Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Blog Day 2005








Apparently August 31st is Blog Day 2005 and I've been tagged left, right and center to participate in this event. Just yesterday when I was filling in YAT (yet another tag) I told myself that that would be the last time I get sucked into this tagging business because before long there will be no new posts on this blog except tags. Anyhow, this one's worthwhile and there there are less than 35 minutes left in Blog Day so I better get to it.

So what is Blog Day?
In August 31st, bloggers from all over the world will post a recommendation of 5 new Blogs, Preferably, Blogs different from their own culture, point of view and attitude.

Here are my five recommendations:

Zayed Al Saidi
- Zayed's Omani like me but I think his blog fits the theme because his point of view is almost the exact opposite of mine. He blogs in Arabic exclusively and his politics are totally different than mine. Still I find myself visiting his blog regularly. I wish he'd write more of his views though I understand why he doesn't.

Life of Mansur - Mansur is a Pakistani expat who grew up in Saudi Arabia and now lives in Dubai. Through reading his blog I gained a unique perspective and insight on muslim expatriate life in Saudi Arabia. He's a very prolific blogger though he's currently taking a week off of blogging and has been experimenting with the blog's layout which has made it better looking but a not as easy to navigate.

Mental Mayhem - Natasha Tynes is a Jordanian journalist married to an American. I first started reading her blog when she was working for Al Jazeera in Qatar. The Tynes recently left Qatar and have moved to the US.

Kuwait Unplugged
- I read quite a few Kuwaiti blogs but this one's the best of them. It has a nice balance between serious POVs and lighter more entertaining posts. Plus Zaydoun posts in both Arabic and English.

Youth Curry - I'd be lying if I said I visit this blog daily or even weekly, but it's the only Indian blog that I link. I've been interested in the cultural changes happening in India ever since I visited Mumbai in the summer of 99 when I was sent there by a bank I worked for with the intention of moving there for 2 years. The move fell through but my interest never faded. Youth Curry is a blog that belongs to the publisher of a popular Indian youth magazine called YAM (Yet Another Magazine).

Wanna bet?

Fuel prices are going to go up by 30% in the UAE starting tomorrow. How much you wanna bet that Oman will follow soon and will use the justification that the increase here is to "bring us in line with prices in neighboring countries"?

Gulf News link

Monday, August 29, 2005

YAT (yet another tag)

I've been tagged twice with this one so I guess I can't let it by but I've cut out some of the questions.

Last book you read: The Enemy by Lee Child
Last phone number you called: a building contractor
Last show you watched on TV: The O.C. - Season 1 on DVD
Last thing you had to drink: Diet Coke
Last thing you ate: chicken curry
Last time you cried: 21st June, 2005 (day my son was born)
Last time you smiled: A few minutes ago
Last person you hugged: My wife
Last person you talked to on the phone: see above
Last thing you smelled: poop (I was changing diapers)
Last CD that you bought: Get Behind Me Satan - The White Stripes (excellent album)
Last song you sang: been singing along to System of a Down's new album in the car alot lately

Last thing you laughed at: can't recall
What's in your cd player/changer: U2, White Stripes, Coldplay, System of a Down, Nine Inch Nails, Garbage
What time did you wake up today: 6.50am
Favorite place to be: Home
Least favorite place: London
Do you believe in an afterlife? Yes
In Heaven or Hell: Yes
How tall are you: 176cm
Favorite Book: Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
Random lyric: “If a man can be considered guilty for his future crimes/then give me the electric chair for my all future crimes..” Electric Chair - Prince
Are you a daredevil? Nope
Have you ever told a secret you swore you'd never tell? Never
Do looks matter? Shouldn't but sometimes do unfortunately
How do you release your anger? Slowly
My second home is: don't have one

*do you...*

drink? No
have a dream that keeps coming back? I rarely ever remember dreams so dunno if any of them come back
believe there is life on other planets? Sure why not
read the newspaper? As many as I can get my hands on
consider yourself tolerant of others? mostly
consider police a friend or foe? usually respect the police, but lately Omani police people been getting on my nerves (see elsewhere on this blog for explanation).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

reBlog: Abayas at work

Arab Pearl has an interesting write-up on how wearing black abayas at work has become some sort of defacto uniform for women in Oman.

She writes that:
it has become such an issue for a woman to go to work wearing professional attires and co-workers have reached the point of judging this individual and mistreating her because of her choice to wear what she chooses. My point here is why should this become such an issue especially in countries where the abaya is not enforced upon women? Why do educated people take such offence when a woman decides to dress up in a suit to work, especially when it is respectable attire? Why is it all of a sudden an issue if a woman decides to wear the headscarf at work as her choice to show respect to those who are conservative, yet when she removes it out side of work, they judge her and look down on her? Is it fair to judge a person because of the choices she makes and especially if this individual is one who is respectable, eventhough, wearing the Abaya or the Hijab was never compulsory for her?!

Does wearing an abaya affect a woman's chance of being hired? She writes about a European manager who
found it difficult to hire girls who were very attached to their abayas and who did not wish to compromise in their dress style for the sake of their jobs, even though the job description included field and business trips. Another thing was that he noticed that some girls who came for interviews wearing their abaya sometimes gave the impression of being introverted individuals who could not take responsibility and challenges. That sometimes the abaya came in the way of showing the person's true personality and covered it with a picture of a girl who is shy, unconfident and who would like to work in one place for the sake of money and not want to grow or build herself. He even noticed the way some girls with the abaya presented themselves in front of their colleagues, or walked or sat.

What do you think? You can reply with your views here on my blog or you can go to her blog and follow the discussion there. [link]

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Shave that mooch!

This is hilarious.


From keralamonitor.com:

Alukkas Group Forces Male Staff to Shave Off Mustache

Remove your Mustache or No Salary next month..Warns Circular

Appointing sexy men and women as sales staff is a business strategy for any merchants... All the 400 male employees of Alukkas Jewellery in the Gulf region have received a warning note. One unique circular issued by Joy Alukkas, Managing Director, urges all staff to remove their mustache as soon as possible or their next salary will not be released! According to many employees of Alukkas Jewellery including senior managers, branch managers and even some family members of the Alukkas group are murmering in disgust and say, this is nothing but an arrogant and absurb policy to force all the male staff to follow the MD's dictates. Joy Alukkas, the smart celebrity businessman who has gorwn to become a multimillionre no longer grows mustache and wants all his staff to follow suit. "The entire staff of Joy Alukkas group in Kerala have accepted this decision. However, they started complaining about their counterparts in the Gulf who had the previlege of having mustache. Now they are also asked to remove mustache," said a manager. Mustache, the hair grown on the upper lip is a symbol of manliness and 90 per cent of the Keralite males are having a mustache. Mustache is an easy way to distinguish a Malayalee. The company has asked all of them to get rid of their mustache as early as possible. Fearing job loss about 100 employees have already abandoned their mustache and the rest are dilly-dallying with the issue. The Group has a staff strength of 2500 who are employed directly the Groups activities. The mustache mania will affect the group staff in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and other Gulf countries. When contacted, Joy Alukkas, Group MD did comment on the issue.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Instapost

I'm taking the easy way out. I don't really have anything to say and it's been a while since I last posted anything on the blog so I'm just gonna post a bunch of pictures from my phone.

iBook price quote

I'm still thinking about buying an Apple laptop. Still not decided but I thought I'd get a price quote just to see how much they cost locally. I called Mac Center and they faxed a quote on the same day. I asked for the price on a 12" iBook with 1GB RAM, 80GB HDD, no superdrive. This laptop costs $1250 on Apple's website. Mac Center quoted RO. 630 which is close to $1640! No wonder so few people use Apple computers here in Oman. For the price of an entry level Mac you can buy a close to topline Windows laptop.

How to hijack your competitors

Now that's how you take advantage of your competition. You rip them off by starting a free paper that looks pretty much like their's, except in Arabic, and have it distributed the night before them. And if that's not enough, put your paper inside their stand too.

Omantel building high billboard

Oman Mobile and Nawras are in a full-on advertising war trying to blanket Muscat with billboards. Nawras put big billboards with just their logo on them. But lately Oman Mobile has been going for huge product billboards. This one which is on the Apex building in CBD is six stories tall. I park my car close to this building so I see it every day. I wonder how much the building's owner gets for it. They have it on both sides of the building.

Decaf coffee

Pleasant surprise. Today a customer at work (not my customer but someone I see quite often) came to my room and gave me a bag which contained this jar of coffee. He said he was in the UK when he read my blog post about Nescafe Gold Decaf and decided to buy me some decaf coffee. He was worried I'd be upset to know that he's figured out who I was. At this point I seriously doubt there's any anonymity in my nickname at all. That's why it try to stay away from controversial subjects. Anyhow, thanks dude.. was very nice of you.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Inappropriate name for a restaurant?

divine restaurant

The restaurant in the picture above is called Divine Restaurant. It looks like a little dump. It's located in Ruwi and I don't know anyone who's been there. They're known for catering to offices and banks. Also known for being one of the few cheap Indian restaurants that are actually licensed to serve alcoholic beverages. So far no problem. But the Arabic name of the restaurant, which isn't very clear in the signboard in the picture is Al Kauther (الكوثر) which is from the quran. According to the most common quranic interpretation it is the name of a river in paradise (note: shi'a differ with this intepretation but theirs gives it an even bigger significance).

Isn't this an inappropriate name for a restaurant that sells liquor?

Cool or not?

Ur Turn?

Is Bank Dhofar trying to be cool, what's up with the "UR TURN" in their new national advertising campaign?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Have prices gone up or what?

For months the talk here in Oman has centered around whether prices have really gone up or not. Meanwhile the government continued to refuse to admit that there was any increase of anything. And that if there was any price hikes then it must be just traders who are taking advantage of the market by increasing prices without any valid reason. I had mentioned this once two months ago when the Minister of National Economy refused to even discuss the subject during a Q&A session in Majlis Al Shura.

All of a sudden last week the Ministry of Commerce and Industry had an about-face and admitted that there was indeed a price rise in the country. But in typical Omani fashion the undersecretary tried to make us citizens feel better by saying that "
this phenomenon was faced not only by the Omani market, but also by all markets in neighbouring countries." He also noted that "there were some internal and external factors behind this hike such as the rise in oil prices, currencies of some countries and the increase in supply and demand."

In even more typical Omani behavior, not only did the ministry admit to a problem that it had denied for over 3 months, it also went to the extreme of appointing an international consultant to look into this "phenomenon". Which means that some big shot consultancy will make big bucks for sending a couple of just-graduated recently hired smart asses who will go to the market and ask a couple questions and report that "yes, prices have indeed gone up." The report is due in 2 months' time and there's no word on whether the ministry is planning to do anything to tackle the situation in the time being.

I know that the UAE has experienced price hikes too but over there they blame it on inflation caused by the government's increase of all civil servants' salaries. In Kuwait a similar hike is being blamed on the sharp increase in liquidity in the market due to the stock market boom and spillover business from Iraq. Over here, we're as poor as we ever were. Our salaries haven't been adjusted in close to 20 years and the government insists that there's no inflation at all in the economy. In fact some years they tell us we have negative inflation.

Why does our ministry try to blame it on everything in the world without taking any blame themselves? They even blamed it on the Euro even though it is now lower than it was last year. They're doing all this to divert from a few issues: 1) that it was the government's hike of diesel's price that started the price increase, 2) that the "Omanization" of all transport drivers has further contributed to the increase in price of transport of all goods inside Oman because of their higher salaries and uneven attendance at work, 3) that it's the Ministry of Commerce's lack of control and monitoring that allowed traders to increases prices beyond the level of the diesel hike's effect, and 4) that the government's Consumer Price Index calculation is totally out of touch with the reality of the Omani people.

For the past two months I have been holed up at home with my new born. I don't do any grocery shopping except for junk like soft drinks and snack food and for baby related stuff which I had never bought before in my life so I can't say that I know anything about whether prices are rising or not. I do know that when we finally emerged from our shell in the past two weeks we've noticed an increase in some food prices in restaurants. We went to Kargeen last week and they had increased the price of most items on the menu. Then we went to the coffee shop at the Hyatt for dinner last Thursday and the price of a burger has gone from RO. 3.9 to RO. 4.8. If it was only the price of expensive burgers that had gone up then no one would be complaining. It's obviously more than that.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Daddy's got a brand new toy

What's in the bag?

What's in the bag?

IMG_13671

My new toy

More later... (much later, I got a brand new toy to play with)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

iPod your baby


I just gotta get one of these for my kid. [link]


Tagged again

Devilish got me money tagged..

1. How much money is in your wallet right now?

8 rials. I hate having cash on me. Visa Electron is my best friend.

2. How much money would you need in the bank to feel secure? Rich?

Secure: I guess if I can pay off my loans and build my house and furnish it without borrowing any more money plus keep a bit aside for emergencies, etc... so I guess say RO. 120K

Rich: You can't be rich unless you have at least a million, right?

3. If someone gave you 100 rials, no strings attached, what would you do with it?

I can't think of anything I need right now that costs less than 100 rials so I guess I'd either blow it on an outing or use it reduce my credit card outstanding.

4. If someone gave you 1 Million rials, no strings attached, what would you do with it?

Same as question 2 plus add paying off parent's/siblings'/in-laws' debts change our cars, set aside a decent amount for Al Faisal's future and invest all the rest as safely as possibe.

5. How much does something have to cost before it starts counting as "real" money, as a purchase to be considered and evaluated, but below which you'll buy without really thinking about it?

No idea. When it comes to impulse buys sometimes you convince yourself that something's not exepensive even though it is. RO. 50 maybe..

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Reading habits

Coming back to reading, do you have any particular reading habits?

Myself, I usually shuffle more than one book at a time. I have the main book that I'm reading then there might be another book in my brief case another in the office and maybe one or two others on my nightstand. I don't use bookmarks except the ones that they give free in bookshops. Otherwise I use old movie ticket stubs, airplane boarding passes, or if I've been traveling recently I sometimes use foreign currency notes.

I hate it when the spine breaks on a paperback book so I never open the books wide when I read them. I don't mind buying hard cover books though my wife usually hates them because she reads mostly lying on her back holding the book above her. If it's a hard cover book I can't read with the book jacket on.

I don't write any notes on the pages. I don't underline favorite passages. In fact I very rarely ever remember any particular lines from a book. It has to be a damn good book to be that memorable that I would remember a line from it. In fact if a novel gets too descriptive I find myself scanning the pages looking for the next action or line of dialogue.

When I'm done reading a book I just sign my name on the first page and write the date underneath. If I'm away from home I add where I was when I read it.

It used to be that I'd finish every book I open. But now I find that I don't have much patience for a book if I'm not enjoying it. My bookshelf is full of books with bookmarks in them. Right now I'm reading Quicksilver, a 900 page book which is the first part of a trilogy where each book is also 900 pages long. I read 400 pages last summer and put the book down. Yesterday I picked it up again and continued right where I left. I like to believe ths would be the case with all the other books which I haven't finished.

Do others have such habits or am I just weird?

Hope for Radio in Oman?

This week Oman radio was celebrating their 35th anniversary. I don't know what's more incredible, that Oman Radio sucks so much or the fact that despite all the crap they still have a huge audience. I'd rather think that the only reason people listen is because they have no other choice. The other explanation is that the Omani people have bad taste and the radio is providing them with exactly what they want. Between the two, I'm comfortable with the first explanation.

There is some hope for radio listeners in Oman. The Private Radio and Television Law was issued a year ago this month. The law required the creation of committee that would first establish the framework for allowing private stations and then accept applications from companies that want to establish such stations. The rules are now all set and from what I hear some licenses are now issued. The law states that once an applicant's license is issued they have to begin broadcasting within 6 months so expect a bunch of new FM stations around January or February next year.

In other related news: Last month XM Radio, the US's largest satellite radio broadcaster announced that it was investing $25 million in WorldSpace, a satellite radio broadcaster whose service covers Africa, the Middle East, and India. WorldSpace has been around for quite a while. If I'm not mistaken they were one of the first satellite radio companies. But WorldSpace has very limited options when it comes to receivers and the channels it provides aren't very appealing. More importantly, it does not have any in-car receivers, though they've been saying that they are working on one for the past couple years and it hasn't materialized yet. Meanwhile XM has an amazing choice of channels and is available as a manufacturer provided option by most car companies including: Audi, Honda, GM, Nissan, Toyota, Porsche and VW. (BMW and Mercedes went with XM's rival Sirius Radio). If this works out in a year or two you might be listening to digital satellite radio in your car.

update:

Has anyone heard the Adam & Kathy Show that comes on on the English FM at noon weekdays? It's an English couple who have no background at all on broadcasting making total fools of themselves for 2 hours on air every single week day.
I don't know if it's still on the air, but what the hell was that all about?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Unread

Unread

I finished reading The Kite Runner yesterday and none of the unread books on my shelf appealed to me. I just can't get warmed up to any of them even though I've bought them all myself. I went to my Amazon wishlist to decide on which book to read next and decided it's gonna be The Shadow of the Wind. So off I went to Family Bookshop on the slim chance that they might have it. Turns out that they used to have it but it sold out and they haven't ordered more copies for the time being. I couldn't be bothered to go book hunting in this heat so I called the Intercont branch of Turtles Books. They don't have it but the guy there was quite helpful and said he'll their branches to see if they have it. He called back later to apologize that they don't have it. This morning I decided I'll give Family Bookshop another try for another book. Turns out their closed because of King Fahad's passing. Man, it sucks to be a book lover in Oman.