Sunday, March 26, 2006

Residential zoning, anyone?

When Mux and I decided it was time to buld a house, we couldn't at first make up our minds on the location. Idealistically, we wanted MQ, but that was waaaay over our budget. In the end, we decided on Boshar /Ghubra ( I don't know where one ends and the other begins). We were taken to see many plots but in the end we loved one particular area and decided to buy the plot on the spot.

We bought the plot last year, and are just starting to build now. So whats the problem you might ask. The problem is, from the time we bought the land to this day, I have lost count of the number of 2 or 3 story apartment buildings that have come up in the vicinity of our future house. They are awful! And they are everywhere.

I have nothing against apartment buildings in general. I do however have something against an apartment building sticking out between two regular houses. I also have a problem with opening my window and having my view obstructed with a miniature building. Why does the Ministry of Housing allow this? If this is a neighborhood for villas, it should remain for villas. If higher buildings are to be allowed, then perhaps they should be on the outskirts of the area or on the sides.I'm no landscape expert, but I know something that looks wrong when I see it. And this sure aint right.

Its the same thing when your neighbor decides to rent his villa to someone who wants to use it to house a tailor shop for example. The area infront/behind/ and next to your house turns into a parking lot for his/her customers. What happens next? Your neighbors on the other side decide that they would benefit as well from renting out their house to some other business. So what do you do? You either put up with all the new " added life" in your neighborhood, or you go with the flow and rent out your house as well and move elsewhere. Its like being run out of your home. There should be regulations for this as well.

I think there should be more stringent laws on whats allowed where.

I know that recently a law came out regarding my first complaint in this topic, but I can't remember the specifics (Mux can write about it in his reply :) ) But I remember I wasn't too happy with it.

When I think of all the money we are going to spend on our house, and then think of the two empty plots next to us, I have nightmares thinking of what might be built there...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cashing on caesarian births

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Are private hospitals cashing in by preforming unneeded C-sections?

The decision on where to give birth to your baby is taken very early in the pregnancy. Here in Oman, for example, Muscat Private Hospital doesn't accept late term registrations. If you want to give birth in their hospital, you have to decide right from the begining and sign-in for their package which includes the birth as well as the prenatal visits during the pregnancy.

At the time that we were making this decision a lot of people told us that private hospitals are more likely to go for a C-section because they make more money that way. I was inclined to believe it just on the basis of all the women I know who gave caesarian births at private hospitals compared to the others I know who gave birth in government hospitals where the ratio of natural birth was much higher. In the end we chose to go for a public hospital for various factors including our choice of doctor who said she would be more comfortable working with her team at Khoula Hospital rather than with a team she's not used to at a private hospital.

The statistics in the graphic above are based Sharjah hospitals. It shows that in 2004 82% of births in public hospitals were by natural delivery, going down to 81% in 2005. However in Sharjah's private hospitals the figures show that only 73% of births were by natural delivery in 2004, going down to 67% in 2005.

Could it be because private hospitals are more likely to give the choice between natural birth or caesarian to women (which some women prefer), or are these private hospitals really taking advantage to make a profit?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

ESO Annual General Assembly: March 28, 2006

The Environment Society of Oman's first Annual General Assembly (AGA) will be held on Tuesday March 28th at the Mumtaz Mahal restaurant's event hall. There will be a dinner and presentation by the Oman Whale and Dolphin Group (now part of ESO) detailing the findings of their Annual Survey in Masirah.

It is extremely important that as many of our members as possible attend this meeting as it is when our board members are elected so we need at least 50% of the members to show up. In order to attend the AGA you must be a paid up member so if your membership has expired please pay your fees before that date or else bring the renwal fee with you.

An Extraordinary General Meeting (EGA) will be held prior to the EGA to change the following in our constitution:

1. Reduce Board members from 12 to 8 allowing for a quorum of 5 rather than 7.
2. Reduce individual membership fees from RO 15 to RO 10 starting Jan 1, 2007.
3. Reduce the required suppor backing members for board nomination from 25 to 10.

If you are an ESO member please make the effort to attend the meeting or else send a proxy on your behalf. If you require a proxy form contact our office on 24482121 or email: admin@environment.org.om.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Toothpaste

Unhealthy toothpaste obssession

I suppose most people would only have one or two kinds of toothpaste. Can't be normal that I have about ten.

Where does the iPod cover art come from?

Can someone please explain this to me. I finally replaced my two and a half year old 3G iPod with one of them nifty 60GB iPod video ones (actually it was OD who got it for me). Inzain, according to what I read if you want to add album cover art to the iPod you have to do it manually or get a program that does for you. I've done neither and yet I have cover art appearing on the iPod for at least 30% of the albums. These are albums which I own and which I had ripped years ago. Long before iTunes. Does iTunes automatically get cover art for your albums, and if so why didn't it get the art work for all of them?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Movies

I honestly can't remember the last time I went this long without seeing a good movie at the cinema. Used to be that not a week would go by without going to the movies at least once. True you end seeing a few turkeys now and then, but there are always good movies, and every few weeks you watch something better than just good. That's not the case anymore. It's like the bozos running our two movie chains here in Oman have conspired to keep away the good movies. They do bring some well reviewed movies now and then, but they play them at awkward times to make it semi-impossible for discerning viewers to get to see them. And then they yank them from the theaters in almost no time with the excuse that ticket sales are low.

A couple weeks ago I wanted to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but it showed for a week only and the latest showing of the day was 7.30pm which is impossible for us. The week before that they played Walk The Line. That one too played for exactly seven days and there wasn't a single show past 8pm so we couldn't see it either. We ended up going for The Pink Panther that same week. It was stupid, but I have to admit I laughed a lot. Sometimes you just need a change and go to the movies even though there's nothing there worth seeing. We went to see Derailed like that even though all the reviews online were bad. It had a 23% tomato rating. We ended up walking out less than half an hour into the movie.

Movies I'm interested in seeing like Munich, Howl's Moving Castle, the new Pride and Prejudice, Match Point, The Constant Gardner, A History of Violence all played in other gulf countries (or at least Dubai) but our stupid cinema owners in Oman never bothered to book them. One of the movies I was really excited about, Syriana, might not play in the gulf at all so I'll have to wait for it on DVD. Apparently it was submitted to the UAE censors 3 months ago and it's still not approved. Ironic when a large part of the movie was actually shot in Dubai.

I don't mind watching movies on DVD, but it's just not the same as going to the cinema. Especially when you have a baby sleeping with you in the same room. You can't put the volume up. You have to put the subtitles on. And you have to keep stopping the movie every now and then because when you're watching a movie at home you actually answer your phone calls, unlike when you're in the cinema. When you go to the cinema you watch the whole movie in one sitting. At home, it might take a couple days to go through a movie.

*Sulk*

The Wave


We had registered our names for the The Wave a couple months ago hoping that our name would come up in the draw and we could book a property as an investment and sell it at a later stage. Neither of our names came up in the primary list but OD was lucky to come in the tail-end of the reserve list. We were told by the people in The Wave that the reserves' only chance is if people in the primary list don't make a purchase. Other than that there was hope that maybe for the next lot of properties they might put the present reserves as a primary list. So far so good. We asked about the procedures, payments, etc. They told us that if you're buying as investment you can't transfer the ownership until you've paid 40% of the price of the property. Thing is, even though they are selling the properties now, they are not planning to begin construction till early 2007. Ya3ni in other words, you book the property now and pay 10% advance and then you don't start paying for another year. Once they start building and reach the first milestone you pay another 15%, then wait till the next one and pay another 15%. And that's when you can sell your property. Considering that The Wave is the first large project available for freehold ownership by foreigners, if you're buying as an investment you're betting that about a year to 18 months from now the demand for the properties would have gone up giving you the opportunity to sell for a profit.

Today out of the blue we got a call from The Wave saying that they've decided to merge the main and reserve list and that sales day is Thursday. Oh and that when you come bring 3000 rials with you because if you book a property you have to immediately pay that amount on the spot as a "non-refundable deposit"!. For real. Just like that. Come Thursday and bring a big wad of cash.

Is this standard operating procedure for large, high profile real estate projects?

Update:

I was telling someone whose name was actually drawn on the main list and he was surprised because he was told to go on Sunday. His exact comment: "I don't get it, I'm in the top ten in the main list and you're reserve. How do you get to go choose your property before me?"

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

French Film Week 2006


French Film Week is back March 18 to 22. Movies are being shown at Shatti Cinema at 8pm every night. Details of the movie showing can be found here (or in French here)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Please stand by for incoming transmission

No we haven't given up on this blog, not just yet. We've just been very busy with other.. stuff. The main happening these past few weeks is work, and as you know I don't blog about my job or anything related to it.

There are a couple things bouncing around my head I want to write about. Should have some fresh posts up real soon.