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Road Rage

January 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Last night I dreamt I was the driver of a gang who had just botched a heist. We were roaring through town in a truck, the perfect getaway vehicle surely, pushing aside cars and people alike.

I think the dream was partly inspired by the events we witnessed the previous evening on our way home from the mall. We were slowing down to stop at traffic lights when, two cars ahead of us, a big SUV swerved suddenly and cut across two lanes of traffic. It did not just change lanes, it drove almost perpendicularly to the flow of traffic. We watched incredulously as the SUV stopped in front of the car ahead of us and the driver, an Emirati, stormed out. He marched towards the other car just as the latter’s door was opening. A very heated debate ensued, with a lot of gesturing, most probably revolving around who was the worst driver. In another country they might have touched upon the subject of whose mother performed which vile acts, but it is probably illegal to insult a local, for which you could get arrested and / or deported.

They must have had a close call a little earlier, but we didn’t see what’d happened. In the end the local climbed in his car and proceeded to go back across the two lanes to take the exit he had intended to initially. During all of this we had no option but to stay put and watch, since traffic was still moving around us.

It is not the purpose of this post to point fingers at nationalities / ethnicities and their driving attitude, but at the crap driving attitude directly. It could have been anyone for all I care, bad driving is bad driving.  Come to think of it though the protagonist would make an excellent getaway driver.

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Too much of this has been happening lately

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Categories: Photos Tags: ,

Sign here please

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Whenever one moves house the opportunity arises to renew one’s acquaintances with the lovely folk working at your services providers and utilities.  These entities that shape our lives each have their own formalities and procedures, which for me at least have to be rediscovered from scratch.

DEWA – Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.  Upon finalising the tenancy contract of the new place you have to submit a copy to apply for a new connection.  Each apartment doorway has a small plaque with a nine digit number on it.  That’s the DEWA account number.

Side note: evidence of the UAE’s non existing data protection laws, one can call up DEWA on an automated line, punch in anybody’s account number, and be told the balance owed.  Same thing applies on the Dubai Police website with license plate numbers, for outstanding fines.

In spite of DEWA being this lumbering utility often alleged to hike rates at will, they do have a functional (albeit around 3 years outdated) website, which allowed me to submit the application for new connection.  Which by the way comes with a refundable deposit payable of Dhs 1,000.  I also managed to submit the request for final bill for the old apartment, although I don’t know how smooth (or otherwise) this will be as I just did it today and it takes a couple of days to process.

Du, competitive telecoms provider extraordinaire.  Sadly I had to stop my custom as the area I moved into is serviced by Etisalat only.  Du had hitherto been very helpful and flexible.  I was able to pay my bills by credit card.  When it came to closing the account and claiming my refundable deposit however I was told I had to go in person to an outlet for this.  Fine, they need signatures, but it’s nothing that mail cannot solve.

And of course Etisalat.  I went in person to an outlet to apply for broadband internet, opting to forgo TV and landline for now.  I like my distractions one at a time, thank you.  After a week and still no connection I called them up and was surprised when, after the usual 2 minutes of automated menus, the call center picked me up immediately.  Which is when I was informed that my application had been cancelled.  My incredulous (and somewhat loud) “what??” was cue for the operator to launch into a tale of engineering problems, one technology not working, there are three other technologies they can try (pardon me??), and reassurances that the application will be reinstated, but I should go in person to an outlet for more information.  Way to go Etisalat. 

While still deciding whether to take the apartment I had specifically asked if internet was readily available, to which I was assured by the real estate agent that after applying it should take only 3 working days.  Same was told to me by Etisalat the day I actually applied. I’m sick of being sold stuff which then doesn’t work like it says on the box.

Moving House

January 28, 2010 1 comment
Pathetic attempt at graphic humor

image partly via Wikipedia Commons

Last Friday saw us finally moving house.  We packed clothes and other stuff we could carry ourselves, while we left the heavy and delicate items alike in the hands of professionals.

I was shocked by how fast they get down to action.  After the almost shy good morning when you answer the door, an army of men marches in your sanctum, each with a specific task.  One disconnects the washing machine, another packs away the small kitchen things, yet another attacks the furniture, dismantling it to then put it back together at the destination.  It was a scene of organised chaos, not unlike ants about to shift food.  However the group was made up of different ethnicities, with quite noticeable differences in attitude to work.  I will not go into the details because they’re not important and it might sound racist.

Three hours later I’m handing them their dues, plus a nice tip.  Everything arrived safe and in one piece (or was reassembled into one piece), and I was generally impressed by the service.  I would have prepared that they helped with the unpacking of the minor stuff, but it was ok it could be done at leisure later.  And at leisure it was.  Between clearing out boxes, cleaning multiple times, going out to buy necessary items when moving to a larger apartment (e.g. more curtains, small furniture).

By today (Wednesday night) everything seems to have found a place.  We’re still expecting some furniture to be delivered on Friday, but that’s about it.  So I got down to finally fixing up the television / entertainment area in the living room – TV, DVD, Wii, media player / HD.

Which is when I found out that we were missing the TV power and connection cables.  I was setting myself up for a relaxing remainder of the evening, and I felt that it was unfairly snatched away from me.  Not wanting to give up without a fight I scrambled through possible hideouts, where bags containing generic looking items were stashed away.  Also in my sights were luggage bags, cupboards, shelves, but from the start I was not hopeful of the outcome.  I knew, deep down, that two things could have happened.  Either the movers threw them away with the packing material waste.  Or my wife did when she did the first thorough cleanup and I was at work.

So now I’m stuck at home without TV (and related diversions which make use of the screen), and also without internet (but this is for another blog post).  Looking at the bright side of it we will manage to fix everything up in the house without distractions.  Some consolation.

This is what I do

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Upon exchanging introductions with new acquaintances I get invariably asked “So what do you do?” And as I start to explain I often see the eyes of my poor listener glaze over with incomprehension, culminating in a quick nod so I stop the torture.  It is usually also noisy with surrounding conversation, which does not help either.  I will hereby set forth to correct that and record once and for all how I earn my daily bread.

 I work with an aviation services (aka flight support) provider.  It is for the most part a B2B setup, where our clients are the operators of different types of aircraft – be they smaller private jets, larger cargo aircraft, ambulance flights or regular passenger airliners.  These are usually not the ones operating your run of the mill scheduled flights, but rather unplanned flights and sometimes very short notice.

We assist various aircraft, from the smallest Learjet (image via Wikipedia commons)

To the largest cargo aircraft (image via Wikipedia commons)

There are three main areas of services – permits, ground arrangements and flight planning.  At their most basic:

–          Most countries require permits to be issued before an aircraft can fly over them, and these are conveniently called overflight permits.  There are varying degrees of complexity and documents requirements in order to obtain them, differing wildly by country / region.

–          Similarly most airports require a permit in order to land – landing permits (smart huh?). These are sometimes also known as PPR’s – prior permission required.  Unrelated side note: aviation is littered with acronyms, in my opinion evidencing the influence of the US on the industry – around 80% of all general aviation (i.e. non-scheduled) flights happen in the US alone.

–          After an aircraft lands at its destination the pilot cannot just park and leave, there must be services arranged – passengers have to be taken to the terminal and cleared through customs, the aircraft has to be serviced, catering needs to be prepared, etc…  In general this is called aircraft handling and there are usually two main issues in setting it up: whether the agent / airport has the necessary equipment, and how the services have to be paid.  Most operators nowadays do not fill up their aircraft with cash, rather opting to have credit arrangements in place. We pay for the services on the operator’s behalf so they don’t have to worry about it.  Of course this requires having prior arrangements, you cannot just call up a new agent and tell him “don’t worry, I’ll pay you later…”

–          Flight planning is a rather complex subject, but very briefly it covers how an aircraft will get from departure to destination airports, and whether it can actually make it.  The considerations on this latter are: how much fuel it can carry, how many passengers / cargo it needs to carry, and the aircraft performance – how fast it flies and at what rate it burns fuel.  Previously these calculations used to be done manually.  Nowadays we are spared the chore with systems that work it out in seconds.  The route is (almost) never a straight line.  The skies are criss-crossed with airways – roads that can be used by aircraft.  On international flights pilots cannot just fly where they want, so there are rules to ensure safe usage by the increasing volume of flights.

 We also perform charter brokering, which consists of finding suitable aircraft for other parties, the types of which can vary as mentioned above (business jets, cargo, ambulance, etc).  We do not operate our own aircraft, rather contact the operators directly and charter each flight as they occur.

 This should put an end once and for all to the uneasy looks and confused expressions.  When next asked what my job is I’ll probably email the permalink to this post.  I might even think of having the link printed on business cards for offline use.

To “oh” one “O”

January 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Rather than apologising for the lengthy gap between posts, and scrambling to fill in, it was decided among fellow bloggers that it is better to just plough on as if nothing happened. Flashbacks might appear later on, Tarantino style. So here goes.

We finally settled into our new apartment, which is both larger (double the size) and cheaper than the previous one. The pros of the sliding property market, much appreciated. Actually it’s ridiculously cheap by today’s market prices, and I queried the rental agent about it – after signing the contract. The only justification I can think of is that they (you know, Them) know the prices will fall further this year so they wanted a quick sale now. Works for me since I couldn’t wait.

We had to deal with some minor maintenance issues, which I wouldn’t expect from a brand new building. But you can’t have it all I guess.  The cat seems to be having a hard time adjusting. First the fine layer of dust was bothering her. After the place was scrubbed clean and we moved in, the exploration began: every corner, box, cupboard, table, etc had to be inspected, sniffed, jumped into / upon and meowed at. After having finally quieted down at our old apartment, she seems to have the volume cranked back up, voicing her displeasure at being relocated forcibly. Once she woke us up, dead in the middle of the night, with a sharp quasi-bark that bounced against the still empty room and startled us into consciousness. Hopefully she will find her peace with the flat. Otherwise she’ll have to make peace with the cats outside.

On a completely separate note, this is the first time I’m posting from the handheld rather than directly online. I’ve no idea how it will look. Apologies in advance until it gets fixed. Which would be when I find the time at work, since internet is still not connected at home.