Category Archives: UAE

Back in Sharjah

We arrived about a week ago, but I had to blog about the last few days in Amazing Thailand before i could write about being back “home” in the UAE.

Mary Ann is back at work. I am trying to find my way around the apartment we have in the Faculty Housing complex on campus. This is the biggest place Mary Ann and I have ever lived in together. I still make a wrong turn to the kitchen or the bathroom sometimes. It has two big bedrooms and three bathrooms. The master bedroom and bath combined are as big as our apartment was in LA when we first got together. The kitchen looks like a restaurant kitchen. The combined living and dining room is huge. It is a little weird in some ways. One of the bathrooms has no toilet, another has no shower, but the master bath has it all including of course a bidet. I still have not used it, don’t plan to either.

They supplied everything we could possibly need. Furniture, linens, cooking utensils and the list goes on. The university pays for our electricity, so we keep it a cool 25 degrees. Outside it is always between 40 and 50 degrees. For those of you still stuck on Fahrenheit,  50 degrees is halfway to the boiling temperature of water, HOT.

The campus, while situated off in the desert, away from town, is very green. We have big trees in front of our place and plenty of birds. Exotic birds I have never seen before. There is a species of blue birds here that is not endemic to Sharjah, but the ruler likes them so he imported a bunch.

We go to town twice a week in transport supplied by the U to do our grocery shopping. We have nixed the idea of leasing an automobile (for now) because neither of us want to drive here. One of my assignments is to find us a driver so we can go to Dubai or Sharjah center for more shopping. We really do not lack anything, but I want a bike so I can get around campus like I did when I was in University. I was skinny then, and I think the bike helped keep weight off. Anyway, I need the exercise. The Faculty housing has a big pool and rec enter, so I need to swim and bike or I am going to look like I do not want to look. The food in Thailand was so good that I put twenty pounds on, bummer.

We have free cable,(60 channels) and the library has all the novels and DVDs I could ever want to avail myself of, so the temptation to veg out is too strong. I also want to take a class this fall, in what i’m not sure, but I can take two classes a semester for free.

We got home at the start of Ramadan, so the campus is deserted and things all over are rather quiet. Ramadan starts and ends with a week called EID. No one works during EID. So, Mary Ann basically gets two more weeks added to her extremely generous six weeks vacation. Her trip to Thailand covered the first EID. She immediately  started planning for the next one. We are gong to Nepal! I have to go back to Thailand for more dental work in November, so she is planning another week off before I go to Chiang Mai, and it looks like we are going to Borneo. Borneo? So far all I have read about it is that it will be, well, different.

Now, any of our friends  who want to experience the UAE, see the magnificent buildings and malls in Dubai, get caught in a traffic jam with Bentleys, ride a camel in the desert, we have space for you! Come visit! Fly Emirates! (do NOT fly Gulf air, yuch). Once you are here you can take inexpensive side trips to Morocco, Oman, India, Nepal, any of those destinations are about $350 R/T from the Sharjah airport, ten minutes from our apartment.  We welcome you! I’d suggest doing it in winter months, and no, you will not need a jacket.

Thanks for reading, please make a comment.

Why I Have Not Blogged for a While

Chiang Mai is still amazing. This city continues to please me and suggest itself as a retirement destination like no other. But there are other places to see still.

Mary Ann will be here in three days. I can’t wait to show her Tiger Kingdom, the silk worms and everything in between.

Planning her time here has taken half my waking hours.

The other half have been spent helping her plan her next vacation. That will be in mid September. This is the priod of time known as EIDS in the ME. From what I understand, no one works, so she has five days off, plus a weekend on either side.

We contemplated a cruise down the Nile. But it is EIDS there too and we did not feel like having to captain the boat and cook our own food.

So, we have decided on Nepal! That was the easy part. The  itinerary for this trip has taken the other half of my waking hours and ALL of Mary Ann’s off work time. We are close. All I insist on is seeing Mt. Everest. I would no go to Rome without seeing the Vatican. I would not go to London without seeing Big Ben. So including a side trip that assures a view of the mountain that my camera can capture in all its glory took some organizing. But I think it is done.

Back to Chiang Mai. While Mary Ann is here, Chiang Mai is hosting the World Championship of Sepa Takraw. No, that is not cooking contest. Nor is it a flower show. Nor is it trained elephants. But to be truthful with you, when I saw a billboard advertising the evnt, I had to look it up. I had no idea. Here is the site for you to check out for yourself.

http://takrawusa.com/

As you can see, you did look at it didn’t you.. it is basically Kick Volleyball. Teams of three meet up across a volleyball net set 5 feet high and kick a plastic ball slightly larger than a softball over the net. with a few exceptions the same rules apply as Volleyball, except you cannot use your hands. I went to a sporting goods store today and found a SepaTakraw ball. They are a very stiff and very light plastic ball.  As you can also see it is an international sport, even played in the USA. I imagine it has as many fans as soccer…

I have also spent too much time following the Wild Bill Story. If you know what I mean, I do not need to go there. If you don’t, you do not want to know. Except to say that an enterprising journalist worked quite hard to get a dangerous man in jail. The world, especially Bocas Del Toro is better off with him behind bars. I  hope his cell mates bugger him to an early end.

The other thing I have been doing instead of blogging follows. I had to feed my ego and write an entry for a contest that a very nice magazine is running. I have entered a couple of their contest before, maybe third time is the charm?

Tell me if you like this short story, tell me if you don’t, tell me. You will still be my friend.

Dodger Vision

All they knew about me when they hired me was that I was a big Dodger fan. An usher at a ballpark does not sound like a glamorous job, and it isn’t. But when you have loved baseball as much as had for my entire life, getting paid to see 81 home games instead of having to buy a season ticket was like taking money from the offering tray at church instead of putting money in it. Dodger stadium was my cathedral.

I was not the typical hire for my position. Your typical usher, with some stand-out exceptions, is an inner city kid who is lucky to work 81 days a year. Most of them know next to nothing about the game. I had just ended a long and lucrative career in the software industry. I wasn’t a mover and shaker by any means. I never made the cover of Wired magazine, but I had worked with people who did.

And I knew Baseball like an evangelist knows the bible.

It was almost the All-Star break. The Dodgers were contending, at least, for the Western Division title. Fans were excited. For the most part I was enjoying the job. The words of Colonel Saito the sadist commandant of the POW camp in the classic movie Bridge on the River Kwai kept coming back to me “Be hahhpy in youh wouk”. I was. Except for the petty crap the management kept insisting on in a valiant effort to make us unhappy, going to my favorite place on the planet and hanging out with other baseball fans couldn’t be beat with a Louisville Slugger. However, when things are going well in my life, I have a strange tendency to upset the apple cart.

I am also a hacker. I learned hacking from people much smarter than me when I was in the industry. I never hacked maliciously, just for sport. I never stole identities or bought a Lamborghini with someone else’s money. However, I did like sending emails with other people’s accounts to newspaper editors or law enforcement agencies. I came close to getting caught a few times, but my skills were well honed. A firewall meant nothing to me.  I knew how to erase my digital fingerprints. If I wanted to get someone’s goat, the personnel manager at their company would get an email from him saying “I do not need my vacation this year. Please donate it to the Make A Wish Foundation.”  Things like that kept me entertained. I, as you will find, am easily entertained.

Everything considered, I should have been entertained watching a rather good season progress at Dodger Stadium, also known as Chavez Ravine. But I was restless. Sitting at home while the boys in blue were on an East Coast road trip, I messed around in the Dodger’s corporate computers. Getting into this Major League site was little league. I had access to everything I wanted, but nothing to do with it that would be harmless and fun.  Then I found the system that controlled Dodger Vision.

Dodger Vision is the huge electronic message board in left field.  I studied the code, the prompts, the commands, the database. I realized I could make Dodger Vision announce that George Steinbrenner had sold the Yankees to Hugo Chavez if I wanted. Not that this would surprise a Dodger fan.

I started to plot. Plotting entertained me. I sat around with a cold one and got downright nefarious.  Dodger Vision was going to get very interesting.

I called a friend on the usher crew. His name was TwoKays. I don’t know why, but that is what everyone called him. “Hey buddy, come on over to my house, I need to discuss a plan with you.”

He arrived an hour later and I had some pretty good ideas already. He did not know about my capabilities in the nether world of computing, so I spent some time explaining stuff to him.

“So, can you access my bank account and make me a millionaire?”

“Piece of cake, but then you would quit your job and I would lose the only co-worker I can actually converse with.”

After I convinced him that I did not do things that illegal, I told him about my idea to hack Dodger Vision.

“Just for fun mind you. Just to mess with the management because they keep messing with us”

He was intrigued. He saw the potential for minimum mayhem, and the entertainment value. Bless him.

The plotting turned into a game of one up-man ship.  What if you did this? Could you do this? We should do this.

The only effort was to keep the ideas simple. I passed on the idea putting a photo of a needle up on Dodger Vision  instead of Barry Bonds photo when he came to bat. I liked the idea, but it would probably cause a riot that would resonate all the way to Bud Selig’s office.  No need to get the MLB police involved now was there.

We settled on a few little things that would test the theories. Could we get the attention of the fans without getting the attention of the authorities? Difficult, but doable.

One thing that was restrictive is I that I would have no access during the game. I had a job to do, and it did not include pounding away on my laptop. Everything had to be entered into the system from home. Also, I knew I could hide my code so they could not find it, but if their IT guys were any good, they would be monitoring the site for a hacker as soon as the first spoof was aired.

So I went to work. Well, not work, I went to fun.

I hacked the visiting team’s stats first.

St. Louis was coming to town. The Cardinal’s franchise player is Albert  Pujols, arguably the best player in baseball today. Perennially his batting average is in the .350 neighborhood, a barrio with few inhabitants.  This was my test to see if a hack would even get noticed.  Whenever a batter comes up to the plate, Dodger Vision shows a nice photo of him. It provides vital stats, maybe recent trends, maybe a cute story. They always include his batting average.  I found my way to his data with no problem and changed the way it calculated his average so it would start at .150, and drop instead of go up if he was successful at the plate that night. My code was clean, minimal and almost invisible. TwoKays was doubtful it could possibly work.

The boys in blue rolled back into town after going 6 for 9 on the road. They were in first place ahead of the hated Giants by a full game.  Due to that and some great marketing the Dodgers had done, I knew there would be at least 40,000 people in the stands on a Friday night. Someone had to notice my work, surely.

Pujols came up in the first inning, batting clean-up. The Dodger pitcher had walked the first batter, then settled down and struck out 2.  The fans were excited, but then, this was the great Pujols. There was anxiety in the air. OK, it was still the first inning, and this was not October, but the Giants had already beaten the Mets tonight and first place was now in jeopardy.

I looked up at Dodger Vision. Sure enough, “Current B.A. 150”.

No one crowed or got excited. People who even saw it probably figured it for a typo. EVERYONE knew he was batting closer to .350. That was everyone except a 10 year old sitting with his dad near me. I heard him say “hey dad, Look at the scoreboard”

“Not now son, watch Pujols. Watch the way he swings the bat. If you want to grow up and make 15 million dollars a year so you can support me in my old age, learn to swing a bat like that.”

“But dad, the scoreboard says he is hitting only .150. I checked his stats this morning. He is batting .345.”

His father took a quick glance at Dodger vision and merely said “The Dodgers really need to pay their people more than minimum wage.”

That night, Twokays came over and was hysterical with delight.

“How did you make his average go DOWN when he went 3 for 4?”

“Technology, our friend. Now watch what I do!”

I had decided that this time I would truly mess with Dodger management.

“I am going to surprise you. Tomorrow night, be sure you are looking at Dodger Vision at exactly 8:00. When the Dodger Vision clock clicks to 8:00, be ready for madness”

His attempts at getting my plan out of my mind went unrewarded.

The next night, as the clock struck 8:00 a message popped up on Dodger Vision for a mere 5 seconds. It had the familiar Farmer John Logo, makers of the best hot dog in Baseball, and a message that said;

“FOR THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES, DODGER DOGS ARE FREE!”

I had been in Candlestick Park for game 3 of the Earthquake World Series. The pandemonium that ran thru Dodger Stadium at 8:00 that night was far greater than what had occurred in Candlestick when the earthquake hit.

People bolted from their seats, grabbed their wives and kids and ran up the aisles to get to the hot dog stands. They were screaming “FREE DODGER DOGS! FREE DODGER DOGS!”

Now a Dodger Dog, good as they are, costs something like $7. You can put all the relish and mustard you want on it and it still costs more than it is worth, so many people pass up the chance at this culinary treat. But FREE!

Within a minute the stands were half empty. People were running out like the theatre was on fire. I heard later that even the great Hall of Fame Dodger radio and television announcer Vin Scully, who has seen EVERYTHING in baseball in 50 years of brilliantly calling the game, remarked with wonderment. Me putting words into Vin Scully’s mouth was almost, but nowhere near as good, as hearing him announce my turn at bat.

Fans were running past me like they were being chased by the bulls in Pamplona.  The pure bedlam that ensued made me worry that my prank may actually cause an injury.

My post was at the top of an aisle about thirty feet from a Dodger Dog stand.  All of a sudden it was mobbed. People were NOT standing in line. They were pushing and shoving and screaming “I want my free Dodger Dog”.

The people who work behind the counter have worked there, on the average, a decade or two. They are kindly spinsters and slow moving older gents. They have perfected the art of “taking their time” getting you a dog and a soft drink. Even if you give them exact change, they can keep you on line for a half inning collecting the prince’s ransom for the food.  Dodger fans know this and have adjusted. They normally buy the goodies before the game so they do not miss a single pitch. But the 8:00 announcement was in the bottom half of the third. The Dodgers were at bat, and normally this would be a slow period at the refreshment stand. Many were on break. They were most definitely not ready for the results of my hack.

One was screaming “Damnit lady I want my dog before the five minutes are up. Hop to it.”

Another was indignantly asking “Hey didn’t you know about the give-away? How come you’re not ready.”

Another held up his 4 year old son above the crowd and yelled “Now look, you made my son cry. I want two free Dodger dogs right now”.

The vendors had no idea what to do. The stall closest to me played it safe. They rolled down the aluminum window, and effectively shut down. People started screaming and running down the concourse to the next stand. I could see one to the right and one to the left. The one on the right started throwing wrapped dogs out into the crowd. It looked like the relief workers in Somalia throwing food into the crowds of starving people.

The stand to my left did absolutely the wrong thing. The dumbest thing they could have done. They argued with the throng.

“We don’t know anything about Free Dodger Dogs! They cost $7. All the free mustard you want, but $7 dollars”

“Bull Crap lady, Dodger vision announced they were free for five minutes! That as 4 minutes ago, so I want my free dog. NOW.”

Someone called security. Calls like that are monitored by two different levels of security, the blue shirts, which were rent-a-cops, and the white shirts that were off duty LAPD.  Calls are also monitored by the Usher “Captains”. A misnomer if one ever existed. My captain weighed as much as a water buffalo and usually moved like one. But this time he was motivated, and quickly moved into the center of the mob. What could have possessed him I’ll never know.  Soon he was assailed by normally pacific fans who were truly upset at not getting a free dog. No one could push him around, unless they were in control of a CAT D9, but the verbal abuse he was taking was intense. To me, it was priceless. Just then, some white shirts waded into the crowd. They were never intimidated. I think the intimidation gene is removed at the LAPD Academy. Obviously they had no clue about why these people had gone plum crazy all of a sudden.

One younger, tattooed tough guy made a big mistake when he said “We want our free dogs, pig”.

That was all it took. The security people broke up the crowd and they mumbled away cursing Dodger management. I had a hard time to keep from laughing when my captain came up to me and asked if I had any idea what caused this fiasco.

“Hell, I don’t know. Last time I saw Dodger fans that upset was when an umpire called a balk on Sandy Koufax. Hell that was in 1964.”

After the game I caught up with TwoKays in the parking lot.

“You could have gotten people killed man.”

“Yeah, I had no idea the prank would be that effective. Geesh, a free hot dog and people go ape.”

“Well, I think you better not do anything else. Your warped mind could cause real problems”

“Oh but my friend, a warped mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

“No man. Nothing else, OK?”

“Sorry, too late. I already uploaded one for tomorrow’s game. Be watching at 1:30”

“I do not know you” was all he said as he walked away from me.

The next game was a Sunday game. A day game. A sit in the sun and get a dry throat game, or spend $10 for a beer game.

That’s right. At 1:30 Dodger Vision showed the Bud Light logo and said “FOR THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES BEER IS FREE!”

Just When I’ve Seen It All…

Dubai now has an ATM machine for…gold bars!

Yes, you can put in cash, your credit card or debit card and buy bars up to 10 grams or stylized coins.

The ATMs themselves are a bright gold and called Gold To Go.

To be fair, they were not invented here, they are the brainchild of a German and were tested there first.

I will visit the one in Dubai and post a photo. Don't expect a gold bar!

Whats next? Ohhhh, my mind just cannot control itself on that subject. I would love to have you guys post ideas for ATM machines…

An ATM for Papal blessings in Rome??

For a can of beer in Bocas?

For a handgun in Alabama?

For a Green Card in Arizona?

A Goldman Sachs ATM for Mortgages?

How about a Pizza?

Not even with a raging case of the munchies...

Or how about Live Bait?

This has to be in Dixie somewhere

What do YOU think.

A Couple Weird Things

OK, the UAE is a Moslem country. Everyone should respect things like the dress code. I have mentioned this before. Women should not wear plunging necklines, nor bare shoulders and wear skirts below the knee. Men should not bare their shoulders nor wear shorts above the knee. I do not think there is anything against wearing a plunging neckline if you are a guy, but I digress.

This weekend, two things happened that made me shake my head.

Saturday, at the library where Mary Ann works (American University of Sharjah for those of you who just joined us on this blog) a security guard complained to someone on the library staff about a womanwho walked in wearing shorts. They wanted the staffer to talk to her, eject her, something like that. After further review it turned out the woman was the wife of a prof. Today, the library grand poobah had to put out a message that the library staff was not the dress code enforcement team. It begs the question, Who Is? I spent the day on campus today. There are hundreds of cuties walking around who are not “covered”. They wear modern college coed clothes, but no plunging necklines or shorts. This is not where I went to University.

Then, also in Sharjah, remember, Sharjah is the most conservative of the Emirates, closed all of their parks until 4 in the afternoon. Why? Because the park gardeners were oogling the women exercising (jogging etc) in the park. So their answer was to close the parks during the day. Mary Ann and I thought this was bizarre and the wrong solution. The Gulf News, which hardly ever criticizes the authorities, came out with an editorial saying the same thing. This is not the way to handle this.

What Other Big Cities Can Learn From Dubai

Dubai has the most interesting and exciting way to control pigeon shit on its iconic skyscrapers.

FALCONS!

Falconry is really big here. It is a sport. It is a national heritage thing. The falcon is on all the money. And now, a British expat  is making its own money off the Falcon.

He started  a company near the big buildings in the commercial district of Dubai that (under strict vigilance from the government) breeds falcons to keep pigeons away from the skyscrapers.  Big fat slow pigeons are terrified of trim fast falcons. (A peregrine falcon can reach 200km an hour in a dive.)

This company breeds and trains falcons solely for keeping Dubai’s skyscapers clean of pigeon shit.

This company releases it falcons at the same time every day. They circle up to a high altitude, spread out to their selected hunting ground which they have been trained to patrol. They do not attack the pigeons because they have been trained not to,  but  pigeons get the idea that the falcons live around these buildings, and move away. The buildings stay clean of pigeons and  the company gets paid. No shit.

I could really get into that business.

High tech in UAE

Mary Ann brought home an IPAD last night. I am using it right now. I feel like a caveman who discovered fire. Everything is different. However, maybe I like my mastodon raw.

What do I like about it? First, I am laying on my couch while typing this message. OK, I suppose you could do that with a laptop, or blackberry, but this contraption is really lightweight and has a big screen.
Second, while typing away, the interface does things like automatically capitalizing the next word after a period. That is cool.

I have explored quite a bit, but have hours more to discover stuff. I am supposed to be testing it for the library,after all Mary Ann is in charge of electronic gizmos there. I can test certain things, but I really have no idea what a middle eastern student who grew up texting would do with this thing.

However I did find one thing I think is terrific. I call it the etch-a-sketch feature. If you are drawing something, and you want to start over, you just shake the shit out of the unit and it erases everything! Kind of like moving to the other side of the coconut!

Ramblings

This will be a pointless set of ramblings, without theme or purpose. I just feel like writing y’all and telling you some tidbits about life here on the Arabian side of the coconut that might otherwise go unstated. Bear with me, don’t look for a thread here, I am just jumping from branch to branch.

I read the Gulf News every day. I read all of it. I even read the want ads and classifieds. Primarily of course I read the front section, but I also always read the business section. I NEVER read the business section of the LA times, so I either have a lot of time on my hands, or I find entertainment in it. Both actually. I will dispense with the want ads and classifieds to say I now know that I could never get a job here, and I also know what a used Bentley costs. (Yes, I am enamored with Bentleys)

Lets look at premium Dubai realty first. The tallest building in the world is named the Burj Khalifa. Burj translates into tower. I forget how many floors this tower has,but I know if you took the world trade center buildings and stood them on top of each other, they would not be as tall as the Khalifa. The tower has hotels, restuarants, businesses and yes apartments. Wanna move to deluxe apartment in the sky? Well Armani, the  Italian designer, just opened a hotel in the Burj, and he also designed and is selling apartments. A 2 bedroom, 2237 sq ft apartment (so high you probably cannot hear the call to prayer) will run you a mere AED 21,000,000. The AED (dirham) exchanges with the US$ at a fixed rate of 3.655 Aeds to the $  You do the math.

There are also a wide range of Villas available in Dubai. Some of them are huge. In fact, a student of one of Mary Ann’s colleagues lamented that she had to call her father because she had not seen him in 5 days. The prof asked “is your father travelling?” She said “no, he is home, but the house is so big I just don’t see him for days sometimes.”

OK, you are all wondering what a Bentley will cost me when I talk Mary Ann into it (Hiya babe, just kidding) In todays classifieds, a 2005 Bentley can be had for a mere AUD 349,000. Or, a Porsche 911 Gembala can be had for 319,000. A new Range Rover for 289,000, a 2005 Lamborghini for 319,000. Of course there are the less expensive Mercedes, and then for us plebeians, Fords.

Bored yet? Don’t go away unhappy, read on.

The business section is somehow always interesting. It seems that luxury is the main attraction here, surprise. Every once in a while there is a story about the UAE based Emirates Airlines having survived the worldwide economic down turn by offering more and better first class services (you can take a shower on a long haul Emirates Air flight in first class, yes a shower) Dubai luxury hotel units increased by 16% this year, and occupancy went up by more than that.

Now, the fun news. I will grant you this, the papers cannot be critical of the rulers. That is forbidden. Say what you want.

Every time a ruler type appears in a photo in the paper, which is multiple times a day, especially the ruler of Dubai, his entire name and title appear in the caption. So, a typical caption might read “Sheik Mohammed al Quatani al Aid Minister of finance, Supreme Commander of the armed forces and ruler of Dubai, cuts the ribbon to open a new office building”.  Under that is another photo, same guy, with this caption “Sheik Mohammed al Quatani al Aid Minister of finance, Supreme Commander of the armed forces and ruler of Dubai, meets the President of Somewhere”  It gets old, and you just learn to skip titles.

This guy, the Ruler of Dubai impresses me. He is always out doing something to promote his Emirate and the UAE in general. This week he is hosting a worldwide confab of sports big shots. Dubai, as I posted earlier, already has the best race track for horses. They host very fine golf tournaments as well as tennis. They also host many other sporting events of worldwide stature. The ruler is now talking about a possible bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics. He was quoted as saying that if they bid, they will bid to win. He talked about Dubai’s “can do” ethics. He is serious about promoting sports because he says that the UAE culture has gone soft due to the luxury they enjoy now. He is worried that over 40% of UAE children have diabetes, and he thinks strong sports programs are a good step towards lowering that problem. Good for him.

Now summer in Dubai can be brutal. However, they can most assuredly build air-conditioned facilities for just about anything. I don’t know about the equestrian events, and I truly wonder about the Marathon, but the rest can all be done indoors. Remember, this is the desert country that put a ski slope in a shopping mall!

Weird news that my sensibilities cannot grok include the following:

A man from India (maybe Pakistan, I can’t tell them apart) was arrested for wearing a Sarong on the street. (Hey KIWI, you reading this ?  I’d love it if you came to visit, but you would need to wear pants)

A school bus was stopped by the police and told to remove the curtains it had up over the windows. There is a law against curtains and tinted windows on school buses, I do not know why.

A Brit was arrested for flipping the rigid didget on the road at another driver who angered him. The “victim” called in the brit’s license number and the police came and arrested him. The accuser does not need to appear in court. The Brit faces a fine, incarceration, then deportation. I have a bad habit of using my middle finger demonstratively at times, I might tape it to my palm.

And finally, a Brit expat working here, brought a paramour down from Britain for a luxury vacation in Dubai. They were staying in a very expensive hotel in a ritzy resort area. They were seen embracing each other. They say it was a peck on the cheek. The woman who reported them said that her children were subjected to a amorous display of lust. The real story is somewhere between the two I am sure, but the short end is that this couple faces four years in prison, and then of course deportation.  I have stopped kissing Mary Ann anywhere outside of our hotel room.

Well, that is enough for now. Sorry to bore you if you read this far, thanks, and tell a friend. By the way, on a good day, I am getting 30 to 34 hits on my blog. I am hungry for attention and want more MORE!

Mary Ann Made a Mistake

Last night we were watching television. A commercial came on for Haagen Daaz ice cream. I lamented “I have never seen Haagen Daaz in any of the stores I have been in.”

She replied, “You have not been to Spinneys.”

Spinneys??”

“Spinneys is the ‘Gringo’ supermarket. It is a British chain, they import stuff from everywhere. But don’t be disappointed if they do not have Haagen Daaz.”

Needless to say, I set off to find a Spinneys.

I have been quite happy with the UAE chains here, and finding different foods has been a big part of the adventure.

But Spinneys, OMG! They had everything from Peach Chutney to Grits and even fresh out of the oven BAGELS!

But the biggest thing I did not believe until I ate the entire quart I bought…are you ready for this…no Haagen Daaz, better…

Ben & Jerry’s CHERRY GARCIA!

Think I was happy here before? I am now in a state of euphoria.

Shakespeare with an Arabic Accent, a short post

I’ll keep this short. Some people have written me that I seemed to have stopped posting stuff. I took a few days off, OK. Why? Well, maybe I am getting used to life here and find less to poke fun at. I really am having a great time. The people are warm, and the weather warmer.

Shakespeare you ask?  Yes by golly by jove. The AUS Dramatic Arts department did A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream over the weekend. One of Mary Ann’s co-workers husband is head of the department, so we decided to go. All the Student actors were either middle-eastern or Indian, with the attendant accents  . Combine that with Shakespearean English and you have an interesting communication hurdle. I have never been a fan or student of the Bard, so I had a tough time following the story. I did enjoy the fairy Puck as she zoomed across the stage on roller blades, but that is what kept me awake the 20% of time I was not sleeping.  All in all it was well done.

The night before we went out to dinner with Librarians from all over the UAE. Wake up! I’m not done. It was at a fancy hotel in Dubai. It was “Latin Night”. Not a Taco in sight, not a burrito to be had. The live music was provided by a band from Africa in Dashikis. After listening to a dozen or so top forty easy listening tunes (none of them Latin) I decided to make a request. It was, remember, Latin Night, so I requested Guantanamero. AMAZING! They played maybe the best version of Gitmonero I have ever heard. But that was it for Latin Night.

Some weird things….

American Express will not allow a person to pay their bill from any middle eastern bank. Oh sure, you can charge to it, but pay direct? No. Not even if you walk into the Amex office in Dubai with cash in hand can you pay it from here. Nope. So, you have to transfer $ to an American bank, then pay the bill from there. I do not even want to know why.

ATMS are everywhere. Like any where else, they are affiliated with certain banks. I walked up to one, in a mall and put the card in. The machine spit it back out. Invalid.  I looked at the sponsoring bank…National Bank of Iran. OK fuck you too.

As I said in a previous post, there is no such thing as street addresses here. For mail, everyone uses P.O. boxes. Great. But this morning I needed to find a watch repair shop. They have yellow pages here, wonderful. Looked under watch repair, there was one in the Emirate I am currently in, wonderful. Address? A P.O. Box  “lottafriggengood, mumble mumble mumble” So I called them. It took a half hour to explain that I wanted to find their office, or store, physically. Without street addresses, and with street names being arbitrary or not pronounce-able to westerners and Pakistanis alike, everyone uses landmarks to tell you where they are. This guy had the nerve, the gall, to tell me he was near “the mosque”. You cannot swing a dead camel in this country without hitting a mosque. So I asked him for another landmark.  I think I have it now. I am about to get into a cab with a Pakistani Driver, (they are ALL Pakistanis)  and try to find it.

OK, so not sio short, tanks for reading and tell a friend!

Photo Essay, few words

Just out for the day! On a tourist Dhow

I took these photos on a little tourist jaunt. I hope you like them.

My Panama Hat gets the weirdest looks here.

Emirate mail.

There is no such thing as street addresses in the UAE. Every neighborhood has one or more of these kiosks where you pick up your mail.

An excellent museum. It even had a display of my High School in it!

This is The Alhambra, in Granada Spain. I went to Granada elemenary and Alhambra High. I feel right at home!

16 strings, could Garcia Play it?

For once, it is not theworlds largest, which is in London, but it is BIG

On our way up in the Eye!

New hotels going up. It is not hard to use the sun as a backdrop!

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The architecture here is full of surprises.

I hope you enjoyed the Photos. Please make comments!

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