of artisinal bread. I can't stop myself from running my fingertips across the tops of outstanding and upstanding chives - a welcome change to the droopy, supermarket-refrigerated version. And I am staring at the Holy Grail. The highly sought after and seldom found, local free range egg. It's hard not to break into song.

I'm at the "farmers market", a weekly affair organized by and held next to Baker and Spice at Souk al Bahar. It's small - only a few stalls - a far cry from the whole-oval affair at the St Kilda Peanut Farm back in Melbourne. The buskers, the chai brewer and the gourmet hotdog man are missing - but it is, nonetheless, an excellent attempt to help Dubians to understand the possibilities of the region, and give them the ability to purchase food that has a carbon footprint smaller than the shadow of a blue whale.


14 March, 2011

Etisalat Efficiency

I'm sure everyone here has ventured to Mall of the Emirates and seen the 50 meter deep queues at Etisalat's outlet.

The majority of these are people paying bills. Bills that could be paid on an electronic kiosk or through an ATM or through the internet. Does Etisalat think to provide electronic kiosks to cut down the queues? No.

Even for a simple transaction like cancelling a 49 AED / month service Etisalat offers no method of achieving this this via the internet or phone; they insist customers drive to an Etisalat office or outlet.

The best question of all... Is why Etisalat has an outlet immediately outside Virgin Megastores and another one immediately inside Virgin Megastores. They both have practically the same amount of staff, are about the same size, and are both just about as useful (i.e. not useful) as one another.

It's a great feeling walking past the 50 meter queue outside to the 10 meter queue inside. I'm not even exaggerating, I've been doing this since they opened this outlet and it works every time. I save countless hours every time I do this, having said this I still waste 30 minutes waiting for the inside counter to be able to serve 3 customers.

Of course, no one should be surprised by this high level of efficiency coming from a company that couldn't notice someone pinching their pockets for two entire years.

Economic implications from natural disasters

In continuation with my earlier write-up, Fareed Zakaria over at CNN has written an interesting article about the recent earthquake in Japan and its impact on their economy.

Although he commends the Japanese along the following lines:

-- (their) precautions and preparedness.
-- (their) safety codes and drills.
-- (their) advanced safety measures at nuclear plants.

But it appears from his writing that the Japanese had not prepared themselves from an economic disaster despite knowing the fact that their country being on a fault line was prone to natural disasters. This disaster came in the form of a tidal wave of economic downturn last Friday with the numbers continuing to rise on the final invoice.

In endorsing Mr. Zakaria's essay, I am of the opinion that countries should work on having a back-up (in place of ridiculous structures & other absurdities) plan to deal with disasters of such magnitude whether they are man-made or natural to avoid being a burden on others.

I seriously believe there's a lesson to be learnt from the Japanese disaster, which if seriously considered and put to use would help us all in the long run.

13 March, 2011

New scam in town

Guess what?

After the inheritance emails, there's a new scam in town.

A couple of co-workers are getting emails supposedly from the US State Department informing them that they've been selected for the United States Permanent Resident Card. Funny thing is, they never applied for this card in the first place. Go figure.

Below are snapshots of the email they've received from scammers who inform them that there's a processing fee of 880 $ and that it should be transferred to an agent in England through Western Union.

First, that itself raises a caution flag, as State or any other US Government department would never ask for a wire transfer via Western Union let alone appoint an agent on their behalf, as this scammer claims in the email.

Second, US Government Departments use the USPS (US Postal Services) for communicating with individuals.

In case any member or reader has received such emails, treat them as scam and use Google to report this violation/violator to the proper authorities.

Consider yourselves warned.

12 March, 2011

Nuclear meltdown risk in UAE

I've been constantly following the nuclear plant explosion in Japan post yesterday's earthquake and it brings to mind stories my parents used to tell us about the Three Mile Island episode from back home. It appears no radiation leaked from that site but there were many cases of thyroid cancer amongst other serious ailments.

Considering the UAE is finalizing a deal to build nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes and especially since it is situated on a fault line, I get the jitters about all after affects post explosion, meltdown etc. in case the earth moves at the magnitude (8.9 on the Richter) similar to the current Japanese earthquake.

Will the authorities reevaluate their decision considering the Japanese predicament?

Dubai, the apolitical city

The Washington Post has a long article today on the lack of politics in Dubai. Nothing new uncovered, but still worth a look. Some of it is the lack of rights for low-paid expat workers, some of it is about how the focus on growth has meant citizens themselves are a minority, some of it is about the availability of alcohol and prostitution.

H/T @SultanAlQassemi, who is well worth following.

Shame on A. A. Gill & Vanity Fair For Trashing Dubai

What kind of poison did A.A. Gill have for breakfast that caused him to spew such a disgusting torrent of racist, slanderous vitriol on Dubai and its residents ?

Oh wait. No poison required. Mr. Gill is a well-known racist and bigot with a long history of political incorrectness. He has managed to offend individuals, ethnic communities, and entire nations.

In 1998, he described Welsh people as "loquacious, dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls" in The Sunday Times, and as a result was reported to the Commission for Racial Equality.

Likewise, Gill has called the English "embarrassing," an "ugly race," as well as a "lumpen and louty, coarse, unsubtle, beady-eyed, beefy-bummed herd," and Albanians as "short and ferret-faced."

In 2010, BBC presenter Clare Balding filed a complaint against Gill with the Press Complaints Commission for referring to her as “the dyke on a bike.” The Commission subsequently made a formal judgment against him.

Just last month, In February 2011, Gill described the county of Norfolk as ‘the hernia on the end of England’, causing outrage across the East of England.

In his article on Dubai, he slates the local population… (The rest is here)

10 March, 2011

Next stop UAE?

Following a link from John Chilton's recent post, I pasted the following link one post down. NZM (thanks) thought it would be an interesting piece for discussion.

UAE Citizens petition for direct elections and legislative powers

Generally -- and it's a self-imposed rule -- I never indulge in political discussions outside home turf. On the few occasions that I've gotten involved in politically-influenced discussions here, they've turned nasty. One of the reasons could be the lack of knowledge and etiquette for getting involved in online debates.

Anyway, back to the CNN article and the petition presented to HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan by prominent UAE citizens for free elections amongst other requirements that leans or embodies democratization of the UAE.

1) Is that possible?

2) Would the ruling family that's been in power from December 2nd, 1971 relinquish its power and govern from the sidelines?

3) Consider (hypothetically) 2 a done-deal, would the UAE citizens measure up and deliver?

Freedom, free elections, etc amongst other things come at a price. Would the UAE citizens so used to their easy-come-easy-go lifestyle be willing to forego all these for a paycheck based on merits & achievements?

07 March, 2011

A question for the community?

Is there a reason the UAE Community Blog doesn't deal with topical, contentious issues? I remember a time when it was less apolitical. Is it self censorship or lack of interest? Or what?

Did the shift happen when the economy tanked?

02 March, 2011

GeekFest Abu Dhabi!

Calling all geeks in Abu Dhabi - GeekFest is coming to your city!

After the success of GeekFests in Dubai and with several others popping up in various other cities, GeekFest is coming to Abu Dhabi on Thursday March 3rd, from 6.30pm onwards.

If you're a blogger, tweep, facebooker, or just want to meet and greet with people, then please do stop by! The event is free to attend and open to all. The event will be held at twofour54 in Abu Dhabi, at the Lime Green building. For a location map, please go here.

For anyone in Dubai who is interested in attending, there is a bus service that leaves from The Shelter in Al Quoz - please RSVP here if you want to jump on the GeekFest bus, as seats are limited!

If you have no idea what a GeekFest is, or want full details on the event, click here!

Much love,