2006-11-30
Arabic Logos
You know, we haven't played this game in a while. Here's a fast food logo from a place right off of Sheikh Zayed Road:



The answer is Hardees - the Midwestern and Southeastern U.S. burger chain.

It's kind of a trick question, though, as the Western U.S. burger chain Carl's Jr. is owned by the same parent company as Hardees, CKE Restaurants, and shares the Hardees Star icon.



So I'll be nice and give you half-credit if you said Carl's Jr.
posted by Josh @ 6:28 PM  
2006-11-29
Bank of America: Satan or the Devil?
So, with my not being able to find a job in Dubai yet, you can probably imagine what kind of financial situation we're in.

See, Liz gets paid at the beginning of each month, with a portion of the money being sent to her bank in Dubai and some being sent to her bank in the States. Of course, the first of the month is Friday, and some of our credit card bills are due tomorrow.

This happened last month, too. What made it more frustrating last month was I couldn't find something on the Bank of America website that used to be there.

See, I have a B of A checking account that's about one Alexander Hamilton away from being empty, and a B of A credit card that has a fair balance on it. In August and September I was able to pay my B of A credit card using Liz's non-B of A checking account.

But then last month I couldn't find the feature any more. It was a little hidden the first two times I found it, I remembered, but I seriously looked for several hours last month and it was gone.

Also gone? The live online help.

I wrote an e-mail, to which they were supposed to reply within 24 hours. They didn't.

I finally had to transfer money from Liz's account to my B of A checking, and then pay my B of A credit card with that.

Well, it's the end of the month already and the bill is due again. I logged into my account and see "new mail". This is what it said:
    Dear Joshua Edwards,

    Thank you for your e-mail. We apologize for any inconvenience you have
    experienced.

    Please note that the only Online Banking feature that allowed you to
    make payments to your credit card account with a non-Bank of America
    checking account was the Pay From Another Financial Institution feature.
    Unfortunately, this payment option has been removed from Online Banking.

    You may pay your credit card account with a non-Bank of America checking
    account by using the Pay by Phone service. This feature is available at
    1.800.732.9194, 24 hours day, 7 days a week. There may be a fee for
    this service.


    We apologize for the inconvenience this may be causing you.

    We value your business and look forward to serving your banking needs.

    Sincerely,

    Heather Marks
    Bank of America

    Did you know? You can pay all your bills in minutes with Online Banking
    with free, unlimited Bill Pay. Sign in to Online Banking and click on
    the Bill Pay and e-Bills tab to get started paying bills today.

This is, quite frankly, horse shit. I replied to this mail and said just that. I am so incredibly upset right now that I can barely type. My fingers are shaking. Seriously.

They "value your business and look forward to serving your banking needs"?! Um, obviously not you greedy bastards, you took away the one feature that I need. I can't even call 800 numbers from overseas, so now I'm stuck. Again.

I can't wait to walk into the Bank of America in Windham, Maine on December 22 and cancel my account. Sadly that'll be the first thing I do when I get back to the States, and one of the things I look forward to the most now.

I had no problem when Bank of America gobbled up Fleet and all of the other banks that it has in the past decade. Bigger banks mean more ATM locations and, you would think, better online services. Nope.

I have no use for Bank of America now, and urge everyone who has a Bank of America account to take a good hard look at the features and benefits of the smaller, more customer-oriented banks in your region.

You'll never know when they'll force you to switch...
posted by Josh @ 11:54 PM  
That Darn Cat
Today I was going to write about our little Christmas Tree. We bought some little white lights, some fake candy canes, and a little star for the top.

It was great.

And then, last night at 2 am, CRASH!

The cat has struck again.

You know how for a few weeks I was keeping you up to date on the Parsley and Chive kitchen garden I started? Well the updates didn't stop because my interest wained. Nope. The posts stopped because the cat couldn't stop digging the plants up.

And I realized, I've never talked about our other two roommates we have here. As you might know, Liz had two cats before I was introduced onto the scene. Lilly is a Maine Coon Cat that Liz shuffled out here from Maine back in 2003.



And then there's Kitty. He's a stray cat that Liz found at her old apartment complex here in Dubai about one year ago.



And Kitty is a freaking troublemaker.

And now somehow he's my cat. Boys versus girls, I suppose. (As I don't think of myself as much of a troublemaker ...)

Nevermind the fact that I don't really even like cats, Kitty is a pretty tough sell for even the cat-die hard Liz. I swear he's semi-feral. Not that I know much about cats, but I know that they generally don't make the odd noises that Kitty makes. It's like this warbling meow, almost a distress call. But he'll make the noise just about any time at all, like when walking from the kitchen to the living room.

Maybe he doesn't know he's even making the horrible warble?

He also doesn't know how much of a pain he is to Lilly. While she's not a fan of me, she downright hates Kitty. That's particularly tough when he wants to play. Especially tough when he wants to play at 4 am.

Yep, quite often Kitty wakes us (or at least me) up at the crack of dawn fighting with Lilly. I throw him out of the bedroom and close the door, much like Fred Flinstone had to do with the Sabertooth Tiger during the end credits every episode. Speaking of, did you ever notice that the Tiger was never in any of the episodes? Isn't that a little weird to include him in the end credits?

Yet it's a funny gag that we all remember.

Anyway, thus thrown out, Kitty then perches on the other side of the door and yodels for the next few hours.

It's great.

Sometimes he'll pause to go dig in my plants, or eat the christmas tree.

Remeber when Garfield used to go out on the fence at night and sing, and invariably the neighbors would throw a boot at him? I kind of feel like doing that at points. But instead of a boot, I feel like using the stove.

The best part is that once Liz gets up and is off to work Kitty hunkers down in the easy chair and goes back to sleep.

So both of the cats prefer Liz to me, obviously.

For awhile I was scouring the web, looking for tricks on how to make Kitty quit it in the morning.

I saw this on some site:

    Anytime during the day or evening when you see your cat sleeping - wake him up! Gently be a pest just like he is towards you at 3 in the morning. Don't let him sleep. Insist that he play with you now. In 10 days to 2 weeks your cat will sleep all night long because he has been sleep deprived during the day and because he is content that his needs are being filled. It may take 10 days to 2 weeks to reset kitty's internal clock so don't be discouraged that during this time, even though you are doing every thing right, he will still automatically wake up or think he wants to play in the wee hours of the morning. Just wait it out. If you give up too soon, you will have to start all over again.

"Wait it out". Great. This works to a certain extent, but homeboy likes to get up at 4:30. If we constantly wake him up all day, he might sleep in to about 6.

Sadly I had even less luck with the plant-eating. Mostly because these sites are written by people who like cats. They say weighted and flowery descriptions like, "cats are by nature a clean and fastidious animal". I can only read these for a few minutes before I want to go barf.

"Cats are by nature a stupid and annoying and aloof animal. Get a dog instead."

Although this one site was genius on how to stop your cat from doing something bad. It said to use "punitive measures (water pistol, air horn)".

Air horn.

Air horn.

Holy crap that's awesome. Kitty is outside the door making a racket, I swing open the door and

    HOOOONNNNKK!

Of course then we'd have to clean up kitty mess on the hallway floor.

And probably deal with a deaf cat for the rest of his life.

Another site had this to say:

    You cannot discipline cats as you would dogs. Dogs form social hierarchies that you can take advantage of by placing yourself at the top. Cats form social groups only by necessity and the arrangement is based on respecting territory, not by respecting the "top dog". Many mistakes made with cats are due to thinking that they will react like dogs.

    Do not ever hit a cat or use any sort of physical punishment. You will only teach your cat to fear you.

Number one - wait, we don't want the cats to fear us? Hmm. I kinda think I do. And number two, cats respect territory. Animals mark territory by urinating. So I should "go" on kitty's scratching post, to show him I'm top animal in the house?

Okay ...

As far as digging in the plants and chewing on the holiday decorations, I found a site the other day that said to spray the plants with "Citrus Magic" - whatever that is. Oh well, I'm sure they don't have it in Dubai.

The worst part? Kitty can actually be pretty cute ... mostly when he's asleep. Sometimes I actually feel bad for him. He's more than a little bit like Stitch from Lilo & Stitch. And Liz is all Lilo with her, "You could be our baby and we'd raise you to be good."

Yep, this is my O'Hana, take it or leave it ...
posted by Josh @ 1:26 PM  
2006-11-28
Groceries in Dubai
Okay, I got a little crazy with this. At first I thought, "I should save my receipt from grocery shopping and convert the kilograms to pounds and the dirhams to dollars and see how it all ends up." I mean, you're standing there in the produce section, looking at the green peppers scratching your head saying, "is 5.95 dirhams per kilo a good deal or a bad deal?!?"

But then I realized on any given week we're only buying a few cool items.

So I ended up saving the receipts for the last FIVE trips to Géant. That's pretty nuts.

Anyway, finally I present my latest math experiment:

    Six pack Diet Pepsi
    330 ml cans = 11.16 oz can
    AED 5.25
    $1.43
    $0.24 each

    Roast Turkey Breast, from deli counter
    0.210 kilograms = 0.46 lbs
    AED 11.30
    $3.08
    $6.70 per pound

    Anchor (English Brand) Cheddar Cheese, from deli counter
    0.120 kilograms = 0.26 lbs
    AED 3.35
    $0.91
    $3.50 per pound

    Shredded Mozarella, local
    0.500 kilograms = 1.10 lbs
    AED 11.5
    $3.13
    $2.84 per pound

    Minced Beef (ground), imported from New Zealand
    0.615 kilograms = 1.36 lbs
    AED 14.75
    $4.01
    $2.95 per pound

    Minced Chicken (ground chicken), local
    0.500 kilograms = 1.10 lbs
    AED 9.50
    $2.58
    $2.35 per pound

    Chicken Breast Boneless, local
    0.500 kilograms = 1.10 lbs
    AED 14.95
    $4.07
    $3.70 per pound

    Hilshire Farms Chicken Kielbasa (imported from USA)
    1 lb
    AED 25.25
    $6.87

    Potatoes, from Lebanon
    0.665 kilograms = 1.47 lbs
    AED 2.65
    $0.72
    $0.49 per pound

    Green Peppers, ugly locally grown
    0.415 kilograms = 0.91 lbs
    AED 2.45
    $0.72
    $0.79 per pound

    Tomatoes, ugly, locally grown
    1.3 kilograms = 2.87 lbs
    AED 5.65
    $1.54
    $0.54 per pound

    Potatoes, imported from Saudi Arabia
    5.675 kiloograms = 12.5 lbs (for Thanksgiving)
    AED 8.70
    $2.3664
    $0.19 per pound

    Chiquita Bananas
    1.935 kilograms = 4.27 lbs
    AED 6.20
    $1.69
    $0.40 per pound

    Tortilla Chips, no-name brand
    250 gram = 8.8 oz bag
    AED 5.75
    $1.56

    Tostitos Tortilla Chips, with lime (imported from USA)
    10 oz bag
    AED 13.50
    $3.67

    Gringo Pete's Flour Tortillas (imported from USA)
    bag of 8 = 1 lb
    AED 15.40
    $4.19

    Loaf of bread, local
    AED 5.35
    $1.46

    Dried Pineapple Cubes, local
    250 grams = 0.55 lbs
    AED 4.75
    $1.29
    $2.35 per pound

    Strawberry Juice, local
    2 liters
    AED 5.75
    $1.56

    Whole Pineapple, cored for you right there in the store
    AED 5.95
    $1.62

    Marsh Brand BBQ Sauce (imported from USA)*
    18 oz bottle
    AED 7.35
    $2.00

    Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (imported from USA)
    8 oz bottle - which is very very small
    AED 14.25
    $3.88

    Old El Paso Refried Beans (imported from USA)
    16 oz can
    AED 7.35
    $2.00

    Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce (imported from USA)
    16 oz can
    AED 16.70
    $4.54

    Crisco Shortening (imported from USA)
    16 oz can
    AED 7.00
    $1.90

    Jumbo Eggs, local
    6 eggs
    AED 3.75
    $1.02

    Frozen Pizza, not imported, some local brand
    750 grams = 1.65 pounds
    AED 19.75
    $5.37

    Bag of Frozen Green Peas
    450 grams = 1 pound
    AED 3.75
    $1.02

    Bag of Frozen Brocolli Florets
    450 grams = 1 pound
    AED 9.95
    $2.71

    Bag of Frozen Blueberries
    500 grams = 1.1 lbs
    AED 18.25
    $4.96

    Frozen Sara Lee Bagels, 5 pack (imported from USA)
    AED 11.25
    $3.06

    Tide detergent powder, locally produced
    2.5 kg = 5.5 lbs
    AED 12.95
    $3.52


*Sadly not Bath, Maine's Marsh family Tallywagger BBQ, this is Marsh Supermarkets and convenience stores from Indiana and Ohio.

It seems to me that the food here is very reasonablly priced. Some things, like soda, are almost insanely cheap. Anything imported from the US is going to be more pricey than the local stuff. At first I was buying the Kraft shredded cheese, which was like three times as expensive as the local cheese. But the local stuff is fine!

The frozen pizzas is another place they hose you. The same el cheapo frozen pizzas that sell for a dollar at home are at least three or four dollars here. This one we bought looks pretty good, but it's local so it's cheaper.

Which makes sense, and if the quality is about the same, it's a deal!
posted by Josh @ 2:30 PM  
2006-11-27
Thanksgiving Weekend
Well we made it through a very busy Thanksgiving weekend!

Thursday we braved the traffic to venture into Bur Dubai by the Dubai Creek for dinner with some of Liz's former co-workers. Seventeen people total, about a dozen of whom were Americans. The non-Americans seemed to rather enjoy the American way of pigging out on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and more.

Then on Friday (which is part of our weekend) we had another dinner with Liz's current co-workers. Actually about the same number of people, but we ate a little scattered around the apartment, as the table real estate was scarce. Several non-Americans, too, which is always fun. One woman from India has been here since 1992! She's seen a few changes, let me tell you!

On Saturday we did the grocery shopping bit, and, per usual, I saw a few things I just had to take photos of and share.

First off, did I ever imagine I'd see Baby Jesus at Géant?!? They have a ton of Christmas decorations for sale here, many many many more than I would have guessed they would.



Oh, Géant also apparently sells cornmeal now, too. Seriously. I almost screamed.



Thirdly, what is this?! Is Citizens Bank Park even known for their food? Now, if they were Dodger Dogs, well then, that'd be something different altogether.

No, the real reason they're here? "Beef Franks". No pork.



Lastly, every time I see a row of detergent with logos and words I don't understand, I think of that Simpsons episode where Homer finds out that there's a Japenese detergent that looks suspiciously like him.



Remember that one? In Marge We Trust.



Someday, if I look hard enough, I just know I'll find Mr. Sparkle at Géant.
posted by Josh @ 3:14 PM  
2006-11-26
Rain! pt. 2
Not to go on and on about this, but this is so weird, from CNN:


posted by Josh @ 4:33 PM  
Rain!
Guess where it's raining right now?

Dubai!



That's the second day in the last week it's rained. Crazy!
posted by Josh @ 4:22 PM  
News: 1,349 days
Today marks a new milestone in the Second Gulf War - at 1,349 days the US involvement in Iraq is now longer than the time we spent in World War II.

You might recall George W. Bush proclaiming the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq back on May 1, 2003. It wasn't "mission accomplished", sadly, we're still there.

And it's getting worse. When is some pundit or commentator just going to say it - this is civil war? Did you see over the weekend that six Sunni men came out of prayer at a Baghdad mosque only to be doused with kerosene and lit on fire? Sounds like civil war to me.

Over the weekend I watched the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and one of the commentators had a scary point - he said that the Sunni / Shiite conflict could possibly extend to other neighboring countries soon.

That lead me to a horrible idea - did we plan this Sunni / Shiite war? Is this what the US Government wanted? I'm terribly distrustful of the government, and not that I think they're all intelligent, but what if this is exactly what we wanted? Why go to all the trouble to kill them when they can kill each other?

Think about it.

    Washington Post
    In Iraq, Reprisals Embolden Militias
    Shiites Attack Sunni Mosques to Avenge Mass Killings; Lawmakers Threaten Boycott

    By Sudarsan Raghavan
    November 25, 2006

    BAGHDAD, Nov. 24 -- In a wave of reprisal killings, Shiite militiamen attacked Sunni mosques in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq on Friday, defying a government curfew and propelling the country further toward full-blown civil war.

    The exacting of revenge for the deaths of more than 200 Shiites on Thursday came as powerful politicians linked to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to pull out of Iraq's coalition government if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attends a scheduled meeting with President Bush next week in Amman, Jordan. A boycott by loyalists of Sadr, on whom Maliki relies for political support, could upend Iraq's fragile unity government.

    Friday's attacks illustrated Iraqi security forces' inability to rein in violence, at a time when U.S. leaders want them to take greater responsibility for the country's security, a vital benchmark for any strategy to withdraw U.S. troops.

    In the mixed Hurriyah neighborhood, Shiite militiamen torched at least five Sunni mosques on Islam's holiest prayer day, police and residents reported. Other mosques were attacked by gunmen spraying bullets from the rooftops of nearby houses, witnesses said.

    In one mosque, militiamen detonated a cooking gas cylinder. In another, they declared that it was now a husseiniya, a Shiite mosque, and posted pictures of Sadr, whose stronghold of Sadr City was attacked Thursday. At least 18 people were killed Friday and 24 injured in the mosque attacks in Hurriyah, said Adil Mahmoud, a physician from al-Nouman Hospital in the nearby Adhamiyah neighborhood.

    "They started attacking with grenades and RPGs," said Abu Abdallah, the imam at one of the attacked mosques, referring to rocket-propelled grenades. "Then shooting started from nearby houses. Then they entered and burned the mosque before they left." Abdallah, interviewed by telephone, asked that his mosque not be named. "I might be killed," he said.

    In the Ghazaliya neighborhood, at least eight mortar shells hit a mosque run by the Association of Muslim Scholars, one of the most outspoken defenders of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The house of worship is one of Baghdad's best-known.

    Northeast of the capital, Shiite gunmen in Baqubah opened fire at a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers, killing a mosque guard, said imam Osama al-Ani. Near the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb exploded in front of one of the biggest Sunni mosques in the area, injuring five people and damaging the building, according to police.

    Meanwhile, in the northwestern city of Tall Afar, two bombs exploded near a car dealership, killing 22 people and wounding more than 40 others, police said.

    The scale of Friday's revenge attacks was smaller than the wave of killings by Shiite militiamen after the bombing of the Shiite shrine in Samarra in February. That bombing triggered cycles of retaliation that further ruptured the bonds between Iraq's two major sects.

    U.S. troops bolstered their patrols on Friday, flying helicopters over Sadr City and operating checkpoints. One helicopter destroyed a rocket launcher manned by a Shiite crew that had fired six rockets into the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah, near the Abu Hanifa mosque, one of the most revered Sunni shrines in Baghdad, the military said.

    Friday's attacks unfolded in the aftermath of the bombs, mortars and missiles that hit Sadr City on Thursday in the deadliest single assault on Iraqi civilians since the U.S.-led invasion began. The death toll in those attacks rose to more than 200. Thousands of mourners, flanked by minivans carrying wooden coffins, paraded solemnly through Sadr City on Friday, paying last respects before the dead were taken to the southern Shiite holy city of Najaf for burial.

    Later, in an address after the midday prayer, members of Sadr's political party denounced the U.S. military, saying its presence was the reason for Iraq's escalating violence. They demanded a U.S. withdrawal or, at least, a timetable for the troops to leave, a demand echoed by Sadr in his Friday sermon at his mosque in the southern city of Kufa.

    In previous periods of tension, Sadr loyalists have threatened to walk out of the government. Still, the current climate is unlike anything Iraq has experienced since the invasion. The attacks on Sadr City appeared to embolden Sadr and his followers as they try to capitalize on Thursday's carnage, which Shiite leaders, including Maliki, have blamed on Sunni Arab insurgents.

    As long as such attacks continue, and as long as Iraqi security forces are ineffective in providing security, Sadr can justify the existence of his Mahdi Army militia.

    "If the prime minister does not give up his intention to meet Bush the criminal in Amman, we will suspend our membership at the council of representatives and the government," Salih al-Ighaeli, head of Sadr's bloc in parliament, told a solemn crowd gathered on the street in front of Sadr's headquarters.

    Ali Adeeb, a member of parliament and close Maliki aide, said the Sadr camp was trying to apply pressure tactics, but that the meeting would take place as planned.

    The meeting between Bush and Maliki comes at a politically sensitive moment for both leaders. Bush is under pressure from Democrats who have won control of both the House and Senate to come up with a viable strategy to tamp down Iraq's violence and open the way for U.S. troops to come home.

    As the sectarian divide within his government widens, Maliki is under U.S. pressure to disarm the Shiite militias, a step the U.S. military believes is needed to tame the violence. But the very people who control the militias, such as Sadr, are key political figures in Maliki's government, capable of causing his downfall.

    Friday's reprisal attacks underscore how powerful the Mahdi Army and other militias have become in Iraq, operating above the law, spreading violence even under an indefinite 24-hour lockdown of the capital.

    By Friday evening, the attacks were still unfolding. With no other alternative, many Sunnis were hoping for the intervention of U.S. forces.

    "Up till now we are waiting for the American forces, and they haven't shown up yet," said Salman al-Zobaye, imam of al-Hashab mosque, in a telephone interview. An attack on the mosque by Shiite militiamen killed four guards.

    Throughout Friday, rumors of new atrocities committed against Sunnis floated across Baghdad, including one in which six Sunnis were doused with kerosene and torched to death in Hurriyah. But two local imams, in an interview, denied such an attack took place.

    But there was no shortage of confirmed incidents. In Hurriyah, militiamen Friday morning expelled Sunni families who were living near tea warehouses, and more than 90 Sunni families received letters threatening them if they did not leave their houses within 72 hours, authorities said.

    In the Amiriyah neighborhood, Sunnis started to form neighborhood militias under the guidance of local clerics to protect themselves. By Friday evening, 25 volunteers signed up, and those without weapons were handed AK-47 rifles, residents said.

    By nightfall, the imams of mosques in three Sunni neighborhoods -- Ghazaliya, Amiriyah and Adhamiyah made a joint announcement to their followers.

    "We would like to ask you to take care and be careful for the next hours of tonight," they said. "Open fire toward any gunman who enters the city, such as the Mahdi Army, except the Americans, because they will come to protect the people from the death squads and guard the neighborhood."

    The imams gave one more piece of advice to their followers: Open fire on any members of the mostly Shiite police forces. What happened in Hurriyah, the imams alleged, was done with their help.

    Staff writer Nancy Trejos and special correspondents Naseer Mehdawi, Saad al-Izzi, Waleed Saffar, Salih Dehema and other Washington Post special correspondents in Iraq contributed to this report.

    © The Washington Post Company
posted by Josh @ 3:00 PM  
News: Relax the Back
Here's an article from the Times last week that I found pretty interesting, as I could have told you it two years ago. See, I ruptured a disc in the summer of 2004, and chose to go to a Naturopath for treatment. All she gave me for it was shots of Vitamin B12.

Anyway, I eventually saw a Neurologist and he saw no need for surgery. He was a nice enough guy, although he didn't like me referring to my Naturopath as a "doctor", yet he was visibly amazed when I said I wasn't in pain. Granted my foot, leg and ... um, rear were still numb and my reflexes nonexistant.

He kind of blew off the whole B12 thing as if I said I had prayed to Zeus or practiced Voodoo or used leeches in an elaborate blood-letting ceremony. That sort of upset me, but hey, no surgery is no surgery.

    New York Times
    Study Questions Need to Operate on Disk Injuries
    By Gina Kolata
    November 22, 2006

    People with ruptured disks in their lower backs usually recover whether or not they have surgery, researchers are reporting today. The study, a large trial, found that surgery appeared to relieve pain more quickly but that most people recovered eventually and that there was no harm in waiting.

    And that, surgeons said, is likely to change medical practice.

    The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is the only large and well-designed trial to compare surgery for sciatica with waiting.

    The study was controversial from the start, with many surgeons saying they knew that the operation worked and that it would be unethical for their patients to participate in such a study.

    In the end, though, neither waiting nor surgery was a clear winner, and most patients could safely decide what to do based on personal preference and level of pain. Although many patients did not stay with their assigned treatment, most fared well with whatever treatment they had.

    Patients who had surgery often reported immediate relief. But by three to six months, patients in both groups reported marked improvement.

    After two years, about 70 percent of the patients in the two groups said they had a "major improvement" in their symptoms. No one who waited had serious consequences, and no one who had surgery had a disastrous result.

    Many surgeons had long feared that waiting would cause severe harm, but those fears were proved unfounded.

    "I think this will have an impact," said Dr. Steven R. Garfin, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of California, San Diego. "It says you don't have to rush in for surgery. Time is usually your ally, not your enemy," Dr. Garfin added.

    As many as a million Americans suffer from sciatica, said Dr. James Weinstein, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Dartmouth who led the study. The condition is characterized by an often agonizing pain in the buttocks or leg or weakness in a leg.

    It is caused when a ruptured disk impinges on the root of the sciatic nerve, which runs down the back of the leg. And an estimated 300,000 Americans a year have surgery to relieve the symptoms, Dr. Weinstein said.

    Patients are often told that if they delay surgery they may risk permanent nerve damage, perhaps a weakened leg or even losing bowel or bladder control. But nothing like that occurred in the two-year study comparing surgery with waiting in nearly 2,000 patients.

    The study did not include people who had just lower back pain, which can have a variety of causes. Nor did it include people with conditions that would require immediate surgery like losing bowel or bladder control.

    Instead, they were typical of a vast majority of people with sciatica who are made miserable by searing pain. For such patients, fear that delaying an operation could be dangerous "was the 800-pound gorilla in the room," said Dr. Eugene J. Carragee, professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford.

    Dr. Carragee said that he had never believed it himself, but that the concern was widespread among patients and doctors.

    "The worry was not knowing," he added. "If someone had a big herniated disk, can you just say, ‘Well, if it's not bothering you that much, you can wait?' It's kind of like walking on eggshells. What if something terrible did happen?"

    With the new results, it is clear that the risk of waiting "is, if not extraordinarily small, at least off the radar screen," Dr. Carragee said.

    The study involved 13 spine clinics in 11 states. All the participants had pain from herniated disks and leg pain. The patients were asked whether they would allow the researchers to decide their treatment at random. Those who did not have surgery generally received physical therapy, counseling and anti-inflammatory drugs.

    In the end, the study could not provide definitive results on the best course of treatment because so many patients chose not to have the treatment that they had been randomly assigned.

    About 40 percent of those assigned to surgery decided not to have it, often because their conditions improved while they awaited the operations. A third of patients assigned to wait decided to have operations, often because their pain was so bad that they could not endure it any longer.

    Others asked not to be assigned at random and were followed to see what treatment they chose and how they fared.

    The researchers are also conducting a separate analysis on the cost effectiveness of surgery compared with waiting. Although that analysis has not been published, Dr. Anna N. A. Tosteson of Dartmouth, an author of the study, said that Medicare paid a total of $5,425 for the operation and that private insurers might pay three to four times that.

    Although the results answered one question, about the safety of waiting, they were also, in a sense, disappointing, said Dr. David R. Flum, a contributing editor at The Journal of the American Medical Association and an associate professor of surgery at the University of Washington.

    "Everyone was hoping the study would show which was better," Dr. Flum said.

    "And everyone was surprised by the tremendous number of crossovers in both directions," he added, referring to the large number of participants who changed from surgery to waiting and vice versa.

    That muddied the data.

    Sciatica tends to run in families and occurs when the soft gel-like material inside a spinal disk protrudes through the outer lining of the disk like a bubble on a bicycle tire. That compresses and inflames a nerve root that forms the sciatic nerve.

    The resulting pain can feel like a burning fork in the buttocks, Dr. Weinstein said. Or it can be a searing pain down the back of a leg. The pain can be so intense that some people cannot walk. Some cannot sit. Some, Dr. Weinstein said, "can barely crawl."

    The operation is quick and generally effective, Dr. Garfin said. It involves gently pushing the compressed nerve root away from the herniated disk. Then the surgeon makes an incision in the disk and deflates it. The nerve returns to its normal position, the inflammation goes away, and the pain often disappears.

    The Journal of the American Medical Association published two papers on the study, one reporting on the randomized trial and the other on the patients who chose not to be randomized. It also published editorials by Dr. Carragee and Dr. Flum.

    The reason for all the attention, Dr. Flum explained, was that the study was large and well designed, that its authors had no conflicts of interest, and, "We can learn a lot."

    The message, in the end, Dr. Weinstein said, was that no matter which treatment a patient received, "nobody got worse."

    He added, "We never knew that until we did the study."

    © The New York Times Company
posted by Josh @ 2:59 PM  
2006-11-24
Black Friday
Happy Buy Nothing Day!

What? Oh, you're going to the mall today? Oops.

I never really bought into that whole negative Black Friday thing - we used to go to the mall the day after Thanksgiving all of the time when I was little, and it was fun. And then when I worked in the mall it was a busy but exciting day. Or am I just romaticizing the memories?

Anyway, I just heard a new term this year - Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving that's popular with online retailers.

And hey, if you want to shop online this year, here are a few ideas:

Our Very Own Amazon.com Store




Apple Store




Free Domestic Shipping on Orders Over $25


Free Domestic Shipping on Orders Over $25













posted by Josh @ 1:08 PM  
2006-11-22
Happy Thanksgiving!
Hi everyone!

Just wanted to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

I also want to share the card that my maternal grandmother (my only living grandparent) sent to us last week. It could possibly be the best card I've ever received:


Who knew they even made such a card - "With Love to a Special Grandson and his Wonderful Wife". So nice.

Sadly I had a difficult time finding a proper American Thanksgiving card here in Dubai, so I rigged up an extra Christmas card I had left over from last year. It could possibly be the worst card I've ever sent:



See, the snowman is holding a turkey (colored in with orange Hi-Liter®, no less). And he's psyched about it, too - he's saying, "Mmmmmm, Turkey!"

Yeah, I suck.

In my own defense, last year at Thanksgiving was my first trip to Dubai ever, and long before I thought I would move here. Subsequent holidays I made sure to stock up on cards for.

Seriously.

Hey man, Boy Scout Motto - "Be prepared".

Anyway, tomorrow Liz and I are heading into Bur Dubai for dinner with some other American expats, if anything thrilling or funny happens look for it here first. Happy Thanksgiving!!
posted by Josh @ 12:08 PM  
2006-11-21
Jeter not MVP
Just read this online, had to share:

Minnesota's Justin Morneau edged the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter to win the American League's Most Valuable Player Award on Tuesday.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Jeter after famed 2004 ALCS Game Six
A-Rod/ Arroyo slapfest - classy!

Although I hear Jeter is dating Jessica Biel now, so maybe the joke's still on us ...
posted by Josh @ 11:22 PM  
Dollar, Dollar Coin, Y'all!
I like to think of myself as a sort of amateur numismatist (gosh I hope I spelled that correctly, for if I didn't I'd be a very very amateur numismatist.)

I don't know if you saw the news, but yesterday the US Mint said they're going to release new Dollar Coins with all of the Presidents' faces on them.


This really upsets me. I'll let you know why.

First off, I'm not a fan of the US Mint 50 State Quarters Program. I think it's a hokey attempt at getting people to collect - and not spend - the money. And you know who makes money when money is saved away and not spent? The US Mint. They produce it, and then if goes right into some dude's collector's album. Plus then the mint also gets to sell more of their fancy sets of uncirculated coins and whatnot. Ca-ching!

That being said, I'm a huge fan of the dollar coin. I was really pushing for the Golden Dollar Coin back in 2000, with Sacagawea on it. Lot of good that did me.

Did you know that, according to a 1995 report, a dollar coin would last about thirty years in circulation, while a bill lasts only one and a half? So even if it costs twice as much to produce a coin as a bill, it's worth it after two years! The Mint, and the people of the US, save money.

There's a great report from the US General Accounting Office from September of 2002 called NEW DOLLAR COIN : Marketing Campaign Raised Public Awareness but Not Widespread Use. It's all about why the Golden Dollar Coin failed.

I'll quote a few paragraphs, emphasis mine:

    The Mint faces a number of barriers in its efforts to increase public use of the new dollar coin, the most substantial of which is the widespread use of the dollar bill in everyday transactions and public resistance to start using the dollar coin. Encouraging people to switch to using the dollar coin is especially difficult because retailers will not stock the dollar coin until they see the public using it; the public is unlikely to use the coin until they see retailers stocking it; and banks and armored carriers are reluctant to invest in new equipment to handle the coin until there is wide demand for it. This interdependency of demand, which economists call the "network effect," will be difficult to overcome. Other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and Japan and many European countries, have successfully introduced a similar denomination coin but only by phasing out the note of the same value. Other barriers that hinder wider circulation of the new dollar coin by the public include potentially negative public perceptions of a dollar coin after two failed introductions, insufficient public understanding of dollar coin savings to the government and other advantages of the dollar coin's use, and the weight and bulk of the coin. For commercial users, additional barriers limit the coin's use. Among these are commingling with the Anthony dollar coin, the coin's unavailability at some banks, packaging concerns, and higher delivery fees. Problems unique to individual promotion partners also created barriers to the new dollar coin's use.

    Our previous work and the early experience with the new dollar coin have shown that the most substantial barrier is public resistance to switch to using the dollar coin rather than the dollar bill in everyday transactions. To overcome this resistance, the Mint will have to persuade businesses, consumers, and suppliers to change at the same time. Increasing the coin's use is especially difficult because of the network effects previously discussed, which will be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome with the dollar bill in circulation.

I love the air of exasperation in the next few paragraphs:

    We have reported public resistance to new dollar coins in previous studies. For example, in May 1990, we evaluated the acceptability of the dollar coin to replace the dollar note by reviewing survey data and interviewing the public and industry associations. In this study, we found public resistance to a dollar coin in the United States. Nearly all of the general public and private-sector respondents indicated that the dollar note would have to be eliminated for a dollar coin to circulate successfully. These respondents uniformly believed that if a dollar note and dollar coin were both available at the same time, the public would choose to use the note.

    For our May 1990 report, we also contacted officials in other industrialized countries and found that most of the countries that had introduced high-denomination coins faced public resistance to the change. Officials in these countries said that a high-denomination coin could not be introduced successfully unless the note of similar value was withdrawn. For example, officials in the United Kingdom said that as long as the equivalent note circulates, the public would resist new coins. Similarly, French officials said the public accepted their new coin only when the note was demonetized. Mint, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and Treasury officials said, in our 1990 report, that the experience of many of the European countries in successfully replacing a note with a coin of similar value might not be a valid indicator of the prospects the United States would have in mandating a dollar coin. These officials said that because of basic differences in these countries, such as a parliamentary form of government that made it easier to impose unpopular changes on the public, a central banking system with more control over banks, and a smaller scale of coin and currency, it would be much harder for the United States to successfully replace a dollar coin with a dollar note.

    In a March 1993 report on the dollar coin, we described Canada's experience in introducing a dollar coin in June 1987. Canada stopped issuing the equivalent dollar note in June 1989. We reported that the public resisted the coin initially, but 3 years after the note was withdrawn, according to public opinion survey data, only 18 percent disapproved of the coin. Similarly, businesses and associations we surveyed in the grocery, transit, and vending industries said that the majority of public resistance lasted from 3 months to 2 years. Officials in Canada said that the decision to withdraw the dollar note from circulation was based on the experiences of other countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as on the failed introduction of the Anthony dollar coin in the United States.

    More recently, we analyzed the use of coins and notes in countries that make up the G-7 and found that the United States is unique in attempting to cocirculate a high-denomination coin and note of the same value. Consumers in Germany, France, and Italy have the choice of 1-euro and 2-euro coins, but there is not a note of equal value to compete with the coins. The lowest value euro note is the 5-euro note. Japan, the United Kingdom, and Canada have succeeded in introducing high-denomination coins by withdrawing the note of similar value.

Do you feel that the GAO is trying to say: "NO MORE STUDIES! NO MORE REPORTS! THE PUBLIC ISN'T GOING TO ACCEPT THIS DOLLAR COIN UNTIL IT'S THEIR ONLY OPTION. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD REMOVE THE DOLLAR BILL FROM CIRCULATION, YOU IDIOTS!!"

So now, instead of pulling the dollar bill, they're making the dollar coins "collectible" and "limited". Huh.

It's rather frustrating, as a numismatististist.
posted by Josh @ 10:37 PM  
Safestway
Last night Liz and I went grocery shopping to Safestway - no, not "Safeway", "Safestway".

As in "even more safe" than Safeway.

Anyway, they're not really a big chain like Géant, Carrefour, Spinneys or Choithrams. As far as I know they have one store. But man, is it chock-full of shopping goodness.

See, and I don't know how this is possible, but they have all sorts of brands and items from the US and Europe that other stores don't carry. And the prices weren't even crazy ridiculous. Well, the box of Captain Crunch Crunchberries was something like $7, but when you need crunchberries, you need crunchberries.

I didn't buy any this time, but next time I might, just because I've been looking for the good captain for about two months now (if you missed that post, see Grocery Shopping in Dubai.)

Anyway, what did we buy, you might ask?

Well, right off the bat we saw Cornmeal. And you know how I like my Disneyland Cornbread. Best of all, two came taped together, for whatever reason I'm not really sure ...



I was also thrilled to find real B&M Baked Beans. Well, vegetarian-style, but still B&M. (Why vegetarian? Well, they really don't sell much pork in these parts of the world, what with the whole Islam thing going on.)

Anyway, the "baked beans" that are sold in most stores in Dubai are the British bastardized version. The breakfast food. They're in a tomato soup-style sauce, which is gross enough, I mean, there's no brown sugar / molasses in them at all, and the beans are almost white - they just look wrong, too. Thus I haven't been had any baked beans lately.

Luckily these are straight-up New England's Finest B&M beans. Mmmmm. I can't wait to eat them with my Turkey Dogs. (Yes, "turkey dogs". See note about pork above.)



Lastly, we got a tree!

Yep, a little fake 3 ft tall Christmas tree. It was only AED 15, which is like $4!



Now we need some lights (I mean, better lights than the little ones you can see I sorta decorated the other plants with, next to the fake tree).

Sadly, the candy canes at Safestway were all goofy "Cherry Flavor" or "Bubblegum Flavor", which is not my speed. So we'll have to go somewhere else for the canes.

I doubt there's an "Even Saferway" store, right?
posted by Josh @ 10:47 AM  
News: Boston Skyscraper
We had an email tip from a reader known as "My Mom" to look at the news today about a proposed Boston skyscraper that would be taller than the Prudential Center and the Hancock Building. I'd just talked about both buildings in relation to Dubai's Burj Dubai (if you missed that post, see Morning Photo Roundup.)

Here's a photo illustration of the tower.


Now, I know that this shows the proposed placement of the building in the financial district, but it's too bad you can't really see the Hancock well or the Prudential at all in this shot, considering they're the tallest buildings in Boston ...

Oh well.

    The Associated Press
    75-story tower would top all other buildings in Boston skyline
    By Mark Jewell
    November 20, 2006

    BOSTON - A businessman's proposal to build a 1,000-foot, 75-story glass-and-steel building that would tower over all others is a bold move in a city that favors colonial-era church steeples over skyscrapers.

    Steve Belkin's tower would top the city's tallest building by more than 200 feet and 15 stories.

    "I think it's going to make a lot of our other buildings look very boring, quite honestly," said Frank Nelson, a Boston-based executive director with the commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. "We need it."

    The design by Italian architect Renzo Piano emerged last week in response to Mayor Thomas Menino's call in February for private development proposals to replace an aging city-owned parking garage in the heart of the Financial District.

    Officials in Boston and other U.S. cities typically seek to rein in developers' wishes to build high above neighboring office buildings, but Menino encouraged a bold architectural statement to surpass the John Hancock Tower, which for three decades has stood as New England's tallest building at 60 stories and 792 feet.

    The Hancock anchors Boston's Back Bay section along with the 42-year-old, 52-story Prudential Tower.

    In the nearby Financial District, most tall buildings top out at around 40 stories. The last time a building of more than 40 stories went up was in 1987, when the 46-story One International Place was completed.

    In a city that has managed to save historic structures such as King's Chapel and the Old Statehouse from overshadowing high-rises, reluctance to build high runs deep.

    A state law restricts buildings that would cast a shadow on Boston Common, and past proposals to build 50 stories or higher in the Financial District have failed to secure city approvals.

    "We are an old city that is not that tall, so we take a look at each project and make sure it is appropriate," said Susan Elsbree, a spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the agency that will review Belkin's proposal.

    When Menino called for a project taller than any the city had seen before, the mayor and others hoped several developers would respond by last Monday's design-submission deadline, leading to a competitive selection process. In the end, there was just the proposal from Belkin, the founder of credit card and travel companies, and part owner of two Atlanta pro sports teams, the Hawks and Thrashers.

    Real estate officials say Menino's failure to bring in more than one development proposal is not an indication that the downtown commercial real estate market has failed to break out of a five-year slump. The Boston office market's vacancy rate was 8.2% in this year's third quarter - the lowest in more than four years, according to the commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis.

    Belkin had an advantage in the hemmed-in Winthrop Square development site, where the skyscraper would replace the parking garage on Federal Street. He owns a midrise building adjoining the oddly shaped site, so he could expand his skyscraper to the space occupied by his existing building, which could be torn down.

    "He really had the edge coming in," said David Begelfer, chief executive of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties. "The space issue has made it a much more limited opportunity for other developers."

    Belkin wants to call his skyscraper Trans National Place, after his company, Trans National Group.

    Piano, the project's designer, is a Pritzker Prize-winning architect known for his work on such projects as the Centre Pompidou in Paris and The New York Times Co.'s new headquarters in Times Square.

    His Boston design would create 1.3 million square feet of office space with a mix of retail and restaurant space on lower floors. A 1-acre park would be built at ground level; more public space would occupy the building's roof.

    There is no specific timeline for the project, and the city's review process could involve more than one stage before the final building design is approved.

    Don't expect Boston to resemble Manhattan's skyline. The site where Belkin wants to put his tower is one of the last prime pieces of real estate available for development downtown, and new projects on the city's South Boston waterfront are height-restricted to provide unobstructed flight paths to nearby Logan International Airport.

    "I think the site for this new building is so prime that it's the last of the great downtown building sites in Boston," said Nelson of Cushman & Wakefield.

    © 2006 The Associated Press.
posted by Josh @ 10:14 AM  
2006-11-20
Ruby Tuesday
You know, right about now I might kill for dinner at Ruby Tuesday.

Okay, maybe not kill, but possibly harm significantly. Maim at the very least.



Ruby Tuesday, as you might know, is the chain restaurant by the mall (which mall? Every mall!) You know, the restaurant that's not T.G.I. Friday's or Applebee's.

They're famous most for their burgers and their salad bar, and less famous for being one of the few places in Southern Maine where you can find the soda Mr. Pibb.

Interestingly enough, back on May 1, 2006 Ruby Tuesday, Inc. announced an agreement with franchisee Bin Hendi Hospitality, LLC to establish three Ruby Tuesday restaurants in Dubai.

I guess that's how most Western restaurants and companies come to Dubai, as either a franchise or a partnership with a local company. In this case, it's Bin Hendi. Check out this profile I found online:

    Bin Hendi Enterprises is a Dubai-based distributor that imports and markets a variety of consumer brands in cosmetics, eyewear, baby foods, electronics and household goods into the United Arab Emirates.

"Cosmetics, eyewear, baby foods, electronics, household goods" ... and now Ruby Tuesday.

Hmm.

Actually Bin Hendi owns Liz's favorite restaurant in Dubai, Japengo Café.


There are five or six of them around Dubai, in each of the big malls (Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Battuta and Madinat Jumeirah, to name three).

I guess technically the cuisine at Japengo Café would be called "fusion" - they have sushi (blerg!), stir fry, burgers, pizza, a little of everything.

So maybe it's not too weird that Bin Hendi is opening Ruby Tuesdays here in Dubai. Still, I also found this somewhat foreboding statement online, which is a little scary ...

    The company has over 14 food outlets in the UAE, but is better known for distributing premium and fashion clothing and accessories.

"Fashion clothing and accessories"?! What about "cosmetics, eyewear, baby foods, electronics, household goods"?

This is such a weird company. I hope they don't screw up Ruby Tuesdays for me.
posted by Josh @ 9:32 PM  
Rain!
Wow, guess where it's raining right now?

Dubai!

Just a little sprinkle, really, but everyone is very excited!!





More on this as it develops!
posted by Josh @ 4:41 PM  
Dubai Marina
Almost two months ago I posted some aerial photos of the Dubai Marina (if you missed that post, see Dubai from the Sky: Dubai Marina).

Dubai Marina is a person-made marina covering an area of 53 million square feet that will contain over 200 high-rise towers. It's currently under MASSIVE construction, and this unusually semi-cloudy weekend we went to the beach over there.



Actually, if you go to Dubai from the Sky: Dubai Marina and look at the second-to-last photo, you'll see the beach we were on. It's not "technically" a free beach, it's just a lot on the ocean that's yet to be developed, between the fancy Hilton Dubai Jumeirah and the Oasis Beach Hotel.

Here it is on our trusty Dubai Map:



You see at the top of the map a little bit of the Palm Jumeirah. From the beach you actually get a good view of the islands and fronds and what not.



On the mainland behind the beach is the construction. The tan / cream colored buildings are all part of the Jumeirah Beach Residence project.

Jumeirah Beach Residence is 36 luxury residential apartment towers and 4 hotel towers. It's the largest single-phase residential and commercial project in the world, at a cost of $1.6 billion.



We're panning around to the right here (left on the map). Now, I'm not sure what these two towers are - from the map it looks like they might be the "Al Atina Twin Towers" - but I can't seem to find anything by that name on the internet.

Actually, the map sets them back a little ways, these are much closer to the Oasis Beach Hotel (the ten or twelve story building in the foreground).



Continuing to pan right.



Here's the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, and more of the Jumeirah Beach Residence.



Even more of the residences, over the palm trees of the Hilton.



Mmm, sailboat.



Lastly, I think I found my Christmas card this year - camels (must be for tourists at the Oasis Beach Hotel) and the Al Atina Twin Towers. Awesome.

posted by Josh @ 11:17 AM  
2006-11-18
Mickey Mouse!!
Holy cow - I just realized today is November 18!

It's Mickey Mouse's birthday!

Back on November 18, 1928 "Steamboat Willie" premiered at the Colony Theater in New York City.



Happy seventy-eighth birthday, big guy.
posted by Josh @ 5:31 PM  
News: Dirty Dancing
Have you heard about this? There's a Broadway-style play of Dirty Dancing now running in London.

And Liz, being a normal American woman who grew up in the 1980s, loves the Dirty Dancing. So she's already brokering a deal with me, next time we fly back to the States we can stop in London for the play and then go to Disneyland Resort Paris (you know, Euro Disney) for a few days.

Is it sad if I'm seriously considering that deal?

    (London) Evening Standard
    Dirty Dancing to run until 2008
    By Tom Teodorczuk
    November 15, 2006

    West End audiences were today given the chance to have the time of their life for another year and a half.

    Producers of the smash hit stage musical Dirty Dancing have added five months to the show's schedule, with tickets now on sale as far ahead as March 2008.

    It reflects phenomenal demand for the musical, which is based on the 1987 film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

    Advance ticket sales for Dirty Dancing, which opened last month at the Aldwych Theatre, stand in excess of £12 million,making it the fastestselling show in West End history.

    A theatreland insider said: "The show is especially popular with young women who adore the Patrick Swayze film.

    "But the critical reception was much better than anyone could have hoped for and many fans of musicals who aren't familiar with the movie are also buying tickets."

    The musical was written by Eleanor Bergstein, who also wrote the film.

    It tells the story of a sheltered rich girl "Baby" as she falls in love with her rough and ready dance instructor-Johnny while staying at a holiday resort with her family in the early Sixties.

    Classic songs include I've Had The Time Of My Life and She's Like The Wind.

    Evening Standard theatre critic Nicholas De Jongh wrote last month: "Anyone wanting to discover how a musical oozes sex appeal without doing anything too near the knuckle ought to make for the Aldwych."

    He added: "Dirty Dancing is a night of good, jiggly rubbish, blameless silliness which ends with an uplifting finale. It's hard to dislike it but it's also hard to call it memorable art."

    © Associated Newspapers Ltd
posted by Josh @ 10:58 AM  
2006-11-17
Oh Yeah, Tom Cruise
I'm not mentioning this because I care, I'm not mentioning this because it's all over every channel on my TV today, I'm mentioning this only for history. Posterity.

How someday in the not-too-distant future you, me, or someone we might not even know yet, will read this and say, "Ha! Oh, that's right, I forgot how Katie Holmes used to be married to Tom Cruise. Wow, that's so weird to think of now. Huh. I'm very glad Josh put that in his blog ..."

So Tommy, my boy, have a great wedding.



Apparently all of the citizens of Teegeeack are watching ...
posted by Josh @ 5:11 PM  
Winter Wonderland
Sorry no real posts yesterday. I was off on a mission for part of the day.

Something funny did happen yesterday, though. Liz discovered something new about me - my intense love of Christmas carols.

Seriously. I don't know if it's because I spent too many Holiday seasons working in malls or what, but I love them. My iTunes has something like 375 different songs - almost eighteen and a half hours worth!

I have everything from Bing Crosby's "Let it Snow", Dan the Automator's remix of Dean Martin's "Jingle Bells" to Goofy's "I'd Like to Have an Elephant for Christmas". (Yes, that Goofy).

I have three different albums of steel drum takes on Holiday classics.

Six copies of "Blue Christmas".

Ten each of "Deck the Halls", "Rudolph" and "Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas" (my favorite? Rowlf the Dog's duet with John Denver).

Eleven "Jingle Bells".

Three "Mele Kalikimaka"s, even!

Anyway, once it turned to November, I started to get excited. Liz, obviously, started to get scared. Thus she made a decree that I couldn't start the carols until Thanksgiving.

Luckily last weekend she wasn't in the mood to grocery shop, so I said I'd do it ... if she'd give me an extra week of carols.

Deal.

So yesterday morning at 8 am I busted out the iTunes and Goldfinger's "White Christmas".

The season is here.

Bring on the carols!
posted by Josh @ 3:42 PM  
2006-11-16
News: iPods in Flight
Sweet!

Even if we don't have a video iPod (yet!) we can still charge the old nanos on these flights. And Emirates is one of the participating airlines, too.

Excellent!

    Reuters
    Apple in deal to let iPod videos play on planes
    November 14, 2006

    NEW YORK - Apple Computer Inc. said on Tuesday six major airlines will let passengers play video and music from their iPod digital devices on in-flight entertainment systems beginning in mid-2007.

    Air France, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, KLM and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines will begin offering their passengers iPod seat connections, which power and charge iPods during flight and allow the video content on the devices to be viewed on seat-back displays, Apple said.

    Terms were not disclosed.

    Apple has sought to expand the possible uses for its market-dominating iPod, including deals to build iPod ports into new-model cars. The announcement came as rival Microsoft Corp. launched its Zune digital music player on Tuesday in a bid to challenge the iPod.

    To date, Apple said it has sold nearly 70 million iPods and more than 1.5 billion songs through its iTunes music store.

    Apple shares rose to $85.25 in premarket trading from its close of $84.35 on Monday on the Nasdaq.

    © Reuters
posted by Josh @ 7:09 PM  
2006-11-15
"Could've Been"
So we've had some a few comments about the 1837 billboards from yesterday's photo roundup.

I guess apparently Tiffany & Co. was founded in 1837.

While they already have a store in Dubai at the Burjuman Centre, maybe they're opening another?

However, one might ask why the billboards are not in their trademarked Tiffany Blue (Which is Pantone #1837 - get it?)

Either way, that sounds more likely than our other choices: Mount Holyoke College, the state of Michigan, Martin Van Buren, the city of Chicago, the Riot on Broad Street, Queen Victoria, the Daguerreotype and the telegraph.

Personally, though, I was hoping that the Daguerreotype was making a comeback.

Probably not in this digital age, though, sadly ...
posted by Josh @ 3:12 PM  
Diamondback Logo
I don't know why I love corporate logos as much as I do, it's kind of weird. At least this logo change is baseball-related, even if it's only the National League.

(Oh snap!)


The Arizona Diamondbacks have updated their logo with a new color scheme. Yes, after nine long years it's time for a change. Can you imagine having the same boring logo for almost a whole decade? Goodness. Those poor fans in Arizona.

But in all seriousness, the purple and turquoise color scheme was pretty tacky. They're replaced it with a more desert-esque red, tan and black. Er, sorry ... "Sedona Red", "Sonoran Sand" and, well, "black".

The team has also done away with the uniform pinstripes and the sleeveless 'vest' look, bringing the fashion into the 21st century. Or at least out of the 1970s.



Oh, who am I kidding, I can't stay mad at the D'Backs. They're just so cute and harmless! It's fun watching the National League because it's kind of like watching Little League. You're happy if nobody gets hurt, and it doesn't matter who wins or loses, you know that the coach is buying each player an ice cream after the game.

And yes, I'm well aware that the D'Backs won the 2001 World Series, their fourth season of existence. But where did Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, their two MVP players, go? The American League.

Seriously though who picks two World Series MVPs? You might as well just say "The whole team is our MVP! Each and every one of you! Yay Team!"

Ugh.
posted by Josh @ 2:34 PM  
2006-11-14
Morning photo roundup
I was out on a mission this morning, and took a few photos to share with everyone.

First we have the Burj Dubai under construction. Right now construction is up to 83 floors. They're currently completing one floor per week. When completed in 2009, it will most likely be the world's tallest building. The final height is a closely guarded secret, I've seen rumors of 808 meters (2650 feet) and 940 meters (3084 feet).

In contrast the roof of the World Trade Center twin towers were at 1368 feet (417 meters) with 110 floors. Boston's Prudential Center is 759 feet (229 meters) and has 52 floors.

It could be four times taller than the Prudential Center. Jeesh.



Next, and I'm bummed I only had my phone and not my digital camera - is a photo of Leona Salon. I was a little lost, driving in circles, and I saw it.

My cousin's name is Leona, named after my paternal grandmother.

Next time I get lost in that neighborhood I'll have to have my real camera handy.



Next is a photo for my Dad. He's going to be amazed by this when he comes to visit. All over Dubai there are large billboards. Every once and a while you see one with out the graphics, and you realize it's just plywood. Tons and tons of 4x8 plywood.

What's this photo here, about 12 visible rows and 14 columns? And that's only half of the billboard.

I bet this thing is easily 350-360 sheets of plywood.

Right now my Dad is shaking his head and chuckling.



Lastly we have two photos I've been asked to share by Liz for the Mount Holyoke College crowd. I guess Liz and her peeps lived in 1837 Hall back in school, and now some company is advertising 1837 for something.

Great campaign, really - I have no idea what they're promoting, or who's promoting it.



This last one isn't as clear, the windshield had a little schmutz on it, but I wanted to share it because of the photo it's next to. It's a photo of Sheikh Zayed, as in "Sheikh Zayed Road" and the man who created the UAE and was the President for 30 years.



But should I really be using Yiddish words here? Oy Vey.
posted by Josh @ 2:47 PM  
47th VP?
Help Wanted: President of the Senate, adviser to the President, Chairperson of the Board of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as a Member of the board of the Smithsonian Institution, first in the presidential line of succession, becoming the new President of the United States upon the death, resignation, or removal of the President. Must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, at least thirty-five years of age and a resident of the U.S. for 14 years. Perks include housing at the Naval Observatory as well as a bunker in a secure and undisclosed location. Two year contract. Serious offers only, please.

I'm going to go political today, sorta. But it's less a "Red State / Blue State" thing than a "take a step back and look" kind of deal.

Plus, I'm in Dubai, we're neither a red nor a blue state.

I think there's never been a better time to dump Dick Cheney than right now. Dick Cheney has to resign.

Think about it - neo-conservative pal Donald Rumsfeld is out as Secretary of Defense, replaced by Bush 41's CIA Director. The War in Iraq is going to shift directions, most likely with the help of James Baker, Bush 41's Secretary of State. Heck, the new Newsweek makes it look like Daddy's coming in to save the day.



It's a perfect time to do it. Make him the fall guy for the Second Gulf War, heck, he's been calling for Saddam's removal since 1998.

But all of this? This is just an excuse.

See, I think the Republicans will want to set the stage for 2008, and soon.

Look at this fact: of the 13 presidential elections from 1956 to 2004, 9 featured the incumbent President; the other 4 (1960, 1968, 1988, 2000) all featured the incumbent Vice President.

That's not going to happen in 2008, as Cheney has said previously that he won't run. And who are the Republicans going to go with? A Governor or Senator? Yeah, that's all fine and good, but imagine if you had the VP running. So much better. Because if the Democrats really affect change over the next two years, they're going to come out swinging in '08.

But what chance do they have against someone who came in with the appearance of housekeeping the White House? The replacement to neo-con Cheney. A hero.

It's genius.

You could have Cheney resign due to health problems, perhaps. Or maybe Bush, in order to butch up his image, will force him to resign. Call him out in front of the Senate or something. Kick a little ass.


"Who will replace him", you ask? Well, I dunno, someone young and forcefull. Mitt Romney? George Allen? Rudy Giuliani??? Or what about that Governor from Florida? Isn't his term up soon?

Keep in mind that I'm not judging Cheney's job either way, I just think that it's wholly possible that he won't be Vice President on January 19, 2009.

Also, in doing research on the Vice Presidency (no, I didn't pull the election data out of thin air) I read this interesting blurb on Wikipedia:

    The 22nd amendment limits presidents to being elected to only two terms. It is, however, debated whether a former two-term president could be elected Vice President since the 22nd amendment doesn't limit a president to serving two terms; it only prevents him from being elected to more than two terms. According to one interpretation a two term president could be elected to the vice-presidency and then serve another term in the presidency if the elected president died or was removed from office. The 22nd amendment only forbids election to, not service in, the presidency more than twice. In such a circumstance the two-term president turned vice president would still be elected to the presidency twice.

Interesting.

"What will poor Dick Cheney do if he's no longer VP", you ponder?

Maybe get back to work on his movie career? I hear they're making another Die Hard ...

(Phew, I got through the whole article without once mentioning Haliburton, the end of the Post-Cold War Pax Americana and the new ongoing War on Terror - a/k/a "Cold War 2: Electric Boogaloo" masterminded by Cheney and the neo-cons, the U.S. Space Forces - yes, Space Forces, "nation building", US military expansionism, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, Scooter Libby, "regime change", Rebuilding America's Defenses, "weapons of mass distruction", or world domination.)
posted by Josh @ 1:37 PM  
2006-11-13
Ski Dubai Facts
So I've been asked for a few more facts about Ski Dubai. Here's some info I've gleaned from their website as well as from a Washington Post article from January 15th.

    Opened in Dec 2005

    Cost around $275 million to build

    85 meters (278.87 feet) high and 80 meters (262.47 feet) wide

    That's approximately 25 stories tall

    5 different runs of varying difficulty and length, longest run of 400 meters (1312.34 feet)

    Full capacity of 1500 guests

    Quad chairlift, tow lift and flying carpets (conveyor belt for the learning slope)

    22,500 sq meters covered with real snow all year round - (equivalent to 3 football fields)

    Temperature maintained at 28 degrees to 30 degrees (lowered at night to help make the snow)

    Developers say it has the world's first indoor black diamond run

    At 3000 square meters, the Snow Park is the largest indoor snow park in the world

So Ski Dubai has a 278 foot vertical drop, how does that compare with some other mountains we know?


Sunday River's longest run is three and a half miles, so doing some math we find out Ski Dubai's is ... a quarter mile.

Obviously it's unfair to compare this mall attraction to real ski mountains. But the fact that when it's 80, 90, or even 120 degrees out you can wander into the mall in jeans, a tee shirt and flip flops and be skiing a few minutes later, that's pretty cool.

As for the pricing, well, it's not insane.

2 hours on the Ski Slope also gets you Jacket, Trousers, Skis / Ski Boots / Ski poles or Snowboard / Snowboard Boots, Disposable socks, Helmet

    Adult
    AED 140 ($38.08)

    Child
    AED 120 ($32.64)

    1 hr Extension - Adult
    AED 30 ($8.16)

    1 hr Extension - Child
    AED 20 ($5.44)

    Day Pass - Adult
    AED 230 ($62.56)

    Day Pass - Child
    AED 180 ($48.96)

    Express Pass (10 passes) - Adult
    AED 1260 ($342.72)

    Express Pass (10 passes) - Child
    AED 1080 ($293.76)

The snow park is even more reasonably priced:

    Snow Park - Adult
    AED 60 ($16.32)

    Snow Park - Child
    AED 50 ($13.60)

Anyway, it's certainly unique to go skiing in the desert ...
posted by Josh @ 10:45 AM  
2006-11-12
The Spirit of Dubai


I don't know if you saw this yet, but if not you will see it in the coming weeks.

The Spirit of Dubai, the largest commercial airship in the world, has begin a journey from London to the Palm Jumeirah here in Dubai.

On its way it's making stops at landmarks such as Big Ben and the Tower Bridge in London, Stonehenge, the White Cliffs of Dover, the Eiffel Tower and Versailles in Paris, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum in Rome, the Acropolis in Athens and the Great Pyramids in Egypt.

Pretty clever, tying the old wonders of the world to the new one.

You saw it here first ...
posted by Josh @ 2:33 PM  
News: Burbank Drive-Thru Answered in NH
This has nothing to do with me, Dubai or anything at all, really. But New Hampshire is close to Maine, and I used to eat at that Wendys in Burbank every once and a while (assuming it's the one by Target and Best Buy, which I think is the only Wendys in Burbank.)

    The Boston Globe
    Miles away, 'I'll have a burger'
    Fast food drive-throughs go long distance

    By Jenn Abelson
    November 5, 2006

    NASHUA -- When Jairo Moncada pulled up to the drive-through at Wendy's in Burbank, Calif., for his usual cheeseburger, fries, and soda, he knew things looked different. There was an extra lane.

    But the 25-year-old could not see the biggest change: The woman taking his lunch order was sitting 3,000 miles away at a computer terminal in Nashua, and fielding calls from Wendy's customers at drive-throughs as far away as Florida and Washington, D.C.

    "I had absolutely no idea I was talking to someone in New Hampshire," Moncada said in a phone interview later that day. "Our order was ready at the window. It was really quick."

    It took a total of 66 seconds.

    The Burbank store is one of several Wendy's restaurants around the country that have been testing the concept, and franchisees plan to expand to at least 200 stores by next spring because the initial tests are so promising. Other fast-food companies, including Burger King, Panda Express, and McDonald's, have also started routing drive-through calls to remote locations to get faster and more accurate orders and let in-store employees concentrate on making food, keeping the store clean, and ringing up sales.

    The trend is transforming the fast-food industry in ways that are usually invisible to customers but can yield big results for the restaurants, which count on the drive-through business for about two-thirds of all sales. Every second counts in the race to deliver food faster, and no chain takes that challenge more seriously than Wendy's, which held the top spot as the industry's speediest server for seven straight years until Checker's took first place this year, according to "The Best in Drive-thru 2006" report released last month by QSR magazine. Checker's average order was delivered in 125.5 seconds, measured from the time the customer reaches the speaker until the bag of food is passed through the window.

    That time topped Wendy's by 9.6 seconds. But at the Wendy's stores that use call centers, drive-through transactions are expected to be completed in under 90 seconds.

    "Everyone is looking at these call centers," said Dennis Lombardi , executive vice president of food-services strategies at WD Partners in Columbus, Ohio. "You can move orders faster, increase the average check by selling them extras -- 'Would you like fries with that?' -- and improve order accuracy. It will become the norm in the next five to 10 years."

    Typically, fast-food workers who handle drive-through calls are multitasking, wearing headsets to take orders while filling drinks or bagging food. It's a high-pressure job and employees often are more concerned about rushing through orders than trying to sell more food or being polite to customers.

    Already, Wendy's says the call center is paying off. Drive-through sales jumped 12 percent at the six stores that installed multiple drive-through lanes that are connected to a call center, according to Kevin Fritton, executive vice president of 256 Operating Associates, which runs the call center and 14 Wendy's restaurants in New Hampshire and Vermont. The call-center employees, who earn about $8.50 an hour, are trained to urge customers to add items to their order and are timed on how long each call takes.

    By moving the order-taking off-site, Wendy's cracked down on thefts that occurred during late-night shifts when some employees gave food to friends at the drive-through window and pocketed the cash without ringing up the orders. The new set-up separated order-takers from employees handing out food, Fritton said, and one restaurant experienced an 18 percent increase in late-night sales overnight after the new system was implemented. Two employees also quit the next day.

    "It's the future of the industry," said Fritton, who is giving a speech today on the drive-through technology at the International Foodservice Technology Exposition in Long Beach, Calif. "I can't believe how stupid I was not to do this sooner."

    Fritton was a huge skeptic just two years ago when he rejected a pitch from an Andover company, Exit41 Inc. to revamp the drive-through business by adding more lanes and installing a remote order center. He didn't want to move control outside the store and didn't understand why someone in another state could do a better job taking orders than employees inside the store.

    "When I thought about call centers, I thought about how I'd wait for hours on hold with someone in Bangladesh trying to get computer help," Fritton said. "There's an urgency to our business."

    But Fritton eventually agreed to fly to Colorado and sit for an hour in a rival's parking lot and see what the technology could do. He watched car after car zoom through a McDonald's drive-through at a rate he'd never seen -- more than 125 cars during lunch hour. At the time, Fritton's stores were doing about 85 cars an hour during lunchtime.

    "Using call centers allows us to provide a high level of service and be able to do that from a remote location in an environment where the crew can be much more comfortable," Don Thompson, president of McDonald's USA, said in a recent interview. "What it allows us to do is to use the same crew person who was taking orders to go out to be much more hospitable to guests."

    For now, the Wendy's stores host their order center in a cramped house in Nashua where the franchisee group shares office space with the order-center employees. Eight computer terminals are jammed into about 200 square feet where employees take an average of 100 orders an hour during peak lunch time. Sheets of papers are thumbtacked to the walls with reminders to ask customers about add-ons to their orders that might increase sales, such as chili with cheese.

    Customers addressing the speaker at the drive-through order area are connected directly to the computer of a call-center employee using Internet calling technology. The menu for that store pops on the screen along with the location and any special promotions for that restaurant. Call-center employees enter the request; it takes 40 milliseconds for the order to get transferred to a screen in the kitchen, where workers make the burgers, fries, and drinks. The cashier at the delivery window then views a screen that captures images of each car and links the order to the vehicle.

    Of course, there are glitches. Sometimes, there aren't enough order-center employees to handle the calls so a recording is played to customers asking them to wait. Other times, the weather makes it hard to hear customers or knocks out power entirely, shutting down the system and forcing stores to take the orders themselves.

    But when the system works, it works so well that managers at stores using the order centers refuse to get transferred to restaurants without them, Fritton said.

    "When you're trying to take orders and make them at the same time, you tend to rush the customers. Here we keep a very relaxed and friendly environment and customers can take their time," said Kari Zeger, a 22-year-old from Nashua who works at the Wendy's order center and previously worked at Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts stores. "And not having to make sure our uniform is clean and not smelling like the food at the end of the day is definitely a plus."

    © Globe Newspaper Company
posted by Josh @ 10:29 AM  
2006-11-10
Ski Dubai
Last night was the Dubai World Cup race at the indoor Ski Dubai slope at the Mall of the Emirates.



Ski Dubai Photo Gallery

The mountain is unreal - the snow is manufactured the same way as it is back home, so it felt strangely normal. The run is a little short, but we're indoors! And it's 80-something degrees outside!

We had a great time, hope you enjoy the gallery.
posted by Josh @ 11:24 AM  
2006-11-09
Borat Banned
So apparently that Borat movie that's so popular with the kids in the USA has been banned by the cultural censors in Dubai.



I guess we'll have to get our Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan somewhere else.

Pirated DVDs, perhaps?

Sorry 20th Century Fox ...
posted by Josh @ 3:57 PM  
Keeping up ...
So hey, anything new?

Wow, have the last 24-48 hours been insane or what? I'd hate to have been in a coma for the last two days. You wake up and ask, "Is anything new?" and your family just shakes their head and goes into a seven hour history lesson of the last two news cycles.

Democrats take control of the House and Senate, Congress gets first Muslim lawmaker, Donald Rumsfeld Resigns as Defense Secretary, Hamas has ended it's truce, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline are getting divorced, 49ers tell San Francisco mayor they plan to move, The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks - the Clippers!, Bids are in for Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, The OC returns to Fox, sans Marissa Cooper, and I'm sure somewhere Tom Cruise is doing something asinine.

Holy Toledo.

So what's new in Dubai? Um, well, let's see ... Fog in Dubai yesterday caused 225 accidents ... Emirates airline will launch a new service in January allowing inflight mobile phone calls ... and that's about it.

Oh, the Dubai World Cup ski race is tonight, so come back tomorrow for lots of photos of Ski Dubai!
posted by Josh @ 12:02 PM  
2006-11-08
Internet in Dubai
So in speaking about Etisalat and cell phones in Dubai last week, I forgot to mention that they also provide internet to most of the people in Dubai, too.

Actually I should say what parts of the internet they want to provide.

The internet is not the same world wide, folks, don't let that whole "world wide web" fool ya. Any Internet Service Provider can block any website they want.

And Etisalat bans websites such as Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Skype, Vonage, Orkut, MetaCafe, Piczo as well as all sites with the domain ".il" (I'll let you do the math of that last one.)

Luckily at the University we get our internet through some random other ISP from Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City, which are free zones - so most of these sites aren't blocked. (Although Skype is blocked universally in the UAE).

Why do they block these sites, you ask? I guess the theory is that they're protecting the citizens from some of the vices on the internet. Mostly from websites that might have pornographic images or content that is against Islamic beliefs.

How Skype and Vonage fit into this plan ... well, I wouldn't say it's because if people had access to free VoIP telephony service then they wouldn't be using their Etisalat cell phones as much. Nope. It must be related to porn. Somehow.

Because also they also sometimes block blogs. And that would be bad.
posted by Josh @ 1:44 PM  
Public Service Announcement
The other day I mentioned that I was busy with a big project for school, right? Well, I won't get into the specifics of the project, or the challenges I've faced working with the group, those are all besides the point.

What's important that EVERYONE BACK UP THEIR DATA ON THEIR COMPUTERS.

For this project I've assembled a fairly large computer simulation in the labs at the University, and saved them to a USB Jump Disk. You know, a little one that would fit on a keychain?

Well, we presented the project off of the disk last night, and it went fine (other than the fact that I got a little nervous and skipped a slide, but that's neither here nor there). But then, in the hour or so after presenting but before the end of class the entire jump disk pooped out on me.

I'm not kidding. At 9:45 last night I went to the professor's office so he could download the computer simulation from my drive, and the drive was empty.

I almost died.

Everything was gone. The disk was empty.

I tried it this morning on Liz's computer and my Mac - both the same.

Panic attack city.

Luckily one of the group members copied the contents of the disk to her own disk so we had a backup. But if we hadn't, and the entire report was gone, I might flip out.

This weekend I'm backing up both of our computers - all of our photos and whatnot. I'm super-paranoid now.

My heart is still going about a million bmp. Man.
posted by Josh @ 1:34 PM  
2006-11-07
Dubai World Cup
I've got a big project for school tonight and an exam tomorrow, but I have to tell you about the Dubai World Cup.

On Thursday night Liz and I are competing in a standard Giant Slalom race down one of the sides of the indoor slope at Ski Dubai.

See, the park is divided into two slopes - the chairlift goes up the center, and the slopes are on either side. However, in the official press they say they have five trails - since there's a mid-way station I guess the two trails from the top to the midstation are trails one and two, and the two from midstation to the base are three and four. The little kiddie park is trail five?

Must be.

Anyway, the World Cup is interesting, there are seventy-two racers from eighteen teams, countries participating are: Australia, Austria, Bosnia / Herzegovina, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Iran, Ireland, North America, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and something called the "UAE Expats".

Our team is made up of three Americans and one Canadian (hence the "North America" title).


Here's something ... weird ... though, notice on the logo above that there's no USA flag. But look between Finland and France ... is that ... Mexico??

I think so.

We're racing for all of North America, after all ...

Anyway, on Thursday Liz is racing 5th of 72, and I'm racing ... 67th. We pulled numbers out of a hat, and somehow I ended up fifth from last. Oh joy.

Like I said, I'll have more info on Friday ...
posted by Josh @ 1:57 PM  
2006-11-03
McArabia
I just realized that I never wrote about McDonalds in Dubai.

I was thinking that last night as I was biting into my fries at the Mall of the Emirates. I love McDonalds fries.


And no, for the record they don't call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese a "Royal with Cheese" - as they don't sell the Quarter Pounder here.

They do have some other differences, though. First off they have the McArabia sandwich, which is is made of Arab bread, grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes and Arab sauce.

I haven't tried it yet, but the photo on the menu looks good.

But they also have McArabia Grilled Kofta.


Kofta is a Middle Eastern meatball of ground lamb mixed with spices and onions.

Not going to try that.

And to be fair to both political parties, I wanted to include this photo from Burger King:


Their new sandwich they are advertising is the Hammour Royale. If you couldn't guess from the Finding Nemo-esque logo, "hammour" is a type of fish local to this area.


Too bad they didn't include the little fishy in the "o" of "hammour", though.
posted by Josh @ 12:18 PM  
2006-11-02
Flickr Gallery Updated
Today I've uploaded a few more photos to my Flickr Gallery.



Nothing from Dubai yet, but it's really getting me in the mood to go take some photos ... soon.
posted by Josh @ 4:44 PM  
Recipe - Disneyland Cornbread
Here's the recipe for the cornbread I made the other night. It's from Disneyland Park, although I have no idea which restaurant sells it there, if they even do anymore.

Regardless, it's a great recipe that my brother, cousin, cousin-in-law and now wife all enjoy.

Disneyland Cornbread

2/3 c Sugar
1 t Salt
1/3 c Shortening
1 t Vanilla
2 Eggs
2 c Flour
1 T Baking powder
3/4 c Cornmeal
1 1/3 c Milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine sugar, salt, shortening and vanilla and mix 5 min. Add eggs one at a time and beat 3 min.

Mix flour, baking powder, and cornmeal. Add half of flour mixture to sugar mixture. Add half of milk to flour and sugar mixture and mix. Add remainder of milk and flour mixture and beat to blend.

Bake for 20 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
posted by Josh @ 11:44 AM  
2006-11-01
Warm
In case anyone is keeping track - tonight at 9:15 pm it was 90 degrees in Dubai, with 75% relative humidity.

This on the first day of November.

Huh.
posted by Josh @ 9:26 PM  
Dubai Phones
The other day I had to add minutes to my cell phone (yep, still refusing to call it a "mobile") and I thought it'd be a fun process to share with you all.

First off, while I'm sure some people have them, I don't know anyone personally who has a landline telephone here in Dubai. Everyone I know uses their cell phones exclusively.

Either way, all phone service here is provided by a company called Etisalat. That's right, there's only one cell phone company in the UAE. Ahhh, the joys of a monopoly. Goes hand-in-hand with the whole 'dictator' thing, I guess.

However, it does save you time comparison shopping all of the different T-Mobile, US Cellular, Cingular, Verizon (shudder) Wireless plans ...

The other interesting difference here is that all of the phones are prepaid. Which I guess makes sense - if you don't have a street address, how is Etisalat going to send you a monthly bill?

So you want a cell phone in Dubai? Well, first you need the actual phone. Etisalat doesn't sell those, so you have to buy it at Géant, Carrefour, or any one of the zillion electronics stores in the mall. They have all of the standard phone models - good ol' RAZRs are as popular here as they are in the States.

The phones have to be GSM, though. GSM means something in French ... no doubt the "M" stands for "mobile". Sheesh.

I guess GSM is the most popular standard for cell phones in the world. In the USA half of the providers are GSM, and half are something else. And those phones won't work with the GSM network. But I guess the US is the only country that doesn't play nicely with GSM (imagine that!)

Anyway, you buy a phone at a store. Then you buy a SIM card from Etisalat, which comes with a one year subscription to service. This costs AED 165, which is about $45. But they also throw in AED 10 ($2.72) in calls. Nice monopoly.

But after that you have to buy phone cards to recharge your minutes. These are available at virtually any store, which makes sense, because if I run out of cell phone minutes I'll want them pronto.

Oh, also different? While outgoing calls and text messages cost money, all incoming calls and text messages are free.

Here's a price breakdown:

    Sending Local calls
    AED 0.30 ($0.08) first minute (Peak or Off-Peak)
    AED 0.15 ($0.04) each 30 sec. after (Peak - 7am-2pm and 4pm-12am)
    AED 0.12 ($0.03) each 30 sec. after (Off-Peak - 2pm-4pm and 12am-7am)

    Sending Texts
    AED 0.18 ($0.04) per local message
    AED 0.60 ($0.16) per international message

Now here's the part that confuses me. I can't seem to find the "peak" and "off-peak" hours for International calls on the Etisalat website. But I've read elsewhere it's 9 pm to 7 am on weekdays, all day on Friday and on public holidays, but wouldn't it be nice to know it officially?

    International to USA
    AED 8.50 ($2.31) first minute (Peak)
    AED 13.10 ($3.56) first minute (Off-Peak) **
    AED 2.12 ($0.57) each minute after (Peak)
    AED 1.37 ($0.37) each minute after (Off-Peak)

** Notice that the first minute Off-Peak costs more than the first minute of Peak. Punks.

So here's a step-by-step photo gallery of my recharging my phone.


We start with a AED 25 recharge card, which is about $6.80.


Just like a phone card in the States, you scratch off the ... scratchy substance to reveal the phone card numbers. Here I am using a 25 fil piece, which has funky hexagonal edges that work well on the ... whatever that substance is. (A 25 fil piece is a quarter of a dirham. So that makes it worth about $0.07.)


Then you text "120" followed by the phone card number (and yes, I made a mistake while typing it in, can you see what it is?)


Finally when you type the numbers in correctly, the phone shows you your balance.

Talk away!

And that, my friends, is the phone situation in Dubai.
posted by Josh @ 11:39 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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