2006-09-29
Above the Seige, Under Law, Out for Death, Marked for Justice ...
The other week we went out to the movies at the big Mall of the Emirates. It very much like any standard American cineplex, until you see the movies that are playing there.

There's a good smattering of American movies, don't get me wrong. But then they throw in a Indian Bollywood musical, or some odd British film, or other international fair.

And that's something I hadn't thought about yet ... we're in international territory.

And you know who rules the international box office?

Steven Seagal


... or, at least that's what we're told in America, because Steve Seagal is constantly making movies that never end up in the theater. In fact, I think his last twenty movies have gone direct-to-video in the US, but they always say, "he's huge in the international market".

Right now in Dubai Today You Die is playing. This direct-to-DVD dud has been on sale for the last year in the States.



I don't know anything about this movie except what I read on the internet. And some of it, really, is worth sharing.

Here's the offical line: "After one of the most extraordinary chase scenes ever filmed on the streets of Vegas, Banks ends up in prison. But with a little mystical assistance, he escapes to unleash an explosive, unearthly vengeance."

The fans on the IMDb say:
    "Get Ready For Some Seagal Hilarity!"

    "Tomorrow you diet!"

    "Possibly the best comedy in years"


and on amazon they say:
    "Today You Crap"

    "This movie makes no sense at all. None."

    "Segall [sic] mumbles alot in this flick. Movie is disjointed and makes no sense. Characters are introduced that have no connection to the story. Segall [sic] stunt double is pretty good."

    "With the film's excessive use of stock footage from other direct-to-DVD films, overly obvious use of a stunt double for Seagal (even in situations where no stunts are involved), horrible editing, and a completely nonsensical and confusing plot 'Today You Die' is easily Seagal's laziest film to date."


Man, I kind of want to go watch it now.
posted by Josh @ 10:14 AM  
2006-09-28
Hot hot heat.
My friends at CNN just told me that it's 95 degrees out right now at 4:15 pm, with 49% humidity.

(Or, as some might say, it's 32 degrees out at 16:15, with 49% humidity.)

Those same people around here keep saying, "Wow, it's getting cooler ..." with this grin on their faces. You know what? Ninety-five degrees is still pretty darn hot. Let's wait and save the meteorological assessment until it's under ninety, 'kay Al Roker?

Yesterday we decided to walk to the Hard Rock for lunch. Last time we went we had quite the adventure. This time we went straight out the front gates of the university, and encountered this:



Yes, that's a two hundred yard long ditch running alongside the dirt and sand walkway that's also currently being steamrolled.

You know, as much as I like the food at Hard Rock, and it's nice to see other Americans, too, I think I'm going to wait a few more months to go there again. Hey, maybe it'll be cooler then, too ...
posted by Josh @ 4:19 PM  
2006-09-27
Soda in Dubai, pt 2
Here are a few more soda cans that I've purchased in the name of sharing with you. Yes, it's a tough life, but one that I've chosen for myself.

First off we have Fayrouz. I bought this one for two reasons. First, when have you ever had pineapple soda? And second, the name kind of reminded me of "Behrooz" from that show "24" a few years ago, you know, the year with the train explosion, with Habib Marwan and Richard Heller and Paul Raines storylines?



Also, check out Mountain Dew. I really like that Arabic logo.





Lastly we have Quwat Jabal. It's another lemon-lime soda (are they really that popular that we need ten-thousand of them?) Apparently "Quwat Jabal" means 'Strength of the Mountains' - a little dig at the Dew, perhaps?



posted by Josh @ 6:34 PM  
More Modhesh
Modhesh, the mascot I was speaking of yesterday, reminds me a bit of Izzy - the mascot from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Both are amorphous, globulous ... things ... that has little to nothing to do with the event it's mascotting.



But dang, he certainly was a jaunty fellow, wasn't he?
posted by Josh @ 6:24 PM  
2006-09-26
Bye-bye Modhesh
It was weird - we were at the mall the other day and I felt something was wrong. And this was before Ramadan and the food court being closed until sundown. Nope, something was missing.

I just realized it - Modhesh has left Dubai.

"But what the heck is a 'Modhesh'?" You might ask.

To be quite honest, I'm not exactly sure what Modhesh is. I mean, if he's an animal or mineral (or even a "he", to be quite honest.)

Modhesh is a cartoon character, actually. He's (she's?) the yellow springy mascot of Dubai Summer Surprises. And it was everywhere this summer. Everywhere. Walk-around characters in the malls. Statues. Banners. Plush dolls. I bet it was in ads on TV, if I watched Arabic TV.



See, in the summer there's this festival / fiesta called Dubai Summer Surprises. Pretty much it's the local malls and retailers promoting ... well, going to the mall.

I guess it would have been too easy for them to say, "It's 120 degrees out, we have air-conditioning. Come to the mall."

Instead they have come up with this goofy Modhesh mascot for the kids, and have stage shows and interactive arts-and-crafts time and all of those general mall-esque events for families, to lure them in. Then, "hey, while you're here, buy something!"

But, in traditional Dubai fashion, when they promote something they promote it big. I can't tell you how many times a person would see this Modhesh character in a given day. Pretty much the first thing you see when you get off of an airplane at the airport is Modhesh. They have these huge human sized statues everywhere. Liz has a pretty goofy photo of me and a Modhesh statue at Ibn Battuta Mall that was her phone's background photo for quite a while. I'll try and get it from her.

But now kids are back to school and Modhesh is back into hibernation for another year. Or at least until summer gears up and the malls want to draw in families again ...
posted by Josh @ 11:31 AM  
2006-09-25
A mention of home ...
Today Liz came home for lunch. Unfortunately the TV schedule seems to have changed and NewsRadio is no longer on at 12:30. Thus, we had to find something new to watch. (Sorry Watching Ellie but I'd rather be "Watching Paint Dry").

We flipped around for a bit and landed on the TV channel that plays the Today Show live. But it wasn't time for the Today Show yet, it was still the early-ass morning news, which I have fogotten the name of so let's call it the NBC Early-Ass Morning News.

Anyway, towards the end of the show, the marginally talented 4th rate vaguely-ethnic woman anchor says something like, "And if you're watching on WCSH in Portland, Maine, don't forget about today's Cumberland County Fair."

They went on to say something about a pumpkin display, and then the 8th rate white male even-less-talented-than-Stone-Phillips co-anchor made some weird comment about, "Is it time for pumpkins again?"

The lady anchor just looked at him with awe and confusion. I'm telling you, this guy was a younger and dumber Ted Baxter.

Anyway, Liz and I sat in disbelief that they're talking about Maine on the TV. Sadly, it's not the Fryeburg Fair (October 1-8, Fryeburg Fairgrounds, Fryeburg, Maine). But hey, it's something ...
posted by Josh @ 3:39 PM  
Britishisms
One of the funniest things about Dubai is the little differences. Although ninety-nine percent of everything is in English as well as Arabic, it's not really American English. It's British English. The Queen's English.

Crickey.

(Wait, no, that's not right ...)

So maybe it's either because this whole part of the world was under British reign for, like, ever, or because England is closer to Dubai than the US is. Maybe it's just because there are more Brits here than Americans. But Dubai is teeming with Britishisms.

Luckily we drive on the right side of the street, that would be downright scary if we drove on the British side. I mean, scarier than the Dubai driving already is.

  • But we don't put gasoline in our cars, it's "petrol".

  • That's not an elevator you're riding in, it's a "lift".

  • It's not a sweater you're wearing, it's a "jumper".

  • At the grocery store we use a "trolley", not a shopping cart.

  • Obviously it's "football" and not soccer.

  • Football's football, but they call it "American football".

  • Vacation is a "holiday".

  • Z is "zed" (like Canada).

  • Parking lots are "car parks".

  • It's not an eraser, it's a "rubber".

  • The trash can isn't a trash can, it's a trash 'bin'.

    In one of the classes I'm taking at the university we talk about "organising people" and "division of labour". I guess I'll have to translate any papers I write.

    But I wonder if this will continue on with new additions to the city. Right now they're building the first metro / light rail, will it be a subway or a "tube"?

    Luckily some things are promisingly American. For example, we live in an apartment and not a "flat". That's nice, as it'd feel pretentious to call this a flat, don't you think?

    And of course, lastly, the one britishism I've been rebelling against since I got here. It's not a cell phone, it's a "mobile". Ugh.
  • posted by Josh @ 3:35 PM  
    2006-09-24
    News: Michael Jackson and Ireland
    And finally, some light news. I wasn't even aware that MJ had abandoned the Middle East. It seems like just yesterday he was going into the women's room at the Ibn Battuta Mall "by mistake".

    We'll miss you, Michael. Good luck with your insane new theme park endeavors ...
      Daily Mirror
      Wack O'Jacko
      September 15, 2006

      EXCLUSIVE King of pop plans £300m Leprechaun Land theme park in Ireland

      MADCAP Michael Jackson wants to build a Disneyland-style theme park in Ireland called Leprechaun Land.

      The moonwalking singer would fill the huge complex with terrifying white-knuckle rides and dozens of dwarfs dressed as leprechauns.

      He is planning a series of meetings with businessmen in Ireland and America to raise money for the idea. Jacko, 47, has fallen in love with Ireland since moving in to Luggala Castle in Co Wicklow three months ago and is now looking for the ideal location for his big-bucks project. A source revealed: "Michael is deadly serious about this idea. He loves the whole idea of leprechauns and the magic and myths of Ireland.

      "It would cost around £300million to do. He's always wanted to open his own theme park and he thinks Ireland is the perfect place and it will have a leprechaun theme."

      "Plans for the park include rides based on Irish myths and legends, traditional music and, of course, plenty of Guinness for thirsty adults."

      Jacko is also plotting a music comeback and has been working on new songs in Ireland.

      Music industry sources said he was in negotiations to stage a year-long run of shows in Las Vegas - his first gig since a Jackson Five reunion in New York in September 2001.

      © Trinity Mirror
    posted by Josh @ 10:56 AM  
    News: Removing the Citgo Sign
    This article from yesterday really gets me steamed up. The Citgo sign is an important historical part of Fenway Park - much more than those foolish Coke bottles on top of the Monster (do they even sell Coke Zero anymore?) And Coke does bad things all of the time. Let's do something about those.
      Associated Press
      Boston pol takes aim at Citgo sign after 'devil' comment
      September 22, 2006

      BOSTON - A city councilor wants to take down the famed Citgo sign in Kenmore Square in response to controversial remarks by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who called President Bush "the devil."

      The Citgo sign has been a Boston landmark for decades, in part because it is so prominently visible over the left-field wall at Fenway Park.

      But after Chavez called President Bush "the devil" during a speech Wednesday at the United Nations, Councilor Jerry McDermott said the sign has to go. Citgo is subsidiary of Venezuela's state oil company. McDermott wants replace the sign with an American flag.

      "Given the hatred of the United States displayed by dictator Hugo Chavez, it would be more fitting to see an American flag when you drive through Kenmore Square," McDermott told The Boston Herald. "I think people would soon forget the Citgo sign."

      Citgo paid $1 million to refurbish the sign last year, said company spokesman David McCollum, who downplayed McDermott's proposed nonbinding resolution.

      "We leave the politics to the politicians," he said.

      The Red Sox had no comment, but fan Peter Garmley said he'd consider supporting the resolution.

      "It's an icon, but I'm a little on the fence, because I think you should invest in what you believe in," said the Natick resident, who said he once climbed the Citgo tower.

      An attempt by Citgo to dismantle the sign in the early 1980s was abandoned after strong opposition from the city.

      Information from the Boston Herald.

      © Associated Press
    posted by Josh @ 10:48 AM  
    News: Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat
    Hey, it's Sunday again - a work day in Dubai but a day of rest and football in the States.

    Instead of writing today I'm going to share a few interesting articles I've seen over the past week. The first comes from today's New York Times. I think the point very true, people I know have been saying this for years. It's nice (well, not nice, but important) that experts are saying the same thing.
      The New York Times
      Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat
      By Mark Mazzetti
      September 24, 2006

      WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 - A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

      The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

      The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

      An opening section of the report, "Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement," cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

      The report "says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," said one American intelligence official.

      More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document's general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

      Officials with knowledge of the intelligence estimate said it avoided specific judgments about the likelihood that terrorists would once again strike on United States soil. The relationship between the Iraq war and terrorism, and the question of whether the United States is safer, have been subjects of persistent debate since the war began in 2003.

      National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue, and are approved by John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence. Their conclusions are based on analysis of raw intelligence collected by all of the spy agencies.

      Analysts began working on the estimate in 2004, but it was not finalized until this year. Part of the reason was that some government officials were unhappy with the structure and focus of earlier versions of the document, according to officials involved in the discussion.

      Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, and some policy makers argued that the intelligence estimate should be more focused on specific steps to mitigate the terror threat. It is unclear whether the final draft of the intelligence estimate criticizes individual policies of the United States, but intelligence officials involved in preparing the document said its conclusions were not softened or massaged for political purposes.

      Frederick Jones, a White House spokesman, said the White House "played no role in drafting or reviewing the judgments expressed in the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism." The estimate's judgments confirm some predictions of a National Intelligence Council report completed in January 2003, two months before the Iraq invasion. That report stated that the approaching war had the potential to increase support for political Islam worldwide and could increase support for some terrorist objectives.

      Documents released by the White House timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks emphasized the successes that the United States had made in dismantling the top tier of Al Qaeda.

      "Since the Sept. 11 attacks, America and its allies are safer, but we are not yet safe," concludes one, a report titled "9/11 Five Years Later: Success and Challenges." "We have done much to degrade Al Qaeda and its affiliates and to undercut the perceived legitimacy of terrorism."

      That document makes only passing mention of the impact the Iraq war has had on the global jihad movement. "The ongoing fight for freedom in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry," it states.

      The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, "exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies."

      On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee released a more ominous report about the terrorist threat. That assessment, based entirely on unclassified documents, details a growing jihad movement and says, "Al Qaeda leaders wait patiently for the right opportunity to attack."

      The new National Intelligence Estimate was overseen by David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, who commissioned it in 2004 after he took up his post at the National Intelligence Council. Mr. Low declined to be interviewed for this article.

      The estimate concludes that the radical Islamic movement has expanded from a core of Qaeda operatives and affiliated groups to include a new class of "self-generating" cells inspired by Al Qaeda's leadership but without any direct connection to Osama bin Laden or his top lieutenants.

      It also examines how the Internet has helped spread jihadist ideology, and how cyberspace has become a haven for terrorist operatives who no longer have geographical refuges in countries like Afghanistan.

      In early 2005, the National Intelligence Council released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda's current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.

      But the new intelligence estimate is the first report since the war began to present a comprehensive picture about the trends in global terrorism.

      In recent months, some senior American intelligence officials have offered glimpses into the estimate's conclusions in public speeches.

      "New jihadist networks and cells, sometimes united by little more than their anti-Western agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge," said Gen. Michael V. Hayden, during a speech in San Antonio in April, the month that the new estimate was completed. "If this trend continues, threats to the U.S. at home and abroad will become more diverse and that could lead to increasing attacks worldwide," said the general, who was then Mr. Negroponte's top deputy and is now director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

      For more than two years, there has been tension between the Bush administration and American spy agencies over the violence in Iraq and the prospects for a stable democracy in the country. Some intelligence officials have said the White House has consistently presented a more optimistic picture of the situation in Iraq than justified by intelligence reports from the field.

      Spy agencies usually produce several national intelligence estimates each year on a variety of subjects. The most controversial of these in recent years was an October 2002 document assessing Iraq's illicit weapons programs. Several government investigations have discredited that report, and the intelligence community is overhauling how it analyzes data, largely as a result of those investigations.

      The broad judgments of the new intelligence estimate are consistent with assessments of global terrorist threats by American allies and independent terrorism experts.

      The panel investigating the London terrorist bombings of July 2005 reported in May that the leaders of Britain's domestic and international intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, "emphasized to the committee the growing scale of the Islamist terrorist threat."

      More recently, the Council on Global Terrorism, an independent research group of respected terrorism experts, assigned a grade of "D+" to United States efforts over the past five years to combat Islamic extremism. The council concluded that "there is every sign that radicalization in the Muslim world is spreading rather than shrinking."

      © The New York Times Company
    posted by Josh @ 10:42 AM  
    2006-09-23
    Ramadan
    Hey, it's Ramadan here!

    Rama-wha?

    Ramadan is the lunar month in Islam when Muslims fast all day long.

    For a month.

    But what does that mean for us non-Muslims living in Dubai?

    Well, for one we're not allowed to eat or drink or smoke in public for the next thirty days. This is tremendously odd to me, as we went to the mall today and the food court was closed. I mean, have you ever seen a Starbucks closed up in the middle of the day? It's very interesting.

    Also most businesses have shorter Ramadan hours, where they let people go home early. The University doesn't do this, though. And hey, I'm unemployed so my hours are kind of fluid.

    Anyway, Muslim folks of proper age and good health fast during the daylight hours. They also avoid violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, and gossip. It's a very religious time, a time of reflection. Then at sundown they have a large feast they call an Iftar. I guess they also invite non-Muslims to join them, I'll let you know if we go to one.

    I guess historically the month of Ramadan was when the Angel Gabriel gave the Prophet Mohammed the Koran (or Qur'an), and that's why it's such a special month.

    Um, what else do I know? Oh, at the end of the month there's Eid ul-Fitr, which is the feast of breaking the fast. For Muslims this is an intense time of worship and partying, and for the non-Muslims it's a few days off, which apparently people use to take a vacation. In fact, at the begining of Ramadan most non-Muslims seem to be asking each other, "So where are you going to for Eid?"

    Where are we going to for Eid?

    Why thank you so much for asking!

    We're talking about going to Mussandam.

    Musandam is a little peninsula of Oman that's separated from the rest of Oman by the UAE. You know what I mean? Like, Musandam is Alaska to the UAE's Canada.

    Anyway, they have these fjords and dolphins and stuff out there, and it's supposed to be cool. You'll obviously learn more if we go there ...
    posted by Josh @ 7:13 PM  
    2006-09-22
    Ochs is #1
    How do I explain this?

    Hmm. Well, it's easier if you know my friend Mike Ochs. ("Ochs", like the oak tree, for short).

    He's one of my best friends, right now he's an actor in Los Angeles.

    Well, I was looking at our wedding photos, and in every one he's flashing this "#1" sign.



    He was doing it the night before the wedding on the Songo River Queen II boat cruise, too. And the morning of when we went mini-golfing (yes, we went mini-golfing on my wedding day, like the traditional golf game, but different).

    And actually when we went to Las Vegas in June.

    And at my college roommate's wedding in May.

    And ... and at my cousin's wedding in March of 2005.

    It's crazy, he just keeps popping up into photos flashing the #1. For the last year and a half!

    I've compiled a bunch of them together, here's my list so far: Ochs #1 Gallery.

    Now, the other day I was instant messenging with my brother, and I mentioned this. My brother said it'd be funny if Ochs was flashing the #1 in all sorts of different photos from history. Popping up everywhere like Cancer Man in the X-Files, or a highlander guy in those movies.

    So it did it.



    Here's Ochs in History.
    posted by Josh @ 5:04 PM  
    2006-09-20
    Soda in Dubai
    I mentioned this last year in my photo gallery but it's still pretty interesting to me.

    Diet Coke is called Coca-Cola Light in Dubai. On the obverse of the can we have English, and the reverse we have Arabic.

    On the side not pictured you'd see that all of the ingredients are in Arabic only and not in English. The warnings, too.

    Cool. I always wondered how to say "Phenylketonurics contains Phenylalanine" in Arabic.




    Oddly enough Diet Pepsi's "Diet Pepsi", but they call it Pepsi Diet.

    Pepsi Diet.




    Also note, this isn't a 12 ounce can. Nope. It's a 355 mililiter can.

    And the top? It's an old-fashioned pop-top.

    The little differences.
    posted by Josh @ 11:06 AM  
    Mmm, Bobby Loves Mangos
    I just ate the leftover mango bits from dinner the other night (If you missed that story, see Recipe - Brie & Mango Quesadillas).

    The mangos we bought this weekend were fresh from Pakistan. It's funny, in a United States grocery store the sign would just say "Mangos". But in Dubai it says "Mangos from Pakistan". In fact, all of the produce has the country of origin prominently featured. I don't know if that's an additional selling point (are Pakistani mangos better than ... um, whoever else makes mangos' mangos?)

    It's pretty cool, though. It's a veritable United Nations in the grocery store. Shopping kind of feels like going to Epcot. It's like ... um, okay, those are the only two jokes I could think of.

    Anyway, if you see any fresh mangos from Pakistan next time you're at your local store, I suggest you pick a couple up.
    posted by Josh @ 11:05 AM  
    2006-09-19
    Miranda's Present
    I just found the perfect Christmas present for my buddy Miranda from back home!



    It's an orange soda that tastes like Slice, Fanta, Sunkist or Orangette!!

    But the name, that's pretty funny.

    Right?

    Hey, it has Vitamin C ...

    C'mon, you don't think she'll like it?

    Bummer.
    posted by Josh @ 9:27 AM  
    Recipe - Brie & Mango Quesadillas
    Now, I'm not going to turn this into a food blog, but I made a pretty sweet dinner last night and have to share the recipe with you. It was so easy but sounds rather fancy.

    I got it off some website last week, I was looking for new ideas for dinner, since I left my recipe books in Maine by mistake. Check it out if you're in the mood for something new.

    Brie & Mango Quesadillas

    3 T butter
    1 mango, thinly sliced
    1 small red onion, thinly sliced
    1/3 - 1/2 lb. sliced Brie cheese
    4 flour tortillas
    cumin to taste
    avocado for garnish
    cilantro for garnish

    Melt butter in a large skillet. Layer mango, red onion and Brie on one half of one side of each tortilla. Fold over tortilla. Sauté in pan until cheese is melted and tortilla is golden brown. Sprinkle outside of tortilla with cumin while browning. Garnish with avocado slices and cilantro. Cut tortilla into 4-6 slices. Serve warm.
    posted by Josh @ 9:21 AM  
    2006-09-18
    Grocery Shopping in Dubai
    We went grocery shopping this weekend to Géant in the Ibn Battuta Mall. It's nice, since we've been shopping there almost a half a dozen times now I'm starting to get a feel for the store. The layout is becoming familiar, comfortable.

    But the products, what they have and don't have, that still throws me for a loop.

    Take the produce section. It's huge. They sell fruits and vegetables there that I don't think American scientists have even heard of. It's like we're in Harry Potter's grocery store. Purple orbs, twiggy branches, spikey green ... things, and I swear the red flowery one blinked at me.



    Oh, and there's a different system for paying for produce. They don't follow the ol' American method of taking the plastic bags of fruits and veggies to the checkout line where the clerk has to know the code for each piece of produce to price it. I bet there are just too many different kinds for the clerks to know. Instead, in the produce section they have a clerk with a scale and printer, like the ones at the deli where they weigh the potato salad and ham, to code and print barcode stickers for each bag. Then the clerk at the register only has to scan the barcode.

    Pretty clever.

    They also have a spice section. Like, we wanted cinnamon, so we went up and said we'd like a Dirham worth of cinnamon. And they scoop it out of a big container into a plastic bag, weigh it, and print a barcode sticker. Just like the fruit.

    The only problem is that in my cabinet now among the other spices I have a flimsy plastic bag 'o cinnamon. Hmmm.

    But considering how varied some of the offerings are, some things are sorely missing. Take the cereal aisle. That's a grim bunch. In America there's, what, an aisle full of cereal? Even in a smaller store they have a good selection, like Tony's Foodland or Food City (or perhaps "Foo City" / "Food ity", depending on which light is burned out this week).

    Not in Dubai. There's a fraction of the cereal selection. Take Captain Crunch. I was going to make my famous Captain Crunch Chicken for Liz this week. It's been a mainstay of the Josh Cooking Regimen since about 1993. But Géant doesn't even sell the good Captain. Nope. They have frosted flakes, rice krispies, corn flakes, more bran products than you can shake a stick at, and a few different cereals that we don't have at home. Such as Kellogg's Crunchy Nut.




    Apparently "it's ludicrously tasty". At least, that's what the box says. And I learned looooong ago that cereal boxes don't lie.

    Right now I'm kicking myself for not buying it. Because I like cereal, and I can't imagine what makes this one any more ludicrously tasty than the next. What does ludicrously tasty even taste like? Yeah, I'm so buying Crunchy Nut next time I'm in Géant.

    Also weird in the cereal aisle? All of the Special K boxes are half-covered with a big white sticker. The only thing we could think of is that the box was printed elsewhere, and there must be photo or illustration of a slender woman or woman's body part that would be offensive to the religious nature of the people here.

    But apparently black market products aren't offensive to these people. I turned this box over and over and couldn't find a legit Disney copyright mark on it. And from the complete lack of English, I'd assume this wasn't imported from Orlando or Anaheim.



    Then there are the local knock-offs. While they sell Philadelphia Cream Cheese, it was twice as expensive as the local brand. Plus the local brand is called Spreadadelphia. That made me crack up almost as much as "it's ludicrously tasty". I just had to buy it.



    That's an odd facet of grocery shopping in Dubai, you're psyched to see that they sell some American product, then you see the price. Quick math in your head. Wait, a cheapo frozen pizza here costs four bucks? I'd pay ninety-nine cents for it at home! That's not worth it! Macaroni and Cheese is prohibitively expensive, as well. But you can make your own by buying plain macaroni as well as a brick of Velveeta (which is slightly more expensive than you'd like, but not crazily overpriced).

    Speaking of pasta, Liz found this and we just had to buy it.



    Sorry to have two Disney references in the same piece, but something tells me that these will be tasty. Maybe even ludicrously so ...
    posted by Josh @ 12:31 PM  
    2006-09-17
    News: Youngest Mayor
    And lastly, if this doesn't make you feel old, I don't know what will ...


      Associated Press
      Hope surrounds new Pittsburgh mayor, 26
      By Jennifer C. Yates
      September 15, 2006

      PITTSBURGH - In his first two weeks in office, the city's new mayor announced changes to his staff, readied a budget proposal, attended a handful of news conferences - and laughed it up on the "Late Show with David Letterman."

      It's been a full schedule for the Pittsburgh native and standout high school quarterback who graduated from college just four years ago.

      At 26, Luke Ravenstahl became the youngest mayor in a major U.S. city on Sept. 1, hours after his 61-year-old predecessor died of a rare brain cancer. Many believe the new mayor can finally help the city shed old stereotypes about smoke-spitting steel mills and a graying population.

      "I think that having a youthful mayor ... is going to help communicate to the rest of the world that this is a place for people to raise young families. It's a place where dreams come true," said Andrew E. Masich, president and CEO of the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center.

      Ravenstahl's ascension caps a year in which the city has twice relished the national spotlight: first when its beloved Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl title and then when Major League Baseball's All-Star game was played here.

      Yet underneath those bright moments, trends that reinforce Pittsburgh's Rust Belt reputation have continued. For instance, Pittsburgh's elderly population has been rising. About 14.6 percent of the city's population of 320,000 is over 65, compared with a national average of 12.1 percent.

      It's a problem the young mayor knows firsthand - several of his own friends have moved away - and wants to address.

      Ravensthal said he would like the city to try and retain more of the 50,000 college students that come to Pittsburgh each year to attend the city's universities. Though he doesn't have firm plans yet, his ideas include creating more internship opportunities at corporations in town and establishing a youth commission to get the views of younger people heard.

      "It's our challenge as a government to help do whatever it is we can to make sure those folks stay here after graduation," said Ravensthal, who admits he doesn't have an iPod but did put a computer in his office, a first for a Pittsburgh mayor.

      Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University, where 90 percent of the students come from outside of the area, said students there have taken notice of Ravenstahl. "They like the fact that he's so young. I've talked to some of them and they think it's kind of cool," Cohon said.

      Because of his age, Ravenstahl has already made a difference. Not many Pittsburgh mayors have been on national talk shows.

      Letterman wasted little time in ribbing the youthful politician during a show this week. "An appearance like this," he asked, "does it interfere with your homework?"

      One of Ravenstahl's first acts as mayor was attending the launch of a new promotional campaign for the region titled "Pittsburgh. Imagine what you can do here." It emphasizes the city as a hub for high-tech companies and medical research. The smoking steel mills that once lined its rivers have been replaced by two world-class sports stadiums, a state-of-the-art convention center and retail developments.

      "He's a very tangible sign of what's good about the region and it's a great way to change people's perception about this region ... of being old and traditional," said Michele Fabrizi, president and chief executive officer of advertising and marketing company Marc USA and an architect of the campaign.

      Ravenstahl grew up in the city and graduated in 1998 from North Catholic High School. As his school's quarterback, he led the team to a 10-1 record in 1997.

      He went on to play football at Washington and Jefferson College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration He followed his family into public service. His father is a district judge and his grandfather is a retired former state representative.

      Ravenstahl became the youngest member of City Council at age 23, and the youngest City Council president in December. Before entering public life, the darked-haired Ravenstahl worked briefly in sales. His wife, Erin, is a beautician.

      The city charter is unclear about how long he will serve - an issue that could ultimately be decided by the courts - but Ravenstahl said he intends to run whenever that election is held.

      "I think he's a very astute young man and a very able person," said Ken Gormley, a Duquesne University law professor and former mayor of suburban Forest Hills. "But anyone walking into this job has a daunting task."

      © Associated Press
    posted by Josh @ 4:02 PM  
    News: Horton Hears a "Why"?
    Why do they keep making movies based on Dr. Seuss books?!? The books are so great, they can never adapt them correctly into a feature length movie. They lose the rhymes, they lose the simple quality of the art, it's so sad.

    At least this one is animated, even if it's CG. It's too bad, Blue Sky showed such promise with "Ice Age". I never saw "Robots", but "Ice Age 2" was a mess. I don't have much hope for this ...

      USA Today
      'Horton' shakes off the dust
      By Scott Bowles
      September 14, 2006

      With the help of a couple of A-list celebrities, Horton soon may be hearing ringing cash registers along with the Whos from that tiny speck of dust.

      Jim Carrey and Steve Carell provide the primary voices for the big-screen adaptation of Horton Hears a Who!, which gets its first look here.

      Horton Hears a Who, due March 14, 2008, will be the third film adaptation of a book by Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. And so far, the ventures have been money in the hat, er, bag.

      How the Grinch Stole Christmas, also starring Carrey, raked in a cool $260 million in 2000. In 2003, The Cat in the Hat, starring Mike Myers, did $101 million.

      Both films, however, took heat from some critics and fans for employing live action as opposed to the traditional animation that made both stories hits on television in the late 1960s and early '70s.

      Chris Meledandri, head of 20th Century Fox's animated division, says that Horton will not employ any live action, though it will use computer-generated animation by Blue Sky Studios, which also did Ice Age.

      "I certainly was aware of some fan criticism that had occurred" with the live-action films, Meledandri says. "But this will be all animated, and true to the style of Ted Geisel. I think our (animation) and our artists will transport an audience into this man's imagination in a way that hasn't been done before."

      Carrey, who is doing his first voice for an animated film, will play Horton, an elephant who hears the cries from a tiny civilization living on a speck of dust. Carell will play the mayor of Who-ville.

      "Every single person working on this film has a deep personal connection with the story," Meledandri says.

      "That's the most important thing in getting his story right."

      © USA Today
    posted by Josh @ 4:01 PM  
    News: the American Future
    Not much to talk about today, so we'll do a news round-up.

    Here's an interesting opinion article from the NY Times ...
      The New York Times
      Editorial
      Killing Off the American Future
      September 16, 2006

      America's domination of the global information economy did not come about by accident. It flowed directly from policies that allowed the largest generation in the nation's history broad access to a first-rate college education regardless of ability to pay. By subsidizing public universities to keep tuition low, and providing federal tuition aid to poor and working-class students, this country vaulted tens of millions of people into the middle class while building the best-educated work force in the world.

      Those farsighted policies, however, are a thing of the past. Cuts in college aid and soaring tuition at state colleges have made it difficult for young people to educate themselves at a time when a college degree has become the basic price of admission to both the middle class and the global economy.

      The warning about American vulnerability, which has been sounded in several reports of late, was underscored yet again in a study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonpartisan research organization. The report highlights some ominous trends. As the well-schooled boomers march off into retirement, the generation that replaces them is shaping up to be less educated by far. No longer the world leader in terms of the proportion of young people enrolled in college, the country now ranks 16th among the 27 nations examined when it comes to the proportion of college students who complete college degrees or certificate programs.

      When judged in terms of college affordability, 43 American states are given F's in the new report. In addition to disinvesting in higher education, the states - and the colleges themselves - have shifted aid once aimed at the poor students to the middle and upper income levels. They are essentially following the lead of the federal government, which has adopted the same strategy, while failing to sustain its commitment to poor students who once could have attended college on the Pell Grant program alone.

      Unless America renews its commitment to the higher education policies that made the country great, we could soon find ourselves at the mercy of an increasingly competitive global economy. And if we let ourselves hit bottom, it could take generations for us to dig ourselves out.

      © New York Times Co.
    posted by Josh @ 3:52 PM  
    2006-09-16
    Arabic Logos
    My former coworkers will get a kick out of this. The other afternoon I saw a FedEx outside the apartment window, and had to take a photo.



    The arrow is a little less hidden in Arabic, don't you think? Also, isn't it facing the wrong way??
    posted by Josh @ 10:35 AM  
    McDonald's for a Year!
    Okay, this will be the last word on Morgan Spurlock and McDonalds (well, until I get around to write about McDonalds in Dubai, that is.)

    A college professor in Canada, Les Sayer, Ate McDonalds for a Year and gained no weight and had none of the ill effects warned by the film "Super Size Me". His secret?

    Excercise.

    ... and also not having a goofy mustache.
    posted by Josh @ 10:33 AM  
    2006-09-15
    Driving Drought
    It's been five weeks since I've driven a car. On August 11 I drove to my brother's house to grab a few last things and say 'good bye', and then drove back to my parents' house. And that was it. Two hours later we were en route to the Portland 'International' Jetport in my parents' car, luggage hanging out of the trunk, Beverly Hillbillies-style. (It's my favorite way to travel, you know.)

    Before this time, I think the longest I went was at Thanksgiving of 2001 - I didn't drive for three weeks. Out in California my old Saab broke for the second-to-last time. Actually that was the last time it broke that I had it repaired.

    It's kind of weird not driving. Especially here in Dubai where public transportation is nil, and you can't walk anywhere. Luckily in Burbank when the Silver Saab was busted I could walk to work, walk to the grocery store, walk to the music store. But not in Dubai.

    True, as of yet I've really had nowhere to go. And when we go somewhere Liz always drives. I mean, I wouldn't exactly call it "chauffeuring", I'm pretty sure I haven't had to ask Liz for a ride. We just go together.

    I plan on getting my license, though. I guess it's fairly easy for Americans, there's only an eye test. It can't be as difficiult as getting a California license. Even if you have a valid license from another state they still make you take a written test! Wouldn't you think, in this day and age, that getting licenses across different state lines would be easier than getting a license in a foreign land?!

    Anyway, I just had to point out my complete lack of driving for the last month-plus. Once I get my license I can regale you with tales of Sheikh Zayed Road and trying not-to-get-road-rage as that's apparently illegal in Dubai.

    Hmm, maybe I shouldn't get my license ...
    posted by Josh @ 2:44 PM  
    2006-09-14
    News: First Muslim US Congressperson
    I guess I'm just ignorant, I never really thought about how the United States has never had a Muslim in the Senate or House of Representatives.

    If he's elected, Keith Ellison would be the first Muslim ever in the House. I'm not quite sure why the article is titled in this fashion, I mean, the guy still has to win, even though it's pretty much a given ...

      CQPolitics.com via Yahoo! News
      Minneapolis Voters Make Ellison Congress' First Muslim Member
      By Libby George
      September 13, 2006

      Democrats in Minnesota's strongly Democratic 5th Congressional District put history into motion by nominating state Rep. Keith Ellison in Tuesday's primary - all but guaranteeing that he will become the first Muslim ever elected to Congress.

      Ellison's virtually certain victory in November also would make him the first African-American to represent Minnesota in the 110th Congress, and one of a small handful of black lawmakers who represent districts with sizable white majorities. The 5th, which includes all of Minneapolis and much of its suburbs, has a population that is about 70 percent non-Hispanic white.

      The winner of the November election will succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, who never had a close race over his 14-term career. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry took 71 percent of the 5th District vote in 2004.

      Ellison earned his primary victory in a hard-fought campaign against two other leading contenders - longtime Sabo aide Mike Erlandson, a former state Democratic Party chairman, and former state Sen. Ember Reichgott Junge.

      With all precincts reporting in unofficial returns, Ellison took 41 percent to 31 percent for Erlandson and 21 percent for Junge. Minneapolis City Councilman Paul Ostrow ended the race with 5 percent.

      Business consultant Alan Fine was unopposed to stage the Republicans' longshot bid for the seat. Independence Party candidate Tammy Lee and Green Party member Jay Pond also will contend for the seat.

      Ellison was established as the front-runner for the Democratic nod in May, when he received the official endorsement of the Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party (as the Democrats have long been known in Minnesota). His bid to make racial political history in the state also drew him an endorsement from the Congressional Black Caucus.

      Sabo, though, stood by Erlandson, who chose to pursue the primary bid despite losing the party endorsement vote.

      And Ellison had to recover his footing after some early stumbles. He was stung by news reports about a variety of personal problems, including allegations of unpaid parking tickets, late federal income tax payments and failure to file timely campaign finance reports in other elections. Perhaps most damaging were reports linking him to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan after his conversion to the religion as a young man.

      But Ellison's charm and progressive politics are what likely pulled him through, experts say. The 43-year-old state lawmaker has been likened to progressive political icon Paul Wellstone - a comparison that can go a long way in a state that is still mourning the late senator, who died in a plane crash late in his 2002 bid for re-election.

      "The margin speaks to the strength of progressives and grass-roots in that district," said Blois Olson, co-publisher of the newsletter Politics in Minnesota. "He's been compared to Paul Wellstone . . . I think it was a factor, and I think the people could relate to that."

      Ellison also pushed hard in the final hours of his campaign, meeting with as many voters as possible to spread a message that included advocating withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, universal health care coverage and support for labor issues.

      Throughout the race, Ellison focused on those subjects, eschewing a race-based campaign, and vigorously seeking face time with as many voters of all backgrounds as possible.

      The tactic clearly worked: more voters showed up for this primary than any other primary in state history. "This is exactly how we planned it," said Ellison campaign spokesman Dave Colling.

      Colling contended the real reason Ellison is able to elicit so much enthusiasm is his willingness to stand up to authority, a trait he said President Bush will soon encounter. "I watched him do it in the state House, and I can't wait to watch him do it in Congress," Colling said.

      Erlandson, who targeted older voters who usually cast the most ballots in primary elections, finished strong in the suburbs. "We just didn't have quite enough juice at the end," said Erlandson campaign spokesman Peter Brickwedde.

      © Congressional Quarterly
    posted by Josh @ 3:11 PM  
    iPods in Dubai
    When I wrote earlier today about the new Apple iPod offerings, and I didn't really mention Dubai at all. Sorry, I got a little caught up in the geeky fun of new toys.

    But I did notice something about iPods when I came to Dubai.

    There aren't that many.

    Now, maybe it's because the last company I worked at in the States was primarily 24 to 27 year olds, but I'd say half of them had iPods. And I don't mean "mp3 players" when I say that. I mean "Apple branded iPod mp3 players". In fact, of all of my friends and family, I don't know anyone who has a non-Apple mp3 player.

    And then there's Boston. Every time I go down there to visit I'm amazed at how everyone on the street is either talking on a cell phone or listening to music with little white ear buds (i.e. Apple iPod headphones.) When I was a boy in college there, well, you think eight years isn't that long, but that predates cell phones and iPods. Quite a bit has changed in Boston in those few years.

    But in Dubai things are a little different.

    The stores in the malls sell iPods, yes, but they also sell random other mp3 players - ones that they either don't sell in the States, or if they do those models just don't get the shelf-space due to Apple's near overwhelming market share. I've read that in the US iPods make up anywhere from 70 to 78% of the mp3 players.

    Three out of four people who have an mp3 player have an Apple iPod.

    Worldwide the iPod has somewhere around 50% of the market. This spring Apple told investors that it holds 40% share in the UK, 54% in Japan, 45% in Canada, and 58% in Australia.

    They didn't mention Dubai, though. It's got to be a slim percentage. But hey, that means that there's room for growth ...
    posted by Josh @ 2:04 PM  
    iPods in the news
    Two days ago Apple Computer unveiled the new iTunes Store - losing the the "Music" part because they now sell movies. Granted they only sell Disney movies so far, but just like the music and TV selection has grown since their introduction, I bet they'll expand their offerings soon.

    They also revealed the newly redesigned iPod nano and iPod shuffle, and previewed the new iTV transmitter box that will come out in a few months.

    They like to think big, eh?



    The new iPod nano is now smaller and more colorful, and also the black comes in an 8 gig size. Still, I think I like my first generation nano better.



    The new iPod shuffle, however, is fantastic. It's a tiny clip. The world's smallest music player, they say. And I believe them.

    But elsewhere on the internet last week something even cooler showed up. It's Apple's patent application for a Multi-functional hand-held device.

    The long-awaited Apple iPhone.

    The patent application revealed that the entire face of the device is a touchpad, so instead of buttons or an iPod click wheel, there are Virtual Controls. It can have buttons for just about anything at all. Such as ...



    FIG. 10 is a diagram of a cell phone mode.

    FIG. 11 is a diagram of a music player mode.

    FIG. 12 is a diagram of a video player mode.

    FIG. 13 is a diagram of a game player mode (left or right handed!!)



    FIG. 14 is a diagram of a camera mode.

    FIG. 15 is a diagram of a GPS receiver mode.

    FIG. 16 is a diagram of a hand top mode.

    FIG. 17 is a diagram of a remote control mode.

    Isn't this genius? Sure, my current phone is cool, even if iTunes still is in Russian. (If you missed that story, see Phone Fun). But imagine this Apple phone replacing your cell phone, iPod, digital camera, PDA, even a GPS ... wow. It would be the only device you'd need!

    Rumor has it this bad-boy is coming out in 2007. I, for one, can't wait. (I'm just happy I don't have to learn Russian to get it to play the songs I want ...)
    posted by Josh @ 9:37 AM  
    2006-09-13
    News: New Al Qaida Threat
    So this is all people are talking about right now in Dubai.

    Given that the city is 80% expatriate, it's a little scary.

    But Abu Dhabi has more oil than Dubai, if they target those installations, Dubai should be all set. Dubai just has shopping malls full of Western stores and big buildings.

    Hmm...
      gulfnews.com
      Al Qaida threatens Gulf attack
      September 12, 2006

      In a video aired on the fifth anniversary of New York's 9/11 attacks, Al Qaeda warned that the Gulf Arab states, Israel and US allies will be next in line for attack.

      Dressed in white and sitting in front of a book case, deputy Al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al Zawahri addressed Western leaders:

      "I tell them do not bother yourselves with defending your forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. These forces are doomed to failure.

      "You have to bolster your defenses in two areas ... the first is the Gulf, from which you will be evicted, God willing, after your defeat in Iraq and then your economic doom will be achieved," he said in the video which was broadcast on the Arabic news channel, Al Jazeera.

      "And the next (target) is Israel. The current of holy war is closing on it and your end there will put an end to the Zionist-crusader supremacy."

      A US intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said "Basically, what we have is a propaganda tape - obviously timed to reach the media around 9/11 - from a brutal and duplicitous organization that primarily kills fellow Muslims and wreaks havoc in the Muslim world."

      Zawahri blasted a UN resolution governing a ceasefire that ended 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

      "The biggest problem with resolution 1701 and similar resolutions designed to humiliate Muslims is ... its declaration of the existence of the Jewish state," he said.

      He warned of "new events" and said the policies of Western countries were giving militants a "legitimate excuse" to fight them.

      "Your leaders are hiding from you the true extent of the disaster and the days are pregnant and giving birth to new events, with God's permission and guidance," he said.

      © Al Nisr Publishing
    posted by Josh @ 10:55 AM  
    2006-09-12
    Letter to the Editor
    You might have seen my rant the other day about Morgan Spurlock being on the new Katie Couric CBS Evening News (If you missed that story, see Morgan Spurlock Must Die).

    Well, I also pulled a Johnny Letter and sent a Letter to the Editor of my hometown Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

    They published it on Sunday in their Maine Sunday Telegram.

    And now, thanks to my former coworker Ryan, we have a scan of the paper. Mine is the second, shorter, letter, it starts down by the red arrow.



    See, I was nicer in that letter than some of the crude things I said here.

    But sadly, I wrote the letter on Wednesday the 6th about a show on Tuesday the 5th, but they didn't publish it until the Sunday the 10th. So my opening salvo doesn't make much sense, being that Spurlock wasn't on the show on Saturday the 9th. Oh well.

    At least I got a shot in about the 'stache!
    posted by Josh @ 11:56 AM  
    Recipe - Coconut Curried Chicken Stew
    We've had some requests for the recipe I made last week for our anniversary (If you missed that story, see Anniversary).

    Here it is. As with any recipe that has both a jalapeño and cayenne pepper, you can adjust how spicy it is by adding / removing quantites. The amounts below make a pretty spicy (for you average American) dish.

    Enjoy!

    Coconut Curried Chicken Stew
    from Boma at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge


    1 1/2 lbs Chicken breast
    3 T Curry powder, toasted
    6 T Butter
    3/4 c Flour
    4 c Chicken stock
    14 oz can Coconut milk
    1 Onion, diced chunky
    1 Red bell pepper, diced chunky
    1 Large potato, diced chunky
    1/2 Minced jalapeño
    14 oz can Diced tomatoes, drained
    1 t Cayenne pepper
    1/2 c Honey
    4 oz Canola oil
    1/2 c Cilantro, chopped
    To taste salt and pepper

    Melt 6 T butter and stir in 3/4 c flour to make a roux and set aside.

    Heat chicken stock, curry powder, coconut milk and roux. Let simmer until thickened.

    Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon curry powder. Sear chicken in a skillet until golden brown and done. Set aside.

    Add the vegetables (except the cilantro) and seared chicken. Cook until chicken is done (20 minutes or so on medium).

    Add honey and cayenne pepper. Adjust seasoning. Garnish with cilantro.
    posted by Josh @ 8:39 AM  
    2006-09-11
    September 11, 2001
    I'm sure today everyone in the States will be talking about where they were during September 11, what they were doing, what they remember. I'm not sure, however, how people will deal with it here in Dubai. I guess I'll know tomororw.

    But since it's early morning here, and early-early morning in the States, I'll tell you my story from five years ago.

    I was living in Burbank, California, working as a Script Coordinator at Walt Disney Television Animation on the Disney Studio Lot. I lived about a mile, mile and a half from the Studio. I think there were five stop lights, if that, on my commute. I'd like to say that I walked it often, it would have been smart, but no, I only did a couple of dozen of times in the three years I lived there. Oh, and I didn't have a roommate at the time, either, my former roommate Mike had just moved out, and my next roommate was moving in at the end of the week, on the 15th.

    I remembered it was September 11 that morning as I got ready - because before 2001 September 11 was just my Dad's birthday. When I got to work I was going to fax him a birthday note, he was teaching Middle School back in Maine. I liked to send a little "hello" to both of my folks at school on their birthdays, just in case the office workers didn't know, they'd see the fax and wish my them a happy birthday.

    Yep, I had my morning planned.

    Then I got in my car and turned on the radio. A news channel came on. And I knew that I hadn't left it on a news channel the night before, I pretty much only listened to KROQ, the popular modern rock station in LA.

    "Someone broke into my car, again," I thought.

    See, the year before, when I was living in a somewhat sketchy part of Hollywood, someone broken into my 1991 Saab 900, and stole my radio. This was, of course, while it was parked in the "secure" garage at the apartment complex. But that's not the worst part. The worst part was that they took the toolbox - my toolbox - from the trunk to chisle the radio.

    When I went to the car that morning in 2000 my driver's side seat was facing forward. "That's odd, I didn't leave that forward." Pull it back. "That's odd, the toolbox is on the seat." Look inside. "That's odd, the radio is missing."

    So on September 11 I thought someone had broken into my car. But not to steal the radio, to change the channel.

    They hadn't.

    I finally shut up in my head and actually listen to what they're saying on the newsfeed, I think it was CNN. All baseball games were canceled nationwide, they said. Walt Disney World in Florida was closed, as well.

    They had my attention.

    See, I'm a Disney geek. There's no denying it. And I knew that Walt Disney World in Florida had closed once in 28 years. It actually was just two years eariler for Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

    Whatever going on this morning was big.

    Scary big.

    The normal morning anchors on KROQ, Kevin and "Bean", were on vacation that week, the day before was a greatest hits show. Instead their sidekick Ralph, a hilarious comic in his own right, came on the air a minute later and explained to the people who just tuned in that someone had leveled both World Trade Center towers in New York with jumbo jets.

    The biggest news story in my lifetime, probably the biggest domestic news story since Pearl Harbor, and I heard it from Ralph The New Guy on KROQ.

    I pulled into the Disney Studio Lot - five security guards met me. It used to be one dude, I wouldn't even roll down the window just slow down and smile, he'd see my windshield sticker and all was good.

    Not anymore.

    Of course the building I worked in faced the Team Disney building, where Michael Eisner, Bob Iger, Dick Cook - all of the bigwigs have their offices. This entrance to the Studio Lot was their entrance, and thus would become the most secure security gate that I've ever seen. Everyone had to show Disney ID. Front and back. Everyone had to open their trunk. Eventually they even had those mirrors on sticks to look under your car.

    But today everyone was in shock.

    I walked into work and it was somber, scary quiet. Many people hadn't even gone in, having heard the news before leaving for work.

    Fifteen minutes later we were told to go home. Apparently the FBI had informed Disney that the Studio Lot might be a potential target.

    For terrorism.

    I don't remember the drive home - except that I pulled over on Olive for a firetruck and an ambulance. I got home and turned on the TV. Katie Couric showed me the footage of second jet hitting the tower. A minute later they showed the two collapse.

    It was the first time I'd seen the now overly familiar images.

    I know it's cliched, but it really looked like a movie. (Heck, now it is a movie.) It really looked like the opening to 'Armageddon', with Eddie from Malcolm and Eddie and Mr. Cooper from Hangin' with Mr Cooper. But it was real.

    I wanted to call my parents and let them know that I was okay - who knows what crazy things the TV reporters are saying about Los Angeles as we just wake up.

    All circuits were busy. Again. Still busy. Third time I got through and got their answering machine. I told them I was safe and ... well, evacuated from work, as it was a potential target.

    For terrorism.

    I choked up for the first time.

    Then I sat at the TV for nine hours watching NBC, CBS, ABC (I didn't have cable at the time). Finally one of my friends called and said we had to get out of the house. I went out to dinner, happy to be out of the empty apartment.

    I've always been a history buff, my minor in college was 20th Century American History. It's weird to think, on a day-to-day basis, of living in actual history. I'd only ever thought that once before in my life, I was sick from school the first time Bill Clinton was inaugurated. I watched the entire thing on TV. I remember watching it and thinking, "This is history right here".

    That morning in 2001 I thought, "No, this is history."

    But we haven't even figured out what effect it will have. Five years is not a long time to put perspective on an event. In the next history books they write, September 11 will be a new chapter. The fall of the USSR through Bill Clinton will be a slender chapter, capped off by the election scandal of 2000. Then you flip to the next chapter and there's a full page photo of the World Trade Center on fire. Maybe a photo of people running from the huge cloud of ash and dust. A photo of the aftermath, American flags flying everywhere. The firefighters and police as heroes.

    But what will it say about George W. Bush? What will it say about the current Iraqi war - the second Gulf War, will it have a real "name"? What will they say about the state of politics, the state of the people, the state of the economy?

    I guess we'll know tomorrow.
    posted by Josh @ 8:05 AM  
    2006-09-10
    The Barracuda
    a/k/a Rum Running in the 21 Century

    As I've mentioned recently, Muslims don't drink alcohol, and Dubai is an Islamic city. Thus, you can't buy beer, wine or any spirits whatsoever in the grocery store, or any other store, for that matter.

    This, as you can imagine, can be a big problem for the expatriates living in Dubai.

    When I first got here I heard rumors, legends, tales even, of what we would call a package store in New England - a liquor store - out in the desert. "The Barracuda". Out beyond Dubai, and even beyond the next emirate.

    On Friday the legend of The Barracuda became reality.

    Friday morning's preparation reminded me of going on a day trip to Disneyland, back when I lived in Los Angeles. Set the alarm for early on the weekend, get up, shower, pack snacks, plenty of water, hop in the car, meet up with friends and caravan the hour or so down to Anaheim.

    The Barracuda run this weekend was very similar. We met two other cars of folks out front at 9:30 am, and the three vehicles were on our way.

    At first it seemed like we were driving out into the desert. Well, at first we were. But at some point we curved around and met the coast again. I'll admit, though, driving into the barren desert, even with a car in front and a car in the rear, it was still a little freaky.

    Then all of a sudden were were upon what some people might call civilization. Not me though. In fact, I broke my new year's resolution of the last two years and brought the air quotes out when I said, "Oh look, 'civilization'."

    I'm not sure if I'm coining a new phrase here, but it was beyond third world. I'd say it skipped fourth and went straight to fifth world.

    Welcome to Sharjah.

    Sharjah is like one of those desert towns out in Death Valley and as you drive past you wonder, "Who exactly thought it was a good idea to build a town here?"

    Luckily we were only driving through Sharjah on our way to Umm Al Quwain, home of The Barracuda.

    (Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain and Dubai are three of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates).

    Oh yeah, the other fun part about Sharjah - it's illegal to have alcohol in Sharjah.

    So you drive from Dubai through Sharjah to Umm Al Quwain, buy booze in Umm Al Quwain, then have to drive with the illegal hootch through Sharjah to get back to Dubai.

    And apparently Sharjah has roadblocks occasionally where they stop cars to do inspections. I'm not sure what happens to you if you have alcohol with you, but I bet they don't let you keep it.

    On the way there I had fun imagining dudes with fedoras, tommy guns and big black sedans trying to run the roadblocks. But in reality I bet it'd be mostly pudgy Brits, Austrialians and Americans in somewhat lame Toyota and Nissan imports with sunburns evading the Sharjah PD.

    Anyway, this isn't the weirdest part of the story.

    For what's next to The Barracuda?

    A water park.

    Yep. Their own "Splashtown, UAE". But it's called Dreamland - and it's just about as low-rent as you'd imagine a water park in the middle of the desert would be.

    And it's next to a sewage treatment plant.

    Seriously.

    Very low-rent.

    So before hitting the hootch, we all met at the water park for a few hours of lazy-rivering and running to slides on pavement that was more than hot. Beyond hot. I mean, it was 105 degrees out. About noon. And the pavement was just out in the open. No shade. I don't want to sound like a wuss or anything, but it was HOT on the ol' dogs.

    After a fair amount of sun and soaking, we drove next door to The Barracuda.

    It's actually the Barracuda Beach Resort, which seriously looked like a Bates Motel-esque cover for the real attraction - liquor.

    And boy did they have it. Two rooms full of wine from every country. A room of beer from, well, not a great selection, but still, they sold beer. And then your every other variety of spirits.





    Now I'm probably coming off like a complete lush, or something, but I swear that there was this element of hoarding involved. You get in there, and you start seeing brands and labels that you haven't seen for a month, and then everywhere there are signs that they close for the entire holy month of Ramadan - which is coming up soon.



    So we stocked up. Ironically I bought beer from Austrailia (Fosters), Holland (Amstel Light), and Canada (Labatts). Nothing American. Hey, if I can't have Maine beer, then I don't need American beer.

    And then, to top off the whole trip, you know what else is next door to The Barracuda? (I mean, besides the sewage treatment facility?)

    An abandoned plane.

    I guess someone at some point flew this plane here, and then when they built the runway they discovered that it was too short to get a plane of that size up in the air.

    So they left it.



    Our friend Neil thinks that it's just the most amazing thing ever. Sadly, Liz and I didn't stop - we were both a little tired from the sun and intense shopping. So we whizzed by.

    But I have a feeling that it won't be the last trip to Umm Al Quwain, to The Barracuda. Maybe in the winter we'll stop and see what this whole plane is about.

    And in case you were worried, our trip back through Sharjah with a trunk full of contraband was uneventful, thankfully.
    posted by Josh @ 2:22 PM  
    2006-09-09
    Back to the Future
    I have to write about this, I apologize in advance.

    Two nights ago Back to the Future was on television. It's one of my favorite movies.

    And it reminded me of a story from this August. It might have been the happiest day of my life. No, it wasn't August 5th, although that was a very nice day. Nope, on August 17 my buddy Mike wrote me an e-mail to me to tell me that I was right when it came to time travel differences in Back to the Future and it's sequel, Back to the Future 2.

      Aug 17, 2006 4:02 PM
      Subject: Time travel in the Back to the Future trilogy

      Okay, so I'm in North Carolina with the family and the other night BttF2
      came on. You once claimed that they changed the rules of time travel
      between episodes one and two. As much as it pains me to say this,
      you were right.

    Five years ago I started this debate with my friends. But either I didn't explain it properly, or they weren't ready to hear my ideas, or maybe they just didn't care. Because nobody listened to me back then.

    In the original Back to the Future, Marty's meddling with his parents burgeoning relationship in 1955 starts to affect the future, 1985. At first his brother and sister start to disappear in a photograph from 1985, but then he himself starts to disappear in real life. But when he finally gets his parents to kiss he stops fading away, and all is right with the universe.

    In Back to the Future 2 the bad guy, Biff, goes back from 2015 to 1955 to change the future, but instead of everything fading away, it creates an alternate 1985.

    Doc Brown explains this on a chalkboard in very simple terms, that you can have divergent, alternate timelines. A parallel world, if you will.

    So why are Marty and his siblings fading away in the first one? Shouldn't they have kept existing, just in a parallel world?

    Additionally, in the sequel, Doc says that if they go into the future from the altered past they'll end up in the altered future.

    "If we travel into the future from this point in time, it would be the future of this reality."

    Instead they have to go back to where the timeline diverged.

    "No, Marty, our only chance to repair the present is in the past - at the point where the timeline skewed into this tangent."

    If this is the case Biff from 2015, who takes the sports almanac back to Biff in 1955, shouldn't be able to return to his 'normal' 2015. He should go forward to the 2015 where he's rich and married to Marty's Mom. But he doesn't. He goes back to the 'normal' 2015.

    Back to the Future 2 changed the rules of time-travel.

    The week after Mike wrote to me, I had an iChat with my brother about this. At first he didn't get it, either, but after enough discussion he saw my point, too.

    Either way, I think this weekend I'm going to create a time machine and go back to before I thought of this and distract myself, thus saving myself (and you all) from all of this pain and anguish.
    posted by Josh @ 3:15 PM  
    2006-09-08
    Where the streets have no names ...
    Have I talked about this yet? How nobody has a street address in Dubai?

    If I didn't, I meant to.

    There aren't street numbers in Dubai. I don't even think that there are technical street names.

    Take, for example, this one street that everyone refers to as "Beach Road". I just saw a map in a book and it's labled "Al Jumeira Road". (The beach is named Jumeira Beach.) We call it the wrong name. But probably other people call it something completely different.

    Granted, the big freeway here is Sheikh Zayed Road, everyone knows that. In fact, there's a huge light-up photo of Sheikh Zayed on the side of the road. But it's a eight lane highway, nobody lives on it.

    There are, however, named neighborhoods here. We live in "Al Sufouh", other friends live in "Al Barshaa" and "Bur Dubai". I don't know what good these do, however. I guess telling your friends where you live? I mean, it's not like it's to help the UPS guy ...

    Because there isn't any residental mail service at all in Dubai. How could there be, there are no names or numbers to put on an envelope! All mail goes to your workplace, as they have PO Boxes. And say, theoretically, you're an unemployed slacker? The mail would go to your wife's workplace.

    Theoretically.

    And I think it goes without saying Zip Codes don't exist, either.

    But then the other I saw this article in the Gulf News. Looks like this little town of one and a quarter million people is finally growing up ...

    (sniff, sniff)

      Gulf News
      Residents must learn addresses
      The RTA, in collaboration with Dubai Municipality, has launched a campaign to ensure that everyone in the city knows his or her house and office address.
      By Ashfaq Ahmed
      September 5, 2006



      Dubai: Do you know your home or office address?

      If not, it is advisable you learn it because you will need it while dealing with public and private sector organisations in future.

      "We want residents to know their addresses, as we want them to shift from the landmark based address system to the proper address system," said Bader Al Siri, Director of the Traffic Department at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

      The RTA, in collaboration with Dubai Municipality, has launched a campaign to ensure that everyone in the city knows his or her house and office address.

      This includes building number, road or street name and and most importantly community number. People should start using it because the system is already in place.

      "We have started interacting with the public sector asking them to implement the address system while dealing with their customers," Al Siri said.

      Members of a committee comprising officials from the RTA and the Municipality held a meeting with officials from Dubai Police, Civil Defence, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, and the Emirates Post.

      "We have informed them to start taking the full addresses of people they are dealing with and introduce this system in their departments as well instead of just using the post box number," he said.

      The committee will hold its next meeting with banks and property developers and then meet courier companies to make them aware of the importance of using the proper addresses instead of just using post box numbers.

      Banks customers will also be asked to give their full home addresses and courier companies will also be asked to ensure the full address is on the parcels.

      Al Siri said they are working on plans to ensure mail delivery at the doorsteps instead of people going to the post offices to collect their mail.

      The project for the comprehensive address system including building numbers, road and street names and numbers and the community numbers stated in early 1980s.

      "So far we have covered some 69 per cent of the city area. We will cover 20 per cent more in 2006 and 2007 and some more areas in 2008. It is an ongoing process as the city is expanding and the new areas will be covered as they are developed," he said.

      There are currently 129 communities in Dubai and nine sectors. The comprehensive address system is in place in 79 communities.

      "We are having meetings with developers of the free hold properties and want them to have an address system in place following guidelines from the RTA," Al Siri said.

      In order to make the system even simpler, the RTA will install new signs on buildings, showing the building number, street number and the community number.

      Currently, the signs on buildings contains only the building number.

      Resident awareness being raised

      Campaigns are being launched to make residents and tourists aware of the address system in the city.

      There will be educational campaigns in schools and public and private sector organisations. New brochures will be prepared to make people understand how to find their houses or offices, and how they should tell visitors about their addresses.

      © Gulf News
    posted by Josh @ 8:57 AM  
    2006-09-07
    Red Sox, cont.
    Sorry, switched over to The OC for awhile on America Plus. I don't mind that the Red Sox are losing, but ESPN decided to go over to the Florida Marlin's game instead of the Red Sox. Anibal Sanchez's no hitter's is in the 8th inning right now. (Since these games were played last night, we know that Sanchez did in fact pitch a no-no.)

    I hate that ESPN does that. It's like them saying, "You tuned in to watch the Red Sox play the White Sox, but they're too boring. Here's Anibal Sanchez instead."

    I decided to watch Seth Cohen meet Zack ... um, did he have a last name? for the first time. Zack's dating Summer, who was Seth's girlfriend in the first season. Zack is on the water polo team, he's "conventionally handsome", and he likes comic books. Seth, well, he pretty much only has comic books. And he's snarky.

    Marlins. Of course Hanley Ramirez made a great play at short stop for the Marlins. He used to be in the Red Sox farm system. I saw him play in Portland for the Sea Dogs last year. Now he's in Florida. Sanchez was a Red Sox prospect, too. In trade we got Beckett (14-10) and Lowell.

    Ooh, the Marlin's inning is over. Back to Boston.

    Dan Shulman just said, "you just missed a great diving catch by Mike Lowell".

    C'mon!

    I didn't miss it, you made me miss it!
    posted by Josh @ 10:32 PM  
    Red Sox, cont.
    Shulman and Kruk are just great commentators for ESPN. Just great. I'm glad they aren't too biased against the Red Sox.

    "What chance do the Red Sox have without Schilling, Wakefield, Papelbon ..."

    "It's been a long night for the Sox, and it's only the fifth ..."

    And they've each said "Thome" about fourteen times each. All positive.

    They've even ripped on Fenway, "the oldest and smallest park in the majors."

    Or historic? Famous? Most character?

    C'mon!

    "Craig Breslow" just came in to pitch for the Red Sox. I have no idea who he is.

    Time for beer four. (Don't worry, we have a plan to get more beer tomorrow ...)
    posted by Josh @ 9:54 PM  
    Red Sox, cont.
    Coco Crisp just hit a huge home run.

    I guess that's the one run they scored last night.

    Of course, the cruddy ESPN commentators mention how difficult it has been - they might have even said disappointing - for Crisp following in Damon's footsteps in center field. How Damon was "bigger than maybe anyone has ever been in this park".

    Um, Ted Williams?

    Carl Yastrzemski?

    David Ortiz?

    Freakin' John Valentin?

    C'mon.

    Time for a third beer.
    posted by Josh @ 9:50 PM  
    Red Sox, our fault??
    ESPN just had a stat, the Red Sox are 10-21 since August 5th.

    They said it might be due to Jason Varitek's injury that week, I think it was that Monday ... but now I'm starting to worry, what if it was our fault? Liz and I were married on August 5th, you realize.

    Do you think our die-hard Sox fan friends will make us get divorced?

    And actually since they lost last night, the Sox's record since August 5th is actually 10-22.

    Huh.
    posted by Josh @ 9:32 PM  
    Red Sox!
    Guess what's on my TV right now?

    Fenway Park!

    The Boston Red Sox!



    My ESPN channel is playing last night's game against the White Sox. Sadly, Boston lost the game, I think it was 8-1. But still, it's baseball, it's the Red Sox, and they're on my TV.

    I'm so watching it!
    posted by Josh @ 8:46 PM  
    Anniversary
    So hey, it seems to be I've been writing quite a bit about Dubai lately, and not that much about the whole Newlywed part.

    I'm quite happy to report that things are going well. The biggest difference, I mean, besides me not living in the United States with my brother in his house in Southern Maine and instead living in Dubai, is Liz and my living together.

    I'd have to check with Liz to be sure, but other than a brief period last fall when her apartment here wasn't ready, Liz hasn't had a roommate in years. And, if you don't know me that well, I'm the best, cleanest, most considerate roommate in the world (just don't check with my recent roommates Daniel, Jill or Shannon - they're full of fibs and fabrications).

    Thus I'd say the biggest challenge here so far has been adapting to living together. Sure, we co-habitated in July, but that was extreme wedding planning month. I mean, it was a blur to me. One minute it's Canada Day (July 1st), then the Fourth of July, Bastille Day, Daniel's Birthday and then the end of July. Boom.

    So we've been figuring it out. Where all of my stuff will end up, how many shelves on the bookshelf I get, etc. Luckily, I only have three suitcases worth of belongings here, so it's not like I take up a whole lot of room. I've sort of taken over the closet in the guest room / office, as closet space in this apartment is somewhat limited.

    (I'd say that is the worst design feature of the place if it wasn't for the one solitary electrical outlet in the kitchen. That's good planning. I mean, really, who uses many electrical devices in a kitchen?!)

    Speaking of kitchen, we're also devising a cooking and cleaning schedule, if I cook Liz cleans, if Liz cooks I clean. Seems to have worked pretty well so far.

    For example, the other night we had our one month anniversary. So I cooked a Josh speciality, Coconut Curried Chicken Stew. It's actually a recipe from this restaurant Boma at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida.

    It's very good, chicken, potatoes, spicy ... mmm.

    Wow, I'm hungry for lunch now. I hope that was enough insight into the newly married couple's life, at least, for now.
    posted by Josh @ 1:18 PM  
    2006-09-06
    What's in a name?
    So someone just commented to me on my rant against Morgan Spurlock. They didn't like ... the name.

    "Morgan Spurlock Must Die!"

    It's kind of a joke, as I don't really want him dead. Although I'd really like it if he wasn't famous, or perhaps even if he shaved his 'stache. But not dead.

    No, call the title a homage to that movie that was all over the place this summer that nobody saw. No, not "Mission Impossible 3". "John Tucker Must Die". It was for high school kids. I saw a trailer for it in front of Pirates and felt really old. Nobody I know saw it.

    Funny story - I used to know a guy named John Tucker at Disney. He and his wife were the nicest people ever. But everyone called him "Tucker". Which wasn't a problem in itself, really, I call lots of friends by their last names.

    The problem was his best friend, who also worked at Disney, had a dog named ... Tucker.

    And I didn't know this right off.

    While there were the warning signs, I wasn't catching them.

    "Tucker has a doctor's appointment today ..."

    Okay.

    "I took Tucker to the park to play last night ..."

    Well, he is energetic - for a fifty-something year old.

    "Damn Tucker ate another pillow yesterday!"

    Wait, what?!

    I think I was so embarassed that I didn't even mention this to anyone. Ever. Until now.

    Another funny story? Mrs. Tucker, you know, Tucker's wife, was named Maryanne. And their other best friend had a cat named Ginger.

    If this were a TV show like Arrested Development, Maryanne would have gotten lost taking Ginger to the vet, which was only supposed to take three hours. Oddly enough they'd also have a professor and a millionaire in the car with them at the time ...
    posted by Josh @ 8:10 PM  
    Morgan Spurlock Must Die!
    This entry has very little to do with Dubai or being married. Very little indeed. I apologize ahead of time. It's just Morgan Spurlock has this magical way - this mutant ability, if you will - to make me extremely angry.

    And you won't like me when I'm angry.

    See, this morning I woke up ready to write about Dubai. Actually about my first experience eating at a McDonalds in Dubai, ironically enough. But then I saw that the first episode of the new CBS News With Katie Couric was being rerunning on our local channel MBC 4. So I figured I'd watch it.

    Boy, did that move along at a rapid pace! One minute they're talking about Bill Ford leaving the Ford Company, the next they're talking about Chevron drilling a new oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, which somehow turned into a Katrina retrospective about half way through. And then all of a sudden there's Morgan Spurlock.

    "Who?" You might ask me.



    Morgan Spurlock is the guy who made the documentary Super Size Me a few years ago. The one where he only eats McDonalds food at least three times a day, each day, for a month.

    And I hate Morgan Spurlock.

    I'll admit, I've never watched the movie. And usually I'm all over people for hating something they know nothing about. But this guy ... this guy ... oh man, he gets my goat.

    As you know, I like McDonalds. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I had a bunch of birthday parties at the McDonalds in North Windham as a child? Maybe it's because potatos are my favorite food and their french fries are tasty? Maybe I just like fattening burgers?

    Granted I don't like McDonalds every day. I mean, c'mon. That's beyond stupid. Who seriously eats McDonalds three times a day? It's a flawed arguement from day one.

    I mean, I could make a documentary where I only eat cole slaw for a month, you think that would be healthy? If I only ate carrots I'd be bright orange by week two. If I only ate beans I'd have no friends left by the third day! Virtually nothing is good for you if you do it three times a day for thirty days in a row.

    "I ran three marathons a day for the month of April - and died!"

    "I played Super Mario Brothers all of the way through three times a day for a month - now I weigh a metric ton - and died!"

    "I tried to cross Sheikh Zayed Road three times in one day but was mowed down on the second run by a Mercedes doing 140 km/h - and died!"

    (See, I worked something about Dubai in right there ...)

    Nevermind the fact that Spurlock ate anywhere between two and three times the recommended daily allowance of calories per day. I mean, he overate big time. But the worst part - he stopped excersing. Completely. Did he think he was going to lose weight on that plan?! C'mon!

    Morgan Spurlock is an opportunist - plain and simple. Putting yourself in a your own documentary is pretty self-promoting, like you're just looking for attention. It's the same as a five year old who is yelling "Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom" at Applebees on a Saturday afternoon, or a cat who meows outside a bedroom door every morning at 6:30 am.

    (See, another Dubai story ... I'm good a weaving this back in, aren't I?)

    Plus Spurlock's mustache. That really upsets me. It's like he's trying to be all West Virginia boy - but he went to NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, for the love of God!

    Anyway, back to Katie Couric's news. There's a new part called "freeSpeech" where they'll get "celebrities" to talk about what what really grinds their gears. It's a pretty hokey idea, in fact, I'm 90% sure they stole it from a Family Guy episode.

    And tonight was Morgan Spurlock. He was ranting about how the media makes everything us vs. them, red states vs. blue states, "tastes great" vs. "less filling".

    He goes on to say that he's been to every state in this great nation ... "except for Maine, where they don't take their long johns off until May".

    Hmm.

    Well golly, Mr. Spurlock, do you really want to go tête à tête with Maine?

    Let's go to StateMaster - the friendly site that has US Statistics and State Comparisons.


    Okay, this is getting mean. I'm sure West Virginia is a very pretty state. And a fine one to live in. (As long as by "fine" you mean "a smidge better than Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi").

    And if you think I'm being too mean to Spurlock, well, there are some teachers here, right? I think we have a pretty teacher-sympathetic crowd, yeah?

    Well Morgan Spurlock is also well known for his March 2006 profanity and insult-laced speech to Philadelphia high-school students at a health fair. He made fun of the "retarded kids in the back wearing helmets" and teachers smoking pot in the balcony. The best part? The special needs kids were really in the back row, until the teachers (who apparently were not smoking) lead them out.

    Tomorrow I'll tell you about my plans to only eat Chicken Shawarma sandwiches for a month. That's right, morning, noon and night. I'm gonna take down that little cafe on the corner for selling fattening foods to me whenever I want. Bring it on, you fat-peddling evildoers! It's go time!
    posted by Josh @ 10:39 AM  
    2006-09-05
    Daylight in Dubai
    The other day we were driving to the mall (where else?) and it was getting dark. But it seemed very early to be getting dark - at least, earlier than it would be at home right now.

    So I looked it up:
      Sunset Dubai

      Sunset Portland, ME

      6:35 PM

      7:12 PM

    But that's not the weirdest part. The weirdest part is:
      Sunrise Dubai

      Sunrise Portland, ME

      6:01 AM

      6:08 AM

    Although the sun goes down 37 minutes earlier here, it only comes up 7 minutes earlier. Or daylight in Dubai is half-an-hour shorter than at home!

    Another thought - maybe this has something to do with the two cities' proximity to the equator? Let's check it out:
      Latitude Dubai

      Latitude Portland, ME

      25°16'N

      43°40'N


    So I'm not a sciencatician or anything, but I take it because Dubai is almost twenty degrees closer to the equator is the reason the day is shorter than in Maine ... right? That Dubai won't have the extreme long days and the extreme short days that cities not as close to the equator have?

    Anyone have a better idea?
    posted by Josh @ 10:04 PM  
    Revelations
    One benefit to being eight hours ahead of the Unites States' Eastern Standard Time Zone?

    You can download new music from iTunes earlier.

    If you're a fan of their work, you all should go buy Audioslave's new CD Revelations.




    I'm almost all of the way through it, and it's pretty cool ...
    posted by Josh @ 3:07 PM  
    2006-09-04
    Mauritius video is online!
    So I finally got off of my duff and edited together a quick two minute video of our trip to Mauritius.

    And, because this is the cool new thing, I posted it on YouTube to share with you all.

    Thus, here's our honeymoon:




    If this doesn't work, try the more conventional link ici: Honeymoon in Mauritius via YouTube.
    posted by Josh @ 10:47 PM  
    Gas Prices in Dubai
    Last night was the first time we bought gas since we've been in the country. (Or, at least the first time we bought gas that I was in the car since we've been in the country).

    I asked Liz to get a receipt, so I could calculate the price of gas in Dubai, for you, our loyal reader. Plus I was kinda interested, myself.

    So last night we spent 46 Dirhams on 7.36 Imperial Gallons of gas. That works out to be 6.25 Dirhams per Imperial Gallon.

    But what is that in US Dollars and US gallons?

      So 1 Imperial Gallon = 1.201 US Gallons.

      Thus 7.36 Imperial Gallons = 8.84 US Gallons.

      So that's 46 Dirhams for 8.84 US Gallons of gas.

      And 1 Dirham = 0.272264423 US Dollars.

      Thus 46 Dirhams = 12.524163458 US Dollars.

      So that would mean 12.524163458 US Dollars = 8.84 US Gallons of gas.

      Or 1.42 US Dollars = 1 US Gallon of gas.

    So a gallon of gas here costs $1.42. That's actually more than I expected.

    And now we know.
    posted by Josh @ 10:41 PM  
    Labor Day
    I spoke to my parents last night for the first time in over three weeks. That has to be the longest I've ever gone without speaking to them. It was even weirder, though, because we were having some e-mail problems, so they didn't have an e-mail or anything from me for the first two of those weeks!

    It wasn't until speaking to them that I realized that this was Labor Day Weekend. You know how that is, when you're that far removed it's not even in your scope of vision, not on the radar.

    Take Patriot Day. Well, not the new September 11th one but the April one, the day that they run the Boston Marathon. I mean, that's a big holiday in New England. It's crazy-huge in Boston. But in the rest of the world? Nothing. Maybe a fifteen second clip of the Marathon winner on the 6 pm news. But that's it.

    I mean, I should have figured it out that today was Labor Day - it is the first Monday in September, that's a pretty big clue right there. But everything is so topsy-turvy here, it's still a hundred-something degrees out, and I'm not working, so it just doesn't register. The days all kind of meld together.

    Labor Day was always an interesting holiday growing up, back in Maine. It used to be the busiest holiday for my family, at least for a few years. See, my parents were both schoolteachers when I was younger. But in the summer they owned and ran a lobster restaurant. (Yes, how typical, almost cliched, Maine.)

    Since school started the week before Labor Day weekend, the restaurant would close Monday through Thursday of that week. My parents couldn't teach school and run a restaurant at the same time. But on Friday we'd start back up at the restaurant, for three final days. And what a busy weekend that always was. Like everyone in Massachusetts and New York wanted one more piece of summer in Maine, and they all came to our town.

    Then on Sunday night we'd close for the summer, and immediately start cleaning, winterizing, packing up shop. When I was younger (before I was old enough to start working there, as well as my first few years) the cleanup would continue into Monday.

    It was always odd to me, especially as a small child, to see the restaurant on Monday. Everything was suddenly shuttered and sealed tight. What the night before was lit up and vibrant was now almost abandoned looking.

    And somehow it always seemed like that Monday was cloudy. Always cloudy. Every year. As if the entire town's energy had been spent entertaining the guests from away for the whole summer, and there wasn't enough juice left for one more day of sun.

    But once I was college-age the whole ordeal got infinitely more tricky. See, I had to be back to Boston on that Monday.

    So now we packed up the entire restaurant on Sunday night late into the night, and Monday, which had always been a quiet day, was now spent packing and shuffling me off to school.

    Luckily my folks sold the restaurant after my brother finished college, over ten years ago. Now they spend Labor Day weekends relaxing at their cottage on a little lake.

    For the last two years we've had Labor Day parties at the cottage. Invited all of the little kids in our family - we have a wide swarth of cousins aged 3 to 13. They're all great fun to boat and swim with. It's like one final party of the summer, and best of all, it's quite relaxing.

    There's always a moment or two, though, where my dad will mention cleaning up at the restaurant, or braving all of the traffic down to Boston to deliver me to college.

    I forgot to ask my parents last night if they were doing a party today. Probably not, this summer was pretty hectic getting ready for this big party we had on August 5th. And the week after that was spent packing to shuffle us off to Dubai.

    I kind of wish I was boating and swimming with my little cousins today, though.
    posted by Josh @ 10:16 AM  
    2006-09-02
    Just Dubai Being Dubai
    It just hit me.

    Dubai is like Manny Ramírez.



    Ramírez, for those of you who aren't up on your Major League Baseball injured left fielders, is the injured left fielder for the Boston Red Sox. And, although he's a very talented ballplayer, he makes frequent, well ... lapses ... in judgement - both on and off of the field.

    Boston Globe 'columnist' Dan Shaughnessy (who I hate to agree with) has dubbed these lapses "Manny Being Manny" - which stuck almost as well as his "curse of the bambino" malarkey he invented to sell books all of those years ago.

    See, Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play, has a large green wall in left field, dubbed "The Green Monster". And inside of the wall is a manual scoreboard where several scorekeepers keep track of the game in progress, as well as other games from across the league. So last year Manny, playing in left field, went into the Green Monster between innings to use the bathroom. And when the game was ready to start again he ... well, wasn't.

    That's when this whole "Manny being Manny" thing was invented. You're expected to just shake your head, smile, and remember that he's fourth among active players in home runs. Third in slugging. Seventh in batting average. A good ballplayer.

    But each year he pulls these stunts. In 2003 Manny claimed he had a sore throat and asked to be pulled from that night's game. Then he was spotted at a hotel bar with one of his friends later that night. Oh, yeah, did I mention the day before he told ESPN that he'd like to be traded to the dreaded rival New York Yankees?

    You're like, "What?!?"

    And he makes mistakes on the field too. Take 2004. Game One of the World Series. The Red Sox hadn't been to this level in 18 years, and hadn't won in 86 years. Everyone is pumped - the Red Sox have just defeated the Yankees in the playoffs. They're ahead in the eigtht inning - and Ramírez makes a bobble in left field on a routine play. Oh, but that's not all. On the very next batter Ramírez bobbles another routine grounder, this time somehow tumbling forward into a somersault.

    While Manny is rolling around the field a run scores - which ties the game.

    Luckily pitcher Keith Foulke got them out of a jam and Mark Bellhorn hit a home run to win the game, and most luckily of all that tie was the closest St. Louis ever came to a lead in the entire World Series, and three games later the Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918 years ...

    But I digress.

    Dubai is like Manny Ramírez.

    Day-in, day-out things don't run so smoothly here. I just spent two days telling you about the wide choice of TV offerings we get - and now the whole system is on the fritz. We get ESPN and CNBC and that's it. Oh, and it's not just us - it's the entire building. Everyone around here has been calling the cable hotline and getting the same story, "We're changing frequencies, it should be back to normal soon." And everyone in the building says, "oh well".

    It all goes back to that saying they have here - "Insha'Allah" (if you missed my original explanation, see Safe in Dubai, pt. 2). You know, the lackadaisical, "out of my hands" kind of expression.

    Just "Dubai Being Dubai".

    Another example, I have the Apple AirPort Express wireless network base station. It should be plug-and-play. But I plug it in here, and although the network pops up on my computer no problem, the internet doesn't work. And nobody seems to know exactly why.

    One of Liz's tech-y friends said that you have to call the phone/internet company and go through a long procedure. Here's the actual technolgical jargon she used, she said that there's "some website they took me to and had me do some stuff".

    "Then, it worked great."

    She smiles and nods. It's out of her hands.

    Why not just make it work in the first place?

    Why not change the frequecies on the cable all at once?

    Why not build the roads first, then the buildings?

    I mean, I feel like Frank Grimes here!! (Sorry if you don't get the Simpsons reference. You really should watch more Simpsons).

    But you know what gets me the most? Manny Ramírez went on to win the Most Valuable Player award for the World Series. Somehow, after those mistakes, it all worked out in the end. And I know it will for Dubai, too.
    posted by Josh @ 3:54 PM  
    2006-09-01
    Television - pt 3
    Okay, this will finish my TV round up. I promise.



    Lastly, there's a channel called Super Comedy. Yes, that's really its name. It's a clearing house for, well, everything that comes even close to comedy. I don't know about the "super" part though, that could be a stretch ...

    Because you know what starts tonight on Super Comedy? Joey, season two. Seriously. Relive the glory all over again.

    Poor Paulo Costanzo.

    Also tonight? The fourth season of NewsRadio! Yep, from the fall of 1997. It was the last one with Phil Hartman. I'm psyched.



    And new this week is the final season of That 70s Show. Didn't watch it the first time, won't watch it now.

    They also have That 80s Show ... all 13 episodes. Nineteen episodes of Watching Ellie (including a young Steve Carell as 'Edgar'). Thirteen episodes of The Comeback. Forty episodes of Good Morning Miami. And Whoopi Goldberg's Whoopi (from 2003, don't worry, I had to IMDb it myself).

    Like I said, a clearing house.

    More stanard fare - Will and Grace, Seinfeld, Reno 911, Drew Carey, Two and A Half Men, The War at Home, Jeff Foxworthy, Freddie (!!), Babes in the Wood (from BBC), George Lopez, Kids in the Hall, Just Deal (yes Alexis, that one's for you!) and the current Ellen DeGeneres talk show.

    Random.

    Oh, I should also mention that we get The Cartoon Network. Well, not the Cartoon Network, sadly it too is part-US and part-Europe hybrid. And we don't get the Adult Swim cartoons at night. No Sealab, No Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, no Boondocks.

    But we get the standards, Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi, Dexter's Lab, Camp Lazlo, and at 1:50 every day my ol' favorite Time Squad.



    Oh, and they play the rest of that Cartoon Network crap - I Am Weasel, Cow & Chicken, Codename - Kids Next Door, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Mike, Lug & Og, Sheep in the Big City and Ed, Edd n Eddy. 

    For other channels, we have Boomerang, Animal Planet, History Channel, CNBC, TCM, BBC Prime and sadly in Arabic, Disney Channel.

    So no My Name Is Earl. Probably too "ethnic" (that is, if 'redneck' is an ethnicity ...)



    And no American version of The Office - I think the British one is around somewhere, maybe the BBC?



    Somehow I bet 24 is a little too racy for this part of the world, too, eh?



    As for new American shows this fall, it looks like I won't be checking out Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip or Jericho any time soon. Unless our buddy Steve gets his Slingbox up and running ...
    posted by Josh @ 10:29 AM  

    Josh and Liz are two American kids who got married in August. Liz has lived in Dubai since 2003, Josh since August of 2006.

    Follow along in the culture shock of being recently married and (for Josh, at least) recently transplanted to Dubai.


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