Monday, October 27, 2014

Fermenting rebellion

I learned the trick a couple of years ago from a fellow middle east blogger calling himself Paraglider.

Buy a big bottle of apple juice, remove about 50ml, add half a teaspoon of yeast, replace the top but allow it to be just loose enough to allow the carbon dioxide to escape. Within four days or so, the apple juice turns into a reasonably acceptable cloudy cider strong enough to make your knees dissolve.

Al Marai apple juice works very well indeed. It's important that the apple juice contains no preservatives, or the yeast will be killed off and the mixture won't ferment.

Curious as to quite how alcoholic my home-brew concoction actually was, I borrowed a hydrometer.

The latest batch, using 'natural, preservative free' apple juice from Nadec produced an alcohol by volume of exactly zero. Oh dear, that wasn't in the plan. I added sugar and more yeast, and set it off again. It bubbled, but sadly produced no alcohol. The mix tastes sweet, suggesting that the yeast isn't metabolising the sugar into something more useful.

There must be something in Nadec's 100% apple juice that prevents the fermentation process. It's not listed in the ingredients: Purified water, natural apple juice concentrate, vitamin C.

I'm going back to Al Marai, if I can find some.


Monday, October 20, 2014


The Goat was recently issued with a new credit card. The previous one, which had worked faultlessly for several years, was now deemed by the bank not to be secure enough, and so a new one with an embedded chip was issued to replace it.

The Goat has hardly used the new super-secure card. He rented a car from AVIS, he paid a month's rent at a major Doha hotel complex, and he paid a couple of phone bills over at Itisalot. He has certainly never used the card to buy anything from some outfit apparently calling itself the Igenetix Corporation, and was thus a little surprised when his phone bleated on Thursday to alert that a payment of $50 had been presented.

It startled the Goat even more when four further $50 charges appeared in as many minutes, but by then the Goat was on the phone to the bank and getting the card blocked.

When the Goat makes a card transaction on line to a foreign retailer, the bank almost invariably phones him to check that the transaction is genuine. Yet five quick-fire transactions didn't ring any alarms this time.


"A new card will be issued to you after five working days, Mr Goat."

"I won't be able to receive it. I'll not be in Dubai for several weeks."

"No problem. Give us your current address and we'll get it to you there. You'll need to provide some sort of photo ID."

Hahahahaha! Meanwhile, back in the real world...

"Oh, no, Mr Goat. It must go to you personally in Dubai."


In short, the local and yet global bank is incapable of delivering the replacement card to anyone except the Goat's own hoof and only in Dubai. It can't be sent to the bank in Doha for collection; it can't be sent to the Goat's temporary address (business or residence) in Doha; it can't be mailed; it can't be delivered at the weekend in Dubai; it can't be delivered to Beloved Wife, even though she has her own card for the same account.

Fail. Fail. Fail.

Eventually, 40 minutes into the third long phone call to the bank's call centre, the Goat was told to write a letter to the bank, get it stamped by any branch of the bank, and send the letter to Beloved Wife. "Please deliver the replacement card to Beloved Wife on the Goat's behalf...etc."

Except in Doha, apparently, they don't do that. Never mind this outfit being a major international bank; they do it differently in Doha. They're special. My, these crayons are yummy!


The Goat was now instructed that he'd have to rewrite the letter, addressing it to the bank in Dubai. He should get it stamped in Doha, wait four days for the letter to be mailed, and then all should be well.

Enter the Bank Manager: "You have a joint account? yes? Good; there's no problem. Beloved Wife can go to the branch and pick up the card. All you have to do, Mr Goat, is go to your home branch in Sharjah to arrange this."


"Or send a secure email using the bank's online banking website to instruct the bank to give your new card to Beloved Wife. Oh, but despite the fact that I can see you, your face, your old and cancelled card, and your ID card, you can't send a secure email because you don't have your Secure Key device. How silly of you not to bring it to the bank, when all you'd been told was required was a rubber stamp."


DHL rang the Goat on 20th October to say the card was ready for delivery. But no, they absolutely would not deliver it to Beloved Wife. The bank confirmed (eventually) that they received the Goat's secure email on 19th October, but had not seen fit to communicate this piece of irrelevance to DHL.

Just imagine a parallel universe in which the customer of a major international bank can have his credit card replaced wherever he is on the planet, and without every bank representative coming up with a new and unique set of widely and irregularly-spaced flaming hoops. One of the Goat's friends says American Express can do this, so why not Red Triangles?


Monday, October 06, 2014

What a senseless waste of human life

Welcome once again to the Monty Python sketch in which the customer fails to find the thing he's trying to buy. This time it's rear shock absorbers for Beloved Wife's Volkswagen Eos.

The car went into a workshop to have its front suspension repaired and emerged with horrible clonking coming from the rear end. This, it turns out, is because the rear shock absorbers became unaccountably broken while the car was up on the ramp. As VW shocks are Not Coming in Dubai and the VW dealer never answers any of his phone numbers, this morning I tried BMW Street in Sharjah.

I went into a shop advertising VW spare parts: "The salesman is not here."

I tried another shop advertising VW spare parts: "We don't sell Volkswagen.

And a third, in which the 'assistant' pointed vaguely at the corner of his shop. I gazed quizzically at the AC Delco air filters, then to be told that he was in fact pointing at the first shop.

And so on. Eventually, after many more failures in Customer Service: "Do you sell VW parts?"

"Of course, sir."

"Do you have parts for VW Eos?"

"Naturally, sir. It's a VW spare parts shop, sir."

"Do you have shock absorbers?"

"Indeed we do, sir."

"Excellent. Two rear shock absorbers for a VW Eos please."

"We don't have."



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