Tuesday, October 30, 2007
An Open Letter to Theo Epstein, General Manager and Executive Vice President of the Boston Red Sox,

Theo! Congratulations on the great season. Your whole organization has helped put together a fantastic team that I hope will be around for a long time.

Congrats to All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell, too. MVP of the World Series, man, that guy is something. You like stats, right? In the four games he hit .400 with 1 home run, 4 RBI, 6 runs scored and a stolen base! And now he holds the Red Sox franchise single-season record for most RBIs by a 3rd baseman, too. Lastly, he's just a great guy. He's always talking about the team effort, selfless - just a great guy.

Speaking of third base, I couldn't help but hear the other night that Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez has opted out of his record-breaking $252 million, 10-year contract. Interesting that his agent Scott Boras chose Sunday to make that announcement. Probably had nothing to do with the final game of the World Series being played. Nope. I bet he just wanted to give the reporters something for the Monday morning papers. Because sports pages are pretty thin these days with only the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLS and MLB playing.

It's interesting to compare Lowell and A-Rod. Both were All-Star third basemen this year. And I think both have hit three home runs in one game.

Of course there are differences, too. Lowell is a big bad machine in the post-season, and A-Rod is, well, more like a baby kitten. In the 2006 postseason, A-Rod went, what? 1-for-14 against the Detroit Tigers?

You know there are other differences, too. While Lowell is a cancer survivor, A-Rod causes cancer. Lowell likes to hug children and kiss babies, and A-Rod likes to hurt children and eat babies. Lowell goes to church every week and A-Rod cheats on his wife every week. Yep, the differences are staggering.

But those things don't matter to me as much as one moment. One moment of complete unsportsmanlike conduct. Let's go back in time to the 2004 American League Championship Series. This is what Red Sox Nation thinks of when someone says "A-Rod" to us. Right here, this photo below, slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove. This is Junior High baseball. This is A-Rod:
Don't Sign A-Rod

'Course, Toronto fans probably think of the game a few months ago when A-Rod yelled "Mine" as a baserunner, distracting the Blue Jay's thirdbaseman from making a play. That's not Junior High baseball, you can't even characterize that as Little League baseball. Little League coaches would be livid over that stunt.

I bet that every team has a reason, just like this, to hate A-Rod.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say Theo is congratulations, but if you sign A-Rod over Lowell you just lost yourself a fan. It'll be a cold day in hell before I root for A-Rod.

No, you know what - "Alex Rodriguez". I'm going to call him his real name from now on, forget this "A-Rod" junk. Baseball players shouldn't have nicknames like they're a character in the WWE or the XFL. You just know that Scott Boras concocted that name in a Vince McMahonian moment to help distinguish Rodriguez from the eighteen other ballplayers named "Rodriguez". Remember how Boras was trying to get the media to call Daisuke Matsuzaka "D-Mat", but the Boston papers were calling him "Dice-K" and that stuck because that's the phonetic spelling of his name and not some manufactured nickname?

In summary, if you hire Alex Rodriguez as thirdbaseman you're going to lose lots of fans. You're a numbers guy, do a poll of Red Sox Nation and see just how few of us want that asshat on our team.

Thank you, and congratulations again.
posted by Josh at 9:04 AM | 5 comments
Monday, October 29, 2007
I don't even know what to say. I'm speechless. This morning (well, morning for me anyway) the Boston Red Sox won baseball's World Series.

For those of you who might not know, the Red Sox won the World Series last in 2004, and before that in 1918. September 11, 1918 to be exact - thirty years to the day before my father was born.

Why was that World Series played in September and not October, you might ask?

Oh, because of World War I. That's how long ago it was. Freaking World War I was still going on. The Great War. The War To End All Wars. Doughboys in trenches. The Ottoman Empire.

That Armenian Genocide everyone's been talking about this month? Yeah, that just had finished.

My maternal Grandpa Rudy was a few days away from turning six years old. My paternal grandmother Leona had just turned ten that week. Both life-long Sox fans, neither of them would live to see another Sox World Championship.

Ted Williams, probably the best batter ever in baseball and by far the most famous Sox player, was just shy of two weeks old for that series. He would never play on a World Championship team, or live to see another one.

And that's one of the reasons I love baseball, especially Red Sox baseball. The history. Connecting the past with the present.

Take, for example, Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play. It opened on April 20, 1912. Sadly, that first game wasn't front page news ... because the Titanic had just sunk and monopolized the front page.


That's another reason I'm glad that the Colorado Rockies lost. Let's be honest, they have virtually no history. They were formed just over a decade ago! They don't deserve it. (And yes, I know the Marlins won in 1997 and 2003 - don't get me started about that.)

Is it fair that the Sox won again? That they're the only team to win two World Series in this century? I don't know. But I'm glad they did.

That last time, it was three years ago exactly - October 28, 2004. That night of a total lunar eclipse - it really felt like the ghosts of the past were excised. The Sox had never been behind in the whole series, but I was sweating until the last out. I think all Sox fans were.

Because we learned that from an early age. Just a few months before I was born there was the tragic 1975 World Series. Speaking of history - my Grandpa Rudy and Uncle Fred were at The Game Six. You know, the one with the Carlton Fisk homer. You've seen it. It was in Good Will Hunting.

Then I was ten - the same age as my grandmother Leona in 1918 - when the Sox lost the 1986 World Series. They lost that Game Six. Bill Buckner. Vin Scully's call, "Little roller up along first ... behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!"


Yep, I learned there's always chance for collapse with the Sox. So this morning I feared the pitching prospects for the 8th and 9th innings. Then the Rockies had a late-inning surge.


But this time turned out okay. Just like last time.

Sadly I wasn't able to see one flippin' frame of this series on TV, thankyouverymuch Orbit ESPN (see I still hate Orbit ESPN).

Taco Bell LogoNor will I be be able to cash in on Taco Bell's Steal a Base, Steal a Taco promotion - where they're giving free tacos out after the first stolen base of the series. We don't have Taco Bell here in Dubai, not that they'd probably honor that deal, anyway. So don't forget to hit up a Taco Bell between 2 and 5 pm tomorrow, you lucky people you!

Yet for some reason I'm melancholy over this whole win. Is it because I have no friends to share the excitement with? I mean, Liz has been a trooper, this morning when she went for a walk during the 7th or 8th inning she wore her Sox hat I bought her (not a pink one, I might add). But it's not quite the same as a rowdy crowd. Instant messaging with my friends as I listened over the internet is not nearly the same as sharing a pitcher of Shipyard Pumpkinhead beer and curly-fries.

Is it because now we're a dynasty - or as close to one as baseball has these days?

Has Red Sox Nation become the Evil Empire?

Or am I just going goofy due to lack of sleep and lack of tacos?

I'm going to take a nap and rest this one out.

Congrats to the World Champion Boston Red Sox.
posted by Josh at 4:45 PM | 1 comments
Didja see this?

Apparently all of these workers were deported with a lifetime ban on returning.


Associated Press
Dubai strike threatens building boom
By Barbara Surk
October 28, 2007

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Thousands of South Asian construction workers went on strike Sunday over harsh working conditions in the latest threat to a spectacular building boom already endangered by a falling currency and labor shortage.

While laborers have long complained about working conditions in this Gulf city known for its avant-garde skyscrapers, luxury dwellings and archipelagoes of artificial islands, their recent action comes as contractors are struggling to find workers to complete their ambitious projects.

Dubai is home to the world's tallest building — the Burj Dubai, expected to be completed in 2008 — and the first Armani luxury hotel. Authorities report an annual average growth rate of 12 percent over the past decade, largely driven by construction.

The boom has been possible due to plentiful investment from oil-rich neighbors and armies of non-unionized south Asian workers whose fear of deportation, until recently, kept them from voicing discontent over low wages.

"The cost of living here has increased so much in the past two years that I cannot survive with my salary," said Rajesh Kumar, a 24-year-old worker from the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh who earns $149 a month.

The laborers ignored the threat of deportation and refused to go to work, staging protests at a labor camp in Dubai's Jebel Ali Industrial Zone and on a construction site in Al Qusais residential neighborhood.

They demanded pay increases, improved housing and better transportation services to construction sites. On Saturday, workers threw stones at the riot police and damaged to police cars.

Emirates' Minister of Labor Ali bin Abdullah al-Kaabi described workers' behavior as "uncivilized," saying they were tampering with national security and endangering residents' safety.

They could have registered their complaints peacefully but instead "turned themselves into rioters," he told state news agency WAM. Those who damaged public property will be deported, the labor minister said.

Companies, however, do not want more workers to leave as they struggle to find enough to complete existing projects following an overwhelming response to a government amnesty program to persuade illegal laborers to leave.

In June, the government offered, no questions asked, a free one-way plane tickets to illegal workers hoping to leave. They have since been swamped by 280,000 workers who, fed up with a rising cost of living and low wages, were ready to go home.

A booming economy in India also means that many there no longer see the need to travel to Dubai and the Gulf, said Bernard Raj, managing director of the Dubai-based Keith International, which supplies Indian workers.

"In the past, when we go for recruitment of workers we were able to choose whomever we wanted. Now the turnout of candidates is very low," he said, estimating that at least 40 percent more workers were needed for the city's projects.

With the usual labor markets like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka drying up, labor companies are turning to less traditional places like Tibet and North Korea.

At the root of the problem is the Emirati Dirham's close connection to the U.S. dollar, which has seen it plummet in value, further decreasing laborers' already low salaries.

Kumar and his fellow workers said they asked their employer, Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises, for a pay increase several times, but management was not willing to address the issue.

"We were left without any choice but to stage the protest," Kumar said.

Other workers said similar requests to the other main labor company, Al Mussa Contracting, were unsuccessful.

"I can not save anything," said Sunder Raj, a 32-year-old worker who at the end of the month has nothing to send to his family in India from his salary of $162.

"We are working hard for nothing and there is no way for us to continue like this," said Mohammed Hussein, a Bangladeshi worker.

K.V. Shamsudheen of the Pravasi Bhandu Welfare Trust, a group that helps workers, said it is the unskilled labor force that has been especially hard hit, with many no longer able to send money home.

"The low exchange rate of dirham against Indian Rupee left laborers without any savings," he said. "The only way for the UAE to attract workers is to set competitive salaries and assure better living conditions."

While Mohammed al-Shaiba, a UAE-based labor analyst, criticized the strikes, saying they could only harm an economy gripped by a labor shortage, he acknowledged that the government had to do something.

"Now it's the right time to set a minimum wage," he said, adding that government should require companies to pay workers at least $272 a month.

"If they allow a strike today, tomorrow there will be another one," he added.

© Associated Press
posted by Josh at 6:14 AM | 0 comments
Friday, October 26, 2007
Aw junk.

I forgot that this weekend is the Dubai Desert Rythym Music Festival at Dubai Media City - right in our backyard.
>Dubai Desert Rythym Music Festival logo

It's one thing if you actually like the bands (see Pink in Dubai or The Pink Life). But it's a complete other ballgame if it's crap.

Right now?


The sad part? We're only on night one, somewhere between Helena Papirouzo, Ziggy Marley, Madness, Black Violin with Leanne or Kanye West.

The scary part? We're only in the middle - the show started today at 3:30 pm and goes until 3 am. Yes, I have four more hours of this. Hold the applause.

Tomorrow Crapfest 2007 - er, sorry, Dubai Desert Rythym Music Festival - will feature Mika, Joss Stone, Arash and Abri.

I've heard of Joss Stone - she did that funky remake of "Fell In Love with a Boy" like, ten minutes after if came out - but the other ... people? Bands? Whatever? Seem to be the random letters associated with little preschool fists mashing on a computer keyboard. Asdfjklg. Gaskjfdlg. Arash. Mika. Sasdfasd.

The windows are rattling as the bass pumps throughout the near-abandoned Media City buildings. But we're the only people this crapfest is offending - because ours are the only residences in the area. Ugh.

And I thought that I'd have a good night sleep tonight not having to wake up early to cheer on the Sox in the World Series.

Guess I was wrong.
posted by Josh at 10:58 PM | 0 comments
So the convention I've been helping with is right next to the Emirates Towers, and as I was leaving tonight about a half an hour ago I got this shot. I think it's pretty cool:
Photo of Emirates Towers

(And yes, that's the Burj Dubai in the background ...)
posted by Josh at 6:46 PM | 1 comments
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Last week I looked at the scheduling website for my satellite television company, Orbit and I swear that it said the baseball World Series was live on Orbit ESPN.


Just like Dice-K's first game (see That's not Baseball ... and Sox this morning) there's no baseball on my pre-dawn television. Instead it's something called the "Mothers Car Show" until 6 am, and drag racing after that.

Drag racing.


Thank Pesky I have mlb.com Gameday Audio (with all of the schilling I'm doing for these clowns, next year they should give me a free package ...)
posted by Josh at 5:54 AM | 4 comments
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
pierce promotions logo"Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in!"

Because this week isn't goofy enough with two midterms and the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, the last company I worked for Stateside, pierce promotions (although maybe now it's PIERCE promotions, or perhaps just PIERCE) is doing an event in Dubai and wants my help.

PIERCE is an event marketing company from Portland, Maine, although they might tell you they're an experiential marketing company. Although I still don't get exactly what that is.

Either way, they put on events experiences for big name clients all over the US, and, apparently, in Dubai as well.

So the next few days will be low on the updates. Sorry. Go watch some baseball.
posted by Josh at 6:31 AM | 2 comments
Meet the Robinsons DVD boxHey gang!

I forgot to warn you, yesterday the DVD for Meet the Robinsons came out.

The Blu-ray-thingy, too.

"Robinsons" was the last movie I worked on at Disney, or, at least the last movie that I worked on that'll ever see the light of day. The end of an era, you might say.

If you missed it during its theatrical release, I highly suggest you pick up a copy. It's very charming and clever. Plus you'll get to see my name in the credits!
posted by Josh at 6:24 AM | 0 comments
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
60 minutes logoWhen I called my folks on my mom's birthday (see Happy Birthday to my Mom!) they told me that CBS's news program 60 Minutes did a piece on Dubai last week.

We found an article and the complete video online at the CBS website - A Visit To Dubai Inc.

I haven't watched the whole thing yet, I've got a few other irons in the fire right now, but from what I've seen Steve Kroft does a nice job explaining this whole Dubai thing. But just like ABC News (see Dirham and the Dollar) and Time Magazine (see Dubai in Time Magazine) before them, you probably know most of what's in this report already.

Still it's fun to see this stuff on TV ...
posted by Josh at 10:12 AM | 0 comments
Boston University Logo
Last week the Boston Globe ran an interesting article about my alma mater Boston University: BU to launch $1.8b plan to expand, upgrade faculty.

Yep, that's right faculty.

$1.8 billion.

Wow, the times, they are a changin'. Under the previous leadership the university had been, well, let's say a little greedy. I mean, how many college kids can say they live in a dorm that has corporate sponsorship?


Although I really wish they'd renamed it "Manulife Financial Student Village" after the John Hancock / Manulife merger in 2004. What'd that be abbreviated to, the "ManuliStuVi"?

But this time instead of building well, even more buildings they're out to improve the other infrastructure with a plan to add 150 professors, and to pay them more. The plan is to cut the overall student-to-faculty ratio from 14 to 1 to 9 to 1.

"It's moving Boston University to be in that list of the elite, large, private research universities of America, an NYU, a Penn, a Northwestern," President Robert Brown said. "We'll do it by investing in faculty, students, and programs."

All joking aside, that's pretty cool.

Still not going to donate, though.
posted by Josh at 10:03 AM | 1 comments
Monday, October 22, 2007
World Series Logo

I've reimagined the World Series logo into the colors of the UAE to celebrate the Boston Red Sox going to the big game. That's so cool - I still can't quite believe it!

On the way home from school today I had a random thought - poor Patriots. Homeboys have gone 7-0 so far this season and they still can't compete.

Anyway, looks like I have a few more mornings of getting up at 4 am ...
posted by Josh at 4:54 PM | 2 comments
Today was the first time in months that I had to turn on the hot water in the shower. See, we just don't have cold water here in the summer - so we keep the shower turned all of the way to cold. But sometimes if you take a shower in the afternoon or evening the water's still too hot.

Weather.com says that right now it's 79 degrees out at 6:30 am, which I think is the first time I've seen it in the 70s, too. Granted, the sun just rose at 6:20 am, so it's barely day yet.

But still, that's progress ...
posted by Josh at 6:29 AM | 0 comments
The Mad Monkey Cafe logoOkay, so here's the new plan I've come up with after Friday's post (see World Travels). For every post I put up that has nothing to do with Dubai, I'll try and write one that's all about Dubai.

This one's not about Dubai.

On Friday my brother's coffee shop - The Mad Monkey Cafe would have been two years old - if it hadn't closed in February (see Goodbye Monkey, Hello Tyler ...).

Moment of silence for the Monkey, everyone ...
posted by Josh at 5:54 AM | 3 comments
Friday, October 19, 2007
So I'm feeling quite jealous today. This morning, by sheer random googling luck, I found the website for guy I used to tertiarily (is that even a word?) work with at Disney. But he's not at animation anymore, he's on this nine-month tour from California to Hawaii. But, you know, the other way around the world.

I'm completely 100% jealous right now - but not of this guy's trip. As I've learned extensively over the past 14 months I'm not really a big world-travel kind of guy. The thought of wandering Hong Kong or Bangkok totally stresses me out.

I am, however, completely jealous of this guy's website.

He has such amazing stories. And photos. And even videos.

The Great Wall of China. Typhoon Fitlow in Tokyo. The beach from "The Beach". A 24 hour train trip from Shanghai to Guilin.

I don't even know where Guilin is!

Um, I drove by the world's tallest freestanding building on land yesterday. But you could barely see it through the haze and smog.

That's all I've got.

I mean, I am actually reticent to share this guy's URL with you, for fear that you might find his stories more amusing than my ... um, crap.

Seriously, what have I talked about this week? Baseball, Hatta, the Burj, the Palm, more baseball and an American-made movie about Saudi. Last week it was preschool animation done in Spain, some rambling about Dubai Cares and the Salik toll, an American theme park in Abu Dhabi, the state of Kentucky (!), and some quilt that we hung on the wall.

Wow, even I like Tony Swarthout's website better than my own.
posted by Josh at 11:03 AM | 2 comments
Beckett just closed down the 7th. Red Sox are up 4 to 1.
posted by Josh at 7:10 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Boston Red Sox logoSo here's my question - game five of the Red Sox / Indians ALCS is on in five and a half hours. The Indians lead three games to one. Do I go to bed right now and wake up at 4:21 in the morning? Am I that kind of fan?

Keep in mind that if the Sox lose the season is over, and I'll be in a foul mood for the rest of the day.

I honestly don't know what to do ...
posted by Josh at 10:54 PM | 0 comments
Today's my mom's birthday back in the States.

Happy Birthday Mom!

To celebrate, here's a photo of my brother, my Mom and me that my Dad took at Walt Disney World in February of 1985. I'm just shy of 9 years old, and my brother is 7 1/2.
family at Disney
posted by Josh at 7:07 AM | 1 comments
Palm Jumeirah LogoI just read an article about the Palm Jumeirah here in Dubai.

People have been living out there for a year, but apparently the hotels aren't done yet. The Atlantis Hotel - a 1,500 room resort hotel and water theme park - is expected to be open by November 2008. Additionally 28 beachfront hotels, located on the crescent section of the Palm, will be open by the end of 2009. These will be your Hilton, Radisson, Mövenpick, etc.

Lastly, the QE2, will make its permanent home here in 2009.
Palm Jumeirah artwork
posted by Josh at 7:04 AM | 0 comments
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Less Than Jake LogoThe other day on the way home from Hatta (see Hatta Photos) we stopped on the side of the road at a rug / pottery salesman. I'd say "rug / pottery store" but it really wasn't - it was kind of a garage with rugs hanging everywhere and about a hundred pots of every size, shape and color out front on the dirt. If it hadn't been dusk I'd have taken a photo - but by the time we got there the light was pretty much gone.

Anyway, I opted to stay in the car as Liz looked at the wares. Personally I don't think I need any more rugs or pottery. I'm good. So while I waited for Liz I turned on the old iPod that we have wired through the car stereo. A song by Less Than Jake came on. They're a pretty small Florida-based ska punk band who have been around since the early 1990s. They've had a bunch of albums, some on indie labels but also a few on majors such as Capitol, Sire and Warner Brothers. Still, you've probably never heard of them.

Anyway, as I'm listening to "History of a Boring Town" I start to wonder, is this the first time that anyone's ever listened to Less Than Jake while in Hatta, UAE?

I mean, isn't it wholly possible?

But the funny thing is that Less Than Jake sings often about leaving their quiet hometown for the big lights of a city ... which might hit a chord with the teenagers of sleepy little Hatta. So if any Hattan (?) teenagers are reading, check out LessThanJake.com. You might dig it.

Odd side note - my brother did some artwork for their website a few years back, which was cool.
posted by Josh at 12:07 PM | 0 comments
Chief WahooSo the Cleveland Indians beat the Red Sox again this morning. They now lead the best of seven series 3-1. Not a good way to start the day.

Maybe I should take this opportunity to point out to fate or karma or whoever is behind the Cleveland butt-whupping that my ragging on Cleveland back in August (see Dubai is not a "Global City") was not making fun of the Indians, but more the fact that the Cavaliers were just swept in the 2007 NBA Finals. And that the Browns aren't very good, either.

It's kind of based in fact - Cleveland has the biggest sports championship drought in all of the United States. Seriously. The last Cleveland title was when the Cleveland Browns won the pre-Super Bowl NFL Championship in 1964.

Some (including "Curse of the Bambino"-coiner Dan Shaughnessy, no doubt) call it the Cleveland Sports Curse.

But so far in the last three Red Sox / Indians games I've seen no sign of said Curse.


So anyway, how 'bout them Patriots? 6-0, eh? Fantastic.
posted by Josh at 7:56 AM | 0 comments
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Like I mentioned the other day, this weekend was the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. That means that the sawm is finally over and restaurants, coffee shops and cafes are open during the daylight hours again.


The breaking of the fast which ends Ramadan is named Eid ul-Fitr, or sometimes just "Eid". This is the big holiday for Muslims. In Dubai work, school and industry take a few days to a week off.

For those of us here who are non-Muslims this is a prime chance to travel. Sadly, some of us non-Muslims also have non-jobs, and are thus making non-money, so we take part in what I call non-travel.

But seriously, poor Liz wanted so badly to get out of town, so we decided to take a day trip to Hatta.

Hatta is interesting because, while still in the emirate of Dubai, one has to drive through Oman to get there. But there's no border crossing or passport-stamping - the only way we could tell we were in a different country is that when we stopped to get gas the payment was in Omani rials. Oops. Luckily they took Dirhams!

Anyway, Hatta is only 70 to 80 miles away from us. Here's a map, with Hatta in red - remember, we're actually closer to Jebel Ali than to Dubai (the places in green are our other trips from last year).
Map of Hatta

Hatta was pretty small, but had some nice history. They have two reconstructed military towers from the 18th century and a village that dates to 2000 to 3000 years old. Here's the somewhat limited website for the Department of Tourism.

It was really nice to get out of Dubai, even if it was only a few hours.

Here's the gallery:

Hope you enjoy!
posted by Josh at 12:16 PM | 0 comments
This morning I read an Reuters article that called the United States' impending onslaught of retiring baby boomers a "silver tsunami".

What a great phrase!

posted by Josh at 12:02 PM | 0 comments
Shows you how out of the loop we are in Dubai - I just discovered that the young lady who plays Hannah Montana is Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter.

posted by Josh at 11:48 AM | 0 comments
Monday, October 15, 2007
I realize I haven't taken any good photos of the Burj Dubai since we've been back from the summer. Sorry. Between our schedules right now, and the fact that with the heat comes a really thick haze, I just haven't had a good chance.

This weekend was pretty clear, though, and we were driving around yesterday when I got this shot. From this distance it's pretty obviously the tallest free standing structure on land in the world, eh?
Burj Dubai
posted by Josh at 7:06 PM | 0 comments
20071015_kingdom200.pngThe other night we went to the movies for the first time in a couple of months and saw The Kingdom. You know, the one that deals with the aftermath of a terrorist attack on some American civilians in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Other than hitting a little close to home it's a pretty good movie.

My issues with it stem mostly from the fact that first and foremost it's an action movie. See, it's based in reality - or at least the hyper-reality - of oil, Osama bin Laden, Western values, and how it all comes to a head in the GCC.

In fact, the opening title sequence is just about the most fantastic bit of film I've seen since ... jeesh, I don't know how long. It sets up the backstory, from the founding of Saudi Arabia in 1932 up through September 11, 2001 in this amazing montage of graphics and real footage. By far the best movie opening in a long, long time.

But then by the end the movie degrades into a machine-gun v. rocket launcher cliche that even Arnold Schwarzenegger would be embarrassed of.

Of course, I'm going to have a different view of this movie than most Americans. And maybe that's what they want, another action movie where the good guys win. But I was kind of hoping for something else - not really another Syriana, but something with at least little more substance.

I mean, we never really find out "why" the bad guy is bad. He's not a crazy recluse like the Unabomber living in a remote cabin in Montana or Osama bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan. I mean, not to give it all away, but it seems like he has a lot to lose. I just want to know "why"!

Anyway, I still think people should see the movie, don't get me wrong. Oh, and it was filmed in Abu Dhabi, and while it doesn't really look a whole-lot like Dubai, there are some similarities. So that's something.

Here's the opening title sequence which is just amazing:
posted by Josh at 11:07 AM | 0 comments
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Boston Red Sox logoThe Red Sox / Indians baseball game just ended, at what, about 9:36 am my time? Jeesh! That makes it 1:36 am in Boston, and possibly even 1:36 am in Cleveland (I think it's in the Eastern time zone).

Was anyone out there still watching?

Thanks Fox.

No, I don't blame Fox entirely, since the game was in the 11th inning and well over five hours long. But had the game started at 7:05 instead of 8:21 the game would have finished just a hair past midnight. That's a little more reasonable.

Why does Fox do this? Do they really think that West Coast fans are watching? And are those few fans worth every single person in Boston and Cleveland hating them right now?
posted by Josh at 9:40 AM | 3 comments
Friday, October 12, 2007
Have any of you ever heard of an animated show called Pocoyo? It's on our Playhouse Disney channel here in Dubai. That's the one for the really little childrens.

It's totally awesome.

(And no, I'm not being facetious.)

The animation poses are really quite exaggerated (i.e. cartoony), the characters are well designed, and the rest of the art direction is clever and rather spartan - mostly white backgrounds, actually.

Don't believe me? Check this out for yourself:
posted by Josh at 10:12 AM | 0 comments
Nakheel Properties LogoSo Nakheel - the company that brought us the Palm Islands, the World Islands, Discovery Gardens and the Ibn Battuta Mall is reviving plans for the Al Burj tower. We talked about this one back in March a little (see Al Burj Concept Painting).

This building has changed more often than Liz changes shoes before going to work in the morning. (Oh snap!)

At one point Al Burj was going to be on the Palm Jumeirah and was going to be 5250 feet (1600 meters) tall. Then it moved to the Dubai Waterfront, which is near the Palm Jebel Ali, and was going to be just shy of 4000 feet (1200 meters) tall.

Most recently they're saying the building would come in at 3280 feet (1 kilometer).

But now the CEO of Nakeel, Chris O’Donnell (no, not actor Chris O'Donnell) is saying that “height isn’t everything and biggest isn’t best”.

(At least, I don't think it's actor Chris O'Donnell. But where has he been lately?)

“What you have to do is come up with a building of real consequence and relevance. Look at the Sydney Opera House or Tower of London, they aren't the tallest, but they are iconic,” he was quoted as saying.

Hmmm. Does that mean that Al Burj will end up shorter than the Burj Dubai's 2,111 feet?

Anyway, this week the company has started looking to borrow $11 trillion AED ($3 billion) over the next 12 months to fund the 'Tall Tower Project'.

Sounds like they're fixin' to build something.
posted by Josh at 10:04 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, October 11, 2007
This is a neat short little article about how some US troops are communicating with local people in Iraq - using Apple iPods: iPod being used by Army as Arabic translator.
posted by Josh at 7:58 PM | 0 comments
Dubai Cares LogoThe two things everyone seems to be talking about right now in Dubai are Dubai Cares and the road toll system Salik.

Dubai Cares is a charity drive that's been going on for the Islamic month of Ramadan. It's aim is to raise funds to put towards primary education for needy children ... um, somewhere. I assume not in Dubai, though - pretty sure there aren't many needy children here.

On Sunday Gulf News reported that the campaign has raised over 736 million AED - which is $200 million.

Salik LogoAnd yes, Dubai is still abuzz about the road toll system "Salik" that went online July 1. Apparently the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has decided to waive all fines incurred during first week. There's been a big push in the press about how charitable they are. In every article they keep reminding us that "the RTA's main aim in introducing Salik is not to make money but to reduce traffic congestion".

So this got me thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know).

If Salik is not here to make money, why not donate the 200 million AED ($54 million) that's been collected in the first hundred days? Just give it all away.

I mean, yeah, sure, it's great that Dubai can raise $200 million during Ramadan, especially with how many non-Muslims are contributing. But imagine how charitable it would be if the RTA just flat-out donated its entire Salik haul.

It'd be good public relations, too.

That's one of the things that gets me about Dubai. For the last few weeks the media in Dubai have been flush with Dubai Cares ads; every other television commercial on Dubai One is pleading for help, you can't walk five feet (sorry, one and a half meters) in a mall without seeing the logo thirty-seven times, and the newspapers love to tell us how much money has been raised. But a month in I'm still not quite sure who is getting this money.

I can tell you that 20 AED is a child's school lunch for 2 weeks. That 250 AED is training for one teacher. That 500 AED is one child's school fees for 1 year.

Send a text SMS to Etisalat now.

And the ads have these striking black and white photos of sad-looking children.

Oh the poor children!

But it doesn't say where these sad-looking children live. Darfur? Baghdad? New Orleans?

No, it can't be New Orleans - the prices are too low. $68 to train a teacher? George W. wouldn't let that happen - children might be left behind. And, under his presidency, as he reminded us two weeks ago, "Childrens do learn."

Anyway, I for one wouldn't mind my 4 AED toll going to these sad-looking black and white children. In fact, with Salik's projected yearly tolls of 600 million AED ($163 million), that'd be an awful lot of children getting lunches and educations. And maybe that'd make all Dubai's citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim, feel good all year long.
posted by Josh at 10:00 AM | 0 comments
gettin' lucky in kentucky
    The Associated Press
    Tips left by Dubai sheikh being returned
    October 09, 2007

    LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Thousands of dollars in tips left for airport security guards in Lexington by the ruling family of Dubai are being returned because of a ban on gratuities for the employees.

    Lexington attorney William T. Bishop III picked up the money on Monday, but said he's unsure where to send it.

    "I haven't been directed as to what to do with it. I know it's not mine," said Bishop, who is general counsel for Keeneland Race Course and who also has handled legal matters for Central Kentucky horse farms owned by the Maktoum family of Dubai.

    Bishop declined to name the client or clients for whom he accepted the money.

    "They consider that confidential," he said.

    Crown prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum and Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum left at least $8,000 in gratuities for airport officials who provided security for United Arab Emirates airplanes while they were in central Kentucky last month.

    The money was contained in three envelopes, but there are more than seven other envelopes that remain unopened.

    Officers can't keep the money because it could violate state law and lead to fines, jail time and removal from office, Lovely said.

    Airport board chairman Bernie Lovely said the Maktoums requested that the tips be returned to them after they learned that the officers who guarded their planes could not accept the money left for them.

    Blue Grass Airport public safety officers, working mandatory overtime, guarded a 747 used in a visit to the area by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum in early September.

    © The Associated Press
posted by Josh at 8:31 AM | 0 comments
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Warner Brother Pictures LogoIn all of the craziness in the past weeks I guess I forgot to mention this - on Sept 26 Warner Brothers and two Abu Dhabi companies (ALDAR Properties and the newly established Abu Dhabi Media Co.) agreed to build a theme park, hotel and several multiplex cinemas in Abu Dhabi.

Warner will help design the theme park, while ALDAR will oversee the construction, which is expected to break ground in 2009 and open in 2011.

Warner will also jointly finance a $500-million fund for making movies and a similar $500-million fund for developing and publishing video games with Abu Dhabi Media.

Lastly, Warner Bros. International Cinemas will develop, design and manage the jointly owned multiplex cinemas across Abu Dhabi that will have themes based on the studio's characters and movie titles. Initial plans call for the construction of four cinemas in An Ruwais, Al Lain City, Yas Island and the Central Market development in Abu Dhabi.

Huh. Abu Dhabi.


Abu Dhabi gets the Road Runner, Superman and some crusty old museum (see Abu Dhabi Louvre) while Dubai gets ... darn near everything else. As you'll recall, in the last year alone Dubai's struck deals with Paramount (see Paramount Park in Dubai), Universal Studios (see Universal Studio Dubai) and Marvel Comics (see Marvel Comic Theme Park ... in Dubai).

I do believe all that's missing is a mouse.

So Mickey, wanna come play in the desert?
posted by Josh at 7:28 AM | 0 comments
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
So this was in our newspaper 7 Days yesterday.


Thank goodness it didn't happen in Dubai, that's all I'm a-gonna say ...

    7 Days
    Maid arrested for casting ‘spell’ on Saudi employer
    October 8, 2007

    (RIYADH) Saudi Arabia’s religious police have arrested a domestic worker accused of having put a spell on her employer, the Al-Madina newspaper reported yesterday.

    The arrest of the maid, whose nationality was not revealed, followed a complaint by the wife of the employer who she said had been “bewitched by the maid”.

    The woman said she suspected her husband had been put under a spell because he fiercely defended the maid from criticism every time she neglected her work.

    Members of the religious police, known as Mutawas, discovered “talismans and products of charlatanism” in a search of the maid’s quarters in the eastern city of Damman, the newspaper added.

    The paper said the maid, who is to face trial, “admitted she took refuge in sorcery so as to make her employers like her”.

    “The bewitched husband adored the maid and carried out all her wishes, unbeknownst to his wife,” the newspaper said.

    Saudi’s feared religious police are tasked with enforcing respect for public morals. Witchcraft is a capital offence in Saudi Arabia, where Shariah law is strictly applied.

    Around two million domestic workers, mostly from Asian countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, are employed in Saudi Arabia.
posted by Josh at 9:55 PM | 1 comments
Over the weekend we added a big new decoration to our living room - a large quilt-esque wall-hanging.

Originally a bedspread that Liz bought here in Dubai, it didn't match our color-scheme in the bedroom, but perfectly matched our living room. So we had it hemmed down a little, and added a pole-pocket along the top, and hung it via a large metal rod that we hammered into the concrete wall.

I think it looks pretty cool:
Our new wall-hanging

Our new wall-hanging

Our new wall-hanging

Our new wall-hanging

It's nice that it's not from Ikea, unlike our shoe rack, frames, credenza, light, couch, pillows, ottoman, red chair, rugs, kitchen table, chairs ... well, pretty much everything else in the apartment, really.
posted by Josh at 1:24 PM | 0 comments
If you read ABC News, you might have seen a story about the Dirham and the Dollar: Dubai: Bye to the Dollar?

Similar to the Time Magazine article from Friday (see Dubai in Time Magazine) I think this is all stuff we've covered here before. How does it feel to be so well-informed of global issues?!

Lastly, I'm sure the fine folks at ABC realize that the Dirham is from the whole UAE and not only Dubai, and in titling the piece that way they were just going for the alliteration.
posted by Josh at 1:19 PM | 1 comments
Monday, October 8, 2007
Christopher ColumbusHey, today's Columbus Day in the States. That's cool. I'm going to go with the whole "Indigenous Peoples Day" though, myself. Sorry Chris.

Right now I'm finishing up a good book about North America's native peoples. It's not quite as good as this other one I read two years ago, though. I think every American should read 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.

Here are a few fun facts from the book:

Conventional wisdom used to say there were fewer than a million people living in the Americas prior to "discovery" by Columbus.

This book says nuh-uh. At least twenty to forty million, possibly up to 200 million.

At the time Europe had around eighty to one hundred million people.

The capital of the Aztec empire was a city of a quarter million people - bigger than any of the cities in Spain, in fact.

The biggest city north of the Rio Grande was Cahokia, near modern St. Louis, which had up to 100,000 people in 1000 AD. (The same time as the Battle of Hastings for you European History buffs).

How big is 100,000 people? Berkeley, Calif; Burbank, Calif; Clearwater, Florida; Costa Mesa, Calif; Erie, Pennsylvania; Gary, Indiana; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Lafayette, Louisiana; Lowell, Mass; South Bend, Indiana.

So Cahokia would have been big enough to have a university like Notre Dame, the University of Louisiana or UC Berkeley, or the corporate headquarters for Disney, Warner Brothers, NBC/Universal, or a professional football team like the Green Bay Packers (go Bears!), or even, yes, the worldwide spiritual headquarters of the Church of Scientology.

Yep, it always comes back to good ol' Scientology. Hail Xenu, and Happy Columbus Day.
posted by Josh at 11:39 AM | 0 comments
ALDS logoSo out in the Pacific Time Zone in the US the Red Sox finally beat the Angels. You would have thought I could have gone to bed at some point after the Sox took it to 9-0 in the 8th inning, but I'm a Sox fan - it's not over until it's over.

Thankfully it's over now, and before 3 am. That's nice.


You know, it just came to me, in my lifetime the Sox have beaten the California Angels (1986), the Anaheim Angels (2004) and now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Okay, so no more Red Sox games until Friday night. Phew. I'm off to bed.
posted by Josh at 2:38 AM | 0 comments
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Oh boy, I love it when the nation I reside in starts threatening the nation that I'm from: Dubai police chief warns against Western attack on Iran.
posted by Josh at 9:05 AM | 0 comments
20071007_flower150.pngSo it turns out that one of our flower girls from our wedding (the Flower Power, as they were known) was at that Red Sox baseball game on Friday night.

Talk about an amazing game to see!

Too bad for her and her father that it ended at 12:44 am.
posted by Josh at 9:03 AM | 0 comments
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Red Sox win, 6-3!

What a way to start my day ...
posted by Josh at 8:46 AM | 0 comments
Boston Red Sox logoI'm up early listening to the mlb.com Gameday Audio of the Red Sox playoff game versus the Angels. Kinda weird to think that eight time zones away people are up late at night watching / listening, and here I am drinking my morning green tea with the Sox ...
posted by Josh at 8:02 AM | 3 comments
Friday, October 5, 2007
Time Magazine LogoSo it looks like Dubai is the subject of a piece in the new Time Magazine - an article named "Welcome to Du-Buy?"

Pretty much covers the whole NASDAQ, London Stock Exchange, MGM Mirage and CityCenter stories - stuff you know already, being dedicated readers of this site and all.

We're such the trend-setters ...
posted by Josh at 11:22 AM | 0 comments
The last link I posted for the revised California photos might not have worked. Here it is again, just in case:

posted by Josh at 11:06 AM | 0 comments
Here's a recipe that we got from our neighbor, who got it from some cookbook. We've altered it to add more cheese, the original recipe didn't call for any Feta. I think this is probably better.

At first I thought it sounded kind of fancy, you know, "spinach" and all. But really it's not - it's really just cheesy bacon-y chicken, with a little spinach.

Oh, and for the record in Dubai we have to use turkey bacon and plain vinegar - what with Islam and all.

Spinach and Feta Chicken

5 oz Frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 spring onion, chopped
3 T grated Parmesan cheese
3 T Feta cheese
2 slices of Bacon, cut into 1/4 in strips
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 T olive oil
3 T white wine vinegar
2 t butter
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine the spinach, spring onion, Parmesan and Feta; season to taste with salt and pepper. In a large, non-stick frying pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Add the bacon to the spinach and cheese and mix well, reserving any bacon fat in the pan.

Using a sharp knife, cut a horizontal slit in each chicken breast to make a pocket. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Spoon the spinach mixture into the chicken pockets.

Place the chicken in an ovenproof dish. Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

Add the vinegar and olive oil to the frying pan and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and swirl until melted. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.
posted by Josh at 10:56 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, October 4, 2007
So last year Dubai started buying-up New York City (Essex House, Mandarin Oriental, W Union Square Hotel, the Knickerbocker Hotel and Barneys New York).

Then this year DP World made a major investment in Las Vegas by buying 9.5% of MGM Mirage and a 50% ownership in their CityCenter project.

And now the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) that runs the gianormous port where the big aircraft carriers park up the street from us, well, now they're buying South Carolina.

    Associated Press
    Dubai-Based Company Purchases SC Land
    October 03, 2007

    ORANGEBURG, S.C. - A Dubai-based company looking to build a logistics center and business park in economically depressed Orangeburg County said it has completed the purchase of about 1,300 acres of land near Santee.

    "We think Orangeburg has the potential to become a major logistical hub in the United States," said Chuck Heath, managing director of Jafza International in a statement released Tuesday.

    Jafza officials will begin negotiating the details of its investment with state and local officials in the next few weeks, according to the statement.

    Gregg Robinson, executive director of the Orangeburg County Development Commission, said local officials are working with the company to develop the next stage of the site.

    The company said it plans to invest about $600 million and ultimately hire about 8,000 workers.

    Jafza International is a sister company of DP World, which initially won federal approval last year to run six major U.S. ports before congressional objections to a Middle Eastern company handling the sensitive job caused the deal to fall through.

    Copyright 2007 Associated Press.

Yeah, I don't think the rednecks are going to like this much ...
posted by Josh at 9:52 AM | 0 comments
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
For my birthday, or maybe even Christmas, Liz bought me a tin of green tea. Josh Fun Fact #310: While at Disney I had a cup of green tea almost every morning. Yeah, apparently it's supposed to be really good for you, and I don't mind the taste, and anyway, Liz bought me some.

Specifically it was Genmaicha Green Tea from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It was a different brand than I'd ever had, and it was also loose leaf instead of in bags.

Genmaicha Green Tea

For some reason I didn't open it until yesterday.

And what a surprise I had.

Inside the tin were leaves, little rice-looking bits - and something that looked like popcorn.


Genmaicha Green Tea

I laughed hysterically at this. So did Liz. Did the heat from Dubai actually pop my tea?!?

Then today I read the side of the tin.

    Genmaicha Green Tea is an extraordinary Japanese specialty. A blend of high quality Sencha Tea and partially roasted rice produces a unique and original taste. During the roasting of the rice, it is not uncommon for the rice grains to 'pop' not unlike popcorn. The Sencha leaf provides a delicate yet fragrant cup while the toasted rice adds body and sweetness to the finish.

Yep. I'm a moron ...
posted by Josh at 1:19 PM | 1 comments
This one is a few months old, but I guess I never mentioned it here. Oops. Dubai might get a skyscraper in which each floor rotates.

Dubai's Rotating Tower

Back in April David Fisher, an Italian-Israeli (!!) architect, presented a 1,027 feet (313 meters) tall hotel / apartment / office tower ... where the floors rotate 360 degrees independently of each other. One revolution will take about 90 minutes, as to not sicken the tenants.

Dubai's Rotating Tower

This, obviously, is right up Dubai's alley.

First, Dubai loves skyscrapers. Second, they love having the only and the first of something. And lastly, they love publicity.

Luckily it's an environmentally sound building, too. Apparently it will generate its own electricity with 48 wind turbines mounted horizontally between one floor and the next. They say not only will it power itself, but it will also make extra energy for up to five additional buildings.


Hilariously enough, there's another rotating building being talked about in Dubai, too, a venture between Hong Kong-based P&T Group and Dubai Property Ring. But this one would rotate either once a day or once a week, I've seen both in print.

Only in Dubai ...
posted by Josh at 1:02 PM | 0 comments
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Over the weekend I finally had my last few rolls of photos from our California trip developed. Thus we re-present our online album:

Here are a few examples of what you'll be seeing.

I have a few more shots from Vegas, including of our hotel, The Luxor:

Luxor Las Vegas

Downtown Hollywood fun with Grauman's Chinese Theatre:

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

And lastly I thought I was getting a photo of the Hollywood Walk of Fame star for Fred "Lookit Me, I'm a-running for Pres-ee-dunt" Thompson, but it turns out it's a star for 1920s Western actor Fred Thomson. Who knew?

Fred Thomson's star on the Walk of Fame

posted by Josh at 11:36 AM | 0 comments
Red Sox Nation LogoSo last year I bought a membership in the Red Sox Nation fan club.

Besides a cute little membership card, they also give you a subscription to mlb.com's Game Day Audio, where you can listen to the real radio broadcast from Boston live.

That was handy ... when I was awake to listen to the games at 4 am. And then of course last year the Sox didn't go to the playoffs. So this year I skipped renewing.

... until today. I was up early and caught the last few innings of the Padres / Rockies game on the Yahoo Sports GameChannel - you know, where they have a little baseball diamond graphic and every few seconds they update it to show you where the players are? Yeah, it's about as exciting as a 1980s video game, but with fewer cool sound effects.

If in the playoffs the Red Sox have some crazy game that goes 13 innings I'd be so livid to only get pixels moving around on some website. So I re-upped into the Nation, and have the Game Day Audio again.

What's the worst that can happen? They lose in three games and the season is over?

Hey, at least I get a cute little membership card.
posted by Josh at 11:34 AM | 0 comments
Monday, October 1, 2007
EPCOT Center logoTwenty-five years ago today EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida opened.

So today's going to be a little Epcoty. If you don't care about Disney, Epcot, or my rambling on about Disney or Epcot, I suggest you hop over to Google right now and come back tomorrow for a whole host of Dubai observations and quips.

Okay, so that's taken care of. Are the rest of you still with me? Good.

EPCOT Center opening posterEPCOT Center was always my favorite park at Walt Disney World.

Sadly Epcot hasn't been "EPCOT Center" since 1993. And somewhere around that name change the park took a header from the lofty goals of education and discovery into the vapid and banal faux-rollercoaster slums of the mid-1990s.

The glorious World of Motion replaced by the downright unimaginative Test Track? The great big beautiful future of Horizons torn down for the puke-inspiring Mission: Space?

Not for me. It'll be a cold day in Orlando before I waste one more minute in line at either of those stinkers.

And don't even get me started on the ransacking of Journey into Imagination.

So wait, why am I celebrating this birthday?

Because the Florida parks, unlike the California ones, are constantly being "refreshed" and "renewed". It'll only be a matter of time before Mission: Space nauseates one eight year old too many and is pulled down ... hopefully for something at least marginally educational. Or at least interesting.

Because I have faith that smart people are in charge at Disney. And soon they'll realize that each park can't be all-coasters-all-the-time. The homogenization will end, and we'll get an Epcot rebirth.

Until then, here's a photo graveyard. Gone, but not forgotten:

World of Motion at EPCOT Center
January 2, 1996
World of Motion closes

Journey into Imagination at EPCOT Center
October 10 1998
Journey Into Imagination closes

Horizons at EPCOT Center
January 9, 1999
Horizons closes

The Land at EPCOT Center
And lastly, The Land. Well, it's still there, kind of. Kitchen Kaberet was replaced with Food Rocks, and Food Rocks was replaced by Soarin' Over California, the movies have been switched out, the food court redone... so it's really quite different now.
posted by Josh at 7:39 AM | 0 comments
EPCOT Center logoSo I found this a few years ago, figured today would be a neat day to share it:

Nearly 3,000 designers and 4,000 construction workers were involved in building the first phase of the Epcot theme park, which was believed at that time to be the nation’s largest private construction job. By the end of the first year of operation, the cost of Epcot totaled more than $1 billion.

At the height of the construction activity, the work force at the site totaled 4,500. During three years of building, more than 10,000 workers representing 18 unions, 22 general contractors, and 500 sub-contractors participated.

One of the greatest challenges in building the new showplace was its size. Even a 1/8-inch scale model of the overall project covered 1,428 square feet—an area as big as many American homes. In constructing almost two million square feet of show space for Epcot, 54 million cubic feet of dirt was removed.

The World Showcase Lagoon covers 40 acres. Surrounding it on a 1.2-mile promenade are eleven national showcases: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, The American Adventure, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico.

EPCOT Center construction photograph

One Future World theme area, The Land, presented by Nestle USA Inc., covers six acres. It is as big as all of Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom Park. The tile mosaic at the entrance to The Land covers 3,000 square feet. It took three months to install the 150,000 individually cut and shaped pieces. The marble, granite, slate, smalto, Venetian glass, 14K gold, mirror, ceramic, and pebble pieces are in 131 colors.

The visual focal point of Epcot is Spaceship Earth, presented by AT&T. Weighing almost 16 million pounds, it is more than three times heavier than a NASA space shuttle fully prepared for launch.

More than 1.5 million feet of motion picture film was shot to produce 31 Epcot shows. After editing, some 73,000 feet of film represents the work of 16 production crews in more than 30 countries and nearly every state of the United States. While filming the China Circle-Vision 360 film, a Disney crew carried its 300-pound camera up 4,500 steps precariously perched on the steep slopes of Huangshan Mountain in the Annui Province.

The roof of Universe of Energy, presented by Exxon, is covered with 80,000 photovoltaic cells which can produce up to 70,000 watts of direct current power, enough to supply the needs of 15 single-family homes. For a primeval diorama in Universe of Energy, three artists spent 5,700 hours painting a backdrop 32 feet high and 515 feet long.

While special effects for most movies are designed to satisfy a single take which may last only a few seconds, those in Epcot shows are designed and built to be seen 14 hours a day, 365 days a year. Epcot features 274 special effects, more than five times the number utilized in the Magic Kingdom Park.

Disney landscapers planted 3.5 acres of annual flowers and plants, 70 acres of sod, 12,500 specimen trees, and 100,000 shrubs of every description as part of "Operation Cover-Up," the greening of Epcot.

Finally, the 260-acre entertainment complex—Future World and World Showcase—is more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom Park, located less than three miles north. Both "entertainment worlds," along with the Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, are part of the 30,500-acre Walt Disney World Resort.
posted by Josh at 7:38 AM | 0 comments
Eyes & Ears
Spaceship Earth 101: Solving the Triangle Dilemma

By Steve Langlois and Greg Dorf, Epcot Discovery Center
February 15, 1996

EPCOT Center logoSpaceship Earth is more than the visual symbol of Epcot and part of the Walt Disney World Resort skyline. It fulfills a dream set forth by Walt Disney, that American ingenuity and technology can move our society into the future.

Yet beyond the dynamic achievements made by designers and Imagineers for this architectural marvel is a question which has occupied the minds of our guests, fellow Cast Members, and people all over the world:

How many triangles (meaning the individual silver facets) are on Spaceship Earth?

The answer is 11,324. Strangely enough, the final number was never tabulated during the construction phase. A variety of guesses and estimates have been suggested, but without real verification.

Spaceship Earth took two years and two months to build (the design process alone took 14 months). First, over one hundred 14-inch diameter concrete-filled steel piles were driven into the ground to depths between 120 and 150 feet. These pilings became the foundation for the three pairs of legs which would support Spaceship Earth.

The geosphere's design required no scaffolding or temporary support during construction. Adjustable support beams, called quadrupods, were attached to the sides of a hexagonal platform resting on the six legs. This platform serves the attraction as a maintenance facility (the entire ride structure is constructed on top of it). Struts were attached to the quadrupods and to each other in circumferential rings.

A pre-constructed 50-foot diameter top was eventually hoisted into position to complete the upper portion of the sphere. Then workers assembled the bottom portion underneath the support legs.

Spaceship Earth is actually two separate spherical structures, one inside the other. The inner sphere was created by the structural steel rings to form the sphere's shape, and then enclosed with 954 fluted closure panels. The panels were rubber-coated to seal and waterproof the structure.

The silver triangle-covered shell on the outside is just a facade for the inner sphere. The facade is held in place two feet away from the inner sphere by 467 four-inch aluminum pipes called stand offs.

Now imagine Spaceship Earth hovering in the air, without the ride tubes or legs to support it. Taking into account that the sphere is based on 12 pentagons, and each pentagon is divided into 80 triangles, it would take 960 triangular structural panels to cover the inner sphere completely. Each panel is hidden by a corresponding facade of four pyramids. Each pyramid consists of 12 individual triangular facets, meaning the entire outer sphere would have 11,520 silver facets (960 x 4 x 3). But because of the ride tubes, six full panels were eliminated.

To find the total number of triangular facets, an Epcot Discovery Center representative took the known geometrical configuration and walked around the sphere to find out how many of the facets were affected by the legs and other structures. Verifying these with blueprints obtained from Walt Disney Imagineering, it was a simple matter of subtraction to find the total number of facets remaining.

Ever since Spaceship Earth opened, guesses and estimates have been traded by friends and families as they walk by the attraction. Now, thanks to a little geometry and sharp eyes, the Spaceship Earth "triangle" dilemma is no more.
posted by Josh at 7:37 AM | 0 comments
EPCOT Center logoAnother article from a few years ago (yes, I changed all of the "AT&T"s to "Siemens"s).

  • PARTICIPANT: Siemens
  • SHOW TIME: 13:26 minutes
  • CONSTRUCTION TIME: 2 years, 2 months - 40,800 labor hours
  • WEIGHT: 16 million pounds
  • HEIGHT: 180 feet ( 18 stories) above ground level
  • DIAMETER: 165 feet
  • CIRCUMFERENCE: 518.1 feet
  • CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL: Alucobond, a thermal polyethylene core bonded to aluminum
  • HIDDEN MICKEYS: The following Hidden Mickeys can be seen in the attraction:
  • Renaissance Italy scene—on the page of a book behind the sleeping monk
  • Hat in the teenage boy’s bedroom
  • Alarm clock in the same room
  • SUPPORT STRUCTURE: 3 pairs of steel legs 15 feet off ground
  • TOTAL PAVILION AREA: 109,375 Sq. Ft.
  • VOLUME: 2,200,000 cubic feet
  • EXTERIOR SURFACE AREA: 150,000 square feet
  • INNER SPHERE: 1450 steel triangular panels
  • PLANETARIUM: 150 feet in diameter
  • HIGHEST POINT OF RIDE: 163 feet above ground level

Spaceship Earth, a shiny, silver geodesic sphere weighing 16 million pounds and measuring 180 feet high, is the architectural symbol of the Epcot® theme park. Standing on massive legs 16 feet above ground level, it forms an entranceway to Future World and sets the theme for a new kind of showplace for man’s achievements: past, present, and future.

Within the geodesic sphere is one of four ride-through adventures in Future World. Guests board vehicles which spiral up into the globe past three-dimensional scenes peopled with Audio-Animatronics® figures.

Presented by Siemens, Spaceship Earth highlights milestones in communications vital to man’s survival from Cro-Magnon cave paintings to electronic space communications. Scenes include Egyptian hieroglyphics, Phoenician traders, Greek dramatists, Roman and Islamic empire builders, medieval monasteries, Gutenberg’s print shop, Renaissance Italy, and Michelangelo at work on the Sistine ceiling. Then comes the important eras in modern communications—newspapers, motion pictures, telephones, radio, television, computers, and electronic networks for information.

Three years of painstaking research have gone into every detail of the show. Hieroglyphics are authentic, ancient dialects are correct, and the quadrant held by a medieval Islamic astronomer is an exact replica of the real thing. Even costuming for the 65 lifelike Audio-Animatronics® figures has been thoroughly studied for historical accuracy.

Spaceship Earth took two years and two months to construct—more than 40,800 labor hours. Computer aided design was used in part, even though CAD was still in its infancy. Next, a small model (1/16 inch = one foot) was made and tested in a wind tunnel against winds of 110 miles per hour. Once the final design was approved, construction began. First, over one hundred 14-inch diameter concrete-filled steel piles were driven into the ground to depths between 120 and 150 feet. These pilings became the foundation for the three pairs of legs which would support Spaceship Earth.

The geodesic sphere’s design required no scaffolding or temporary support during construction. Adjustable support beams, called quadrupods, were attached to an hexagonal platform resting on the six legs. This platform serves the attraction as a maintenance facility. Struts were attached to the quadrupods and to each other in circumferential rings. A pre-constructed 50-foot diameter top was eventually hoisted into position to complete the upper portion of the sphere. Then workers assembled the bottom portion underneath the support legs. The massive round column at the bottom of Spaceship Earth is an elevator connected to the structure.

Spaceship Earth is actually two separate spherical structures, one inside the other. The facade of the outer sphere is positioned two feet away from the inner core. Once the beams were in place for the inner sphere, 954 enclosure panels were placed over it. The panels were rubber-coated to waterproof the structure. The decorative outer sphere is set off from the inner sphere by 467 four-inch aluminum pipes called stand offs.

This outer sphere is made up of alucobond paneling (there are 11,324 individual aluminum facets making up the outer sphere). Alucobond is polyethylene plastic chemically bonded to two layers of clear anodized aluminum. There is one-inch spacing between the panels, allowing them to expand and contract in the Florida heat and permitting rainwater to flow through and subsequently into two gutter systems located at the geodesic sphere’s equator and below. Both gutters were sloped to drain water through the support legs and into the canals surrounding the Epcot® theme park. From there the water flows through a retention pond where oils and pollutants are removed before returning the water to the environment.

Once construction of the geodesic sphere was completed, Walt Disney Imagineers then installed the many sets and Audio-Animatronics® figures for the attraction (the ride system itself is not structurally connected to the sphere except at the utility structure). Each figure and special effects, including light, sound, and the unique smellitzers, were programmed; Spaceship Earth was ready to go.

“Spaceship Earth is more than a show about communications,” says show designer Pat Scanlon. “It’s a testimony to human enterprise for surviving and flourishing on this planet.”

Forty thousand years of human history are condensed into a 15-minute journey. The top portion of the sphere is a vast planetarium, 150 feet in diameter and the largest of its kind, where planet Earth is seen suspended in space, surrounded by thousands of sparkling stars.

Spaceship Earth blends special effects, music, dimensional sets, and lifelike Audio-Animatronics® figures into an entertaining and informative experience. It is based on a concept developed by science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, that Earth is man’s vehicle in space.
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