Tuesday Dec 30, 2008

Richmond's the most popular

It appears that my hometown Richmond, in Surrey, is the most widely copied British place name worldwide, according to this article in The Times.


This news gives me an excuse to promote my dad's blog, Richmond-upon-Thames Daily Photo, which gets better with every post, in my humble, unbiased opinion.

Tuesday Nov 18, 2008

My quick thoughts on the US election

I know that the world has been waitiing for my input on this topic.


Speaking as a Brit who lives in the Middle East and works for an American company...


- I would like to see Obama change, as much as is possible, the image the US has abroad.


I am tired of the US' image abroad being that of a wealthy, bullying, ignorant, irritating older cousin that you can't get rid of, whether you want to or not. Let's see something positive.


- I can't believe 55 million people effectively voted for Palin.


George Bush can't really be stupid - you can't become president, surely, by being stupid. So why does George Bush come across as such as twit to many people? The same goes for Palin. How could this woman even get near being vice-president, let along a potential president? It's tragic that a woman like this is seen across the world as someone the American people want to have in a position of power.

Tuesday Oct 14, 2008

Jamie's school dinners

I'm three years late watching 'Jamie's School Dinners', but have finally got around to it. When it first came out I remember reading the reviews, but nothing prepared me for what's in the actual programmes. (Jamie Oliver is a young British celebrity chef. In the series he sets out to get British kids to have healthier meals at school).


The kids in the schools he's trying to help are literally being poisoned every day - all they eat is complete and utter junk, day in, day out. The alternative school meals that Jamie prepares all look good to me - I'd have eaten them when I was at school. The pupils simply won't touch them though!


Some things that particularly struck me -


- Jamie's constant effing and blinding isn't necessary. He comes across as earnest, but a bit of a twit who swears pointlessly.


- If he wants to persuade them to eat better, he should focus on the health aspects. Tell the girls they'll get fat and they'll switch pretty quickly. Tell the boys about the kids in the local hospital literally vomiting their own faeces after months of junk builds up inside them and they'd switch as well. This persuasive stuff doesn't seem to be put to the children - he doesn't sell it to them.


- The children won't even eat curry and rice - they're totally addicted to complete rubbish.


- All the children in the school in Greenwich school he's at seem to speak the same faux Jamaican patois, regardless of their background, do you know what I mean man, innit?


- Some of the kids can't even recognise common vegetables. They think leeks are onions.


- Parents are amazed when their children behave better when they're not fed caffeine filled, sugary drinks.


Incredible stuff.

Tuesday Oct 07, 2008

Desert or water?

I have to plug my father's photo blog again.


When I first saw this photo my first thoughts were that it was of a dried riverbed - possibly a natural assumption for someone living in Dubai. It's water, of course. I like the extreme difference between what my eyes thought they saw and reality.

Monday Sep 29, 2008

Eid it is

Just heard on the radio that tomorrow will be the first day of Eid, so tomorrow, Tuesday, it is!

Eid Mubarak

Eid Al Fitr may be tomorrow. Or it might be Wednesday.


In the past, dates for the beginning and end of Ramadan have always been unclear, due to the fact that the start of the month is based on the sighting of the moon. This year was a bit different - it was announced at least two weeks before that Ramadan would begin on September 1. For this reason, I had expected that the dates for Eid would be confirmed well in advance as well, but that hasn't been the case.


Eid is still expected on Weds in the UAE, but due to announcements or expectations in Egypt and Saudi, it may be tomorrow. I'll find out tomorrow morning if I have Tues and Weds off, or if it's Weds and Thursday.


Mrs Saul was expecting to have Monday 30 to Thursday 2 off. That has stayed the same. On last Thursday evening, the ministry announced that Sunday 28 would be a holiday for schools as well. This late announcement was probably welcomed by pupils, but it did mean that it was too late for people to make use of the full holiday period. If this had been known earlier, I'm sure lots of people would have made use of the longer holiday period to go away for longer. It wasn't much of a holiday for teachers - most seem to have used Sunday to rearrange all their lesson plans!


There seem to be two schools of thought in the Islamic world, as far as I can see. One group prefer the traditional option of actually being able to see the new moon with the naked eye. The other prefer to use scientific methods to predict a new moon.


Coming from a culture where we are used to knowing the dates of holidays and other events well in advance, I would prefer the latter for its convenience. I can understand the preference for the traditional approach though.

Sunday Sep 28, 2008

Yucky beaches

Dubai and Fujeirah's beaches seem to be taking a pounding at the moment.


We went to Snoopy Island on the East coast on Friday, only to find the seabed extremely oily - my flippers and feet were covered with sticky crude. The normally clear waters were very cloudy, making for disappointing snorkelling. I'm not sure if the cloudy water was linked to recent oil spillages or not, but the whole visit was a disappointment. The oil is caused by tankers illegally sluicing their tanks offshore, to avoid having to pay for proper cleaning at Fujeirah port - at least that's what I understand is the problem.


Back on the Dubai side of things, raw sewage has been dumped into storm drains and has washed back ashore, putting beaches off limits.


I feel sorry for the tanker drivers who have to wait for hours to drop their 'cargo' off at the sewage treatment plant, but dumping sewage into the sea? Idiots. Someone's going to get in real trouble for this...


Sadly, this means that a dip in the sea won't be an option for thousands of people during the Eid break.

Thursday Sep 25, 2008

Camouflage at work

My father has a great picture up today on his photo blog.

Go here.

I couldn't see the parrot until I enlarged the photo - once I'd spotted it, I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it first time.

I will have to accept that I will never be able to get a job poring over satellite photos looking for WMDs.

It's quite strange seeing these parrots flying around Richmond.

Sunday Sep 07, 2008

Test Post using Ecto

Let's see if this new blogging client works or not...

Sunday Aug 03, 2008

Make it less boring

I quite like going to the gym, but tend to get a bit bored after thirty minutes or so. Thumbs up to the gym here (ITC Maratha) for iPod connectors in some of their machines, even if I did sweat a bit on my nice noise reducing headphones.

Thirty minutes on the cross-trainer's pretty dull, but an hour flies by watching Shark.

In case you're wondering, Shark immediately knew the suspect was guilty, tried to drop the case as it didn't look like he could win, took it back up at the last moment, harangued his team but pushed them to reach new levels of legal excellence, revealed a secret from his past, nearly lost the trial, pulled a rabbit out of the hat right at the critical moment, won the case and bonded a little more with his teenage daughter, all in roughly 45 minutes.

Wednesday Jul 23, 2008

The UK Apprentice - perfect TV

I've just finished watching series 4 of the UK Apprentice. (Yes, that's series, not season. We have series in the UK and stick with seasons when describing the time of year, not our TV programmes).

Like the other three series, I love it. Definitely one of the better things to come out of the world of reality TV. I've only watched season 1 of the US Apprentice, so can't comment on what the others are like, but infinitely prefer the UK version to the US episodes I've seen. Some of that's clearly to do with the fact that I have more in common with the people and setting, but most of it's due to other factors. The BBC don't need to edit things around ad breaks, the production is simply superb and Alan Sugar's far more my kind of guy than Trump.

Much of the US version I've seen appears to be all about how amazing Trump is. Siralan's hardly a shrinking violet, but at least he doesn't feel the need to boast all of the time. His treats are far better too - I nearly fell of my chair laughing when one of Trump's treats was the chance to look around his glitzy apartment. Appalling.

Some observations on this series...

- Far less swearing. The effing and blinding in past series was over the top.

- Siralan's Emailer phones have gone. I presume he's given up on that particularly product.

- Gelled hair. If I were 8 years younger, would I be covering my head in splodge every morning to look cool? I hope not.

- Empty suitcases. I love the fact they all bring their cases to the boardroom and that the cases are clearly empty. You can't fit all your stuff in those tiny bags, or lift a full case so easily with one hand. Nice theatrical prop though.

- Lot of kissing hello and goodbye and constant screaming and hugging. Not very British, you know. Or am I just stuffy and out of touch?

Roll on the next series....

I would love to see a UAE version of The Apprentice, preferably a UAE Nationals only version (with subtitles of course). That would be great to watch.

Tuesday Jul 22, 2008

Reaching out

Despite their fondness for throwing tea into the sea, America remains Britain's closest ally. I work for an American company and have the pleasure of visiting regularly. We also share a common language. This is an excellent state of affairs, as far as I am concerned.

I have no doubt that my US colleagues have a chuckle every time I say 'jolly good', 'crumbs!' and describe the United States as America.

I allow myself a little chuckle when my US colleagues ask me to 'reach out' to someone or for someone to 'reach out' to me.

'X will reach out to you' is a common phrase. I always have this vision of someone about to fall off a cliff reaching for me in desperation, arms waving, with a look of terror on his or her face.

All the person in question is usually going to do is drop me a mail checking on the number of servers we need to run a hundred Sun Rays.

Give us a language choice, Google

Come on Google. You do a great job in localising your web pages. Having had some limited experience of the cost and complexity and costs of localising products, I appreciate the fact that you go to the extents you do.

That saidm don't forget that not everyone that lives in a country speaks the language of that country, so give us a choice on your web pages. Yes, I'm a Brit in Dubai who doesn't speak Arabic (an interesting topic of its own), but I'm sure this applies to French people in Finland, Arabic speakers in Australia, Nigerians in Nicaragua and lots of other linguistic permutations.

Give us a button, a drop down list or something else so that we can understand what google.com, blogger or your other services are trying to tell us.

Wednesday Jul 09, 2008

UK 2002 vs UK 2008

Wifi in the Milton Keynes' library, provided across the city by BT.

Community Support Police officers.

Ladies at the House of Fraser makeup counter wearing hijab.

Polish people everywhere - no more Aussies, Kiwis and Saffers serving you in London's pubs!

Smoking ban. Nice inside, but fag butts all over the streets, congregations of smokers outside building.

Driving standards dropped?

Petrol 1.20 a litre.

New signs everywhere - non-drinking zones, no loitering, low emmission, congestion charge.

CC TV all over the place.

Interactive TV with Freeview, the standard four channels still all you want to watch.

Monday Jun 30, 2008

Can't speak French - and whose fault is it?

Despite not generally being up on what's what in the world of popular beat combos, it recently came to my attention that Girls Aloud, a troupe of singing ladies, have released a disc called 'I can't speak French'.

The message is quite clear. As they can't speak French, they are obliged to let the funky music do the talking instead.

This is a sorry state of affairs. Whilst letting funky music do the talking is sometimes a wise choice, we really should ask ourselves -

a) Why the members of Girls Aloud can't speak French?

b) Why the Gallic gentlemen they are attempting to converse with cannot speak English?

c) Whether there exists an alternative lingua franca that the group could use?

In answer to a -

Given the average age of Girls Aloud, I would expect them to have been obliged to take a language up until the age of 16 whilst they were at school. Sadly, these days, the Labour Government doesn't oblige people to take a language after the age of 14. I expect a similar song in a few years called 'I ain't never learnt no French, or even English for that matter, innit'.

Having established that Girls Aloud would have been obliged to continue with a language up until school leaving age, I feel it is safe to surmise that the language they studied would have been French. Does their lack of ability reflect poor teaching or a lack of application on their behalves? I suspect a combination of the two.

In answer to b -

I find it far more mystifying that the French gentlemen involved are unable to speak to Girls Aloud in English. Whilst the English are famous for their lack of linguistic prowess, our native tongue is the language of business, technology and popular culture. Not being able to speak English is far more of a handicap than not being able to speak French.

I can only assume that these gentlemen were either let down by their own school system, or were simply unable to understand Girls Aloud's accents. I believe they hail from Liverpool.

Given Girls Aloud's general appearance, it is odd that apparently no effort was made at all to speak at least some English. Surely they could have dredged up a sonnet or two from the depths of their memories in order to woo these fine British ladies. Or maybe they simply weren't interested and Cheryl Tweedy and team were not only misunderstanding spoken language, but body language as well.

In answer to c -

It is possible the Girls Aloud chose classics over French and would have been able to converse in Latin or Ancient Greek, given the opportunity. I find this scenario highly unlikely however.

It seems that these complex questions may never be fully answered, but such is life.

Whilst we ponder further, here are Girls Aloud not speaking French.

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