30 November 2007


Backing up is good. After losing data a number of times, I figured that keeping a copy of your files on a spare CD/DVD is always a good idea, so I started doing that around 1999 (almost 8 years ago).

Since then, i've managed to backup tons of data over the years, and stored most of these in the basement at home. Last week, I formatted my laptop (damn viruses!) and brought out some of my backup CD's to see what they have on them.

Needless to say, I found lots of old photos, notes, files and so on, dating back a good eight years ago. Dammit; So much has happened since then.

Anyway, back then, I was in college, and being a natural genius, I couldn't pay much attention in class. Why, you ask? Well, sitting there and listening to a teacher explain something was way too simple for me, and my mind needed more stimulation to make sure it functioned at an efficient level. So, I drew on the tables.

Yup; no matter what class you went to in the American University of Sharjah back around 1999/2000, you would see doodles and scribbles of cars and vehicles. My own little piece of art. I'm sure they're gone now, though.

But also, back then, I also owned one of the first digital cameras in the market. It was an Acer, boasting a whopping 0.3 megapixels, no flash, and enough memory to hold an astounding 12 photos. Wow.

Anyway, just for your pleasure, i'm posting a bit of my 'artwork' from back then, taken by my technically advanced camera (well, for it's time anyway). Enjoy:

All done with ball-point pens. Cool eh?

Half of a customized Jeep

Problems of lowering a car too much, and underneath, in red, me trying to publicize my (old) email and hoping some girls would email. Ahhhhhh blubber. I don't do that anymore. Promise.

This was the car I wanted back in college (ie, convertible Stang)

Another customized jeep, and check out the cell-phone! Whoa. Like, total retro, duuuude.

More crap.

And yet, more crap.

I guess I must have some sort of ADD. I can never focus on any sort of lecture without my mind drifting off to doodle here and there...

Wake up, Muslims!

Sometimes when I look around and see what's happening to the religion of Islam, I feel it is being turned into more of a joke by the day. A Sudanese court has just convicted a British teacher of 'insulting' the religion, after letting her students call a teddy bear Mohammed.

As the story goes, there was a classroom project on animals, and one of the students (7 years old) brought in a teddy bear to class. The teacher asked the children to decide on a name for the teddy bear, and they ended up choosing Mohammed.

Of course, Mohammed is the name of the Prophet (pbuh), and therefore, somehow, some way, this situation was mutated into another story of how the Western world is out there with a big conspiracy to insult Islam and damage the reputation of the religion. The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, ends up sentenced to 15 days in jail before being deported back to the UK. This is actually a relief, considering the original sentence may have been 6 month of jail-time and 40 lashes.

I really don't understand the Muslim world nowadays. Is everything that doesn't include praise to the religion considered an insult? How does labelling a teddy bear with the name of the Prophet even count as an insult (Not forgetting that the name Muhammed is the most popular muslim names and is easily adopted by a good 25% of muslims if not more)? How is the world ever going to take Islam seriously if after a simple situation such as this, you jail and deport a woman? How about when insulting cartoons are drawn, and protests, riots, and burning flags arise all over the muslim world? How about when someone writes an insulting book and you put a million dollar reward on whoever kills him?

It just isn't comprehensible, in this day and age, to sit and argue, complain, and riot. It really does make us look more like a joke than asking people to take us seriously. It's a big world we live in, and there are limits to such actions. Obviously, this case is going to hurt the UK/Sudan relations pretty badly, and is going to end up tearing down more than it it fixes (if it fixes anything, actually). Well done Sudan, you probably just lost a good teacher, many of which are already lacking.

Wake up muslims! This really isn't the way! The religion is turning into more of a joke by the day, and the Muslim people are going to be taken less seriously with every such case that arises. So far the only few muslims who are taken seriously are the terrorists. Wake up, Muslims, wake up!

27 November 2007

Mideast Peace Conference Underway

It's started; let's hope for the best. This conference has caused a few sparks, so we'll just have to wait and see if it comes out with any useful solution. Here are a few speech excerpts so far:

Bush; "Today, Palestinians and Israelis each understand that helping the other to realize their aspirations is the key to realizing their own — and both require an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state"

"Our purpose here in Annapolis is not to conclude an agreement. Rather, it is to launch negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. For the rest of us, our job is to encourage the parties in this effort — and to give them the support they need to succeed."


Abbas; "We want East Jerusalem to be our capital, and to have open relations with West Jerusalem, and to allow all believers from all faiths to practice their rituals and to reach sacred places without unfairness and on the basis of what is guaranteed by international and human laws"

"I have the right here to defend openly and with no hesitation the right of my people to see a new dawn, with no occupation, no settlement, no separation wall, no prisons with thousands of prisoners, no assassinations, no siege, and no roadblocks around villages and cities"


Olmert; (speaking directly to the Arabs) "It is time to end the boycott and alienation toward the state of Israel. We no longer and you no longer have the privilege of clinging to dreams which are disconnected from the suffering of our peoples"

"I am pleased to see here in this hall representatives of Arab countries. Most of them do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The time has come for you as well."

"We cannot continue to stand by indefinitely and to watch the -- watch you standing and watching from the sidelines, watching the peace train, as it were, going by. The time has come to end the boycott, the alienation and the obliviousness toward the state of Israel. It does not help you and it hurts us."


Overall, looking at just the conference separated from everything else, the outlook seems to be good. However, a lot of skepticism surrounds the conference, and at how realistically either side would compromise to reach a final solution.

The result of the conference was the continuation of long-stalled peace talks, which is always good, no matter what the situation. The presence of many arab states at the conference, including Saudi and Syria, is also a strong backing for the conference. Where things will go from here, we don't know, but hopefully this will be a catalyst for change.

As for all those who oppose the conference; to them I say, what other solution do you have to provide? The only solution you accept is the land to be given back completely to the Palestinians? Well, unfortunately that is but a pipe dream that will not happen if you just sit on the sidelines and watch, so talks are the only way forward. Let's see what the next few months will hold.

A Palestinian police officer aims his automatic weapon at protesters, during a demonstration against the U.S. sponsored Annapolis meeting in the West Bank city of Hebron

The Calm Before the Storm?

Somehow the tension in the world seems to be easing down. Pretty recently, it all felt like a doomsday scenario; more tension between the US and Iran, state of emergency in Pakistan, more killing in Iraq, the undying conflict in Israel/Palestine, all wrapped up in a cozy blanket of global warming. Yep. It sure felt like we were headed for the end.

All of a sudden, things seem like they are about to improve. President Musharraf of Pakistan has finally decided to bid farewell to his post as army chief, ending a large part of the tension that has built up in Pakistan over the past few years (and most notably in the past month). With the cooking pot about to burst in Pakistan, it was only natural that the instability would reverbarate throughout the region, and considering the fact that India and Pakistan are both hold nuclear powers, as well the Taliban running around just along the border, the outlook wasn't great. Well, finally, the heat seems to have been turned down.

The Israel/Palestine conflict has been a bloody one, with its ups and downs over the past half a century. The past 7 years specifically have left the conflict open with no hope for a solution, and the killing and losses continue in the war-torn region. Finally, however, the Mid-East conference is to be held in Annapolis today with the attendance of more than 40 countries, including the big guns like Saudi and Syria. On the agenda is the discussion of a creating Palestinian state, and it finally seems that the Bush Administration, known for their war-waging initiatives, are actually looking at the possibility of peace instead. Sure, a lot of skepticism surrounds the conference, but there is always the opportunity that something useful may come out of it. Let's hope.

Iraq has been ripped apart over the past 30 years, first by the Saddam Hussein regime, the Iran/Iraq war, the 1990 Gulf War, the sanctions that followed, and the 2003 war and the chaos it brought along with it. President George Bush and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki vowed yesterday to set a July 31, 2008 target date to formalize US-Iraq economic, political, and security relations. Under the document signed and made public Monday, the new security pact would trigger the end of UN sanctions imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and return full sovereignty to the government in Baghdad. Is there finally hope for the people of Iraq? After the anarchy they've had to endure for years and years? Well, it seems like there just might be a possibility.

Yes, the tension in the world seems like it just might diminish. But is this just a temporary hesitation before all hell comes loose?


The Doomsday clock is a symbolic clock that has kept been maintained since 1947; it shows the time as a number of minutes to midnight, where midnight symbolizes catastrophic destruction. The number of minutes to midnight is moved forward or back depending on major world events. In our current situation, the world is at 5 minutes to midnight.

25 November 2007

We Killed the Internet

Where would you be without the internet nowadays, huh? A little over 10 years ago, we had just discovered the 'world wide web', and figured it was a cool little way to browse (surf?) through a number of websites. There wasn't much out there at the time; a few message/bulletin boards, one or two email providers (where Hotmail was pretty much the only well known one, before it was owned by MSN), and very limited content to view.

With the years, it grew. More and more websites were created, by corporations, then small companies, and then individuals. Free hosting by services such as Geocities allowed people to create their own websites, so the amount of content increased tenfold. Then Yahoo came and organized everything for us, and made it easy for us to find them. Then came the messaging services, like Freetel and ICQ, and more people logged on to use the internet. And then the shopping frenzy of Amazon and Ebay. And Google. And Messenger. And Skype. And MySpace. And Blogger. And YouTube. And Facebook. And Flickr. And the story goes on.

And now, seemingly everyone is somehow connected to the internet. Not just connected; many of us rely on it. Whether for communication with friends, doing business more efficiently, booking a hotel for a last minute vacation, or finding out the information we need for our current project. Many of us are semi-reliant, if not fully reliant on the internet.

So what would happen to you if it was to dissapear? All of a sudden? We've become so attached to it, not only as individuals but as a society, as a planet, that results might be pretty extreme were it to just vanish. Very small possibility of that happening though, right?

Well, not exactly. The increasing usage and bandwidth requirement for data-heavy applications, combined with insufficient investment in infrastructure could mean brown outs by 2010. Yup, that's less than three years from now. We're looking at access resources being overwhelmed by our demand. Imagine that; our usage is killing it.

I remember the internet was pretty much text based at first. Then a few images were scattered here and there. Then more images. Then more high quality images, and animated ones too. Then flash presentations. Then music. Then video, and multimedia. Then live streaming video and music. I guess we all assumed that as the future comes, it would just get better.

Guess not.

Original Article; Information Week

(By the way, I blame it on Batelco)

Thread Bombs / free internet

24 November 2007

Cell phone, camera and a hot chick

Cell phones and salad dressing don't mix. That should be a generally well known fact, and if you didn't already know, check out these words of wisdom. Anyhow, after destroying my phone, I went out last night and got an N95 (8GB version).

Wow. Now I don't care what cell phone you're carrying, you throw it out and go buy this! This phone has everything, from the regular phone calling and SMS features, to Wifi (you can connect to any available networks and browse), GPS Navigation (just enter any address you want to go to and the phone will direct you to it), the clearest camera i've seen on any phone yet, ridiculously smooth video streaming, and the list goes on. 8GB means the memory will never end (ok, not literally), giving you space to upload music, software, videos and everything else. It comes pre-installed with Spiderman 3-the movie, and at 30 frames per second, it somehow feels clearer than those new HD LCD TV's out there..

Anyway, enough with the tech-talk, there's too many features to list anyway. Here's a shot of this new baby:

Lovely eh? And since we're on the topic of photos of new things, MSB asked me a few times to post a photo of my new Canon. Well, I decided the best way to take a photo of the new camera is WITH the new camera (ie, using another camera just doesn't do it justice), so here's a mirror shot just for you:

Again, lovely eh? November has been a good month so far :P

On another note, checked out Resident Evil; Extinction last night. What a great movie. Zombie/virus movies seem to have been on the rise recently (Res. Evil, 28 Weeks later, etc), and so far they've been pretty good. Check it out. Also, the main character in the movie is pretty hot too (well, she's not THAT hot, but just the fact that she IS the resident evil chick just pushes up her hottness level ten-fold).

That's all for today. Have a good one :)

23 November 2007

Oh, the Irony

This is when you know the judge who came out with the sentence needs to be given a good public beating. So as the story goes, there once was a child molester, a pedophile, a person who likes to abuse children. Police caught him and put him on trial.

Fair enough right?

So the sentence should perhaps include some jail time, or maybe a sort of fine. But sentencing him to community service IN A KINDERGARTEN? That's like telling a drug abuser to stop using, then giving him $1,000 and sending him over to the drug dealer. That's like telling a fat boy to go on a diet and then locking him up inside a cake shop. That's like... Oh, I could go on forever...

Pedophile allowed to work in kindergarten
Thu Nov 15, 10:10 AM ET

BERLIN (Reuters) - A convicted pedophile sentenced to do community service in a German kindergarten will return to court next week to face charges of abusing two children there, a regional prosecutor's office said Thursday.

The man was allowed to work as a janitor at the Evangelical Kindergarten St Petri in Melle, near the northern city of Osnabrueck, because a court worker missed three prior pedophilia convictions on his record, said Alexander Retemeyer, spokesman for the Osnabrueck prosecutor's office.

The man, identified only as A.B., had been sentenced to 720 hours of community service earlier this year for working on the sly while collecting welfare payments.

"The colleague didn't pay attention and didn't see he had a sexual conviction, so she allowed him to serve in a kindergarten," Retemeyer said. "She didn't read the file."

The prior convictions date from 1988-1990, when the man was living in the former East Germany, Retemeyer said. Though the convictions are listed in the man's criminal record, the details are unclear because prosecutors cannot access his East German police file.

Police arrested the man in April after the head of the kindergarten reported he had fondled himself in front of two children.

So, Mr. Judge; didn't it ever occur to you that he might actually ENJOY his sentence? Wow. That's like, all sorts of stupid.

21 November 2007

Bye bye, Dollar

It's been a long few years, here in the GCC. Since 2001, the price of oil has been increasing, after remaining more or less controlled under the $30 level. Inflation levels in the region have been growing, and with the value of the US dollar falling quickly (and with our GCC currencies all linked to the value of the dollar) inflation has been pushed to even higher levels.

Inflation is a normal part of any growing economy. Economy grows, people get richer, demand increases, prices rise. It's as simple as that. However, there are reasonable levels to inflation, and what has been happening in the GCC is far from reasonable.

Have you realized almost everything has seemed to become more expensive? Rent? Land prices? Cars? Imports?

Why? Besides regular inflation, being linked to the value of the dollar means it costs us more to import goods. Pound Sterling was around $1.36 back in 2001, and this month it reached $2.11. Euro was around $0.83 back in 2001, and just yesterday it reached $1.48. Almost double. A similar situation goes with the other major currencies, and the dollar is forecasted to decline even further.

With the steady increase of oil prices after 2001, effectively tripling from around $30 to edging on the border of $100, the Gulf economies grew tremendously. Rapid growth has it's disadvantage, the greatest being inflation, and without increasing the value of the Gulf currencies (through being pegged to the dollar), inflation hits us hard.

So what happens next? Well, Kuwait took the first step a few months ago and dropped the dollar peg in favor of a currency basket (ie, pegged to a mixture of currencies), and the Kuwaiti Dinar has been rising in value since. The rest of the GCC is still dollar-pegged though. In reality, the Kuwaiti Dinar was only forced to peg in late 2003, and was looking for any excuse to de-peg.

Inflation is now causing societal and political issues; imports getting more expensive, workers demanding salary increases, and so on. The next step should come from either the UAE or Saudi, whose economies are under severe pressure to revalue. Bahrain or Oman are hardly likely to effect a decision, as they have shallow markets and have been sheltred from speculative inflows, and will probably follow suit regarding what Saudi/UAE decide. Qatar does have the highest inflation in the GCC, but compared to the other member countries, it has started to diversify it's economy later, and still has an under-developed currency market; also with a higher GDP than it's neighbors, it has a higher tolerance for inflation.

The situation with the UAE is a little off, however. Yesterday, the UAE decided to increase public sector wages by 70%. This stated, it might mean that they are against revaluing their currency, which would probably cause some issues with the other countries that want to revalue.

The GCC Supreme Council meeting is in December, and with the mounting pressure, something has to happen. In September, the decision was made to delay a monetary union between the GCC. However, for a commitment towards a common market and closer economic cooperation, perhaps a semi-mutual agreement needs to be made in terms of the dollar-peg situation, as no country will be able to drop the peg unilaterally without the consent of the other members.

The effects on global markets would not be small, however. The volume of funds under management by the GCC are around $1.5 trillion, and any abrupt shift could disturb the global market, and so such an issue needs to be very carefully addressed (ie, an already weak dollar could take a severe hit, if the market sees a de-peg as a sign that the GCC has turned it's back on the dollar).

Either way, the inflation problem is a very serious issue, and if left unaddressed it could damage the economy, and specifically the construction sector which affects a large part of the economic activity in the region. Realistically though, a currency revaluation is required, but not necessarily enough. A revaluation should be correlated with the size of the adjustment/inflation, which should probably be between 10-20%. However, with the Gulf countries being inherently conservative, it is much more likely that a realistic adjustment would come to around 4-5%. Therefore, other measures need to take place to reduce GCC inflation. However, it will buy the countries some time to formulate other policies controlling this issue.

All said, lets keep our eyes on the GCC Supreme Council meeting in December.

20 November 2007

News Flash

What do you guys think of the news flash box on the right hand side?

Like it? Useful? Silly?

If you haven't figured out what it is, well, it's, umm.. A box that displays news flashes; ie, latest news and happenings. Well, it's manually operated right now but I might automate it if it gets enough popularity.

Any thoughts appreciated.

Empty Tank of Gas

She drove into the gas station, parked by the pump, and waited. Eight gas pumps in total, manned by two people; Each handles four.

I was at the opposite pump, gas flowing into my car, watching the attendant in my rear-view. He was working hard; running around from car to car, pumping the gas, taking money, giving change, while a number of other cars queued up waiting for their black gold.

She waited a few seconds. He was still running around trying to finish serving his customers, and she saw him in her rear-view, running around. I saw her see him. She could tell he was busy, she could tell he had a number of cars to attend to, even before she parked by the pump.

But she was impatient. She was only there for a few seconds, but she didn't care. She sat in her car with her windows tinted, hiding in the dark, the princess of all. She needed to be served, and she needed to be served now. She blew her horn, three long times in succession, very loudly. Come to my service now, slave, the horn screamed.

He came running.

She opened the window and shouted at him; cursed him for not serving her in time, slacking off his job and taking things lightly.

Was he though?

He was running around, from car to car, pumping gas, taking money, getting the change.

He was working fast.

He wasn't slacking off.

But what he was, was a poor foreigner, paid a low wage, incomprehensibly low to this princess, that she didn't consider him human. Didn't consider him someone offering her a service. Didn't consider him a man leaving his country and family far away to work in her country, for her comfort.

He filled the gas. Attended to other cars while the black gold flowed to her car. And when the pump for her car stopped, and he wasn't right there to continue serving her, she blew her horn again. Once this time. But a long, deafening one. She stopped when he finally came, threw her money at him, and drove away.

After all, he was slacking. He did take his time, serving her. She was a local citizen of this country, and he wasn't. She earned real money, while he earned next to nothing. She was a real human, while he was not much more than a creature, there for her comfort.

My car tank was full; he came, took my money, and I smiled at him as I gave him a big, sincere thank you. I drove away as more cars came, and he ran around trying to serve them all as fast as he could.

For more post on slave labour, maids etc, click here

19 November 2007

Got Cloud?

Hey Grey, check this out! We finally got some clouds! Probably came in from Kuwait!

Bahrain World Trade Center & Financial Harbor

Pearl Roundabout & Abraj Al Lulu

Moayyed Tower, BNH and Ahli Bank

I love my Canon :D

18 November 2007

More Words of Wisdom

The way things are going, this 'words of wisdom' thing might turn into a daily series... Anyway...

"When bringing home a salad (with very liquid dressing), and carrying the take-out in a plastic bag, do not place your cellphone in the same bag, otherwise you will probably have to buy a new one"

Any suggestion for a new phone, guys? I feel so stupid!

Stuck in the Middle

Our very own favourite party-starter, Ahmadinejad, visited Bahrain yesterday. If you noticed helicopters around, road blocks, or riot police stationed around various areas of Manama yesterday, now you know why.

Anyhow, the Iranian president met with our own King Hamad, and discussed strengthening economic ties between our countries, the current crisis in the Gulf, and kicking out the US from the region.

Now it's this last point I want to focus on; i've always considered Ahmadi as the fun-loving type; he's been known for taunting the US, pushing them to the brink of war, and then backing up and saying all he wants is peace with that huge smile he's well famous for. He's done this numerous times, and it's something a little like watching a comedy show.

History between Iran and America hasn't been great recently. Since the days of the hostage crisis at the US Embassy in Iran, there's been a whole lot of tension between the two countries, and it's finally reached the point where we are at the brink of war.


I really don't understand Ahmadi; he's either totally naive, or very, very clever; he can't be in between. I mean, he talks of brushing America away as if they were a little bit of dust settled on his desk, rather than the biggest military power in the world. Is he pushing for a war? Does he believe America is at its weakest point right now, with a huge budget deficit, a number of wars going on in different places and hardly the ability to sustain another one in Iran? Or perhaps that the American people have had enough of war and are against any notion by the White House to launch another one?

Or perhaps he really does believe Iran can totally wipe out America. And Israel. And everyone else who dares attack them.

Don't get me wrong; Iran is a very formidable force. The Iranians are well known to be ferocious fighters who will put up one hell of a fight. And if it does happen, this war will probably shock the world; we are definately in for a few suprises.

War seems inevitable, from the US standpoint. From the Iranian standpoint, it seems like nothing will happen. Either way, we're stuck here in the middle wondering what the hell is going to happen over the next few months.

What are your thoughts?


Something to think about: for those who used to watch cartoons back in the 80's/early 90's, remember Adnan wa Lina (Conan, Boy of the Future)? I loved that cartoon; it was basically the world after the third world war, which was pretty much completely destroyed... The introduction started off with saying "World War 3 started in the year 2008..."

17 November 2007

Wise words for today

"When driving car and have supersize coke in cup-holder; if you take
quick sharp turns, you will end up with big mess"

Anon; Chinese proverb

(actually, that should say Ammaro; Bahraini proverb. And yes, i'm
talking out of experience. Ha, ha, very funny.)

15 November 2007

And the Dodo was too stupid to survive...

Part of Charles Darwin's Theory states the following:

In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals

In other words, as the process of evolution happenes, the strong will survive and the weak will die out. In this day and age, however, brute strength is not necessarily the measure that will determine whether you die out or not, as the elements of technology, machinery, weapons we use and so on can basically modify your physical strength. What does stand out, however, is your mental power. Meaning that if you are an idiot, you will die out sooner or later, as shown by the following examples:

Woman being 'silly' hit by freight train

Tue Nov 13, 4:57 PM ET
MARYSVILLE, Calif. - A 54-year-old woman was recovering in the hospital after being hit by a Union Pacific freight train south of Marysville.

Deborah Thompson told authorities afterward that she drank a bottle of whiskey before she wandered to the railroad tracks and tried to wave the train to a stop. When asked why, she told Yuba County sheriff's deputies she was just being silly.

Instead, the train hit her and knocked her 20 to 30 yards. Thompson suffered head injuries and a fractured thigh bone but was conscious and talking after the accident.

Being silly? SILLY?? Silly is sticking your tongue out for a photo. Silly is wearing a clown suit and going to work. This, on the other hand, is so far down the intelligence chain that I think even some single-celled organisms might re-consider doing something similar.

You see, this is a classic example of people who will die out sooner or later. For the benefit of our world, I sure hope it happens sooner, and I really hope her kind doesn't reproduce either. Anyway; more stupid people, and this time a little closer to home:

Man critical after falling from building

A MAN who fell out of a first floor window yesterday morning was in a critical condition at Salmaniya Medical Complex last night.

**Name removed to protect the guilty** suffered severe head, pelvic and spinal injuries when he fell from the Middle East Suites apartment building, Juffair, shortly before 10am, sources said.

The 42-year-old was taken by ambulance to the hospital's Accident and Emergency Department and was receiving "extensive treatment" yesterday. "We have been told he leaned too far out of the window, lost his balance and fell."

Well well well. After 42 years old of living on Earth, you would expect someone to be quite familiar with the laws of gravity; ie, if there is nothing holding you up, you will fall. Therefore, leaning out of a first floor window means no first floor to hold you up, and you will fall down. Unless this guy just came to Earth after 42 years of living in outer space (which I assume is probably not true), there really is no excuse. Darwinists would hope he had fallen from the 20th floor instead, so that there would be no chance for someone with such astonishing stupidity to survive such a fall. Hopefully he doesn't have children, because if he does, within the next few years or so we'll be seeing a lot of people falling from buildings, planes, etc...

14 November 2007

Bahrain Upgrade

For a country the size of Bahrain, you would think that improving the current infrastructure, to meet the rapidly increasing demand, wouldn't be too much of an issue. The country is small, the revenue stream is huge, and with access to cheap labor, advanced machinery and the latest technology, there really should be no excuse for situations like this:

Families are left without water for five days

RESIDENTS of a building in Adliya claim they have been left without water for several days with no explanation or assistance from authorities.

A resident told the GDN that she, with her 12-year-old son and other 12 families, have been left without water for the past five days.

The 33-year-old said she had constantly been trying to contact the Electricity and Water Ministry's emergency helplines 80001008, 17241111, 17727005, 17363636, but without success.

Now, this wouldn't be such an issue if it was an isolated incident, which it unfortunately is not. Water cuts in this country happen all the time, and I myself have had the misfortune of dealing with a 4 day water cut a few months ago. Not only that; the local citizens of Bahrain have gotten used to power cuts to their homes for hours at a time (and on some occasions, days), especially during the hot summer months. This has been going on for years and years, and ridiculous as it may sound, this has become a normal expectation for anyone living in Bahrain; sooner or later, you will get a power cut.

Now sure, we've heard news of plans for a new powerplant to be built in Ad Durr, which is definately long over-due. It's great that they've finally decided to do something about the situation, but did it really have to take this long for it to finally come into place? And by the time it's actually ready, by how much more will our power needs have increased? How about the water cuts; we haven't head anything being done about that?

Now, let's disregard the utilities for a moment, and let's take a look at another area of our infrastructure; the roads. Most of these were adequate to handle the traffic 10 years ago, but as the inflow of people into Bahrain increased, more people bought cars, etc etc, the roads became too tight to handle the congestion. Want proof? Pass by Diplomatic Area on your average working day, Exhibiton Rd on your average weekend night, and so on. A few years after the traffic next to the Seef Area became unbelievably ridiculous, a plan was set to open up the highway a little and build a flyover.

So great; that took a good two years to construct, and after being completed was adequate, but everywhere else in the country seemed to be neglected. Salmaniya Roundabout, Sitra causeway, Regency Intersection and so on. Again, only when these became ridiculously overcrowded to the point where you would want to kill yourself did plans to upgrade these appear. So far from the above list, the first one has been upgraded from a roundabout to traffic lights, which doesn't seem to have done too much for the traffic, the second is under renovation, which in turn has caused unbelievable jams, and the third, well, who knows when they'll consider doing something about it?

Now, all these points are superficial incidents compared to the overall brutal reality; Bahrain is at a scary stage of growth, we have thousands of investors pumping money into the country like there's no tommorow, and an increasing stream of people moving in. If we don't act now, and upgrade our infrastructure to handle not only the demand required for today, but the demand required for the next few years as well, we might be faced with disaster. Imagine the state of traffic just a few years from now? The power cuts?

And forget that; we have bigger and bigger buildings springing up faster than you can say 'Man, those are some big buildings', and that means; more facilities needed, more parking needed, more access roads, and more sewage lines..

Have those been considered? Seems like they haven't been. When you look at land reclamation in Tubli Bay (well, Tubli Swamp now), you realize that the after-effects of the land-filling was definately not taken into account. Don't even get me started on how the area smells, either. Are we going to have a similar dilemma after the construction on Manama's north shore is completed? How about with the other projects all over the Kingdom?

I'm not complaining about my own situation. God knows i've accustomed myself to the ridiculous traffic, gotten myself used to the water/power cuts, and understandingly expect the incompetency that follows any sort of upgrade to our infrastructrue. However, our country is inviting all sorts of investors, companies, projects, and tourists and foreign workers. If we're not careful, we just might turn around one day to witness all of it dissapear.

13 November 2007

The 'Halal' Car

It's nice to see the religion of Islam being incorporated into commerce all over the world. Even in non-muslim countries, you find halal-food stores to fulfil your cooking needs, or resaurants serving halal meals. Also, take a look at Islamic banking, which has taken the world by storm and is currently one of the biggest growing niches in the financal sector.

After all, with a population of almost 1.3 billion (if not more), muslims represent a good 20% of the world population; whether you like this fact or not, you have to accept that global businesses need to acknowledge this fact and incorporate this into their operations. Burger King, for example, can't sell bacon burgers in the Muslim world, and therefore need to adjust their menu to accomodate for such a market.

There is always the chance that someone manages to go too far and come up with what in reality, is a silly product/service. This has actually been fulfilled by Proton, the Malaysian car manufacturer, who came up with the "Islamic Car":

Malaysia's Proton plans to make 'Islamic car' with Iran, Turkey

KUALA LUMPUR (AP): Malaysian national carmaker Proton plans to team up with companies in Iran and Turkey to produce "Islamic cars" for the global market, a news report said Sunday.

Proposed by Iran, the collaboration would include installing features in automobiles such as a compass to determine the direction of Mecca for prayers, and compartments for storing the Quran and headscarves, Proton's Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin told national news agency Bernama.

"What they (Iran) want to do is to call that an Islamic car," he was quoted as saying while on a visit in Iran.

"The car will have all the Islamic features and should be meant for export purposes. We will identify a car that we can develop to be produced in Malaysia, Iran or Turkey," Syed Zainal said.The report didn't give further details. (***)

Now, Proton decide to create a car, put a compass in it pointing to Mecca, and a compartment for your praying mats, quran, and so on. Okay, all very well, but to me that just sounds like a regular car with a $10 compass installed. I personally think a car needs more substance to actually get the label "islamic", and so i've come up with a list of new 'options' for the car to actually deserve being labelled that:

- The radiator can only be topped up with a 50/50 mix of coolant and zamzam water

- If you are a girl, the car will not let you ride with another man, unless you have a relative with you (ie, your brother, father, etc)

- The car can be filled up with gas any time of the day during the year, except in Ramadan, where you can only fill up the car after the sun sets

- If you are a man, you may buy up to four of these islamic cars. If you are a woman, however, you may only buy one

- No seatbelts, because if God is willing (In Shaa'Allah) that an accident will happen and you're going to get injured, a seatbelt really isn't going to stop it

- The car goes to auto-pilot mode and drives to the nearest mosque as soon as the athaan (call prayer) is heard

- The car stereo is automatically set to all the quran and islamic radio stations, and nothing else.

- The car greets you with "Al salam alaikum" every time you switch it on

Taking this into mind, it would also be great to see Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and other religion cars. Anybody got ideas of what the options on those cars could be like?

12 November 2007

Road Warriors

Hopeless. There was no way he was going to make it to the office on time today, after seeing the horrendous amount of cars lining up infront of him. The scene was sort of scary, actually, conjuring images of people running away from a major disaster of sorts, or some sort of Hollywood movie apocalypse.

But there was no disaster to run away from here; it was just another regular day, another rush hour, and through turning from the small peaceful lane near his house onto the main highway, daunting traffic greets him, assuring him that his stay won't be a short and pleasant one.

The traffic edges forward slowly, inch by inch, it seems. He knows that it's almost two miles until the next main traffic light, which has probably caused this bottleneck, and he recaps the events of this morning and curses why it took him so long to leave the house.

It didn't matter now though; he was on the right-most lane trying to penetrate the slow moving queue of vehicles. He spots a little gap between an old Caprice and a pickup truck, and attempts to turn into it. The Caprice owner, a fifty-something with what seemed like a bald spot and a short temper, pretends he doesn't see him and makes a quick step for the gas, cutting off any space possible for him to overtake.

"So you wanna play it that way?", he thought, and decided this reaction by Mr. Baldy here is going to end in full-blown confrontation. The traffic was at a standstill, so he slowly edged his car forward to the front end of the Caprice, who in return also edged forward to block any way in, and waited calmly like a ticking bomb. As soon as the pickup truck moved he immediately forced down the gas pedal catapulting himself forward and slammed the brakes, wedging himself right in between the pickup and the Caprice (who also rammed the gas pedal, but not fast enough). He pretended he didn't see the Caprice owner either, even though the latter had started blowing his horn in rage and waving his arms around.

"Haha, don't even think of messing around with me" he quietly chuckled to himself. "I OWN these roads." Still, he had so far moved approximately five meters from where he had started, and the traffic was still at a dead stop.

He looked around, the sky seemed so blue, and somehow he wished he was all the way up there, preferably in a helicopter flying far away over the congestion. But here he was, a pickup truck infront, a big school bus to his left, and Mr. Angry right behind him. The pickup started to move, yes, finally seems the traffic light upfront had opened up, and things started to slowly flow. Other cars started coming in from the rightmost lane, to merge with the flow the same way he did; he let the occasional one in, and sped up and blocked whenever one he didn't like tried to force it's way in.

"Funny this whole traffic thing", he thought to himself. "How these people struggle and fight to get a few inches ahead, when in reality there's a long way to go making whatever effort they put in relatively useless". But that's just how the people were. As the line moved and stopped, moved and stopped, he noticed a car in his rear-view stitching it's way through the stopped vehicles. A new Lexus, with a young driver wearing a red baseball cap (probably a spoiled brat), screeched it's brakes as it switched from right to left lanes and stopped directly behind him. This lane stopped, so it cut to the the left lane again, and kept going, slithering it's way between the traffic.

A little lady passed by in her Camry, calm and quiet, in the lane next to him. He admired the way she looked, so at peace, innocent, and somehow naive to the road rage filling the other cars in this jam.

"Perfect opportunity", he thought, and slammed the gas pedal and overtook her, as her lane started moving again. Unfortunately, in his haste he forgot to look and see whether the car infront of him was moving, and crashed directly into it's back.

"Oh shoot", he thought. "This is gonna be a long day."

11 November 2007

Two Different Bahrains

A famous musician superstar and his brother are in the country, and have been here for a good few weeks now. So far, their host has been taking them out to the top end restaurants, the 5-star hotels and resorts, the modern shopping malls, and so on. Being here even for a few weeks, this is pretty much the only side of Bahrain that they've seen; a modern, upscale country, full of rich people, high class hangouts, and luxury cars.

I meet up with them once every now and then, and so far they've seemed to enjoy the country. After all, it's not every day you stay in a country full of lavishness where everyone (apparently) seems well-off, and everywhere you go is modern.

I caught a sort of yearning for something though, through one of their converstions. Although a great life, something about it felt fake; all the restaurants, the cars, the opulent life was nice, but there was no real substance behind it. Something was missing.

The conversation drifted off to the fact that not everyone in Bahrain lived like that, and actually far from it. A good percentage of the Bahraini population haven't even visited some of these restaurants they go to every day, as they cost way beyond what they can afford. Some don't live in lavish buildings and drive fancy cars. No, there was another reality behind what appears to be a land full of prosperity and affluence. They didn't believe it at first, until I promised to take them for a tour around the real Bahrain.

It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though. Living a life full of luxury and money can make you forget who you are, where you came from, and whats important in life. If you allow yourself to be immersed in it, it can drag you so far away from reality that you don't realize what the real world around you is like.

Friday night, I passed by their place. Although the musician didn't feel like going out that night, his brother wanted to grab a bite to eat; however, he was sick of the same classy gourmet food all over again, and wanted something different. I had the perfect solution; tikka.

He didn't know what it was, so I explained; small marinated pieces of meat, grilled over charcoal with warm, traditional bread. Moreover, we wouldn't be eating in a top-class joint, but rather the scene would probably be sitting outside on an old wooden table, on cheap plastic chairs, in an old neighbourhood with little, if any, big-shots around. I told him to ditch the designer shirt and pants, the expensive accessories, and just wear something simple. He did, and we went on our way.

Before long the scenery he was used to started to change; from modern buildings and fancy cars, driving into downtown Manama brought worn buildings, some with peeling paint, and others seemingly on the verge of collapse (they weren't about to though, they just looked that way). The fancy coupes and 4x4's he was used to were replaced by ailing vehicles and economic autos, and the bright lights he was accustomed to were substituted for flickering yellow street lights, and dimly lit signboards from the various shops around.

Something was differnt about this neighborhood though; we got to the restaurant and had a seat. Our table was basically on the side of the pavement, and behind us, the unpainted wall of an old building. As we sat, we saw some children running around, playing, shouting to each other in joy. One of them seems to have just gotten a bicycle, as a gift, perhaps, and they were all running around behind it, taking turns to ride. There were different people walking past us, each one different and varied in his own way, some talking to each other, some quiet, some loud. The occasional cat strolled by, giving us a quick glance before they went on their way. One even sat next to my friends feet and curled up (probably waiting for the left-overs from our dinner).

Someone came to take our order and smiled as he greeted us; his smile was different from those of the classy restaurant attendants, who greet you because they have to, not because they really felt glad to see you. This guy, although a weathered 50 or 60 year-old, laughed as he talked, had a sparkle in his eye, and somehow took a sort of authentic joy in welcoming us. The smell of the charcoal grilled food was whetting our appetite, and as we waited impatiently for the food to come I asked my friend what he thought; "This feels real", he said.

He loved the setting, he enjoyed the atmosphere, and when the food came, he loved it even more. He made me promise to take him to more 'traditional' spots like this, and wanted to genuinely see and feel the real Bahrain.

My pleasure :)


PS. Khalid from BahrainiDrivel actually posted up a review about this place a while back. To read more about it and to see some pix of what the place looks like, click here. Trust me, a review worth reading!

8 November 2007

Those 'hot' Camels

I'm amazed at the rulings some of the extreme clerics in our region come out with. Obviously having run out of new fatwas (ie, religious law) to make the country even more dull, a leading Saudi cleric has come out with what he believes is the new 'evil':

Saudi cleric condemns camel beauty contests as evil
8 November, 2007

RIYADH (Reuters) - A leading authority of Saudi Arabia's hardline school of Islam has condemned camel beauty contests as evil, saying those involved should seek repentance in God.

Camel pageants have become major events in the desert kingdom in recent years as tribes hold ever larger competitions, with bigger prizes and wider publicity.

Ok, so far the Saudi clerics have managed to wipe out any part of the female body appearing anywhere in public, made it illegal for males to walk alone in any area that is allowed for families, made it compulsary to be praying come prayer time and if found doing otherwise you would be arrested, and so the list goes on. But now, they've managed to push the limits. I can picture their train of thoughts:

" Camel Beauty Contests. Ah yes. The big infidels. We cannot allow this propostourous act to happen, and in public! No! What if they turn people on! Oh dear God, we must take this into our own hands, and disallow the gracious, lucious bodies of camels to be paraded around like that! We MUST ban this! And yes, those camels, we have to have them covered when they go out in public!"

Ah phooey. And you wonder why the country never evolves.

Delicate females or strapping males which attract the right attention during a show can sell for more than a million riyals (127,000 pounds). Sponsors spent 10 million riyals on prizes for one competition this year.

"Everyone must repent of these acts from which no good can come because of its evils, and they should beg forgiveness from God," said a fatwa, or religious ruling, issued this week by Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak and a lesser-known sheikh.

"Millions of riyals are spent on buying camels just to feel proud and not for the reasons God created camels, like for food, drink, riding and work," he said, attacking the contests as a backward tribal custom from pre-Islamic Arabia.

Commentators have pointed to camel contests as a sign of increasing tribal pride, seen as a threat to stability in the kingdom established by the Saudi royal family in 1932.

7 November 2007

If anyone can, ammaro can! (with the help of Canon)

Continued from the last post;

Just got a new camera, a Canon D400 (Digital Rebel XTi). I love this little thing! Took a few shots after leaving the office today just to show you what this baby can do. Click on the images for a bigger size:

Bahrain Financial Harbor, World Trade Center; Manama

Moayyed Tower, Seef Area:

City Center under construction on the left, with Seef Area in the background

Moayyed Tower, Ahli United Bank and Bahrain National Holdings; Seef Area

Whatcha think?

Remember? And a new Camera

I've done a little bit an update to the 80's/90's section, if you guys feel like taking a look. For those who don't know (and somehow haven't figured it out from the name), the 80's/90's section is a compilation of things that might bring back some fond memories; old cartoons, TV shows, food, drinks, places and so on.

Depending on where you are/aren't in the world, some of these may or may not be relevant to you. Enjoy!

Here's a few to whet your appetite:

I'm sure these might evoke a few memories, and maybe bring a few tears :p Check out the section for more.

On another note, I got my new camera in the mail yesterday! I ordered a Canon D400 (ie, Rebel XTi), and it took me a good day or so to put it together and figure out how to take some reasonable photos with it. I'll post some tonight ;)

5 November 2007

Action Packed Bahrain

The people who write Bahraini newspapers are a funny little lot. Being a small country, there isn't always the greatest amount of newsworthy activity going on, so they try to take anything, and somehow make it sound important and hence turn it into news. Here's an example, two articles from the same newspaper today, one from a world event, and one from a local event:

WORLD NEWS - USA; big event, ie, newsworthy

Huge pileup closes California freeway
FRESNO, California (AP)

100 cars and trucks crash on Highway 99 killing two

More than 100 cars and trucks crashed on a fog-shrouded freeway, killing at least two people and injuring dozens more, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) said.

Eighteen big rigs were involved in the massive pileup on Highway 99 just south of Fresno as patches of dense fog obscured visibility on the heavily travelled roadway, CHP officials said. “It looked like something out of a movie, walking up and seeing all the cars mangled and crushed,” CHP Officer Paul Solorzano Jr. said.

LOCAL NEWS - Bahrain; hardly anything at all really, ie, NOT newsworthy

3-car pile-up on Muharraq causeway
Monday, November 5, 2007

Morning traffic flowing from Muharraq along the old Muharraq Causeway to the Diplomatic Area signal was hit with a three-car pile up while the person who caused the accident escaped unhurt.

An eyewitness told the Tribune that a Bahraini lady in a maroon Nissan Sunny, was driving along the sea-side lane, when she decided to change course suddenly and recklessly drove her car to the extreme left.

As if this isn't enough embarrasment for the Bahraini media, they actually try to make the article sound interesting by completely exaggerating the size of the event. Here are a few direct quotes from the article:

"Realising the danger, the car in that lane, a green Mitsubishi Colt swerved and the driver panicked, resulting in her bonnet and engine chamber climbing on to the divider."
Wow. An event only rivaled by those of great Hollywood action movies.

"Since the events unfolded in a short time at peak hours of the morning, a Chrysler Neon LX, also driven by a Bahraini, crashed into the right side of the Colt. A third car, again a Nissan Sunny, driven by an American, which was directly behind the Chrysler crashed into the rear causing a three-car pile up."
Oh boy, what an action filled day! I can't handle this adrenaline rush!

"The accident, the Tribune found, resulted in a serpentine traffic snarl, since the road is the only connection from the Muharraq Souq and the airport road."

"However, the accident resulted only in a few dents to the vehicles but no fatalities."
Only in a few dents BUT no fatalities? Like, REALLY? I hardly see how a few dents WOULD cause fatalities.

And there you go, Bahrain media at it's finest.

4 November 2007

Small Cars, Jeremy Clarkson, and Epileptic Fits

If you're not a fan of Top Gear, then there's something wrong with you. Besides being the pure essence from which all other TV shows are made from (and hence bow down to), Top Gear is chock-full of informative, entertaining and downright funny car reviews. Even if you're not really into the whole 'vehicle thing' (ie, you drive a bicycle to work), here's an episode that might definately catch your attention; the World's smallest car (good when you can't find a parking spot in downtown Manama). Watch the whole thing; it's around 7 minutes long, but it sure as hell is worth it.

Gotta love Jeremy Clarkson.

On another note, due to the overwhelming number of complaints of seizures, temporary blindness, epilepsy among other symptoms caused by my previous white text on black background, I have decided to change the colors to something more eye-friendly (although you have to admit, it definately is NOT AS COOL as the black background). I hope you wimps are happy now.


3 November 2007

Have a Bite!

Wow, the weather has finally turned good; right now im sitting on the grass at the (dolphin) corniche in manama. Come November every year, Bahrain finally says 'bye bye' to the ridiculous heat that has been plaguing us since, lets say, April?

Yes, Bahrain is officially a burning oven, an overheated car engine, a first class sauna, for lets say a good 50% of the year. As for the remaining period, the weather usually ranges from the reasonably pleasant, the uncomfortably cold, the ridiculously wet, to everything in between.

But today is one of those beautifully perfect days. The breeze is cool, sun is out but not too hot, and here by the sea the sky is blue, the grass is green, and a number of families have come out to enjoy the weather, leaving their children to play in the open air.

One thing I figure needs to change about the Bahraini (and probably Arab) mentality in general, is how they're always up in each others business. It's sort of funny, actually. Today, our family finds a nice spot to sit, near a bunch of other families, and this group of women a few meters away just stare. Through the corner of their eye, of course, but they're sitting there staring and chattering to themselves. Normal; that's what happens when you put a bunch of arab women together, but after a few minutes you would expect it to stop.

But no, they just kept going, so I decided they needed a lesson. When we put out the food and started eating, I took a plate of food and went over and offered it to them. They looked suprised, and asked what I was doing, so I said "You've been staring since we got here so I figured you might want some of our food, as you didn't have any of your own".

Needless to say, problem solved, and they stopped staring totally. lol.