Monday, February 28, 2005
And if their phone is not on silent and happens to ring, why don't they immediately mute it or press the end call button (you know.. the red one with the drawing of a little phone on it), instead of letting it ring forever?
AND, why oh why do some people pick up the phone, proceed to tell the person on the other line that : " I'm at the movies, can't speak right now, oh yeah its not so bad, will tell you about it when I leave.. Hehe.. Yeah.. Aha.. ok.. No problem...Bye bye bye ..Can't talk.."
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Ali Abdulemam, 27 years old, the owner of one of the most popular site in
Imagine the police in Oman arresting Neo because of OmanForum or Saeed Al Rashdi because he owns Sablat Al Arab.
Its scary. I've been lamenting the lack of serious Omani bloggers who'd want to actually speak out and write honestly about Oman. I guess news like this from a country that has been relatively tolerant of people who speak out against the government quickly puts the fear of God into people here who might have thought it.
I am a coward. I wouldn't want to be the test case. I got too much to worry about than to test the limits of Omani blogging. I set my limits when I first started this blog. I don't write about work, and as much as I'd love to write more seriously I try to keep things light. Is that a double standard? I guess it is. I wouldn't mind it if there were people reading this thinking "if you're not willing to do it then why should we?" But my worst fear is that there aren't any people like that and I'm the only one who sees things the way I do.
What to do!!! Toss a coin?
Could the only person ever nominated for an Oscar, a Grammy, a Golden Globe and the Nobel Peace Prize now take over at the World Bank?
On Friday, the Los Angeles Times devoted its lead editorial to the proposition that Bono, the frontman of Irish rock band U2, "should be named the next president of the World Bank".
Full LA Times editorial here (login might be required).
Might want to also check out: www.bonothepuppet.com
Friday, February 25, 2005
I can gaga and drool all day over this picture, but I don't want to bore you all! Ok I can't help it, I have to gaga a bit..OHMYGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!!! Sooooo cute!! Awwwwwww.....
Ok ok, I'll shut up......
PS: To some people, baby scans resemble pictures of little ghosts or tiny aliens.. To a mother to be, its the most beautiful creature ever!!! To a father to be, it hardly makes any sense, but they pretend they are just as excited over the black and white semi clear picture.
When we were first informed of the reception, we weren't exactly thrilled to be invited. I mean, come on, receptions like these aren't exactly the most exciting of events. Nontheless, we decided to attend because we missed our uni graduation which took place a few months back. We were allowed to bring guests, so I asked my sister to come along. Naturally she refused. However, she was quick to change her mind when I informed her that Prince Andrew would be the guest of honor for the night. Not that she has a crush on the man, but English royalty has always intrigued her. Actually, any kind of royalty intrigues her!
*Time for some backup history related to my sister*
When my sister was just a few years old, she spent all her time following our housekeeper around the house. She would mop the kitchen floors with her, stand by her side when she dusted, and was a step or two behind her during every house chore. It wasn't long before my baby sister informed us that she wanted to become a house keeper when she grew up.
A few years later, she grew out of her "housekeeping" phase and decided she wanted to become a princess. A huge jump, I know! She came to me and said " How can I become a princess." It broke my heart, but I told her that if she wasn't born into royalty, then she must marry someone who was. With a determined look in her eyes, she left my room and set about finding her prince.
*End of backup history. Forward to the year 2005*
Sister is married with two kids. He is not royalty, but in her eyes, he is her prince ( I know I know, it sounds corny, but, gotta be careful for when her hubby reads our blog!).
You can imagine what the mere mention of Prince Andrew did to her. All of a sudden, she was excited and looking forward to the reception.
So off the three of us went. And guess what? We actually had a good time. The weather, although a bit warm, wasn't too bad. And the certificate ceremony itself was nice and short. My sister's dreams came true when the prince himself stopped by to chat with her. She's normally shy and doesn't feel very comfortable with strangers. HOWEVER, she was right at home laughing and joking with HRH. Probably comes from all that practicing to become a princess :)
Spending a year in Glasgow made me partial to the Scots. Never thought much of the English. I must say though, Prince Andrew was quite a charmer. He made an effort to speak to all the scholars (fancy word ay?). He spent quite sometime chatting with Muscati and myself. I was quite impressed when he shared his knowledge of dolphin behavior with me after I told him about my thesis. Anyone who is interested in marine life, esp behavior or awareness gets brownie points in my book! So high five to Prince Andrew!
PS: We seem to have achieved a small status of semi popularity as our pictures appeared in the majority of the local papers today. Yes, our pics appeared today, a Friday, a day when no one buys the papers!
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
I had to give a presentation at work today. It went quite well, if I might say so myself. I've become quite at ease with presentations in the past few years, since I have to make a few every year. And it gets easier when it's to the same people most of the time. It got much easier (more easier?) after the year in Glasgow, where I had to make a ridiculous number of presentations during the Masters course. Anyhow, the point I'm getting to is that even though I don't get nervous and I'm cool with it, my body still isn't. I still get the frequent runs to the bathroom in the hour before the presentation. My ears get all hot and then they turn an embarrassing bright shade of red. Thank God, the lights were out.
Yesterday was a major major day. OD had the big scan where we found out the sex of our baby. She went ultra early to the clinic and sent me a message that they'll see her in an hour. I waited 45 minutes and headed out to the clinic. When I got there I found out that she hadn't put my name with the security guy so they wouldn't let me in. For some stupid reason which I don't comprehend, men aren't allowed into the maternity clinics in Oman unless the doctor gives their name to the security guards. Inzain, so I had to wait by the door for about 20 minutes staring at this poster for Muscat Health Festival 2005. As usual, they have a marathon, but this one's a "walking marathon". I thought I'd participate in this one, but then I noticed that it's at 3pm next Monday. What idiot scheduled a marathon for 3pm on a work day?
I'd tell you more about the baby, but she'd kill me. I'll leave that for her.
This lovely heart shaped spongy thing was the special valentine's day dessert at the Bustan Palace Beach Pavillion last week. The food was excellent. We had a really great time. If you're in Oman and haven't been to the Beach Pavillion, you're missing out on something great, especially these days when the weather's good. By the way, I don't eat dessert because when it comes to this stuff my taste isn't quite refined and tends to gravitate towards chocolate bars. I couldn't eat the dessert, but it was good enough to take a picture of. It was the least I could do.
This is the kiosk at the MQ Oman Oil station. DON'T ever eat from this kiosk. I've eaten at dodgy places in my life. I thought I'd had a bullet proof stomach, but this kiosk defeated me. And what more, the sandwiches sucked too. It's a lose-lose deal.
Last week I had a meeting at a newly remodled building. They had totally redone everything. It was all so high tech. Glass cubicles and ultra modern brushed steel. I went to the toilet and was surprised to find they had two regular stalls and one with of this old fashioned hole in the ground toilet. Can someone please tell me what advantage, if any, these things have? When we were in Malaysia last month I noticed that even the newest and most expensive malls all had bathrooms which had both these old contraptions and commodes.
Hope that didn't gross you out.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
2. The baby speaks nonsense, but nobody seems to notice.
3. The baby has a short attention span and needs to be entertained constantly. Have you noticed how nobody goes into the CEO's office without a list, a display, and a bar chart?
4. Those who serve the baby must be attentive to its moods, which change radically from moment to moment.
5. Everything is planned around the comfort and schedule of the baby. The problem is that the baby doesn't sleep a lot. It's up by 3am and in gear by 6, and expects you to do the same. Sure, it occasionally crashes at odd hours, but just as you are ready with a cocktail and a DVD, here comes baby with the phone calls and messages.
6. The baby is conveyed everywhere. Shoe-to-floor time: zero.
7. The baby has special food made for it because it can't really digest the stuff other people eat. It's not really what Baby likes that's important, it's the idea that when Baby needs to eat, the right food must be present.
8. The baby is bored by grown ups, but if there's another baby in the room it perks up.
9. When the baby makes a mess, other people have to clean it up.
10. Babies have weird hair. It can be tamed with gel and loving care if the baby has to appear on Wall Street Week, but otherwise you don't want to know about it.
(Adapted and condensed from the Bing! column, Feb 21 issue of Fortune magazine)
Monday, February 21, 2005
The great divide can be shown clearly by the variation of the qualities in every group. For example, most members of group A are liberals who look to West with admire, and tend to criticize the situation in their countries harshly. They have little or no HTML knowledge, and they like to start blogging using a free service such as Blogger.Full article here.
In the other hand, most members of group B are expert programmers who look to West in suspicious, and write their blogs with Islamic sense.
I was thinking about the very same issue when I first started bookmarking and following Arabic blogs. I found it quite padadoxical that the best programmers were often the most religious.
I agree with him- and incidently, I finally got around to adding a blogroll of my own. But if you check out the links here on the right, they do vary. The blogs which I read regularly vary in quality and content. They're not all very serious. Some are just diaries, and some I even disagree with. For example: I've added Free Brain's blog even though it is extremely offensive. In fact, I wouldn't recommend it to most people. Yet, I visit it daily. Some days I laugh till my sides hurt, and some days I find myself thinking "ok this is too much, even for me."
Anyhow, do take the time to read the full text.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
The first semester Thanawiya results came out last week. 1300 students got over 99%, and from what I hear 130 students got 100% (other stories say 100 students got 99.9%). There's a controversy in the marking of private school exams. First of all Arabic wasn't added correctly to the grades and all private school students got 70's. The Ministry of Education said it was a computer error and adjusted the marks. Now students are complaining about other exams and many are opting to pay 50 rials per exam to have their papers re-graded.
Regardless of the private school matter, which will hopefully be solved quickly to the students' satisfaction, the numbers are scary. Close to 60,000 students are graduating high school this year. Sultan Qaboos University will take less than 3,000 of them. Technical colleges will take another few thousands. The remaining will have to pay for a private college, or if lucky get government scholarships to these colleges. Even if 10,000 students go to technical colleges and another 10,000 go private colleges, that still leaves around 25,000 18 year olds joining the ranks of the unemployed.
For the first time, SQU will implement an assessment center approach to its admissions. It's inevitable that come late July you will start to hear complaints that it's unfair for a student who got 99% to go through an assessment center to enter the uni. But seriously, isn't it a joke that 1300 kids can get 99%? If this system isn't changed, university admission will be exclusively for students who get full marks. There's got to be a better way than this.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Bugs Bunny gets an extreme makeover
Warner Bros.’ intensive market research has revealed that today’s ADD-addled kids no longer connect with Bugs, Daffy, and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang, so they’re giving them new names, some superpowers, and a 23rd-century makeover.
Warner Bros. has created angular, slightly menacing-looking versions of the classic Looney Tunes characters for its new series, dubbed "Loonatics" and set in the year 2772. Names for the new characters haven't been finalized, but they are likely to be derived from the originals: Buzz Bunny, for example. Each new character retains personality quirks of the original. The new Bugs, for example, will be the natural leader of the Loonatics' spaceship; the new Daffy will remain confident that he is the one who should be in charge.
(lots more details: here)
Monday, February 14, 2005
Saudi Arabia's morality police are on the scent of illicit red roses as part of a clampdown on would-be St. Valentine's lovers in the kingdom. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia's powerful religious vigilantes, have banned shops from selling any red flowers in the run up to February 14.
Meanwhile here in Oman, I've been told that florists taking late orders for Valentine's bouquets are charging around 1.5 rials per red rose.
If you haven't made your Valentine's dinner plans yet, or you've finally managed to get yourself a date but you think all the restaurants are booked, fear not. O Sole Mio, once upon a time the busiest restaurant in Muscat, is still taking reservations. Apparently, it's fallen out of favor. I had dinner there last night and there were signs both inside and outside saying "We are accepting reservations for St. Valentine's Day dinner". Oh how the mightly have fallen.
Oman Mobile finally introduced its new billing system for pre-paid cards today. From now on there will be a unified card for top-up. No more separate top-ups for talk and text.
Nawras Telecom, which still hasn't even launched its GSM services, has already began firing some of the staff they hired back in November and December. Apparently they weren't performing at the required level. Talk about a competitive environment! Imagine you're one of the people being laid off. What do you do? Go back to your old workplace with your tail between your legs, give a nervous chuckle and ask for your old job back?
In today's Al Shabiba a journalist wrote about a play he saw this past weekend. His article devoted one column to the play itself and three to the fact there was no press list at the door so he wasn't allowed entry, and then when he was finally let in he was asked to sit in the second class section, which is apparently unbecoming to a journalist. Are we ever going to have real journalists in this town?
Mercedes sold 3000 cars in Dubai alone last year and while total sales for all of Saudi Arabia were 1750 vehicles. The S class was the biggest selling model with 25% of sales. Quite incredibly, 170 of the super expensive Maybach limousines were sold and 30 SLR McLarens at a price tag of about half a million dollars each.
I still can't find a name for this blog. I'm trying out a new name but the Mrs hates it. The title at the top remains temporary.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Wasn't anything substantial either way.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Christine Terres has completed her Sohar to Shatti walk yesterday at 4.30pm. She has decided to do a 10km "victory lap" tomorrow morning so that she can arrive at Jawharat Al Shatti (JAS) at 10am as originally planned. Anyone who wants to take part and congratulate Christine on her achievement can meet up with her tomorrow at 10am on the beach outside JAS for her arrival.
Christine has done her part by walking a total of 220km in 6 days, not counting the extra 10km tomorrow. Now it's time for us to do our part by giving to the cause. Anything, even 1 rial will do.
Chan'ad Bahraini is one of the blogs I've been reading for the past 6 months on an almost daily basis. Chan'ad has covered arabic rap before and he's got more stuff this week. I went through some of the links and I've decided to put some of them here in case anyone here wants to listen.
Check out the song B2esm el Rap (in the name of rap), which incredibly has 15 arab rappers rhyming on it.
Go to: ArabRap's download page which has a good selection of songs. Give Maarakat Baghdad, which samples a very song by Fairuz, a try.
Also check out Slingshot Hip Hop for the video of Meen Erhabi (who's the terrorist) by Palestinian rap grap DAM (AKA Da Arabian MC's) - which you can also download from their official website: www.dam3rap.com
If you know any more, please send the links this way.
Monday, February 07, 2005
Christine Terres's "Sohar to Shatti for Sumatra" walk is a 210km solo walk from Sohar roundabout (the one with the globe) to Shatti Al Qurum to raise funds for Unicef to aid children displaced by the tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia.
She began on Thursday Feb 3 and she's already reached Barka roundabout yesterday evening having covered 149km in four days. She's averaging about 37km a day. At this pace she should be at Shatti tomorrow evening though the walk is officially supposed to end Thursday morning 10am at the Jawharat A'Shatti complex. I think most of the daily papers are carrying this story- I read her daily updates in the Times of Oman.
It's a great cause, and it's a tremendous effort from Christine. If you want to make a pledge or a donation to support her walk you can contact her husband Rick Terres on 99459181.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Our miserable experience at Seeb International Airport due to lack of non-smoking areas: check
Annoying people on the plane reclining onto our laps: check
Husband's excitment over upcoming Elisa concert: check
ESO wadi cleanup: check
Husband almost getting arrested for daring to criticize festival organizers and leaving me behind to raise our child alone: CHECK, CHECK, CHECK
Interesting stuff for OD to write about at the moment: Nonexistant
Thus I have decided to take another nap which I can use the pregnancy as an excuse for!!
Saturday, February 05, 2005
What a weekend!
Went to the Nancy Ajram concert Thursday night, which went quite well despite beginning over an hour and a half late. It was scheduled for 10 but she came on stage at 11.35. It was nice of the organizers to put Nancy first and Jawad second. We left right after Nancy ended. Jawad started after 1am. I enjoyed it even though I didn't know half the songs. Some people thought she was overdressed; but I don't go for that Renee Zellweger look anyhow.
For some reason dancing wasn't allowed at the concert. The organizers were running all over the place telling people who dance to sit down. And cameras weren't allowed, so I have no pictures to show of the concert except for a couple bad blurred ones from my phone. A woman behind me had a camera and when she refused to give it to one of the staff they immediately had around 5 policewomen and a couple of policemen on her threatening to take her unless she gives the camera. 7 police for one lousy camera? How little did I know.
Friday we went to the Elissa beach concert. We arrived at 3 and when we got to the beach it turned out they didn't have a family section. The organizers had opted for separate men and women's sections. I asked the guy at the barrier, why isn't there a section where families can enjoy the concert together instead of being separated. He said that's how it is and we have to split up. I said I'd rather not so we'll watch the concert from further back. Then I made a comment that basically said you guys either organize brilliantly or you screw up like this. Apparently, the gentleman was not pleased. He shouted back at me that I was disrespectful to him. I said he has disrespectful to me too. I turned around and walked away. A few minutes later a policeman came and said I wasn't far enough. I turned to walk again and flicked my wrist as if to say "I'm going". Next thing I know the most senior policeguy in the place was demanding to see my ID card and threatening to arrest me if I don't cooperate. Flashback to the night before, if they can have 7 policemen to take a camera from a woman, why can't they have a whole squad for me for not giving my ID when ordered to do so?
Lesson no. 1: When a policeman asks for your card, you give it to him.
Apparently the law is you can't ask for an explanation. The explanation comes after you surrendered your ID. In this case, however, the guy was a man of few words. He had no time to explain to me. He said I'd find out why when I go to the special police station, which they had set up at the beach after concert.
So the concert went fine. Elissa was cool- what little we could see of her from our place way back behind the crowds. She wasn't too happy about the parachutists who kept falling out of the sky during her concert distracting her audience. But she sang for an hour and a half and all were please except me, as I had a pending matter of arrest on my mind.
After the concert we went to the station and had to wait for his malevonance, the magnanimous, to appear and tell me what I'm being charged with. As I am sure you understand, the guy was extremely busy so he didn't show up till two hours later. In the meantime I was entertained by a steady stream of people. A guy was arrested for public drunkeness. Another was accused of taking pictures of girls with his phone. Another was supposedly trying to grab a girl, though he swears she had asked him to help her jump a barrier.
All these people went home before me. My crime was too heinous to allow my release. The dude finally showed up two hours later just as the lights at the beach were switched off and the flag was being lowered. I asked what I've done. "You don't like the organization, ha?" was the guy's reply. It turned out the guy who I had said I was disrespectful, was a member of the organizing committee, and I had hurt his feelings with my words, so he went to the police and said that I had insulted him and the organization and said some words which could not repeated too. He even convinced the policeman who was with him at the barrier to say that I had disrespected the police too.
Long story short, I had to sign a personal declaration (ta3ahud) that I will always be respectful to police and security folks and talk with them in an "appropriate manner".
Lesson 2: The organization is always perfect. Saying that it isn't is a crime.
When I got home I told my dad that I was almost got arrested and told him the story. He replied: "what made you go there in the first place."
Lesson 3: Next time it might be better to stay at home. Even if you don't go looking for trouble, trouble can always find you.
Oh, and just as the police were finishing up with me a real security situation occurred. Apparently, a group of hooligans leaving the concert crossed the street to the brand new Al Maha gas station and proceeded to clean up the shelves, leaving the entire store empty, and apparently neglected to pay for the items too.
Friday, February 04, 2005
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Getting back to the schizophrenic nature of this blog, today I got movies on my mind.
Isn't it ridiculous how a town as big as Muscat has only five cinemas of which only three with a total of just 9 screens are dedicated to English movies- sometimes less if Ruwi Cinema decides to show Hindi movies on some of its screens. Some movies which came out last week have already been pulled to make way for this week's new movies. I wanted to see Phantom of the Opera but I haven't had the time so far this week. It only came out last Wednesday and now it's gone. It's not playing anywhere.
Whenever a large building comes up in town, people start speculating if it's a cinema. There's been talk of a small cinema to be added to Zakher ever since it was built close to 10 years ago. When City Center was under construction the sign board said it would include a 5 screen cinema, but then Al Futtaim changed his mind. Now there's talk of a City Center expansion, so you can bet people will start asking if it will include a cinema.
The people obviously want more cinemas, so how come no one's building? We need a huge big-ass cinema. Something with 6 or more big screens, not more small two screen cinemas with 150 seats per screen which have to stop showing last week's movies even if they're making money. I wonder if Shatti Plaza's owners regret not having built it with more screens considering the amount of business they get. They could have built their cinema without the restaurant and the cafe and put in 5 screens instead of 3. The restaurant bombed and has been closed for over a year. Why do you need a restaurant in a movie theatre anyhow?
A few years ago I met a manager from a South African movie theatre chain which operates the largest chain in Lebanon and has been expanding rapidly in the UAE too. He told me they've been yearning to have a cinema in Oman, but they just can't get local investors who are willing to shoulder the costs of building a cinema. Apparently Omanis always want it the easy way by just sponsoring the company and taking a monthly fixed amount. I told him I wouldn't mind a couple thou a month from them if they need a local sponsor either.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
I'm sure that we all agree that terrorists are scum. The only ones who disagree are the terrorists themselves. The remaining others who support terrorists are idiots. If you're one of those idiots please leave my blog right now and go back to the rock which you crawled from under.
The Guantanamo detainees are all terrorists, right? No? Well the US government says that they are, so how come we don't all accept that. How come there are many people think that they are being treated in an inhuman way. After all, terrorists are scum. Yes?
What if your government- wherever you are from- suddenly arrests a group of its citizens and holds them in a secret facility totally incommunicado. Out of reach of the outside world with no contact with anyone. No legal representation. Family and friends totally int he black about their wherabouts and what they're being accused of. All you know, is that they are suspects in a matter that touches on national security. They're under investigation. They're being questioned. Etc.
Would you consider that acceptable? Being a proud and loyal citizen of your country, would you consider the government's word enough or would you prefer a system where a trusted independent body can check, prod, question, etc to ensure that the rights of the detainees are not violated? Would you say that it's acceptable to take the chance that someone innocent might get caught in the aim of protecting the nation? Would you accept if torture has to be used to get suspects to confess of their crime and unravel their plans?
What if one of the detainees was your father or brother.. or even a good friend. Would you stop caring for him because you're told that he is a suspect in a national security matter? Would you still still agree to all the above?
Three words: Elissa Beach Concert. Need I say more?
Ok, it's this Friday 3pm at Athaiba beach. And what's more, IT'S FREE.
What you waiting for? See you at the beach this Friday.
Nancy Ajram will be in town this weekend too, but this one's a paid concert. I think the tickets are going for 12 and 20 rials. One major turn-off though: in order to see Nancy you have to experience the gender-neutral freak show that is known as Jawad Al Ali. Eeeeeek.