Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What it says on the tin

I set every, and I mean every, setting on my computer to print the document in Portrait because it’s a document and not a picture. The printer chooses to cut every page in half and churn out the entire document with every page chopped in half. Landscape. I did not ask for landscape. I tried again. I tried every conceivable setting. 

Landscape, landscape, landscape.

Eventually I emailed the document to a colleague who printed it to the same printer on the same network with the same settings, and it came out just perfect.

But this is a minor issue. What is more, yea, much more irritating is a “Low-risk, low but steady growth” investment. It performed faultlessly for two years and I could, with a year’s notice, take my money without penalty. That was what I was sold. That is what is in the contract.

After two years, it all went wrong. The company froze the fund to prevent any withdrawals and progressively devalued it. Now that it is available for withdrawal, I’m told that I can’t take anything out without incurring massive early redemption penalties. The money must, apparently, sit and earn no interest for three more years.

Hang on, you said…

“I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter anything further.”

So much for offshore investments. I’d have been better off sticking the money under the mattress. As I stand today, it has cost me a year working the Job From Hell just to break even. I am angrier than a tiger with a red-hot poker up its arse.

I’m not asking for the moon on a stick. I don’t want unrealistic returns. I specifically chose low risk to avoid all that crap. All I want is what was advertised. But, it seems, Financial Typhoid Mary here can’t get anything right when it comes to savings.

So my advice? Regarding offshore investments with any of the multitudinous firms offering these services? Don’t…

Just don’t.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

You had one job

Another weekend aviation experience. The economy FlyDubai was just fine and relatively inexpensive. I booked another flight for Thanksgiving weekend at an astonishing QAR382 return including 20kg checked baggage allowance.

But that’s in a fortnight’s time. Here is what happened when I attempted to board last Saturday’s flight.

We all piled on to the airport bus and were driven lumberingly out towards the row of parked FlyDubai aircraft. The bus driver swung to the left and stopped at the steps, and the self-loading cargo waited for the door to open. The bus went forwards, and backwards, and forwards again. It would appear that the bus driver had taken a wrong turn and arrived at the wrong aircraft. That is in itself a big bag of oops. Then the driver tried to drive his ponderous bus around the front of this aircraft.

Here was the problem. There was a sign pole and a safety fence in the way to the left, and a pushback to the right, attached to the nosewheel of the aforementioned aircraft. Instead of realizing that an airport bus wouldn’t fit through this tiny gap, the driver jammed the bus between these two obstacles and stopped. He may have realised his error, but didn’t immediately reverse. Meanwhile, other ground crew rolled the boarding ladder away from the aircraft and blocked the bus from reversing.

Was this a prank being played on Nobby Newbloke?

We waited. Time passed. Thorin sat down and started singing about gold. At last somebody noticed the problem and moved the steps. The bus reversed, unblocked the road, and ten minutes’ worth of airport vehicles were released like Formula 1 cars when the safety car returns to the pits.

And once this queue had dispersed, the bus driver had another run up. This time the pushback actually moved out of the way, pushing the aircraft. Twenty minutes. Twenty minutes!

But it still wasn’t over. The bus eventually pulled up alongside the correct aircraft. Were we allowed out? Oh no! The bus had to reverse so that the passengers could be directed to either the front or the back of the aircraft. This is all fine and sensible, and yet apparently not in “Airport Bus Driver: Rules. For the Reading and Understanding and Compliance Of.”

It gets better: there was a second bus following this one’s every move.

Friday, November 06, 2015


Technical rehearsal at Qatar National Covention Centre. The Doha Players' production or Shakepeare's 'The Tempest' is opening on Saturday evening for four performances.

The Goat would have liked to be in it, but back in July he thought his one-year contract would be over in September. So he decided not to audition.

Then in October, he figured that even if he got his statutory one month notice, he'd still be in Doha in early November, and volunteered to do backstage stuff.

In the Players' previous production, the Goat drove the lighting board, so it might seem sensible for him to do something similar this time around. However, he can't actually do anything until the QNCC techies have programmed the lights in accordance with the director's wishes and whims, and as at 11.45 that's not yet started.

Friday, and the crew turned up at 9am. The cast will show up for a dress rehearsal at noon, and it's going to be a long afternoon. Tomorrow will also start at 9am, and it'll be the same until 7pm when the show opens to a full house. Saturday will be an even longer day, where 'long' is 14 hours.

The things the Goat does for Art... and it's a tiny fraction of what everyone else has been putting in since August.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Like a Rocket

Another motorcycle post.

The Goat is still suffering from Parked Motorcycle Syndrome. He gets to ride his Kawasaki once in a blue moon, assuming sufficient time in Dubai to install the battery, pump up the tyres, dust off the machine, and then pull out the battery a day later. He’s going to have to replace the tyres sometime soon simply because they’ve been cooking in the heat, not having the rubber worn away at high speed.

Some luminary once noted that “If you really want to, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

And here is a selection of the Goat’s excuses.

First, it is the Goat's personal experience that importing a motor vehicle into Qatar is a stressful and expensive experience. Shipping the machine was impossible anyway because it was, and indeed is, more than five years old. And this time last year the Goat didn’t have a Qatar Residence Permit and was thus forbidden by law from driving anything other than a rental car. So any move towards riding a motorbike in Qatar were completely stymied pending a Residence Permit.

Much to the Goat’s surprise, he got his RP in January 2015. At this point, the project was scheduled to finish in April; perhaps May or June… What would be the point of buying a bike in Qatar only to have to sell or export it in four or five months? It did look a bit self-indulgent, to say the least.

And then summer happened. The May or June finish didn’t, but by now it was for practical purposes too hot to ride anyway. Why would a Goat buy a motorbike that he had almost no opportunity to ride?

So the Goat finds himself in October. It is déjà vu all over again, with the only difference being this time the Goat has his Residence Permit at the start of the Middle-East biking season. Furthermore, there’s an 18-month old 3000km Triumph Rocket III Roadster for sale at 75% of the price of a new one. The Goat even knows and used to ride with its former owner, who traded it for a new Limited Edition version of the same model. But when will this job end? Current estimates suggest the end of December, but if the rate of receiving design approvals continues as it has done for the past year, the Goat will be in Qatar until the end of Time.

What to do? The machine is affordable, and because there are few ‘interesting’ roads in Qatar the case for a sportsbike is weak. The size of the country also rather contraindicates the need for a tourer. But a cruiser? Arguably more practical, at least for a given value of ‘practical’ that involves a motorbike with a 2300cc engine. And when the Goat’s job finally fizzles out, if it did so when this putative motorbike was still a valuable piece of engineering, would he sell it or export it? Standby for massive money loss because nobody would want to buy it, or a repeat of the grief of the export process followed by owning a surfeit of large motorbikes.

The Goat is tempted, nevertheless. More money than sense, obviously.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

You know nothing

So much for the Goat’s PhD. In the previous blog post he noted that it wasn’t a thesis, which is just as well because it was easily demolished by an Anonymous commentator. The basic population Dubai figures are so wide of the mark that they might as well be a Michael Fish weather forecast.

Referring to the Expatriates in the UAE Wikipedia page is a useful, or lazy, shortcut to a summary of populations. Of significance is a reference to 240,000 Brits in the UAE, which is extremely wide of the 11,000 in Dubai previously cited. And there are doubtless others. And measuring the consequences of traffic collisions as a ‘per population’ requires accurate population figures if there’s any hope of producing meaningful data.

Another point is the Dubai Police figures for Accidents by Nationality of Accused Driver. Those 2013 figures show Britain scoring 4 fatals out of 20 total. Further down the same table, UK scored one slight injury. A bit of a difference. Who knows how many other errors there may be in the same form. Conceivably Britain may be a misprint for Bahrain, but this is speculation solely based on Bahrain not appearing elsewhere on the page. 

Anyway, the Goat reworked the Fatal per 100,000 population, making the assumption that 60% of the UAE population lives in Dubai unless actual Dubai figures were available. Looking at 30% and 80% as alternatives actually produces very little change in the overall results, and obviously the relative values don’t change at all:- 
  • The “High” scores are Angola, Brazil, Khazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, New Zealand, Oman, and Pakistan with 20 to 250. 
  • India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Russia, USA, UAE, Yemen get “Medium” scores of between 4.5 and 12. 
  • Everybody else manages less than 4.5 and counts as “Low”. 
So, a few corrections; an apology to everyone the Goat may have misled, especially the British who score around 4.8 and not over 36 as stated before; and a note to self that Goats and PhDs are probably incompatible.

Oh, and naturally these new figures are also subject to the Goat's incompetence, so E&OE.


Thursday, October 08, 2015

Let he who is without sin...

Dubai Police periodically publish statistics for traffic accidents in Dubai. The latest figures available are for 2013. Leaving aside that ‘accidents happen’ whereas ‘vehicle collisions are caused’, which is why the preferred term in the UK is ‘collision’, (although the Goat prefers ‘crash’ or even ‘prang’), let’s not get buried in semantics here. Local law requires that the police attend every vehicle incident however minor; the data collected should be comprehensive and reasonably accurate.

One of the tables is appallingly racist: a list of the numbers of accidents by 68 different nationalities of the accused driver. What we find is that in 2013, Pakistanis caused 373 accidents, Indians 315, and Emiratis 298. Further down the scale we learn that British drivers caused 20, Filipinos 18, and Canadians a mere six. So south Asians and locals apparently can’t drive. QED.

“But,” the Goat hears you protest, “There are so many more Indians in Dubai, therefore…”

Fair comment. The Goat actually found some figures for the demographics of nationalities in Dubai. Various uncited sources, because this is a blog and not a thesis, come up with several conflicting sets of figures, all broadly showing similar things:-

Dubai’s population in 2013 was around 2.11 million.
Around 340,000 are south Asians living in labour camps, and probably don’t drive.
Around 260,000 Emiratis.
Approximately 740,000; 340,000; 190,000 Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis respectively.
Filipinos make up some 61,000 of the population and “Britishers [sic]” a mere 11,000.
The “Others” comprise the remaining 168,000.

A widespread measure of risk is “per 100,000 population.” It’s generally perceived by the luminaries who keeps such scores that low scores represent better, or at least safer, drivers. Numbers of road deaths in the range of 5/100,000 population tend to be scored in the over-regulated and over-policed northern Europe, whereas across equatorial Africa scores of around 20 are more common. The worst one on the Goat’s list is Eritrea at 48.4/100,000.

Smeed’s Law (1949, based originally on 1938 data) relates traffic death rate to numbers of vehicles and population, and predicts around 24 for UK, which is almost the same result as Dubai in 2013. As the current figure of less than 4/100,000 it is possible to infer that British roads are safer than they were in the 1930s. Given seat belts, drink-drive legislation, decent brakes, headlights that actually work, tyres that grip, and frankly better roads, this isn’t rocket surgery, is it?

Anyhoo, by the measure of accidents per 100,000 population we learn that:-
  • The best drivers in Dubai are Filipinos, scoring 30;
  • Indians and Bangladeshis are next, with scores in the 40 to 45 range;
  • Emiratis and Pakistanis score a less impressive 110-115;
  • The British manage an atrocious 182;
  • The very worst drivers of all are these mysterious Others with a horrifyingly spectacular score of 270. 
Many countries don't require police attendance at damage-only crashes, and a lot of these can go unrecorded. International figures, Smeed's Law, and that stuff all concentrate on fatal accidents only. This morbid measure of deaths per 100,000 population shows us that:-
  • The best drivers in Dubai are Indians, Filipinos and Bangladeshis, scoring 2.6 to 3.8;
  • Emiratis and Pakistanis score a less impressive 9.5 to 12.0;
  • These mysterious Others have a horrifyingly spectacular score of 34.5...
And what of the British, we who cockily consider ourselves some of the best drivers in the world? The sun must get to us, because in Dubai we score an appalling 36.4: Brits drive ten times worse in Dubai than we do at home.

The elephant in the room is of course the absolute magnitude of the figures. Scoring 36 in Dubai when at home you score lower than four is rather like picking up the cleaner end of a turd. Unlike equatorial Africa, the Dubai fleet consists largely of new, modern vehicles with the latest in safety technology. Vehicles are subject to annual roadworthiness tests. Roads are of exceptionally high quality with road budgets far exceeding those of comparable UK highway authorities, and policing – especially through the use of red-light and speed enforcement cameras – is widespread.

The Goat will leave it to commentators and the Letters page of 7DAYS to come up with how this little corner of the world should be put to rights.


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.