Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Burj-Man of Alcatraz

The problem with talking about running a sweepstake on when the first BASE jump off Burj Dubai would occur is that some nutter goes and does it before I get the sweepstake organised.

Not to be entirely thwarted, I hereby lay claim to the title of this blog post as a newspaper headline for the story following a possible outcome of the court case.

Remember: You read it here first.

Edited 12 June to add:

He got fined Dh2000. As for '...Dh20,500 in temporary compensation against damages which were incurred by the property owners.' I'd have thought Burj Dubai should be paying the leaper for all that publicity.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Parked and fried

There are parking spaces all around the Goat’s office building. They are unfortunately generally permanently occupied by office commuters, residents of the high-rise blocks and customers of the local ground-floor shops. Normally I park several hundred metres away from the office, but yesterday I spotted a highly convenient parking space within a few dozen metres of where I work. Public on-street parking, in a proper marked bay, and outside the Pay and Display zone. Not in the shade, but you can’t have everything.

At five o’clock, my plans of an early return home were thwarted. There was an elderly Toyota double-parked, blocking two cars including the Goatmobile. All its doors were locked, and the tradition of putting a note on the dashboard with a ‘ring this number and I’ll come out and move it’ message had not been followed.

So I waited. And waited. And wandered around the offending vehicle, and opened and shut the doors of the Goatmobile. I even speculated about reversing over - or through - the other car. After fifteen minutes I called the police. Sharjah Police: 06/563 4444. There was a long and amusing conversation in which I struggled to spell the name of the shop outside which I was trapped. “Alif, Laam, Alif, Meem, Qaaf… etc” Apparently, along the lines of “At the junction of Street 15 and Street 17 in Al Mahatta” isn’t precise enough.

At five-thirty a bint in black emerged from her ‘Ladies-only tailoring’ shop. Pointing out that I had called the constabulary, I asked that she await the arrival of the Law. She backed her car up and invited me to leave. “Er, no. I’ve already called the police. They’re on their way. I have to await their arrival. I have reported your vehicle and now you must [or at least should] wait.”

There was a further brief conversation involving how the space in front of her shop was her space for her own personal use. And a rebuttal to the effect that in order to achieve that it would cost Dh7000 a year. She noted that I could have stuck my head round the door and asked her to move her car. Yeah, right. Into a ‘no men beyond this point’ shop. That would have gone down well. And anyway, how was I supposed to know that it was her car and not one belonging to some bloke on the fifth floor, or someone visiting the internet café three doors down? Evidently, she’d seen me hovering around outside for half an hour and had decided to ‘teach me a lesson.’

At five thirty-five, she had tired of waiting and drove away, promising to return. I suspect that she did not need Plod to see her bald tyres or extra-black windows, let alone where she’d parked. Interesting that it was OK for her to delay me, but not the other way around. Interesting, but not unexpected. ‘Unremittingly arrogant’ is a phrase that springs to mind.

The Law finally appeared at five-forty. The officer, who was a mature gentleman and not the schoolboy that I’d expected, listened to the torrent of Arabic and then to my version before giving his verdict.

“Mr Goat, this is a public parking space. You may park here all day every day if you like. Mrs Bint, here is your ticket and bill for Dh100 for illegal parking. And we’ll also see if any further action will be taken about how you ‘own this shop’ when your ID card says you’re a ‘Housewife’. Please come to the police station at your inconvenience to retrieve your licence and registration cards.”

I suppose I could have simply driven away. And if Mrs Bint had moved her car before I’d called the police that is what I would have done. But half an hour of standing around in the afternoon sun becoming uncomfortably hot and dripping wet with perspiration had made me want to see some semblance of justice.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Have fewmet the planners?

I heard a hilarious comedy excuse for the inadequacies of Dubai’s infrastructure on the radio last week. Essentially, we are expected to believe that Dubai government could not possibly have predicted the sudden enormous growth in population, and the roads, power, water, sewerage and telecoms networks are playing catch-up. You see, it was inconceivable to anticipate that when a developer was granted permission to build a 30-storey block of flats with four apartments on each floor, that around 120 new families would appear about two years later. And these families would selfishly be wanting power, water, sewerage and transportation. Completely unpredictable. Only it’s not one apartment block. It’s hundreds.

Inspired in part by Seabee’s recent blogs here and also here on the subject, I am for once not going to rant about inadequate highways infrastructure. Instead, I have some thoughts about waste water.

It takes several years to get from an agreement to put the new sewage treatment works ‘here’ to the plant actually starting to process its first batch. And as far as I know, Dubai has one treatment works. Situated in Al Aweer, it currently processes around 480,000 cubic metres of raw sewage a day. It was designed with a capacity of 260,000 cu.m/day, which may imply that there might possibly be the occasional tanker of inadequately treated effluent. Indeed, in this article Dubai Municipality’s Aisha Al Abdooli not only ’fesses up to the treatment works being overwhelmed, but admits that semi-treated waste regularly leaves the plant and is either used for irrigation or dumped in Dubai Creek. The same article goes on to say that the amount of raw sewage needing treatment is increasing by 25% a year.

Who else has seen the vast, soul-destroying queue of sewage tankers that stretches from the treatment works, back along Academic City Road, along Hatta Road (or is it Al Aweer Road there?) as far as Dragon Mart? That’s where Hagrid might go to trade in his Hungarian Horntail for a Norwegian Ridgeback, perhaps. It’s nearly eight kilometres from Dragon Mart to the sewage works as the tanker queues. The treatment works actually deals with some 3000 trucks daily. What a brilliant job, eh? Get up at 4am, drive to an apartment block or labour camp that’s not connected to mains drainage, slurp up the contents of the holding tank, drive to the back of the queue on Al Aweer Road and then spend the rest of the day standing around chatting with your mates.

The good news is that the government has decided to do something about the lack of sewage treatment capacity. According to this website with information gleaned from the Gulf News a year ago, a brand spanking gleaming shiny new sewage works is being built in Jebel Ali at enormous cost. The article says the first phase will be ready after three years; probably 2010. If the 25% growth estimate is correct, this means that on the day the new works comes on line, Dubai will have a total capacity of 560,000 cu.m/day to deal with a daily supply of three quarters of a million. And with an ultimate projected capacity of 1.1 million cu.m/day, Dubai's facilities will be inadequate by 2013. See what I mean about lack of planning? Claims that the new works are geared towards coping with the next quarter-century of growth don't seem to match the figures given.

And another thing. One consequence of sewage treatment is the, er, miasma. The real estate industry has studiously omitted to mention in its glossy literature that International City is right next door to the Al Aweer works. I trust that the residents of new Jumeirah and Jebel Ali are prepared for the inevitable stench when the new treatment works opens for business. This is in addition to the sulphurous exhaust fumes pumped into the troposphere by Jebel Ali power station.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

'Twas on a Sunday morning...

...when the Aircon man appeared,
Confirming that the aircon was defective,
as I'd feared.
He rummaged in the fusebox
and the aircon came back on,
But later I discovered
that water pump had gone.
    Oh it all makes work for the working man to do.

So late on Sunday night I summoned Mr Aircon back.
He said he'd bridged the aircon fuse; does he a brain-cell lack?
He rectified his error so the villa won't burn down.
I need to find a proper electrician, not a clown.

    Oh it all makes work for the working man to do.

'Twas on a Monday morning when I heard my Wife declare
There wasn't any pressure, so she couldn't wash her hair.
With power to the water pump but no hydraulic head,
"We're gonna need a new one then, my darling", Goatboy said.

    Oh it all makes work for the working man to do.

And so on Monday evening, I got up on the roof
I swept aside the pigeon poo and kicked one with my hoof.
I spannered my new water pump and threw the 'lectric switch
The faulty motor tripped the fuse because it was a bitch.

    Oh it all makes work for the working man to do.

So on the Tuesday morning I went back to Pumps-4-Less.
"We've checked it and there's nothing wrong. Your wiring is U/S.
Last month some pumps were wired wrongly, but not in this case."
(They'd rewired mine in secret so that no-one would lose face.)

    Oh it all makes work for the working man to do.

By evening on Tuesday, water pressure was restored.
The shower was delightful as therefrom clean water poured.
There's still no electricity supplying the A/C.
The landlord reckons it ain't his responsibility.

    Oh it all makes work for the working man to do.
Flanders and Swann: "The Gasman Cometh"


Friday, May 02, 2008

Making Wookiee

Sunday is Luke Skywalker Day. May the Fourth be with you.

In commemoration, I have reproduced the lyrics of a little ditty. The tune, written eighty years ago, is here. I have to confess that the concept and some of the words are not my own work. According to Beloved Wife, the song first appeared in around 1979 at the University of Connecticut. Unfortunately, Beloved Wife either never learned or else forgot some of the words. I have been unable to find an original version on the internet and I have therefore improvised, filling the gaps with some lyrics of my own.

If anyone recognises this song and can indicate an original source, I will provide due credit.

A-one. A-two. A-one, two, three.

Now here’s a story
About a movie.
A little gory,
But pretty groovy.
It ain’t the actin’
That's so attractin’:
It's got a Wookiee.

The acting’s silly,
The plot is thin.
The Death Star’s really
Upstaged by him.
He scrapes the ceiling,
He gr-r-r-rowls with feeling
’Cos he’s a Wookiee.

    Seven feet tall and orange.
    Covered all over with fur.
    If only he weren’t bad-tempered;
    If only Chewbacca could purr!
In chess or roulette
The man of tin
Suggests that you let
The Wookiee win.
We learned in Star Wars
No-one can bar doors
Against a Wookiee.


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