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Moving On

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

And so it happened, I have finally left the no cost, secure functionality of the wordpress.com blogging platform and am attempting to run the show on a self-hosted site.  This was the next logical step since I’m a tinkerer (read: wannabe geek) at heart.  Please update your links / readers / pen-and-paper scribbled address to:

http://muteherald.com

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.

RTA vs Tyres

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

There are many things one encounters upon Dubai roads, among which are: vehicles (of course), fog (this time of the year anyway), workers on bicycles, and remains of blown out tyres.  I have seen black arcs of rubber on all the major roads, repeatedly.  The RTA has been stepping up its campaign for regular checking for worn out tyres, as these are a cause of accidents (exact stats not available, sorry).  The main culprit for these seem to be the larger commercial trucks and vans.

While the RTA’s intentions are admirable, I must say that its implementation is not.  At least today in our corner of Dubai, more specifically the exit from International City.

Police were accosting all vans and trucks to the side of the road, grounding them there if there tyres were in bad condition.  During morning rush hour.  At a point in the road which already is, by virtue of poor design, a bottleneck.

Happenings

October 31, 2009 Leave a comment

This is my first “I haven’t posted in a while because…” post, and I’m sure there’s more to follow. Well, I haven’t posted in a while because I was a bit under the weather and generally busy.  So in true Lifehacker style here’s a roundup of what happened this past week or so.

Last Saturday my wife took her RTA driving test.  The real thing, not the assessments / mock that driving schools put you through and on the basis of which subject you to further lessons.  Long story short she didn’t pass.  Not being there in the car with her I will stop short from saying that the examiner was at fault.  It is however very commonly heard that very able drivers are still failed and only manage to get their license after two or three attempts.

On the day I dropped her off at the driving school and, anticipating a very long wait (it turned out to be over 3 hours), I headed over to Times Square where I planted myself in Caribou Coffee and pretended to look busy on the laptop.  I enjoy doing this from time to time (wife permitting) – sitting unnoticed in a corner, just watchig people pass by, trying to guess what people do and if they are regulars. 

One such instance:  A couple of ladies strolled in, one behind an empty pushchair, the other (very visibly pregnant) holding an infant.  They were greeted warmly by the staff behind the counter, as always happens, and the manager (or so I assumed due to his lack of uniform and previous shuffling of papers) did the baby-talk thing and held out his arms.  The mother without any hesitation whatsoever obliged and handed over the package, to the delight of said manager.  He went on to croon and entertain the kid, going over to show him off to the other staff. They spent a good five minutes enjoying the baby’s laughter, after which it was duly returned to the mom. 

Now this is what surprised me – in this day and age of H’s and N’s, airport infrared checks, pandemic alerts, campaigns advocating less contact with strangers and fear of the almighty germ, this lady trusted her most precious possession in the hands of a stranger.  Granted, she could have been a regular and known the manager for a long time.  Also granted, working in a food preparation environment one expects a certain level of hygiene.  But still.  I doubt that I could have done the same thing.  It shocked me in a truly positive way, and left me feeling upbeat. Until I learned of my wife’s exam outcome of course.

On Thursday I had my first serious near-crash experience, through no fault of my own.  I was at the exit from Emirates road going to Qusais waiting for lights to change, when I see a Prado coming up fast behind me.  It skidded, missed me by an inch and ended up beside my car.  Don’t know if the skid took the Prado to the side or the driver’s skill.  These are the things that one risks on the roads of Dubai I guess.

Friday saw us meet up with a bunch of cool people I speak to on Twitter at Wild Peeta, for a #wildtweetup.  The company was great, met like-minded folk, and the food was brilliantly fresh – both in concept and in preparation.  It was the first time I saw an Emirati (actually two – they’re brothers) running the show AND working behind the counter.  Had a killer breakfast peeta (at 1pm) and a fusion cold green tea / juice comonly known as the Magic Juice.  Now if they can just confirm delivery to my office.

Long Queues and Nice Windows

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Being amateur techies we decided to ignore the naysayers and pay a visit to this year’s GITEX Shopper on Tuesday.  While there I had planned to get my hands on the latest Windows edition, but somehow I had missed the detail in the press which said that it was going to be launched on Thursday 22nd October.  Oh well.

Unsurprisingly we encountered traffic on the way there, not because of the particularly large volume of cars heading towards the Airport Expo, but because the access to said premises is a one lane road acting as funnel and resulting in longish tailbacks. This is a planning shortfall common to other projects in Dubai, most notably International City.  Said project is a housing development built from scratch, accommodating thousands, but only accessible via a small 20 kph two-lane road.  If one were to stick to traffic rules it would take over 30 mins just to get in.  Circumstance dictates that you should try and speed ahead on the faster lanes and try to get in closer towards the entrance.  It always works.

I digress.  Had to elbow my way towards the front of the ticket queue, or suffer being skipped by everyone else.  At each point of contact with the event or exhibitors one is given a coupon to fill in to win guaranteed and exciting prizes.  Wow.

This is the sight that met us on entering the main hall.

It is funny how Etisalat and Du seemed to be jostling for front row seats

It is funny how Etisalat and Du seemed to be jostling for front row seats

The two big telecoms launched the iPhone 3GS.  I haven’t gone into the details of their offers, but the grapevine seems to agree that du has the edge on the plans and prices.  Good riddance for the iphreaks.

I think overall there was a good selection of products, and the prices seemed fair.  The Lenovo G550 at a cool Dh 1999-.  Others complained that offers were not much different from pre show prices, with a just few bundle offers with old stock thrown in.  For myself I managed to find a nice BlackBerry bluetooth headset.  It was bundled with a car charger, which I already have, but seeing that it was so worth it I went ahead and bought it (Dh 149- for the lot).  We do have two cars anyway.

One thing which was apparent after visiting a number of booths was the lack of knowledge by the peddlers.  The retailers seem to reach into some unrelated labour pool to staff these temporary stores.  I liked asking them detailed questions and watching them stumble or BS their way out of it.

We stopped at Emax to buy the cheapest item on show, a pair of PC speakers.  The salesgirl was arabic, and after hearing us commenting on the merits of the speakers in Maltese she started her pitch again in arabic.  We told her, sorry we don’t speak arabic, and continued talking to each other.  Springing the most baffling reaction to our language yet, she just turned and left us there in the cold.  She must have assumed that we’re pulling her leg and took offense.  We had to carry on and ask somebody else for assistance.

I ended up buying Windows 7 today (from a mall, not from the show.  Traffic was much worse and wasn’t going to pay another entrance fee just for a quick buy), and am not regretting it so far.  Best feature? It is now possible to uninstall Internet Explorer.  Enough said.