Sunday Jan 31, 2010

Goodbye, blogs.sun.com

Now that Sun has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Oracle, it appears that there will be some changes to the way our blogs operate.


Oracle's policy is that blogs hosted on Oracle owned infrastructure discuss topics that are related to our work at Oracle and not cover personal topics.


For this reason, after nearly five years and 1,197 posts, I have moved my blog to here - http://christophersaul.wordpress.com


I can understand Oracle's policy, but I do think it's a bit of a shame. Granted, I mainly write about things that have little to do with my professional life, aside from things that happen to me during work related travel, but even then the link's a bit tenuous. That said, I think having employees blog about whatever they want to whilst using the company platform to do so gives the company a human face.


Still, my burblings will continue at their new location - and I hope my regular readers will continue to follow me there.


I am immensely thankful to Sun for encouraging so many of us to take up blogging and for making it so easy to do so. Linda Scrocki, now sadly no longer at Sun, played a major role in that process. I've found it rewarding and cathartic. It even lead to my writing a couple of columns for Arabian Business, something I enjoyed immensely.


Having my blog on Sun's site has doubtless helped me find readers I might otherwise not have and I have enjoyed seeing 'Chris Saul's Blog' consistenly placed about two thirds of the way down Sun's top 100 blogs on the BSC home page. Not that many customers found out interesting things about our products, but at least they got to enjoy rants about Dubai's traffic, updates on my work trips and thoughts on random topics.


I don't know what will happen to my Sun blog as it is today. I expect it will be deleted at some point in the near future, or will stay idle, just in case I have some interesting work stuff to blog about in future. More importantly, it's still not clear if I will have a job with the new organisation, but let's not dwell on that for now!


Either way, I have managed to export the posts to the new site. Unfortunately, photos uploaded to blogs.sun.com will not follow - I can't face copying 100+ files over to Wordpress. Maybe I will get around to it at some point though.


So, Christopher Saul's blog is dead - long live Christopher Saul's blog.

Tuesday Jan 26, 2010

Taliban buy out fund

This is interesting. A buy out fund for the Taliban.


I am not an expert on Afghanistan by any stretch of the imagination.


Everything I have read, however, talks about financial incentives being important when working with the various factions. It's not all religious fervour - there's a monetary incentive that plays a major role.


The British reduced their 'subsidy' to various tribes in the late 1800s and were quickly ejected. Time to apply some lessons learnt from history?

No, we still don't have debit cards

It amazes me that my bank still doesn't provide a debit card here. Other banks do - Mrs Saul can use a debit card from her local, Local bank.


Direct debit is also something that still doesn't exist. You can usually set up for automatic payments to be made via credit card for things like water, electricity, the phone bill, etc. This falls down when you get a new credit card with a different number and then have to go through everything setting it all up to work with your new card.


To be fair, I don't mind the credit card payments as I always pay the whole bill every month and get Skywards miles from Emirates from every dollar I pay - it'd be nice to have an alternative though...

Monday Jan 25, 2010

Tossed salad Dubtown

A superb article in the Gulf News on Dubai's unwritten social contract. Well worth a read.


One comment you often hear when people come to Dubai and find themselves in some sort of trouble is 'they should have found out before coming here'.


Fair enough, up to a point, but there is little official information available on this topic - and, as the article suggests, there's something of a balancing act that goes on.


A simple example. When I first arrived here, I needed to find out whether a British friend who was visiting could drive my car or not.


The answer I got from everyone was that someone with a British driving licence could legally drive my car whilst in the UAE and still be insured. I asked all over the place for what the official rules were, as all I was getting was an answer based in people's personal experiences. 'Yes, it's fine, my uncle drove my car when he was here and there were no issues when he was involved in a crash'. That sort of thing.


Eventually, the insurance company came to my rescue, but only after repeated questioning. The answer was that a British citizen in possession of a British driving licence had to apply for a temporary UAE driving licence. The UAE driving licence would automatically be issued, for a small fee. Once in possession of a temporary UAE licence, my friend would legally be able to drive my car and be insured as well.


The rule is a bit odd - if you automatically get the temporary licence if you have a British licence, there's not really much of a process going on, so why go through the process in the first place? That would explain the attitude of the Police and the insurance companies in many situations - you have the British licence, which would get you a temporary licence anyway, so why not simply skip a bit of paperwork and get on with things.


Being a boring type, I at least wanted to know what the official letter of the law was, before I made my decision on what path to take. Getting that information was pretty tough though.


Perhaps things could be made a little easier for tourists and new expats to know what's what, without frightening anyone off. I would expect almost everyone coming to Dubai to be more than happy to comply with the rules, as long as they know what they are.

Cayennes in the desert

Some nice pics here of Porsche's upcoming Cayenne being tested in the desert - we often drive around there.


My concerns - as with the Range Rover - would be less around power and more around approach and departure angles. Being powerful's great, but not much use if each dune rips the front and back bumpers off, along with tonnes of electronic sensors, cameras, washer bottles, etc.


The blog mentions that the new Cayenne will how have a low range option. I would have thought that instantly rules it out from being a serious offroad contender. It'd still be a lovely 'any road' car, but not a patch on Range Rover.


I once saw a local chap driving through Jumeirah in a 'desert-ified' Range Rover - front and rear bumpers customised for better approach and departure, big sand tyres. Unstoppable desert driving luxury, I would expect. Wouldn't want to have to shoulder the servicing bills though...

Wednesday Jan 20, 2010

Do you remember the Summer of Rock of '92?

Do you remember the summer of rock of '92?


They say that if you do, you probably were there, but would rather forget.


Recently rediscovered and remastered from the original TDK 90 minute tape it was recorded on, January 2010 sees a re-release of that summer's seminal band's demo tape.


Yes, Jesus Wore Ray Bans have entered the digital era, for your listening pleasure. Thousands of new fans are discovering them daily!


Below are some - just some - of their classic hits, first aired at venues such as -




  • The King's Head, Fulham. (London's leading live music venue).



  • The Red Lion, Brentford. (Brentford's leading live music venue, until it became a McDonald's drive-through).



  • The German School, Richmond upon Thames. (London's leading venue for failing to attract blonde haired Teutonic lovelies by asking them 'wie komme ich am besten zum Bahnhof' during Band Night).


Jesus Wore Ray Bans consisted of some of London's most promising indie rock musicians, a fact clearly borne out by their current careers.




  • Christopher Saul, singer, lead guitarist and songwriter. Now living thedream selling virtual desktop solutions in Dubai. Still to be found performing at Dibba Beach during camping trips.



  • Simon Lodder, bass guitar. Now a trader in the City, weeping for his bonus.




  • Edward Morgan, drums. Now a member of the Metropolitan Police.


Recorded and mixed by Paul Woodhead, who I have sadly lost touch with. (Get in contact, Paul!)


Enjoy!


Intro - Tangled Up


Alien Girl


Di Di Dee (working title)


Red as a Cucumber


Tuesday Jan 19, 2010

Some good sense

It's always a bit dangerous to dip one's toe into religion in a blog such as mine.


I do think this article is well worth sharing though.


Particularly relevant today, what with small groups in the UK getting far too much airtime for their odd desire for the UK to be part of an Islamic caliphate.


I would like to see something similar in the UK press.

On top of the world

A friend of ours, Laura, recently went up the Burj Khalifa and took these great pics.




21860_258202752029_668437029_3682701_2632722_n.jpg




21860_258202767029_668437029_3682703_3949977_n.jpg


The place what we live in. Laura's a bit to the left, we're on the right of the pool. My home office is currently my balcony. Bliss - long may it continue.




21860_258202797029_668437029_3682705_3514345_n.jpg

Jeep vs Butterfly

Jeep wins.


It's normally horrible locusty type things that end up there. Poor butterfly.

Monday Jan 18, 2010

The BBC on Sheikh Mohammed, 1975

[Added the link!]


Another great bit of footage via Adam Curtis' blog.


Available only if you're on a network that connects via the UK, sadly.


Well worth watching, if only to see Sheikh Mo enjoying a bit of dune bashing in his Mercedes Saloon. Not sure the modern S Class's approach and departure angle would allow that today.

The joys of banks

Grumpy Goat has an excellent summary of the shennanigans he has had to go through to get some new chequebooks.


My experience was equally odd.


I contacted my personal banking representative to ask for new chequebooks. After following up with a prompt or two, I was told that they were on their way.


Over the next few days I had a missed call whilst travelling, but there was no message or sms follow up. In retrospect, I think it was the courier trying to contact me.


When I got back from work travel, I sent a follow up email to my representative asking where my chequebooks were. My representative chased things up and told me to expect a call from the courier. Fair enough.


I was pretty surprised, therefore, when I went into the office to find a large envelope from the bank in my pigeon hole containing two chequebooks. Ah, I thought, maybe the courier was able to deliver to reception after all?


A couple of days later the courier called, telling me he had some chequebooks to be delivered, that could only be handed to me personally. They absolutely could not be delivered to the office.


So, I have two new sets of chequebooks now (or will do, when the courier comes this afternoon). One set randomly delivered to my office, against all the rules, another randomly ordered without anyone checking what had happened to the first set.


Just another day at Red Triangles Bank.

Phew - driving age limit to stay as it is

I'm very relieved to read this.


From where I sit, we need -


- To keep the age limit as it is.


- Have insurance premiums linked to the age and driving record of the driver.


- Proper driving lessons and a tougher test. British friends of mine who have learnt to drive in the UAE tell horror stories about the way they were taught. They often tend to drive appallingly as a result, compared to fellow countrymen who learnt back home. Naturally, the institutions involved are extremely reputable, but it seems some instructors teach how to pass the test, rather than how to drive, in some rare instances.


- Proactive policing on the roads, pulling over bad drivers.


- Road signs telling drivers to keep to the right and other common sense reminders. 'Changing lanes every two seconds during heavy traffic will not get you home more quickly and just makes you look like an idiot', for example. Not very succinct, but possibly quite effective?

Sunday Jan 17, 2010

Ignoring history

Adam Curtis has an excellent blog entry on the current situation in Yemen. Well worth a read - and a watch.


The British police officer's accent in the Panorama clip must be the best example of a 'cut glass' accent I have ever heard. Over!

Dsigruntled

This has to be the best use of the word 'disgruntled' I have ever seen.


The article's full headline doesn't contain the word, but the link does -


Disgruntled Saudi man cuts off his own genital


I also love the detail about the Egyptian man 'warming up the knife'.


Gruntled - a new medical term?


Doctor's reported that Charles, now to be called Sharon, had undergone a successful procedure and was now thoroughly gruntled.

Saturday Jan 16, 2010

Soft driving

I am keen to get my hands on this report.


Women drivers, eh?


I have to say that my experience of the UAE's roads suggests that it's men who drive appallingly badly - too fast, too slow, too much in the wrong lane, too much problem.


The one thing I do notice lady drivers doing is talking on the phone whilst driving too slowly and veering from lane to lane due to lack of concentration. But for every one of those ladies, there are ten men doing the same thing...


I am against soft driving in all its forms.

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