Monthly Archives: March 2012

A visit to the Future, Masdar City and Institute

When I was young, I remember commenting aloud that in the future cars should be something people ride in, not drive. A person would just hop in, say where you want to go, then sit back and read a newspaper. People laughed at me.

Today, I experienced that world, except that now a person just reads their Iphone. The future has arrived, at least in Masdar City.

In it's "gate" is a Personal Rapid Transit vehicle, or better known as a PRT. This cute little unit will take you where you need to go in Masdar City at 40 Mph while you relax. Private fossil fuel burning cars are NOT ALLOWED inside the city!

Where to future boy? This is the control panel inside a PRT.

Now it is time to sit back and play with your Iphone. The PRTs run underground so that no dumb human gets in their way.

By now you are wondering where Masdar Cty is. It is on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, in the UAE. My wife attended a conference on library services there, and I just had to tag along.

I was a big a fan of the Jetsons. I thought that in my older  years I could  dress in silver Spandex, wear a beanie and ride around in a PRT, That world is here but limited. Unless you are a young future scientist type.

Right now, residents of Masdar are very carefully selected (7000 applicants,400 acceptances this year) from the elite of science students worldwide. If you get selected, you pay no tuition, get free books,free housing and a living allowance. All of this is from the coffers of the ruler of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is like the 7th leading producer of oil in the world. The leader could do any damn thing he wants with what is HIS money. This wonderful guy has decided to spend who know how much money (Forbes says 22 billion USD) on Masdar Institute. . His father, the founding father of the UAE, left him a legacy to “not rely on oil alone…and construct economic projects that will ensure a free, stable and dignified life for the people.” He also said the real asset of any nation is its educated people, The slogan of the institute is “Learning to Change the World”

Masdar institute is the heart of Masdar city. The institute is up and running, and the city will grow up around it.

This is a model of the residential area that exists today.

This is a model of the campus area. Take a look at the tower in the middle, more on that later.

In both these photos you will notice the roofs are covered with solar panels. Masdar also has a gigantic solar panel “farm” that produces so much power that they sell the excess to Abu Dhabi.

This is a real life picture of the dorms. The arcitecture is designed to both collect warmth and circulate tHe wind for cooling. There are no chemical paints used. This is the color of the desert near Al Ain ( not far away) and the sand is mixed with the cement to give this color.

This is the tower I mentioned before. It is a wind tower. It cools off the entire plaza it sits in. Modern idea you say?? Not really. The Arabs used towers like this for a thousand years. OK,not quite as modern as THIS one, but the concept is the same.

Basically, this is how it works. I have been in old forts and such with the antique version of this tower, and I know the concept works. Talk about renewable energy!

In the plaza cooled by the wind tower is what a future cafe might look like!

The institute itself is very very Jetson. This is a corner shot of a lab building, again notice the solar panels and the "environment compensating" architecture..

The reason I got to visit this city was because Mary Ann was attending a librarians conference. The library at the institute had less volumes than a decent book store. However, they were all extremely technical. They also had numerous computers, and I imagine these students do most of their reading on-line. Libraries of the future will abandon Gutenberg for Jobs.

The library has all the Masters Thesis of it's students. I chose this one because I could kinda understand the title.

Did I say ALL the books were extremely technial? OOPS

Masdar faculty comes from MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley,  and few more of those little colleges. To be on the faculty of Masdar you must pass a review by MIT, and then spend one year on the Cambridge Mass campus developing graduate level course materials and participating in shared research projects.

Masdar has attracted tourists like Hillary Clinton and other potentate types.The ideas developed here should help the world progress past a dependency on oil. Don’t you find it ironic that oil is paying for it?

Thanks for reading, share with a friend and BACK TO THE FUTURE!

T20 Cricket World Cup Qualifying Tournament in the UAE

It will never top baseball in my Pantheon, but Cricket is actually a pretty good sport.


Since my wife and I (both BIG Baseball fans) moved to the Middle East, we have missed the taken-for-granted ability to drive to a stadium or turn on  the TV and watch the world’s best sport. Living here is like living in the off-season all year ’round. The two daily English language newspapers are run by Brits, so once you get past the most minute details of every soccer (football) game played from Europe to the Southern Sudan, the sports section has very little room for anything else. They cover auto or horse racing if there is a local angle, and to fill in the space where they cannot sell an ad, they cover Cricket. But Baseball might as well be  a rumor that hasn’t gone viral. I stay up with it using all the modern media, but I do miss the sport in a big way.

Brits try to tell us that Baseball evolved from Cricket. Hogwash. The only thing the sports have in common is they both use  a ball, and the balls are not that much alike.

This is a typical cricket ball. Notice it has two seems. A cricket ball is between 5.5 and 5.75 ounces in weight and 8 13/16 and 9 in in circumference.A baseball is between 5 and 5.25 ounces in weight and 9 to 9.25 inches in circumference.

Before I try to educate you anymore about this sport, let me tell you why I have decided to write about it.

Specifically I have become a fan of Twenty20. This a relatively new type of cricket. Basically, it is the same game. T20 was intended to deliver a fast paced game that lasted about as long as any normal sporting event, between 2 and three hours, well within my attention span.

T20 is practically a brand new style of the sport. It was introduced in England in 2003. It was introduced to bring in young fans. The old guard that still attended 3 or 4 day long “test” matches were dying out, probably from boredom.

Because it is available I have become a fan. The World Cup of T20 has qualifying rounds and this year the UAE is hosting one of these qualifying tournaments. The very first match was to be played mere miles from my home here in Sharjah, and it was between Uganda and the USA! It wasn’t like the Dodgers coming to town, but I still got excited to go.

That made me unique. When I showed up, the only people in the parking lot were a couple of very bored looking security guards. One of them walked up me and asked me for my pass. I looked at him and said “I am just a fan.”  The look on his face should have been enough to clue me in for the rest of the experience. About then, a fancy car with diplomatic plates pulled up. A handsome well dressed black man, expensive suit, shiny shoes, and an air of authority got out of the back and headed directly for the VIP entrance. I knew he was the Ugandan consul, so me, in a T shirt, jeans and flip flops just tagged alongside him. Moments later I was in the VIP seating area of a 20,000 seat stadium.

I  looked around and realized we were it. TWO fans, 2, dos, in the entire stadium. Incredible.

I took a seat right behind the USA bench and started cheering for the red white and blue. Most of the players on the USA squad had Indian or Pakistani names. Probably kids of immigrants to Silicone Valley. There was one really American looking kid named Korns. I yelled out “Hey Korns, you from Nebraska?” He turned around and in the perfect accent said “Houston, Texas”. I would love to hear his story about how he started playing Cricket in Texas.

The two top winners in this tourney get to go to the world cup tournament in Sri Lanka this year. So I started trying to pump up my team by saying things like “Sri Lanka, great beaches, beautiful women and excellent beer”.

Then I realized that with only two fans in attendance (actually the Ugandan Consul guy may have been there because he had to be, so maybe I was the ONLY fan) there was not going to be a souvenir stand. So I started asking the boys on the team to sell me their caps. I was saying “look, I’m the only fan here! I may be the only USA Cricket  fan in all of the UAE, or maybe the whole wide world! C’mon, sell me a cap!”  Finally the manager got up and went to the equipment box and pulled out a cap and a t shirt and tossed them to me. Made my day!

The pitch. In cricket the pitch is a rectangular area of 22 yards in length where the majority of the action takes place during the game. A Cricket field is a giant circle which like baseball has no set dimension, but usually is between 450 and 500 feet in diameter. This picture, (taken with my cell phone, sorry) shows two things if not clearly. One is the empty stadium. The second is that the pitch located in the middle of the field, is always a long way away from the stands. That means there is no real advantage to any seat in the stadium over another, they are all isolated from the action.

USA got severely beaten by Uganda. They got beat by something like 7 wickets, which is really a trouncing.

Learning to enjoy this sport means learning a new language.

Young Cricketer. “Yes, I cocked one off the splice in the gully and the blighter gathered it.”
Father. “Yes, but how did you get out? Were you caught, stumped or bowled, or what?”

I will try here to educate you on terms and rules

“Twenty20” refers to the number of overs each team bowls to the other in their innings.

Uh, what?


I could go on and on with rules and terms, but I won’t. They all sound so Dickensonian and would just make you wonder why I ever picked up a bug for this game. But give T20 a try sometime, you might find it more exciting than say lawn bowling or Golf.

Thanks for reading. tell a friend, make a comment. I hope you were bowled over. This is a cricket term that means…ah look it up.

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