Friday, November 30, 2007
Sometimes I'm amazed at how little I know about international affairs. Is it because I'm American? Are we really that cut off from the rest of the world? Or maybe because I'm just not paying attention?

International currency exchange and valuation is such a foreign concept to me, but here in Dubai it's almost a daily topic.


See the United Arab Emirates dirham is pegged to the dollar at a fixed rate - one dollar to 3.6725 dirhams. Thus every dirham we make here is worth exactly $0.27229408, day in or day out.

That not only makes the exchange rate easy for us Americans who live here, but quite a good deal as our home currency is tanking. For the past year or so the dollar has slipped to record lows, as you probably know. A dollar today will get you 0.68 Euros, 0.48 Pounds or 0.99 Canadian Dollars.

And for all of those residents of Dubai whose home country uses Euros, Pounds, New Zealand dollars, Australian dollars, Canadian dollars - well, they are all making much less money today than last year.

Now you can see why it's a daily topic.

Lately some countries have changed their currency to be pegged to a basket of currencies (see Special Drawing Rights).

But now the rumor in Dubai is that they're just going to revalue the dirham.

It started on Wednesday when speculated that the UAE central bank would announce a 3-5% revaluation this weekend.

See Sunday and Monday are bank holidays for National Day, and the thought is the revaluation would happen over the weekend as to not cause panic.

The theory is that the new rate will make the dollar worth around 3.5 dirhams.

That means that a dirham would go from $0.27229408 to $0.2857142857 - a gain of $0.0132.

Ooh, a whole cent.

But then think about on a scale of ten-thousand dirhams. That's a gain of $132. Now we're getting somewhere.

Of course, this is all speculation at this point. In fact, I've seen other wild guesses that the UAE will revalue at a higher percent - maybe even 10-20%. Some people think that they'll dump the dollar altogether.

So all we can do is wait.
posted by Josh at 10:29 AM | 1 comments
Thursday, November 29, 2007
heroes logoSo this week we were talking about movies and television shows set in Maine (see Films Set in Maine), and then tonight we watched the newest episode of NBC's "Heroes" - episode 10, Truth & Consequences.

Peter Petrelli and Adam Monroe end up finding Victoria Pratt in Searsmont, Maine!

Sure, it looked a bit like Southern California, but everyone was wearing vests so that's pretty Maine-like, right?
posted by Josh at 9:55 PM | 1 comments
Have you heard about this one yet?

I'm not touching it with a ten foot three meter pole, I'll tell you that.

posted by Josh at 6:18 AM | 0 comments
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The Mist PosterSo last weekend the movie adaptation of Stephen King's novella "The Mist" opened.

While not filmed there, the story takes place in Bridgton, Maine, where Liz grew up and the last place I lived before moving to Dubai. My brother Daniel still lives there.

It got me thinking, what other movies were either A) set in Maine or B) filmed in Maine?

Then I found Wikipedia's page called Films set in Maine. And it's kind of sad.

Here's the list. Look for a pattern:
    Charlotte's Web
    The Cider House Rules
    Darkness Falls
    Empire Falls (miniseries)
    Stephen King's Cujo
    Stephen King's The Dark Half
    Stephen King's The Dead Zone
    Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne
    Stephen King's Dreamcatcher
    Stephen King's Graveyard Shift
    Stephen King's It
    Stephen King's The Mist
    Stephen King's Needful Things
    Stephen King's Pet Sematary
    Stephen King's Pet Sematary Two
    Stephen King's A Return to Salem's Lot
    Stephen King's Riding the Bullet
    Stephen King's Salem's Lot (2004 TV mini-series)
    Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1979 TV mini-series)
    Stephen King's Secret Window
    Stephen King's Storm of the Century
    Stephen King's The Tommyknockers

Wow, somewhat skewed towards a favorite local author, no? But hey, if we didn't have Mr. King than what would we have? Just about nothing!

I always thought that Richard Russo's Nobody's Fool was set in Maine, but apparently it's set in North Bath, NY and was filmed in Upstate New York. Huh.

The list did miss a few movies set in Maine, though. Here are the one's I've thought of so far:

The Good Son (filmed in Minnesota)
In the Bedroom (filmed in Maine)
Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (animated in California)
On Golden Pond (filmed on Squam Lake, New Hampshire)
The Spitfire Grill (filmed in Vermont)
Stephen King's The Shawshank Redemption (filmed in Mansfield, Ohio)
The Whales of August (filmed in Maine)
Welcome to Mooseport (filmed in Toronto, Ontario)

Then there are the question marks that I'm not sure of ...

Message in a Bottle was filmed in Maine, but was it set in Maine? I never saw it.

The Man Without a Face - again, filmed in Maine, not sure where it's set. A chick I went to high school with is totally in one shot, though.

Stephen King's Thinner was shot in Maine, but set in Connecticut.


Of course, they're not movies, but you can't forget Jessica Fletcher, Cabot Cove and Howard Cunningham's horrible Maine accent from Murder, She Wrote (filmed in Mendocino, California).

And I guess that old show Dark Shadows was set in fictional Collinsport, Maine.


Lastly, don't forget my brother's Kiwahkwe: Curse of the Lobster, set in Maine, filmed in Maine, out next summer in Maine (and on DVD)!
posted by Josh at 3:26 PM | 4 comments
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Three FlakesSo the high point of our year so far might have been Saturday afternoon.

See, Liz's favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and on Saturday we were knee-deep in turkey, stuffing and potato leftovers.

Saturday also was the first day after Thanksgiving, kind of, and that's when we agreed I could start playing Christmas Carols ( see Two Weeks and Counting ...). They're one of my favorite holiday traditions.

So you can just picture us eating platefuls of leftovers blasting "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow".

posted by Josh at 3:41 PM | 0 comments
There's no way to say this without sounding pretentious, so here goes. This summer while we were in Paris we bought an oil painting from this artist outside of the Musée d'Orsay.

We finally got it framed, all of these months later, and we hung it in the living room on Saturday. This is what it looks like:
New Painting

It's not too Thomas Kinkade, is it?

I don't think so. Besides being a real oil painting of the Eiffel Tower made by a real French painter, it's a pretty cool memory, too.
posted by Josh at 3:37 PM | 0 comments
Monday, November 26, 2007
So we had a great Thanksgiving weekend here. Yes, it really was a whole weekend. Thursday was still a workday for Liz, so we didn't get down to Bur Dubai (the old part of town by the Creek) until the late afternoon. There were seven of us at dinner, at the same apartment where I've had the last three Thanksgivings.

The real story for me was the Australian lady we met there. She reminded me so much Clair from "Lost" it was scary. At a few points I was afraid I was staring. I just wanted to shout, "Oh Clair, where's baby Aaron?!?"

But I didn't.

It was her first American Thanksgiving, too, so that was neat. In fact, it might have been the first time she's had turkey - I don't exactly know. She did say that she's never bought turkey in the store before. While buying a whole bird is rare, they do have all sorts of sliced turkey at the deli. But turkey is native to North America, and if you're not from North America and aren't used to buying it ... I guess it makes sense. I mean, shoot, I've never bought Vegemite before.

Our friend Steve made a crazy-good pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.

So that was Thursday.

Friday, Friday we had the dinner at our house. We were expecting about twenty people, but we only ended up having nineteen. Liz's boss made the turkey, everyone else brought a dish and chairs, and we pretty much took over the entire living room. Here's a photo:


This is the setup for the fourteen adults. The five children were in the hallway at a "kids' table".

For this meal we not only brought the apartment, but we also made corn, cornbread, green bean casserole and a homemade apple sauce. Oh, and we cooked and mashed the potatoes of one of Liz's coworkers, even though for the rest of the evening she repeatedly told everyone, "I brought the potatoes".

I just barely resisted saying, "Yes, you sent, using one of the neighboring children as courier, raw potatoes to our apartment. Thank you ever so much. If you hadn't provided whatever would we have done?"

But it was Thanksgiving, so I didn't.

For desserts I'm pretty sure we had an even ratio of pies to people. Fantastic.

And now, days later, we're still eating leftovers. It actually was more like a whole Thanksgiving week!
posted by Josh at 5:22 PM | 0 comments
Here are a couple of photos of the world's tallest freestanding structure on land - the Burj Dubai - that I took about an hour ago.

Burj Dubai Photo

Burj Dubai Photo

Notice the Black Echo in the foreground? It's like a signature, a Hirschfeld Nina if you will, so you know that I really took the photo.
posted by Josh at 4:37 PM | 0 comments
Thursday, November 22, 2007
So a few of us here were talking the other day, and we got to wondering, "Why is Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States?"

I should have guessed it. If it were multiple choice I totally would have. The man who did more to change this country that just about any before him: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Yep, FDR set the date in 1939, partially to allow an extra week of Christmas shopping in Novembers that had five Thursdays (like this year). Read all about it at his Presidential Library and Museum.
posted by Josh at 9:13 AM | 0 comments
This is my third Thanksgiving in Dubai, which is kind of amazing given that I've only lived here for 15 months!

Yes, Thanksgiving 2005 was my first trip to Dubai ever - the famed 72 hour trip. Here was my itinerary:
    Departure (BOS): Tuesday, 8:30 PM
    Arrival (DXB): Wednesday, 11:10 PM

    Departure (DXB): Sunday, 10:15 AM
    Arrival (BOS): Sunday, 6:30 PM

I left the States after work on Tuesday night, arrived to Dubai late on Wednesday, then left Dubai early on Sunday to arrive back in the States that evening to go to work on Monday morning at 8 am.

Yep, I only missed one day (Wednesday) of work.

For this I was dubbed the "Super Trooper" by Liz's friends. (And no, I'm pretty sure that's not a reference to the Broken Lizard's Super Troopers movie.)

So it's kind of nice I don't have to travel very far this year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
posted by Josh at 8:58 AM | 2 comments
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Well, we might as well keep with the whole automotive theme here this week (see Patriots and Pickup Trucks in Dubai).

Today I was driving home and I got behind a Maserati. And, no, for all of you Eagles fans out there he wasn't doing 185 mph (which would be a whopping 298 kmph!) Nope, this guy was doing about 5 kmph around one of the many rotaries of Dubai Media City.

The scary thing is, on Saturday we were almost hit by a different Maserati while pulling out of a parking lot behind a bookstore on Beach Road.

Maybach LogoWhere am I going with this? Well, the Dubai Motor Show just went down last week, and the big talk was the Maybach 62 Landaulet prototype.

Now, it got me to thinking, I'm pretty sure I've never seen a Maybach in my life.

Dubai has their share of crazy cars - seeing two Maseratis in the span of five days is not out of the ordinary. And we have every manner of Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar - you name it. Once last year we saw two bright yellow Porsche 911s racing each other through traffic of Sheikh Zayed Road, weaving and bobbing through the other cars like they were standing still. And last year I saw the ugliest color Rolls-Royce Phantom in the world (see Rolls). But Maybach? There must be a few here somewhere, but dang, I've never seen one.
Maybach 62 Landaulet

This Landaulet is pretty sweet. It's a half-a-convertible, so your driver (in the front seat) is covered, and you (in the back seat) can enjoy the sun. Ironically it's kind of the opposite of Scrooge McDuck's car in DuckTales (the one Duckworth the butler used to drive).

Yes, I get all of my preconceived notions about wealthy lifestyles from 1980s cartoons. Doesn't matter if Scrooge was a duck, homeboy was richer than the Sheikh. I mean, does he have a ginormous Money Bin in which he can literally swim through gold coins?

Didn't think so.

Anyway, the 2008 models range from $341,750 to $432,250 (yes, that's dollars and not dirhams!). And you wonder why they've only sold 800 cars ... since 2003. Not sure if that's worldwide or just the US, but I got the numbers from an October BusinessWeek so they have to be legit!

The money quote from that article? "After all, $335,000 is a lot to pay for a super-luxury sedan that none of your neighbors recognize."

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't recognize one if I saw it ...
posted by Josh at 12:43 PM | 5 comments
History Channel LogoNow, I know in the past I've made fun of our euro-centric History Channel (see High Hitler).

But on Saturday night they have a program that I'm actually really interested in.

I mean, one that's not about Adolf Hitler doing drugs (which I sadly never did see, by the way.)

Nope, this one is still about World War II (of course) specifically the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army.


If anyone from Southern Maine has seen US Route 302 on Google Maps or Yahoo Maps they'll recognize the name "10th Mountain Division Highway" - the Maine Department of Transportation designated 302 with that honorary name back in 2001.

So it's time to learn more about these guys.
posted by Josh at 12:14 PM | 1 comments
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
So yesterday I was talking about how there are no pickup trucks in Dubai (see Patriots), and then today I get behind a Ford F-150 on Al Wasl Road.

So, for the record, there are a handful of full-sized pickups here. Yes, "full-sized" as I'm not counting the little Toyotas and Mitsubishis that the workers drive.

Since the full-sized pickups are so rare you know that someone paid a lot of money to import them, probably from the States.

Not that there aren't plenty of huge honkin' SUVs out there. We have all sorts, from the Nissan Armadas to the Ford Expeditions to the Lincoln Navigators to the Cadillac Escalades to the Lexus LXs to the Volkswagen Touaregs to the Porsche Cayennes.

Tons of Toyota Land Cruisers, too, including something called the Toyota Prado, which I guess is the Lexus GX in the States.

But not too many trucks.

A few though.
posted by Josh at 4:15 PM | 1 comments
Boston Red Sox logoIt appears that the Boston Red Sox have resigned third baseman and World Series MVP Mike Lowell to a three year deal.


The big factor that some people cited in not signing him was that he's getting old. Okay, fair enough, I thought, until I realized that he's only two years older than I am.

A quick scan through the Red Sox roster really got me spooked.

I'm four years older than Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jonathan Papelbon. Three years older than Kevin Youkilis. There's a whole raft of them born in 1983, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Moss, Hansen. Then there's Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester - who were both born in 1984!


Luckily I'm still younger than the core team - Manny and Varitek are both 35, and David Ortiz, whose birthday was Sunday, is 32. And of course there's Schilling and Wakefield, who are just about a decade older than I.

But overall? Not good. On the 32-man roster I'm older than 20 of them.

This is an odd phenomenon in a person's life, when one's sports heroes keep getting younger and younger. Are they even "heroes" anymore, or just ballplayers? Lucky kids?

I guess this means I can start comparing the current players to the players of my youth. Players like Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Mike Greenwell, Marty Barrett, Lefty Grove and Boo Ferriss.

(Okay, those last two are jokes, I'm not that old).

Anyway, we'll revisit this topic when the day comes that I'm older than all of the Boston Red Sox.

And for you A-Rod fans, here's a neat little Boston Globe tidbit on why your American League MVP is still not as good as Mike Lowell: 5 reasons why Mike Lowell is better than A-Rod.
posted by Josh at 9:48 AM | 0 comments
Monday, November 19, 2007
New England Patriots helmetFor some reason I was up quite early this morning - so early that last night's New England Patriots football game was still on television, and only at halftime.


I've seen a few other games this year, but always on the Monday afternoon replay. Orbit, our satellite television provider, rebroadcasts one or two of the games the day after, at a more reasonable time.

Since 'live' is always better that 'delayed' I watched the game. Jeesh. I actually felt bad for Buffalo at a few points, especially on the overly aggressive fourth downs. 56-10. Wow. They got crushed.

But what really was interesting is how in live football there are so many commercial breaks. That's where America gets their weekly fix of beer and truck ads.

But not on Orbit ESPN. Because of the Islamic nature of the UAE, beer obviously doesn't advertise here. And also there really aren't any pickup trucks on Sheikh Zayed Road. So instead of beers and trucks we have a mishmash of ads for the Orbit movie channels (if I see one more ad for Letters from Iwo Jima I might have to commit Hara-kiri myself) and the ads for soccer.

Oh, the ads for soccer. They always have annoying music - usually salsa-esque, always have a louder-than-the-rest-of-the-channel announcer - usually in Arabic, and generally have the worst production values known to humankind. Like, think of the worst local television ads you've ever seen, then divide by 100. They're that bad.

One ad uses the song The Final Countdown ... in a non-ironic way.

They're that bad.

I almost had to turn off the game. I mean, I knew the Patriots were going to win, that's a given, and towards the end of the game the ad time is just about equal to, if not greater than, the playing time. And seriously, one more ad with Ken Watanabe or Europe and I was going to lose it.

Man, give me Clydesdales running through a river in slow motion or a truck offroading in some desolate playa anyday, and twice on ... well, Monday here.
posted by Josh at 3:05 PM | 2 comments
Hard Rock DubaiCan't skip this one - yesterday it was announced that Dubai's getting a 5-star Hard Rock Hotel.

As you know, we have a Hard Rock Cafe right around the corner from us here. Reports are that the Cafe is staying put, and won't move to the new hotel, which will be located in "the most central parts" of the Dubai World Trade Center and Dubai Exhibition Center - at the other end of Sheikh Zayed Road down by Emirates Towers.

The building will be 91 stories, with 350 hotel rooms and suites, 100 serviced apartments and commercial offices and retail stores.

Right now there are only five stand-alone Hard Rock Hotels in the world (Bali, Chicago, Universal Orlando Resort, Pattaya and San Diego) and four Casino Hotels (Biloxi, Hollywood, FL, Vegas and Tampa) - although different companies own or co-own each.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has owned the Hard Rock Cafe chain for about a year now, and is partnering with the Tasameem Group on this hotel.
posted by Josh at 8:57 AM | 0 comments
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Weird - today's the second day this week of crazy fog in Dubai (see Fog this morning).
Fog in Dubai

I wasn't going to take a photo and talk about it here, but it's sticking around longer than on the other day. On Wednesday by 7 am the fog was burning off at a pretty good rate, but today it's 9:30 and still very foggy.

So what exactly causes this fog? I'd assume it is the colder air reacting to the warmer water of the Gulf, but my science knowledge kind of trails off once I hit high school. Well, not as much as "trails off" as "completely blocked out". We had this overly mean science teacher and, quite honestly, the parts of my brain that cover Earth Science and Biology are pretty much completely trashed.

I try to remember the different types of mineral identification tests and I get something along the lines of "Your Brain Could Not Start Because of a Computer Disk Hardware Configuration Problem".

Seriously, I did a 10,000 word paper on "Leukemia" and I just had to Google "Leukemia" because I didn't know how to spell it.

For all I know it could be foggy because the God of Clouds is fighting with the Sun God ...
posted by Josh at 9:37 AM | 4 comments
Friday, November 16, 2007
Magic Kingdom LogoI just read that Boston Red Sox thirdbaseman Mike Lowell, the MVP of the World Series, is scheduled to make an appearance at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom this afternoon at 4 pm EST.

Man, combining the Red Sox and Disney ... and earlier today we were talking about beer and frugality ... it's like all of my favorite things in one place at the same time.

posted by Josh at 3:21 PM | 2 comments
Two of my favorite things in life are beer and being frugal. When I can combine the two, well, I can get pretty excited.

As you know the other weekend we took a trip to get some alcohol in Umm Al Quwain (see Weekend in Review).

Sadly the beer selection at the Barracuda is pretty limited. They have Fosters from Australia, Heineken and Amstel Light from the Netherlands, San Miguel from the Philippines, Kronenbourg from France, and a couple of crummy American beers - Miller Lite and Budweiser and the like.

The beer is sold in cases of 24 cans, but of course here the cans aren't 12 ounces, they're anywhere from 300 to 350 milliliters. That's still roughly the same, though.

As I was browsing at the store, I was doing the rough currency calculations in my head:
    San Miguel
    65 AED ($17.68)

    Kronenbourg 1664
    75 AED ($20.40)

    90 AED ($24.48)

    95 AED ($25.84)

Okay, these are the official calculations. But still, you get the point - almost a ten dollar spread in price. And since I have no real favorite out of these beers (oh, what I wouldn't give for a Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale!) I went with the two cheapest beers - San Miguel and Kronenbourg.

Kronenbourg 1664 LogoAnd as an added bonus Kronenbourg 1664 comes in 500 mL (16 oz) tallboys - so you're getting about 50% more beer per can.

Now this is the part that might seem a little goofy to you. I've had Kronenbourg 1664 a few times in my life, they have it on tap at the Hard Rock, and it's a fine beer. But this month I've really enjoyed it.

The aromatic Strisselspalt hops (the ‘caviar of hops’ as they say), and the distinctive citrus flavour - there's no wonder Kronenbourg 1664 is France’s number one selling beer and the UK’s second-biggest selling premium lager.

Okay, I got that stuff from some website - I don't know much at all about Strisselspalt hops. But shoot, I was going to websites about this beer - that's how into it I was.

But am I that into it, really, or is it just because it's a great deal?

It reminds me of this store we have at home in Maine - Mardens. It's a 'surplus and salvage' chain that runs from Sanford (where you can just about spit on New Hampshire) to Madawaska (where you could spit on Canada, not that you'd want to).

Mardens likes to say that their inventory is overstock, discontinued items and factory seconds, you know, the 'surplus'. But really it's more the 'salvage'. Stuff that's been in a fire, snowstorm, or other natural disaster. Heck, somehow I bet next week they'll have a run of items from Chile.

Still, the store does enormously well. Mainers love a bargain.

That's one of the things I love about Maine. True Mainers don't brag often, it's part of our reserved Yankee charm. But the one time a Mainer will tell you to the cent how much he or she paid for an item, when or where they got it, the whole story behind it, is when they feel they got a deal. There's a certain Maine Pride when it comes to bargain-hunting.

And I am a Mainer, through-and-through, because I saved the best part of the story for the end. The people at the Barracuda threw in a 12-pack of Tsingtao beer from China ... for free!
posted by Josh at 12:31 PM | 2 comments
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The Celebrity Truth
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Not Buying Dubai Island
November 15, 2007

Reports that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have purchased a man-made island in the shape of Ethiopia off the coast of Dubai are "completely made up", Pitt's publicist tells The Celebrity Truth.

The story, which originated from the newspaper Emirates Today and was subsequently picked up by news organizations around the world, stated that the couple had purchased one of 300 man-made islands that are shaped like a world map, within a project called 'The World.'

The report also claims that Pitt and Jolie intend to use the island to showcase environmental issues, and states that "Developer Nakheel declined to comment on the couples's purchase. But reliable sources said the deal had gone ahead – and this was confirmed by representatives of the pair in the United States."

The Celebrity Truth contacted Pitt's publicist, Cindy Guagenti, who stated that this was certainly not the case and that the story is false.

© TheCelebrityTruth
posted by Josh at 11:19 PM | 0 comments
Emirates Today
Movie Idols Brad and Angelina Buy Ethiopia
By Ashaba K Abdul Basti
November 14, 2007

Hollywood golden couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have bought the Ethiopia island on Dubai's offshore The World Development.

The intend to use the reclaimed piece of land in the Gulf to showcase environmental issues and encourage people to live a greener life.

Their adopted two-year-old daughter Zahara was born in the African state of Ethiopia.

Developer Nahkeel declined to comment on the couple's purchase. But reliable sources said the deal had gone ahead - and this was confirmed by representatives of the pair in the United States.

Rumours that Pitt and Jolie wanted to buy an island on The World first emerged after they visited Dubai in 2005 with Zahara and their adopted son Maddox, who was born in Cambodia.

The family stayed in the royal suite of the Burj Al Arab hotel and were reported to have fallen in love with Dubai.

The World will consist of up to 300 private artificial islands named after countries and arranged in the shape of a map of the Earth. Richard Branson and Rod Stewart are among other celebrities who have bought plots there.

Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee announced earlier this year that he was buying the Greece island for former wife Pamela Anderson, the mother of his two children. Lee said he chose the island because of his Greek heritage and hoped the family would spend time there together.

Nakheel's sales team is mainly targeting celebrities as The World will provide them with privacy. The plots will be accessible only by boat and security teams will patrol constantly. Owners will be able to develop the islands according to their requirements.

The plots on The World are divided into four categories - private homes, estate homes, dream resorts and community islands.

They range in size from 23,000 to 83,000 square metres and are separated by channels of water up to 100 metres wide. Some plots are selling for up to Dh180 million. The development will cover an area measuring 9km by 6km surrounded by an oval-shaped breakwater.

Jolie shot to fame in 2001 with Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and her most recent hit was A Mighty Heart. Pitt starred in the Ocean's franchise and Troy. The pair appeared together in Mr and Mrs Smith.

Last year they had a third child, a girl called Shiloh, together and earlier this year they adopted a fourth, a Vietnamese boy called Pax.

© EmiratesToday ePaper
posted by Josh at 11:18 PM | 0 comments
We made these last week, and I think they turned out nicely. Very simple and quick, too.

I actually got this recipe from the Jif Peanut Butter website. Ironically? I didn't even use Jif peanut butter...

Thai Peanut Burgers

1/2 cup Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
4 hamburger buns

Whisk together the peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, cilantro and cayenne pepper, in a large bowl until well blended. Add the ground meat and mix well.

Form into 4 patties. Grill, broil or pan fry.

Serve on buns with your favorite Thai hot sauce and your choice of condiments. Enjoy!
posted by Josh at 11:35 AM | 0 comments
Boston Celtics LogoOkay, this is just bizarre. Last night the NBA's Boston Celtics improved their record to 7-0.

The NFL's New England Patriots are 9-0.

The MLS' New England Revolution plays in the MLS Cup final on Sunday (The "Super Bowl of Soccer", if you will).

The NHL's Boston Bruins ... um, have, well ... played each game. No, they're doing fine, I guess. I don't think it's fair that they're in a five team division that has three of the six Canadian teams. Shoot, didn't Canada like, invent hockey?

And last, but not least, the MLB's Boston Red Sox are the reigning World Champions.

This is truly the golden age of Boston sports, my friends. The golden age.
posted by Josh at 10:52 AM | 1 comments
Just wrote about the Writers' Strike and New Media over at the other website.
posted by Josh at 10:32 AM | 0 comments
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Had some crazy fog this morning. Any time there's weather in Dubai it's a newsworthy event.

I even took a photo to share:
Dubai Fog

Oh yeah, see the graffiti in the bottom left corner? We first talked about that months ago (see Weekend photo roundup).

It's expanded, though. At first it was just an "F", now there's also a "die" and an "em".

Hmm, you think they were going for a lewd variation on Carpe diem?
posted by Josh at 4:28 PM | 1 comments
NermalWhenever I think of Abu Dhabi I think of Nermal from Garfield. You know, the annoyingly cute kitten who Garfield always wanted to send to Abu Dhabi?

Yes, these are the things going around in my head. It's a scary place.

Anyway, had a successful trip to Abu Dhabi yesterday to drop off the paperwork at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research for my 'equivalency of degree'. I should hear back from them in the next week or two, Insha'Allah ...

I had to stop and get gas on the other side of the Abu Dhabi / Dubai border, so I took a few photos of what the hour-long drive looks like:
Abu Dhabi Photo

Abu Dhabi Photo

In that first photo that's a fence, a fence that goes on for miles and miles kilometers and kilometers. Not sure what's on the other side, but it's a fancy looking fence so it must have something to do with the Zayeds - the ruling family of Abu Dhabi.
posted by Josh at 4:24 PM | 0 comments
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Boston Red Sox logoYesterday Boston Red Sox secondbaseman Dustin Pedroia was named the Rookie of the Year for the American League. He's the first Rookie of the Year for the Sox since Nomar.


And I can't even believe I'm saying this, but since you need 130 at bats in a season to qualify as a "rookie" and Jacoby Ellsbury only had 116 in regular season 2007 ... well, gosh ... I can't finish that statement. Just something to think about ...
posted by Josh at 8:08 AM | 2 comments
So last night I put together a playlist on iTunes for my trip to Abu Dhabi today. The trip should only take about an hour and fifteen minutes one-way, but I made the mix three hours long just in case there's traffic.

And for those of you who might be sensitive, some of these songs might have bad words or questionable content. But if you go to the iTunes Store page for the song I'm sure they'll warn you as well.


Against Me! - "Thrash Unreal" - New Wave

Audioslave - "Like A Stone" - Audioslave

Audioslave - "Give" - iTunes Exclusive

Audioslave - "Original Fire" - Revelations

Bad Religion - "Los Angeles is Burning" - The Empire Strikes First

Beck - "E-Pro" - Guero

Blink-182 - "What's My Age Again?" - Enema of the State

Blink-182 - "All The Small Things" - Enema of the State

Blink-182 - "The Rock Show" - Take Off Your Pants And Jacket

BT (featuring M Doughty) - "Never Gonna Come Back Down" - Movement in Still Life

Cake - "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" - Comfort Eagle

The Chi-Lites - "Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)" - Chi-Lites: 20 Greatest Hits

Dropkick Murphys - "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" - The Departed Soundtrack

Dropkick Murphys - "For Boston" - Sing Loud, Sing Proud!

Eels - "Saturday Morning" - Shootenanny!

Foo Fighters - "Monkey Wrench" - The Colour And The Shape

Foo Fighters - "Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)" - Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

Foo Fighters - "The Last Song" - In Your Honor (Disc 1)

Foo Fighters - "All My Life" - One By One

Foo Fighters - "Low" - One By One

Foo Fighters - "Lonely As You" - One By One

The Forces of Evil -"Worst Day" - Friend or Foe?

Galactic - "The Moil" - Ruckus (produced by Dan the Automator)

Garbage - "Silence Is Golden" - Beautiful Garbage

Garbage - "Bad Boyfriend" - Bleed Like Me

Garbage - "Why Do You Love Me" - Bleed Like Me

Garbage - "When I Grow Up" - Version 2.0

Goldfinger - "You Say You Don't Love Me" - Darrin's Coconut Ass

Goldfinger - "Here In Your Bedroom" - Goldfinger

Goldfinger - "Mable" - Goldfinger

Goldfinger - "The Last Time" - Hang-Ups

Goldfinger - "Counting The Days" - Stomping Ground

Gorillaz - "19-2000" - Gorillaz

Gov't Mule - "I'm a Ram" - Mighty High

Green Day - "American Idiot" - American Idiot

Green Day - "When I Come Around" - Dookie

Green Day - "Waiting" - Warning

The Hippos - "So Lonely" - Forget The World (Not on iTunes)

The Hippos - "Lost It" - Heads Are Gonna Roll

Jeffries Fan Club - "Something Good" - Nothing To Prove

Jeffries Fan Club - "One More Time" - Nothing To Prove (Not on iTunes)

Jeffries Fan Club - "Bye And Bye" - Nothing To Prove (Not on iTunes)

Jeffries Fan Club - "JFC, Where'd You Go?" - The Early Years (Not on iTunes)

Jet - "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" - Get Born

Jet - "Rollover D.J." - Get Born

Kay Hanley - "in clouds" - babydoll

Kay Hanley and Bif Naked (as Josie & The Pussycats) - "3 Small Words" - Josie And The Pussycats (Not on iTunes)

Less Than Jake - "The Science Of Selling Youself Short" - Anthem

Less Than Jake - "She's Gonna Break Soon" - Anthem

Less Than Jake - "Look What Happened" - Borders & Boundaries

Less Than Jake - "Gainesville Rock City" - Borders & Boundaries

Less Than Jake - "History Of A Boring Town" - Hello Rockview

Less Than Jake - "The Rest Of My Life" - In With The Out Crowd

Less Than Jake - "Only Human" - Only Human - Single
posted by Josh at 8:02 AM | 0 comments
Monday, November 12, 2007
2007xxxx_sundayriver_blk120.jpgWow, so I just read that Maine's Sunday River ski resort opened on Friday!!

This is notable because Liz and I spent the night before and the night of our wedding at the Jordan Grand Hotel at the resort.

It's also interesting because I went up to Ski Dubai on Thursday (see Quick Ski Dubai Trip). Looks like this year I just barely beat you New Englanders to the slopes!
posted by Josh at 3:26 PM | 0 comments
Well, I pretty much wasted today driving around.

But I don't feel completely insanely upset like I did last week (see High School Equivalence Certificate in Dubai).

So hey, that's something.

See, today I drove up to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which is about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from where we live (on the cusp of Dubai and Jebel Ali). I had to go to Abu Dhabi to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to get an 'equivalency of degree' as part of my application for my Masters. (An application I turned in 15 months ago, by the way.)
United Arab Emirates Map

The nice thing about Abu Dhabi is that even though I've never been there before the streets instantly make more sense than the streets of Dubai. Not only are they in a grid, they're also numbered sequentially. Even numbered streets run northwest to southeast, odd numbered streets run northeast to southwest.

United Arab Emirates Map

Oh, yeah, and there's even a very limited mapquest of the city.

How about that?!

So before I left I printed a few maps of the city. These helped immensely when I got minorly turned around at one point. I love knowing that A) if I take two right-hand turns there'll be a parallel road and B) I can even guess what the name of said streets will be because of the ordered numbering system.

And sometimes people wonder why Abu Dhabi is the capital of this country!

So I found the ministry with little problem. But then that's where the confusion started.

I went inside and instantly my Bachelor's Degree from Boston University raised flags. Uh-oh. I was hurried into some big-boss's office and was told that "Boston University is not on our list".


What list?


I mean, I can see Boston College being flagged - considering it's a university and it's in Newton, talk about your blatant false advertising - but BU?

I tried to reiterate that this was from America (maybe there's a Boston University in India?) and that this was my Bachelor's Degree.

After a heated minute with this gentleman I could see he was reconsidering. One more shot should do it.

"This is my undergraduate degree, from the city of Boston, in America."

"Oh. That's okay then."

The other week at the Dental Convention (don't ask) I found out that BU has opened the Boston University Institute for Dental Research and Education Dubai at Dubai Healthcare City. But apparently this institution has yet to be accredited by ... yep, you guessed it, the UAE's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. So when the ministry people see "Boston University" they, well, freak out.

Phew, I thought. All clear.




See, the reason that I made the 80 mile trek today is because the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research website says that they're open and accepting 'equivalency of degree' applications on Mondays. Well, I should clarify, in June the website said this. This fall the website is gone. Completely adios. As far as I can tell there is no website for the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research these days.

And, as we discussed last week when I was looking for the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dubai, finding phone numbers for these places is tough, but if you do find one and call the chance of you actually speaking to someone with useful information is just about impossible.

So it turns out that the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is open today but not accepting 'equivalency of degree' applications. The application guy is there on Sundays and Tuesdays.

So tomorrow I get to go back to Abu Dhabi.

But hey, at least I have maps.

Here are a couple of photos of the streets of Abu Dhabi:
Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi
posted by Josh at 3:23 PM | 3 comments
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I totally forgot to mention this the other day - I've started a side project called Not Newlywed in Dubai (Dead Link) where I'll post all of my stories, ideas and assorted ramblings that don't pertain to being a newlywed or living in Dubai.

The newest post is about the Delta IV-Heavy rocket launch yesterday from Cape Canaveral in Florida.


Check out: Not Newlywed in Dubai (Dead Link).
posted by Josh at 5:58 PM | 0 comments
Friday, November 9, 2007
20071109_ganesha120.pngThe Indian holiday of Diwali starts today, so I'd like to wish everyone a happy Festival of Light.

And to the Americans in the audience, how soon do you think it will be before Hallmark and the National Retail Foundation co-opt this holiday for widespread American use?

I see it fitting nicely in the post-Halloween, pre-Thanksgiving schedule. Yep, I bet it happens before the end of the decade ...
posted by Josh at 11:01 AM | 0 comments
Meet the Robinsons logoJust another friendly reminder that Meet the Robinsons is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.

"Robinsons" was the last movie I worked on at Disney (what used to be called Walt Disney Feature Animation, now Walt Disney Animation Studios).

Of course this means that I got a credit on this flick - which means that you'll have to watch all of the way to the credits to see my name - probably over an hour and a half in. It'll be under "Production Assistants". I think I'm the fourth or fifth one.
Meet the Robinsons family

Thanks, and enjoy!
posted by Josh at 10:52 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Ski Dubai LogoSorry the last post was rushed. It really is a few jokes short of funny. But no, my comedy team isn't on strike with the Writers Guild. It turns out about halfway through writing it one of my buddies called up and offered me a free two-hour ticket to Ski Dubai.


Now, I know what I said this spring about never going to Ski Dubai again (see Why I'll Never go to Ski Dubai Again). But it sounded like a fantastic way to end the week. So I went.

And nobody got hurt.

So that's nice.

I still think it's a hoot to go to the mall in windpants, a tee shirt and sandals and be able to go skiing. Crazy.
posted by Josh at 8:19 PM | 0 comments
Three FlakesLiz and I made a pact last year that carried over to this year - no Christmas music until Thanksgiving.

See, I'm in noooooo ways a religious fellow. But I have a ridiculous affinity for Christmas music.

Granted, I'm not really into the Away In a Manger or Mary's Boy Child variety. Those get a little pointed for me.

I'm more into Dean Martin's Christmas With Dino or Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters' Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas).

Of course I also like the middle of the century Elvis' Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) and The Monkees' Riu Chiu up to the present day up to the present day, say Goldfinger's White Christmas or The OC's Chrismukkah Mix.

So not long now, little Smurfs. Only fourteen days until the iTunes is blasting Santa songs in our house ...
posted by Josh at 3:50 PM | 3 comments
Some of you might be concerned about this, so I wanted to let you all know that I've finally seen video footage of my Boston Red Sox's victory in Major League Baseball's World Series.

Yup, you can download the games at Apple's iTunes Store.

Apple iTunes

I have only two gripes with the games. First, they're the Fox network feed, so we have to listen to crummy announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, the dumb and dumber of TV sports announcers. Second, while they're a 640x480 resolution, they're compressed as all get-out - I mean, they look like a bad 320x240, and there are tons of glitches and jimmyjakes. (Yes, those are the professional terms, my friends, for I am trained professional).

Either way, it's nice to put some images with the sounds I heard over the internet from Boston WRKO's Joe Castiglione and whoever the lame replacement was for Jerry Trupiano that day.


posted by Josh at 3:23 PM | 0 comments
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Yesterday I talked about the cutsie names and logos that Dubai seems to enjoy, and threw a bunch of them at you. Just in case you thought I was joking (as I sometimes do) here is a 100% real Dubai establishment and it's logo:

How sweet is that play on words? That's about 100% more clever than I generally expect from Dubai.

The only thing is I'm not sure that DuBiotech is real. See, that's one of the problems with Dubai, cutting through the hype and promotion and seeing what actually gets built in the end. I've come to coin this phenomenon the Hydropolis Equation after, well, the Hydropolis hotel (see Hydropolis is Waiting ...).

For example, the DuBiotech website hasn't been updated in years. The latest "news flash" is from November of 2005 and the FAQ says that "companies will be able to begin moving into operational premises by the fourth quarter of 2006".

Um, wait, what quarter are we in now?

Yup. I smell a Hydropolis Equation.

So if you're a Biotechnology and Research company and want to start a branch in a Dubai free zone that allows 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of profits and 100% tax exemption, I might do a little more research before signing a 30 to 50 year lease with these guys.
posted by Josh at 3:42 PM | 0 comments
Oops, somehow I missed this story the other day. Guess I should keep up on my German newspapers more frequently ...

    Deutsche Presse Agentur
    Filipino faces jail and deportation from Dubai for lewd sticker
    October 29, 2007

    Dubai - A Filipino is facing jail and deportation from Dubai after he was charged with breaching public decency for pasting a lewd sticker on his car windshield, a newspaper reported on Monday. The 30-year-old Filipino computer programmer was embroiled in a series of court cases in which a small fine slapped on him by a local court was overturned in favour of a one-month jail sentence and deportation.

    Now, the final verdict will be decided by Dubai's court of appeal, the local Gulf news said.

    At the centre of the dispute is a "kiss my ass" sticker, which the Filipino pasted on his vehicle windshield.

    His lawyer, Riad al-Kabban from the al-Kabban Advocates and Legal Consultants argued in a Court of Cassation hearing against the court of appeal's interpretation of the meaning of the sticker.

    "The Appeals Court considered that 'ass' meant 'posterior' and tried our client as if he committed a lewd act in public without supplying any translation. Meanwhile, the word 'ass' has different meanings, according to English dictionaries, such as donkey, dumb, stubborn or to ridicule someone," al-Kabban maintained.

    "Al Mawrid English-Arabic Dictionary lists the same definitions. The Appeals Court also failed to ask the suspect whether he understood the sticker's meaning," the lawyer argued.

    The defendant refused to remove the controversial sticker after he was reported to the police by an Arab witness who spotted the sticker on the suspect's car in a gas station.

    © Deutsche Presse Agentur
posted by Josh at 3:24 PM | 0 comments
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Lost logoSo I'm all for this Writers Guild strike, don't get me wrong, but the first time I heard it was a possibility I immediately thought, "Oh no! What about 'Lost'?!?"

See, season four is supposed to start in February and run sixteen episodes in a row without any repeats.

But last time the WGA struck (striked?) it lasted 22 weeks - which would take us into April ... totally messing up Lost (along with many other perfectly fine shows ... but mostly Lost).

I just saw that Executive Producer Carlton Cuse told Entertainment Weekly that ABC will have eight episodes written before the strike began, but the last half haven't been done yet.

posted by Josh at 3:59 PM | 6 comments
So in addition to yesterday's full-length article about us in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, writer Justin Ellis wrote about us in his blog, too.

posted by Josh at 3:36 PM | 0 comments
So we've mentioned this a few times before, how Dubai is building a second airport that, when completed, will be the biggest airport ever. Seriously. It'll have an annual cargo capacity three times the size of today's largest cargo hub (Memphis), and a passenger capacity of almost double the world's busiest passenger airport (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport).

To keep up with all of this, it's also going to have a 100,000 car parking lot, which will obviously be the world's largest. Yeah, you probably don't want to lose your car there.

The airport is being built in the area known as Jebel Ali, so at first the airport was known as the "Jebel Ali International Airport". In fact, the IATA code for the airport is "JXB", which is kind of cute because Dubai International Airport's code is "DXB". They're like twins.

Twins, however, where one is ten times larger than the other.

I can only guess that's the reason they decided to change the name - all of a sudden last year "Jebel Ali" is out and it's being referred to as the Dubai World Central International Airport. Gots to get the name "Dubai" in there somewhere.

So the first runways are under construction now, opening in a few years and will be fully operational by 2017.
JXB airport

Well the other day we were thrown a curveball. His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai (a/k/a "Sheikh Mo"), issued a decree establishing the Dubai City of Aviation.

That's not really the interesting part. Here in Dubai they love to have cutsie names and logos for everything - Dubai Media City, Dubai Knowledge Village, Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai Heritage Village, Dubai Outsource Zone, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Culture Village, Dubai Cargo Village ... the list is darn near endless. But they don't mean much. They're all pretty much either a physical set of buildings like an industrial park, or a managerial / oversight authority. But with a cutsie name.

Anyway, the interesting part was the third paragraph of this story:
    At the same time, the Jebel Ali International Airport has been renamed the Al Maktoum International Airport.

The Maktoums are the ruling family of Dubai, and have been for almost 175 years - since 1833. Not quite sure which of the family members this is supposted to celebrate. All of them, I guess. Sheikh Mohammad's father was probably the most famous Maktoum - Sheikh Rashid was the man responsible for the transformation of Dubai into the modern metropolis it is today.

Anyway, they have another decade before the airport is complete up and running, who wants to bet they change the name at least one more time?
posted by Josh at 3:26 PM | 3 comments
Monday, November 5, 2007
We're generally not ones to toot our own horns, but this is pretty cool. The other week a writer from our hometown Portland (Maine) Press Herald got ahold of us and said that he enjoyed this website and wanted to do a story on us.

You might remember last year when the Press Herald published a crazy ranting letter that I wrote about Morgan Spurlock and his goofy mustache (see Letter to the Editor).

More recently they've also published two very nice obituaries for Liz's grandparents (see Grandpa Don and Grandma Polly).

Anyway, this reporter named Justin Ellis who writes the "youth-oriented" NXT: The Next Generation column interviewed us last week, and the story is running in today's paper: "So this is Dubai."

Portland Press Herald Logo

The funniest part is that Ellis is in the middle of his own mustache drama. Glad he didn't read the Spurlock letter before he wrote the article ...
posted by Josh at 2:19 PM | 7 comments
What a nice weekend we had. It was cloudy, even a bit rainy, which was just fantastic. Sure, that might sound a little nuts, but after seventy or eighty days of straight blinding sunshine a cloudy day or two is a fantastic respite. I remember my first summer in California being positively giddy one day when it rained. And that was after I had to walk a mile to work. Yes, I had no car the summer I interned in California. I'm pretty sure that I was the only person in Los Angeles County without a car. But I digress.

Of course I had other reasons to be giddy this weekend. We went on a beer run. As you know, Dubai is a pretty dry town, so we hit up the old Barracuda Beach Resort in Umm Al Quwain for a few cases of beer and bottles of wine. It's pretty much the same as last year, just as magical as ever (see The Barracuda a/k/a Rum Running in the 21 Century).

Now for a quick Dubai news round-up. Yesterday I read that our neighbors in Abu Dhabi are getting a Ferrari theme park. What will one do at a Ferrari theme park - other that sit around and be arrogant? I'm sure it has something to do with vanity. Can you imagine waiting for a ride at a Ferrari theme park? All around you there are cries of, "But I'm too important to wait in line!" Talk about an afternoon of conceitedness. As much as I generally love theme parks, I'm pretty sure I'll never go to this one. I mean, not like I'd get in past the bouncer, anyway.

In other news former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was in Dubai the other day, hoping for some rest after the whole bombing thing in Pakistan last week. Then there was this ... political transition ... in Pakistan and she had to go home. Seems General Pervez Musharraf seized emergency powers and abandoned their Constitution.


Waitaminute, isn't he supposed to be the friendly military dictator in the Muslim world?

And, doesn't Pakistan have nuclear weapons?

Oh boy, another nut with a nuke.

Yet a new Zogby Poll says that 52% of Americans would support a US military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

For a little context, here's map of all of these countries in relation to the UAE:
Middle East Map

Yay! Monkey in the middle!

Keep in mind that Osama bin Laden is probably somewhere in the mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well. Not that, you know, anyone's even looking for him these days.

On a lighter note, I read that our friend Tiger Woods is building a home in Dubai on his Al Ruwaya golf course he's designing. But the article says that his house won't be the biggest or fanciest of the property's homes. His 16,500 square foot house will only be half as big as two dozen of the mansions. With only 16,500 square feet how will he fit his gym, theater, library and pool?

The private Al Ruwaya course is scheduled to open in late 2009. Act now, supplies are limited.

Oh, and oddly enough musician / personality Boy George was in Dubai this weekend for a club date. In this rigid and conservative culture it's odd that someone thought to book Boy George. Like, if I had to list musical acts I thought I'd never see in Dubai, I think Boy George would be up there with George Michael, RuPaul, the Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, um ... see where I'm going with this? Oh yeah and also Adam Sandler, the Beastie Boys, David Lee Roth, Captian Kirk and Mr. Spock. (Do I have to draw a diagram?)

And lastly, now that the States have gone to Daylight saving time (or is it "ended Daylight saving time"? I always get confused by that.) we're now 9 hours ahead of the East Coast and a full 12 hours ahead of the West Coast.

Thank God the World Series is over, I don't think I could handle first pitches at 3:30 am ...
posted by Josh at 2:02 PM | 0 comments
Friday, November 2, 2007
20071102_rta150.pngA few weeks ago I called out Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) for being overly greedy when it comes to the new road toll - especially in the holy month of Ramadan (see Dubai Cares? Maybe. But does the RTA ...?)

And now this hits the papers this week:
    In implementation of the directives of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) allocated Dhs 43.91m, being the proceeds of the 52nd Distinguished Vehicle Numbers Auction (which amounted to Dh 8.91 million), along with Dhs 35m as revenues of Toll Gate System (Salik) for six weeks, to Dubai Cares campaign.

I have to take ... well, pretty much all of the credit for this. Just like taking credit for H&M adding a Men's Section to their Ibn Battuta Mall branch (see H&M Men's).

Yep, this website saves lives, people. It saves lives.
posted by Josh at 7:23 AM | 0 comments
Here's a picture of yesterday's sunrise in Dubai (I was up early to substitute teach). With the Red Sox in the playoffs I saw my share of sunrises over the last few weeks, but yesterday's was the first time I had to grab the camera.
Sunrise in Dubai
posted by Josh at 7:18 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, November 1, 2007
So you know how I'm getting my Master of Business Administration degree here in Dubai right now, right? Well, it's been a challenge, but a fun one. My classes are chock full of people from all over the world with all sorts of different life experiences. I'd like to think that I'm no exception - a guy from a smallish town in Maine who's worked on a few Disney animated films? I've got some fun stories to throw into the mix.

The biggest challenge, however, has been the layers of bureaucracy in getting approved to enroll in school here - a process that I'm still not done with well into my second year of studies.

Yesterday and the day before I took a big step forward in getting it all sorted out. It's odd to think that bureaucracy is still bureaucracy, even if we live in a dictatorship.

Just finding out what I had to do was difficult enough. The school says on its list of requirements for admission I need an 'equivalency of degree' - "to be obtained from the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research".

I've found, however, that it's close to impossible to call the ministry, in the capital of Abu Dhabi, and speak to anyone who knows what I'm talking about. And so far I've found more dead links on the government website than I even thought was possible (Ministry of Education, Education site, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research).

So part of my waiting wasn't pure procrastination, it was letting the other students be the test subjects. Do this first, work out the kinks, and then let me know.

I learned that it's a two step process. Step one is getting your high school equivalence certificate issued by the Ministry of Education in Dubai. Step two is taking that, your college diploma, and some other forms to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Abu Dhabi.

First off I needed to get my American high school and college degrees and transcripts notarized. Then I needed to get the notarization certified by the State of Maine Secretary of State. Then I needed to get that certification certified by the US Department of State, including a signature from Condi Rice. Then I needed to get that certification certified by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC.

I did all this over the last, oh, eight months, and thought I was good to go.

I went to the Dubai Ministry of Education building the other day, which was a heck of a building to find (in fact, the two times I've found it I was lost immediately prior, so I'm not even sure I'd be able to find it a third time without getting lost). But they said that my documents weren't complete yet. That I needed to get the UAE Embassy certification checked by the Dubai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Okay," I said, trying not to sound too flustered. "Could you tell me where that building is?"

"It's behind the Etisalat building on Maktoum Road."


I've never been to Maktoum Road. And I'm pretty sure there are about ten Etisalat buildings in Dubai. ( Etisalat is the phone company here. The only one. Monopolies are cool in a dictatorship.)

This is when day one ends. I drove the length of Maktoum Road up-and-back twice, almost getting run off the road several times, and decided to call it a day. That night I found the Etisalat building on Maktoum Road with the help of our handy map website we found last year.

Day two. I get up and early and out the door. I drive over to the Etisalat building and park - which is no easy feat at all in the old part of town, but it's not the story so I'm going to let it go. I walk the entire perimeter of the building -it's more than a little difficult to figure out what 'behind' means when the building is situated between two roads. 'Behind' facing the gulf is different than 'behind' facing the creek which is different than 'behind' facing Maktoum Bridge which is completely different than 'behind' facing Maktoum Road.

I bet wrong, sadly, and was looking for the building if 'front' meant Maktoum Road.

Finally I went inside the Etisalat building and asked the guard.

Not lying - he gave the best directions I've ever received in my life.

They were clear, they were brief, they were specific. It was like the Greek God of Direction was embodied in this Sri Lankan security guard.

"Walk out this door. Go to the stoplight and cross. The Ministry is in the Union National Bank Building. Seventh Floor."

I'm seriously not kidding. They were perfect. I mean, it was just short of, "do not get in the elevator on the left, it is a little slower than the one on the right. Plus the elevator music is too loud. Oh, and watch your step as you are disembarking the car, sometimes the elevator doesn't quite rise enough to meet the floor evenly."

Here is a photo tour of the building, and the completely useless signage:
Dubai Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building

Dubai Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building

Dubai Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building

Dubai Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building
Helpful sign, eh?

Anyway, I went inside, up to the seventh floor, took a number and waited. When my number rung up, I went to the window.

"You didn't go to room four yet?"

"Um, no."

Not stated? "No, because when I walk out of an elevator at a municipal building and I see a "take a number" machine ... that's what I've been taught to do. Take a freakin' number. Now where's the hell's room four?"

But I don't say this, instead I go to room four. A guy signs my paper. The one with the State of Maine seal, the Condi Rice signature and the stamp (literally, like a postage stamp) from the UAE Embassy in Washington.

Now I've got a signature added to that list.

Go back to the window - don't take a number. Hey, if these are the games we're playing, then bring it. I just walk back to the same woman.

She puts three more postage stamps on the paper, and then a ink stamp.

"Go to room six."

In room six I get another signature.

This paper now has a State of Maine seal sticker, the Condi Rice signature, the four postage stamps, two ink stamps and two signatures.

All to say that I went to Lake Region High School and graduated in 1994.

And see, that's the thing. I get the idea of this - at least, in principle I do. With a computer, Photoshop and a inkjet printer I could whip up a degree in mere minutes. I understand the checking and rechecking. To a certain extent.

Anyway, I hike back to the Ministry of Education, go see my friend again, and she checks that Lake Region High School is a legit institution.

How do you think she does this?
    A) The internet?

    B) The phone?

    C) A large dictionary-style book of high schools in the United States?

If you guessed 'C' then you're right. She literally looked it up in a book. Thank Christ she didn't ask me what town the school is in - it sits on the border of Bridgton and Naples, and has phone numbers in each town.

Heck when I went there the stationary was even confused - on the school seal it said "Naples, Maine" and then the mailing address was "Rt 302, Bridgton, Maine" (apparently it's since been corrected as you can see on the LRHS website).

But thankfully everything went off without a hitch, and now I have my high school equivalence certificate. Yep, that's only step one that I've completed.

Next week? Step two, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Abu Dhabi.

I'll let you know how that goes.
posted by Josh at 4:30 PM | 0 comments