Monday, December 28, 2009

Holidays

This is a picture of my family, which was made into a christmas tree ornament by a neighbour we knew when I was growing up. My gorgeous baby sister is missing, as she wasn't born until like ten years later, but I love this photo anyway. Mom looks so happy, Dad looks confident and handsome* and My brother is innocent, smiling and cute, a far cry from the driven, competitive, hard-core Badass he has become today. I'm the girl climbing the tree in the background.



I can still remember the day the photo was taken, and I can still remember the way the bark of the birch tree in the front yard smelled and would leave my skin and clothes dusted in flaky white Birch dust. The woman who took the picture shares my name (was I named after her? I don't remember) and she stiched and embroidered my mother a shirt a million years ago. I stole the shirt from mom, and wear it all the time, because it makes me think of mom, and the woman she was before we, as kids with incessant demands and unrelenting selfishness made her a Mom-Person. Your Identity; the ultimate sacrifice of motherhood.

Now that my sister is safely off in Grad School, and flashing through her exams like a freight train (Straight A's!!!) Mom and Dad are tentatively finding their feet and rediscovering whatever it is that the people they were before we arrived might look like now. We give them grief, make cruel jokes about mid-life crisis etc.. but secretly, we are thrilled for them.

A blog post about other stuff, and how (some but not all) Omani's celebrate Christmas, soon.

* and that beard fantastic, no?

Monday, December 21, 2009

An Open Letter to the Times Of Oman

Dear Sir,

I must vehemently disagree with the viewpoints presented in Fahad Al Ghadani's article (Need for Dress Code at Beaches, Times Of Oman 19/12/09). I, for one, would like to see more foreign women in inappropriate clothing and revealing swim suits on our beaches and in our shops. The scantily clad western tourists provide me and thousands of other young men with hours of entertainment weekly, as well as what is, likely, our only current opportunity to interact with a real semi-naked woman.

Given the lack of any suitable entertainment options for young Omani men in the capital and villages, Girl-watching keeps many of us busy and out of trouble, when otherwise idle hands could turn to crime. It is also worth noting that the revealingly dressed tourists are assisting in confirming the useful stereotype that western women are skanky and easy. On Behalf of young Omani Men everywhere, I beg of you, please do not encourage such dress codes on the beaches.

-Said Al Sardi
AKA Subruban Muscat

Monday, December 14, 2009

Detroit, city of choice for discerning people like Me and Stone

Over Eid, Stone and I went to Detroit, leaving the baby in the care of mom, dad, and the housemaids. We had an absolutely fantastic time. Detroit is one of the coolest cities in America, full of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. We went there for the first time last summer, and liked it so much we bought an apartment downtown.

I think Detroit gets an unfair rap in the media and the minds of Americans, at least in part due to racism and classicism. The city of Detroit is like 82 percent black, and according to studies, boasts an illiteracy rate of 45 to 50% among ADULTS. The city has been repeatedly victimized by decades corruption and incompetency in local government, and though the new Mayor seems honest and competent, he has a difficult road ahead of him.

Stone and I think there is a great deal of hope for Detroit. Even overrun with abandoned skyscrapers, burned out suburbs, and urban prairie taking over old neighborhoods, we feel that Detroit is full of hope, and opportunity. Detroit is awash in interesting architecture, funky pocket neighborhoods, activities for kids, kind people, ample semi-skilled labor, a thriving arts and music scene, great restaurants, low costs of living, and wonderful downtown parks. I could go on, but you get the idea. I do not believe Detroit is too broken to fix.

Moving on, I thought I would post a few thoughts on our trip to Detroit, and a few vignettes of our time there.

  1. What is it with the total assholes that work the immigration desk in the US? Just Once I would like to arrive in the US, hand them my passport, and hear "Welcome Home Suburban!" . Instead, every single time, I get some asshole who feels like interrogating me for fifteen minutes because I'm not a "Genuine" American. I mean, would you guys just fuck off and let me come home? Is there a factory somewhere in Washington that cranks out these dour, soulless Ass-wipes who are everyone's first point of contact with the United states?
  2. Interestingly, the only Assholes we met during our entire week in the US were the US immigration authorities. Everyone else, even the crackheads and homeless people were the very personification of charm.
  3. We had the pleasure of eating twice at the Best BBQ place in the city, SLOWS It's three minutes out of downtown, in the corktown neighbourhood, directly across from the beautiful and decrepit abandoned train station. They have absolutely fantastic food, the fried catfish was so good I could eat if every day for the rest of my life. They also have an amazing selection of Micro-brews all sorts of outrageous porters, wheats, lagers, cask conditioned ales, and more.
  4. Our (straight) Realtor and some (non straight) friends took us to an awesome gay bar one night. (How Awesome is our Realtor?) For a 2 dollar cover charge you get a giant mason jar of Pabst Blue Ribbon, some really really really famous DJ's spinning, graphic homosexual art on the walls, guys danging around in leather, and a genuinely friendly crowd, even to boring straight people like me and Stone. I wish I could remember the names of the DJ's because the music was so fantastic.
  5. We went out to dinner at this place Called the Harbor House, which serves Alaskan Snow Crab. It is insanely delicious stuff. for 18 RO (Including tip) Stone and I could eat Two pounds of Snow crab with drawn butter, a really gourmet salad, fries, baguette and cinnamon butter, and have two Micro-brew beers each. That is Value Bitches.
    Yes, that is a real crab. Yes, they are really delicious.
  6. The guy from the rental car company picked us up in an Brand New Dodge Ram Pickup. I was all, Dude, this is a Sweet Ride! and he was all "Hi Five!" His name was Anton, and he was hilarious. Instead of the crappy tiny pickup we were planning on renting, he upgraded us to the giant, Red Ram for free. Look for a review here soon.
OK, this post is too long already. Needless to say we had fun. I'll post some of the funny stuff we did and saw in a future post. and some more on the British invasion of F1 later in the week. I"m not sure how to write it all up without alienating every one of my British friends. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Formula 1, Day 2, part 1

I never sleep well on the first night of an event, and this one is no exception. After a night of tossing and turning, I roll out of bed at 05:00 and walk through the endless rows of porta cabins towards the office. The office is locked, but there are seven rough looking guys nursing lukewarm Heineken around a table in the carport-turned evening mess. From the looks of it, these are my sort of people.I sit down at the table, introduce myself, and one of the guys hands me a beer, confirming my suspicions that yes, these guys are definitely my kind of people.

Over breakfast beers we chat and watch the sun rise, and it emerges that these guys are firefighters from the UK. They arrived late last night and are some of the 350+ British volunteers from Silverstone to assist with the Marshalling and trackside safety. Etihad airways has provided the flights for these volunteers, as they are more experienced in the running of F1 than the local crew. More on that, and them, later.

Following a couple of beers, my new friends and I head to the mess for breakfast. Breakfast is a congealed mass of grey eggs, questionable fruit, Hot dogs and unidentifiable animal parts. It will be my only breakfast in the Camp mess. At a quarter to seven, most of the team I'll be working with arrives, and the first problem of the day presents itself.

Access to any area of a F1 race is strictly controlled, and Abu Dhabi is no exception. Sadly, the Abu Dhabi police force don't seem to be up to the task, and have created endless obstacles for the race organizers. For me to get the first of four (yes! four!) passes allowing me access to to various localities I needed to submit the following:
  1. A Three page questionnaire covering everything from where I was born, to who my immediate family members are.
  2. A copy of my Passport, and any relevant residency visas.
  3. My Omani Driving license, International driving licence and american driving licence.
  4. My Omani Iqamma.
  5. Ten million passport photos on a white background.
Late last night(58 hours before the racing starts), the Abu Dhabi Police rang up everyone and said that EVERY SINGLE PASS needs to be taken back from the marshalls and event staff, and delivered to the police station to be cross checked with records and have a shiny round sticker stuck to it. 58 hours before the racing starts. The Colonel in charge of F1 security has made it clear that anyone found to be lacking a shiny little sticker on their badge will find themselves in a not too shiny jail so fast it will make thier head spin.

Most of the 800+ passes under our control have been distributed already, so for the morning, our unhappy task is to try and get as many passes back from people as we can. By noon, we have 400 passes in hand, and some poor bastard has been sent off to get started on the stickers at the police station.

Off to the track, where I get to meet the guys I'll be working for for the next 5 days. The guys seem nice, and refreshingly unpretentious, but we can't do a system and regulations walk through as planned. This is because our office has been taken over by 17 Pakistani guys who are frosting the glass.

Which brings me to something that impressed me throughout the entire event: In Abu Dhabi, it is so easy to get someone with a brain and skills to show up and do their job. In my day to day life in Muscat, that Never, ever, ever, ever happens. It seems almost everything is a epic struggle that leaves me nearly suicidal, and usually drunk, angry or in a police station.

In Abu Dhabi however, getting a company to do the thing you need them to do takes one step: pick up a phone and ask. Yesterday, my office was a gigantic, clear, fishbowl. In two hours, my office will be a gigantic, opaque fishbowl, with window frosting seamlessly applied by the expert hands of guys how know how to FROST FUCKING WINDOWS. Every request or emergency thing I needed throughout the race was dealt with by a honest, knowledgeable, polite person, who arrived at the appointed time with the things he or she needed to fix the problem at hand. How Novel.

I spend the rest of the day wandering around jaw agape, checking out the facilities, sorting out administrative odds and ends, and meeting some of the other people who have come out to run the event. Most are lovely, your standard motorsport weirdos, witty, strange, all with great stories to tell and easy to talk to about everything from the mundane to the transcendental. Really great people.

But there are like 15 or 20 other people, all British, who are really weird. Bossy, arrogant, condescending, dinosaurs, who to top it off, are really funny looking. All of them! There are three guys, who I think were born some time in the mid Jurassic, who look and act almost exactly like the old guys in the balcony from the Muppet Show. Despite showering them with talent, charm and kindness, I have yet to receive a kind word or so much as a smile from any of them. They are part of an experienced contingent from the UK who are here to "help" us run the race. They are also annoying as hell.

Now that I"m typing this, the British people need a post all their own, which I'll write up as the next post.

We finish up in the office around 9 pm, and head back to the labor camp, where the staff welfare comittee has hooked up a sound system and has an excellent selection of music playing. The carport has been strung with fairy lights and disco balls, and the catering company has laid on a fantastic feast of Fresh Shwarma, falafel, salads and gooey desserts. I load up a plate, head over to a table packed with old friends, someone hands me a gin and tonic, and all is right with the world.

An hour and three gins later, the first of the buses with the remaining 300 or so British marshals and the balance of the Medics shows up. And things get interesting.

Formula 1, Day 2 part 2 coming later in the week.


Friday, December 4, 2009

A belated love note

Chef Doug taught me everything I know about cooking. He taught me to treat a tomato right, how to love pork, how to eat salmon raw. He taught me to compulsively prioritize each and every item on my to-do list, never let anyone catch me fucking up, and to never accept anything that was less than perfect.

Chef Doug also taught me a lot of what I know about drug addiction, he taught me how to snort a line of cocaine, how to use a bullet to deliver the perfect kick of Ketamine when I was coming down, and how to push a refrigerator over in a fit of detox rage. He also taught me a little of what I know about making love.

Every time I cook I think of Doug, every single time I see a endive or a heirloom tomato, or a lamb lion or a wheel of gorgonzola or even when I serve my family a dinner that could be better, I think of him. I worked for him for four years, off and on. I met Doug because I used to borrow ingredients for the small cafe I worked at. I went in to his super fancy restaurant one day and asked for a case of portabello mushrooms, ten pounds of parmesan, and a job.

Doug had always smoked pot, but I don't know when he got mixed up with the really serious drugs. He started to get weird at work, throwing pates and hot pans at the girls, missing for hours during a busy shift, storing kilos of the drugs he was selling in the walk-in cooler. I must have brought him to the hospital overdosed on a combo-platter of coke, ketamene, vodka, and meth fifteen times. Even from a hospital bed, still puking charcoal, he always swore he had it under control.

During a busy dinner rush, Doug once looked over at me and said, " I shine brighter because I burn the candle at both ends. Baby, you'll never understand what it is to live like I do." I told him that I would say that at his funeral one day. I feel like a total ass now for saying that. The drugs eventually cost him his job (another story, interesting) , and after that he disappeared from my world for almost a year.

A freezing januray morning in 2001, my phone rang. Doug was on the other end of the line and said he was too drunk to drive and could he crash at my house for the night. I let him in, and asked how he had been. He said he had stopped using coke, how he was totally clean, totally over that bullshit scene. He asked if I minded if he smoked, and I said no problem. He pulled out a glass pipe, and mixed a crack-meth cocktail and smoked it right there on the end of my bed. I rolled over and went to sleep, when I woke up the next morning, Doug was gone. I never saw him again.

Doug died in a single vehicle motorcycle accident, in late 2005. He's dead and buried, but I can hear him inside my head every time I pick up a knife.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Formula 1, Day 1

I got to work the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 last week. It is not nearly as glamorous as you might imagine, but despite that, fun was had. I'm going to bore you to death over the next few days with a behind the scenes overview of my week at the Abu Dhabi Formula One.

Day One:

My Flight for AUH leaves at 11:00, so I need to aim for a 09:30 arrival at Seeb airport. A leisurely morning becomes an outright panic when I realize my phone died overnight, and I need to get one sorted before I get on the plane, as my Joining instructions for this event are "Call us when you get there and we'll tell you where to go because it's extremely complicated and you will never find us unless you are actually on the phone while in the taxi."

After consulting with Twitter, a plan is hatched, which went to absolute shambles in short order because nobody here ever opens a shop on time. Much Panic, gnashing of teeth, 1 Failed Attempt to purchase a Blackberry at the Nawras head office, and just in time to make my flight, I purchased a 20 Rial Nokia from Airport Duty free. Thanks a million to whomever it was who suggested that!

On arrival in Abu Dhabi, I got the only taxi driver in the entire UAE who does not know how to speak English or Arabic or Farsi or Hindi or Urdu. The communication issue was further compounded by his lack of any knowledge whatsoever of Abu Dhabi, or Yas Island.

What I Said: "Yas Island, East Exit, Aldar Offices, I'll direct you from there."

What he heard: "I would very much like to circumnavigate the entirety of Abu Dhabi Airport, checking in at each an every gate surrounding the periphery, and eventually getting menaced by some rather intimidating chaps with automatic weapons"

Eventually, I took over driving the taxi, and trusty phone to ear, found my way to the Operations Village.

The Operations Village, which was to be my home for the next week, was a sort of gourmet Labor camp, comprised of 200+ portable trailers, with 4 beds in each, a recreation area which had been pressed into service as event offices. Surrounded by Razorwire, with security controlling access to the facility, it was a little like being in a minimum security prison.

In the office, the Staff Welfare team are counting room keys, radios, marshals tabbards, overalls, t shirts, access passes, and a million other things. It looks hellish, tedious, and thankless. I'm suddenly thrilled that I'll be strictly administrative on this one.

Due to the hasty eviction of the laborers who used to live there, and the subsequent short notice handover to the F1 Organizers, the carefully planned room allocation system went out the window, and when I arrived my room had been taken over by some other women. Thankfully, I packed a sleeping bag, so I can always crash out on a floor somewhere.

The Chief Medical Officer pops in and offers me a lift to the Circuit, where my office awaits. Nearly hyperventilating from the excitement, I pile in, and we're off. On arrival at Race Control, I am freaking speechless.

The track, the hotel, the paddock, Media canter, and marina must have set AD back Billions and Billions of dollars. Whereas Bahrain built a (wonderful) plain, simple trick on an empty area of sand, AD built a city, a mega mall, a Marina, hotels, grandstands for 50,000, and a gigantic amusement park. In two years. Unfuckinbeliveable.

I set up my office, meet a few of the early arrived key figures, and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening cutting little laminated phone lists into pocket sized squares. Professional motorsport is usually doing hideously boring stuff in an interesting environment.

Discussing sleeping arrangements over beers later that night, it emerges that Chris, Christopher, and Richard have one bed spare in thier cabin, so I'll bunk in with them for the week. This is Excellent news, because they are men. Male roommates means I will get all the wardrobe space to myself, I will not have to put up with lengthy beauty routines, and because men take fast showers, there will be plenty of hot water left for me. Win!

I toddle off to bed at about 1:00 am, for a 7:00 am start the next day.

Later in the week: Day 2.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Air Traffic Control Issues

Just a Quick one,

Last Week, while drinking beer with a number of (off duty) Pilots in Abu Dhabi, I was asked about the systems failure in MCT air traffic control. And I was all like Wha?? Huh??? And then they said yeah, everybody up here is talking about it, because it was like, really bad. And I was all, No way! Because we have a great ATC training college here and I think we take our air safety rather more seriously than that, so why don't you stuck up pilots just suck it? And they were like, go home and ask your ATC buddies.

Jump to a couple of days ago when I arrive home and get caught up on the blogs. Lo and behold, two blogs are talking about the system going down, chaos, and Airprox events. Whaaa??? Before we continue, Have any of you read Muscat Confidential's posts on the issue? If not go read them now.



There are not a lot of comments, but one worth highlighting is in the first post, written buy someone who claims to be a Controller in Muscat. I have thoughtfully put the interesting part in bold. See Below.

Muscat ATC SSK said...

1)if you are talking about human error i am with you but Omani technicians aren't exempted (most important thing they've to learn through) Similar problem happen in Melbourne and Ireland according to our radar sys manufacture company.

2)if you talking about covering up ,every country has own policies( I've never came across of air miss happen in States or N. Zealand ! and as a passenger you have no right to question the country of what happen that day ,you can only ask the airline you have traveled with . Sure they'll have an answer if they have filled a report.

Ummm... the above strikes me as the writings of an extremely defensive individual who feels that multiple Airprox events and a system crash are not a big deal. Because, who are you to question us or expect reasonable answers and transparency? Ladies and Gentlemen, your lives may be in that guy's hands.

ATC systems do go down occasionally, the US had a huge issue with the digital flight plans system abut ten years ago, which caused massive delays but not much in the way of safety issues. More interestingly, about this time last year, Sanwick which controls (I think) Area, Approach, and Departure traffic for all of London, as well as Area traffic for most of Northern Europe, had a major failure.

They, like our local contemporaries, were working with little basic radar blips, charts, landlines, and radios. Unlike our local associates, as far as I'm aware, there were no Airprox events on this one, despite it occuring in some of the most congested airspace in the world. The failure was reported in the papers, and a transparent answer for the problem was eventually provided by the concerned authorities. If you are a dork, like me, here is an excellent explanation of how it worked when Sanwick went down Here: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/4157056/1/#45

(Jet Driver if you are reading, could you Fact Check for the last paragraphs regarding Sanwick please? )

However, the thing I find most surprising is the generalized silence that greeted the revelations. like, few comments on the blogs, nothing that I am aware of in the papers, and an apparent embargo on any one affiliated with DGCAM or Oman Air speaking about it. I rang a few friends who would know what happened, and they wouldn't tell me Anything that has not already been published because they are afraid for their jobs. The words Witchhunt, Scapegoat, and Cover-up featured heavily in our conversations.

I think this is the biggest story broken by a blogger in Oman, but nobody in the print media seems to want to touch it. WTF? We're talking about the ENTIRE ATC (and for a short time RADAR) system being brought down, Airprox events that followed, a near miss on a plane carrying ministers, all due due to what appears to be staggering incompetency by a senior systems guy. Add that to the widespread allegations of nepotism, nationalism and bad management in the tower and DGCAM and you have, I think, a story and a problem that people would like to know about.

That's all for today. I promise to write about the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 starting tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Play Dough Nazis

Quick one today, as I am operating on a eight-day build up of Hangovers and Sleep Deprivation. Abu Dhabi Was waaaay more wonderful than I had imagined, and I have about seventeen posts worth of material to share. It was an outrageous time.

When I picked the kid up from school today, I was testily greeted by the head teacher for her year, informing me that the week I was gone was my week for the Play Dough Rota. My Failure to deliver two giant batches of Homemade Play dough while Simultaneously being in another country running the biggest Motorsport event the region has ever seen, clearly reflects that I am not interested in my child's education, and am a disorganised fuckwit to boot.
Our Conversation this morning went something like this:

Bossy Teacher: I sent a note home with Pebbles this week. It was your week to make the Play dough.
Me: Sorry, I've been up in Abu Dhabi all week.
Bossy Teacher: Well, you didn't tell me.
Me: Yeah, I didn't think I had to clear my work travel with you.
Bossy Teacher: Well, we had to get someone else to make the playdough, and it's really important that the kids have playdough.
Me: I'm sorry but Stone was too busy to make it, I was out of town, and frankly, I have better things to do with my time than make play Dough. I'll buy some from the shop and bring it in tomorrow.
Bossy Teacher: No. The stuff from the shop isn't as good.
Me: Riiiight.

The play Dough Rota, for those of you who have yet to discover the joys of sending your kid to an overpriced nursery, is rota decreed by the gods of education, and designed specifically to annoy the hell out of working mothers who have better shit to do with their time than trying to impress Bossy Nursery teachers.

I do Did not have the time to shop for, make, and clean up the mess from Play Dough. Given that we're paying a goddamn king's ransom for a 3 year old kid to attend what is, effectively, a playgroup, I would not think that it would kill them to possibly outsource the Play dough making to a local catering company or maybe just march their shit down to Sultan center and Buy some freaking playdough.

Additionally, I suppose I am extra prickly because at this time 48 hours ago I was staring at famous people and helping to manage the racing worlds most important series, and today, I am being harangued by a nursery teacher about Play Dough. It would seem I am suffering from a case of work whiplash.

More tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My First Tweet Up!

This is a quick one, because in like 13 hours I am supposed to be at the airport to go to Abudhabi to work my other Job for a week.

Yes, Funemployment was brief, but enjoyable.

So I hosted a minor tweet up at my place. 4 of the smartest, classiest, sanest people I have ever met came by my house and graciously listened to me rant and rave for like, 3 hours. They even brought Pizza, and Cake. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed a chance to talk to a group of people who sort of live on the same planet as me, and to have like, the first REAL conversation I've had in six months.

I discovered a few things:
  • Strange internet people are really nice.
  • I like Pizza from Pizza Inn
  • That apparently, many people think I am Omani. What a complement!
  • I did not need to down two giant galsses of Wine in order to calm my nerves
  • I did not to drink a further two glasses of wine to facilitate my ability to talk to strangers.
  • That I really have some opinions on Omanisation, and that maybe I had better put into a blog post, if only to spare everyone from another hour long rant on the fobiles of the government.
  • That I can fearlessly host a larger Bloggger / twitter gathering, and not have a nervous breakdown at the prospect of facing so many scary unknown people.

In Summary: it was all good! Hi5!

OK. Many many Many thanks to @Alucard187 @blue_chi @sbtm77 @kifa7 You guys are fantastic.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Putting the Fun in Unemployment

That's right Bitches, I'm Funemployed.

I am so Funemployed that I am typing this wearing nothing but boxer shorts and a tiara*. I drank champaigne for breakfast this morning* and tonight I'm going to buy a high powered sports car*, and then go skydiving* and make love to George Clooney*. Because that's what Funemployment is all about.

I chucked in my job on Thursday, which was a genuinely a heartbreaking decision as I really loved the work itself, my boss was among my best friends, and I really do like working.

Why would I choose to throw away my best mate and a fantastic job? Do you guys remember six months ago when I wrote about the crazy guy I work with? No? You can read it here: http://otheroman.blogspot.com/2009/03/briefly.html

This isn't the place to go into details, but things with Crazy Guy just kept getting crazier and crazier. I Should have taken Muscato's advice Waaay back in March, because he was totally correct. Live and learn.

I am now accepting suggestions with what I should do with my newfound 40+ hours a week of spare time. Maybe I should take a class? Buy another used car? Work on my tan? Stone suggests that I think about cooking my goddamn husband dinner once in a while.

So that's what's new with me. What's new with you guys?

*none of that is true, but it could be, because when you are Funemployed you can do whatever you want.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Local Humour

Just a quick one today, I want to encourage you to read a really witty local blog.

It's written by what I assume to be a long-term western expat couple, one of whom is a really talented cartoonist. The wit is Dry, dry, dry, occasionally self depracating, and the entries are generally bite-sized. Also, they would appear to know how to spell, which will make delightful reading to those who usually cringe at my hideous spelling.

Start with this post: essential reading for every muscat resident. I have printed off the diagram and stuck it to my office wall.


Then go to the blog and read the rest.

www.livinginoman.com

In other news, my big kids are in town for the week, so look for an upcoming post "from the mouths of Babes"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting stuff printed in Muscat.

I would like to highlight an extraordinary bit of beurocracy that we have here in Oman. Play along boys and girls!

Here is the scene:

You are a legitimate Omani company, Omani owned, have a commercial registration number, registered with every business regulating entity in the country and engaged in totally legitimate business endeavours. You are, for lack of a better term, an awsome company, making headways into an international business market.

Let's say you want to attend an overseas trade show, and you want to take with you 3 different sets of 1,000 printed brochures detailing the services that your company offers. Simple right? you ring up your printers, take a disk with the artwork in, and they print it. Presto! a week later you have 3,000 gorgeous glossy brochures to take with you to your overseas trade show. Right? Right?

Wrong.

Here is how it works if you are my company, or any other small company in Muscat.
  1. Call your freelance graphic designer, and get the stuff designed
  2. Burn it to a bunch of disks, and take it to the printers
  3. Finalise the layout, and approve the proofs
  4. Ask how long it will take
  5. Be told that it depends on Ministry of Information approval, and Muscat Municipality Approval.
  6. And it costs 10 bucks per design
  7. Tell them it's for overseas distribution, you shouldn't need approvals
  8. Be told that it does not matter, everything printed in the whole goddamn country needs approval.
  9. Tell them to go ahead and get the approvals then.
  10. Be told they need a letter on company letterhead, with the company stamp, and a copy of the company's commercial registration document to procede.
  11. Spend a day in the office sorting out everything, finding the C.R. paper, and extracting the stamp from the grimy claws of the accountant.
  12. drive from Ruwi to Qurm and back to get an authourised signature for the letter.
  13. Return to the printers with all the stuff.
  14. Be told the letter must be in arabic.
  15. try not to scream, or rip your eyeballs from thier sockets.
  16. fail on the first count.
  17. Re type the letter in arabic, stamp it when nobody is looking, sign it yourself.
  18. Hand it all in to be taken for approval.
  19. Go home and pour yourself a triple gin and tonic.
  20. Next afternoon receive a call from the printers. Your proofs have been rejected because they are only in English. All flyers must be bilingual.
  21. Wail, gnash teeth. explain that they are for overseas distribution. In like, Europe.
  22. Printer says he will send somebody back with a new proof and try to get it passed the next day by a different guy at the ministry.
  23. Ministry #1 approves all your proofs next day.
  24. hear nothing for 3 days.
  25. Receive a call from the printers that Ministry #2 will not approve the flyers because your business falls under the auspices of a different Ministry (ministry #3).
  26. Explain that you don't fall under the auspices of ANY ministry, since the government, as far as you are aware, does not own your company.
  27. Printer says he will send somebody back with a new proof and try to get it passed the next day by a different guy at the ministry.
  28. weekend.
  29. Receive a call from the printers that Ministry #2 will not approve the flyers because your business falls under the auspices of Ministry#3 . Ministry#3 must approve your flyers before ministry #2 will approve your flyers.
  30. Tell printers to go see Ministry #3 and try to get someone there to stamp the proofs.
  31. Printer guy goes to see Ministry #3 four seperate times trying to get someone in the ministry to stamp the proofs.
  32. Despite the fact that you are a legitimate business known to everyone in Ministry #3, Noone in Ministry #3 is willing to stamp the proofs since they have never been asked to do so before.
  33. With the deadline looming, Call in a favor, Apply Wasta, Cry, and drink yourself to a stupor.
  34. Ministry #3 finally acknowleges your existance. Send printer to get approval from Ministry #2
  35. Ministry #2 rejects your proofs because they are not bi-lingual and Arabic, only English.
  36. Ask the printers if they could just please print the notally non-objectional shit you need without seeking any approval.
  37. Printers say no. There are really heavy fines for unauthourised printing.
  38. Give up.
  39. Send Ro 800 in business that could have supported Omani companies to Dubai, and have the printing done there.
  40. Pay an extortionate amount to have it delivered here.
  41. Beat your head against a nearby wall until you bleed profusely. Apply bandages.
  42. Repeat twice a year.

Want to know what the kicker is? Offset printing requires approval, but if I wanted the stuff lazer printed or color copied at Bishara Xerox, I don't need any approval whatsoever.

Offset printing? Approvals needed. Same document, Xeroxed? No approval needed.

Aaargh...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Overheard in Muscat, adult edition

At the Tyre Shop
Tire Guy: (Job Done, dusting his hands off) OK! We are all Penish?
Me:Ummm.. What?
Tire Guy: Penish! All Penish!! (Huge smile)
me: I'm sorry, we are Penis?...
Tyre Guy: (spreading arms wide, pointing to the truck) Yes!!! We are all Penissss!
Me: (Backing away slowly) No, I really don't think we are Penis.
Other Dude: Madam, he means Finshed. He is finished fixing your tyres. You can go now.
Me: (Sheepishly)Oh, right... How embarassing.


Early Morning: I'm in Bed, Stone is in the Bathroom
Stone: (coughing, gaging, hacking, spitting)
me: Are you ok?
Stone: Yeah, except I gagged myself while brushing my teeth.
Me: Again? Are you suffering from Bulemia?
Stone: No, but my gag reflex is crazy
Me: Dude, you are so lucky you are not gay, because you would be really bad at giving blow jobs!
Stone: Woman, what is wrong with you?? Seriously?

Seriously, I'm still not Saudi... ***
Old ROP Guy: (looking at my Iqamma) Oooh! Al Saudia! You is Saudi?
My PRO: La, look at her baba, does she look saudi to you?
Old ROP Guy: (looking at me, in blue jeans and a pit shirt) You are Saudi! Yes?
Me: Nope, I'm American.
My PRO: Here, see this is her passport, American!
Me: I like Shagging Infidels! And Drinking Whiskey! And running around stark naked!
----- (Baffled silence)------
My PRO: (whispering) What the fuck is wrong with you? I'm never bringing you here again!
ROP Guy: Hmmm... So, Not Saudi?


*** No trip anywhere that requires me to present my Iqamma is complete without some version of the above conversation. It is beginning to get old.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Feelin' Crazy

To the tune of Simon and Garfunkel's "Feelin' Groovy"

Slow Down, The car horns blast
Ass-Clown drivers go way to fast
kick the neighbour kids down a hill of stones,
Don't own a gun cause I'm feelin' Craaazy.
Ba da Ba da Ba da Ba da... Feelin Craaaazy!


Around this time last year I was feelin' a little crazy. Not like G.W. Bush crazy, just a tiny bit crazy.

The kind of crazy that makes you want to kick your infant child down the stairs, run other people off the road in a fit of rage, or kill your self crazy. So really, just a little tiny eeensy weensie bit crazy.

Following a rather heated Freak Out discussion with Stone where he dutifully tried to persuede me that it's everyone else who is crazy, I convinced him that I maybe needed some professional help. Screaming at him in a restaurant full of people and throwing a plate at his head may or may not have helped to reinforce the point.

Seriously, I've never felt as out of control and frightened as I was feeling then. Because a Year ago, I couldn't stand living in the old neighbourhood for One. More. Fucking. Minute. I wasn't sure if I could stand living with my family for another minute. The barking dogs, the heat, being unemployed, attempting to mother an obnoxious toddler and an obnoxious teenager simultaneously, and the horrendous neighbours were totally doing my head in.

So I visited a psychatrist and cried my eyes out and begged for drugs or a giant rubber hammer or something, anything that would chill me out enough to prevent me from hurting myself or someone else. Tears, wailing, snot. In hindsight, I made kind of a scene.

And the highly trained Psychiatrist was like "I'm from Pakistan, and I know about life sucking. Your life is pretty good, so you should suck it up" All of that is completley true, but it wasn't quite what I had in mind as far as mental health advice went. He charged me 60 rials for 20 minutes of his time and sent me home with a package of anti angsiety pills and some really potent sleeping pills. He said to come back in three weeks.

Un helpfull psychiatric advice aside, the drugs were sort of good, and even better was standing up and telling my famiy that I really needed help. They listened, and were really supportive. Within a ouple of weeks, the angry girl inside me got a little quieter, a little more manageable. A few months later when the neighbours broke into our house (Twice!) instead of opening fire on the local elementary school, (or hunting down the little fuckers and ripping thier toenails out one at a time) I put my foot down, leaned on Stone, and we moved out of the neighbourhood the next week.

And it's like, a year later, and things are still pretty good. I could do without the racket from the construction next door, but I have only once marched over there in my bathrobe to scream at them, which I think is progress.
  • The new neighbourhood is like something out of a norman Rockwell painting.
  • I now have a job, which gives me things I enjoy doing, and also gives me things to bitch about that are relitavely minor, and which I am empowered change instead of wanting freak out and kill a neighbour over something major that I have little or no control over.
  • I only took the pills for a week or two, though I still use sleeping pills occasionally so I can sleep through the night. I never realised how much I need sleep in order to be a functioning, rational person.
I don't really know why I wrote this post, except to express some gratitude that I have a life where I can remove 90% if the stuff that is driving me crazy by taking sleeping pills for a week and making a single phone call to a moving company. If only everyone's problems could be resolved so easily.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What's up with the little kids begging?

Twice this week I have been approached by little Omani Kids begging at the supermarket or Mac Donalds. They were between the ages of 7 and 10, and once there was an older kid who looked aout 12 with them. In the US or Europe, this would be reason for Child Protective Services to seize the kids and place them in care. In India and Bangladesh and a million other places, this is sadly commonplace, and part of an economy of exploited children. Here, this is just plain unusual... I don't even know if we have Child Protective Services here.

To say I feel conflicted at the sight of thier outstretched hands is an understatement. I sort of want to take them home and adopt them, feed them, and shower them with love and adoration, or at least give them a bath and something nutritious to eat. Can I just take them home with me? Is that ok? What's the deal?
  • Are they homeless street urchins or orphans upon whom I should take pity?
  • Are they part of a Begging family, and mom and dad are nearby begging too?
  • Are they part of an organised Begging cartel, masterminded by evil adults?
  • Are they Demonstrating commendable entreprenurial Zeal? and Should I help them set up a lemonaide stand?
  • Or what?
Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Long Beard, Short Temper

To the guy in the Golden Brown BMW 5/7 series Ministry Plated Reg # 15/1265 or 5621 with a remarkably long beard.

You, who honked, flashed, and tailgated us because I was preventing you from using the emergency lane to bypass the traffic jam and cut in front of people who were queing patiently.

You who are so cowardly that when Stone leaned out the passenger window to take a picture of your fantastical, bearded, agressive, driving self you instintaneously ducked in to traffic and hid sheepishly behind a truck.

You, who get Ministry plates on your car, and make everyone else from the ministries look bad since like, if government employees enjoying government perks can't follow the rules why should anyone else?

You, are an Assclown.

The best thing about my beloved car, Bigfoot, is that he's extra-big, extra-wide, and extra-heavy. Since I bought him, I have succesfully blocked hundreds of more important than you type ass-clowns who feel that thier time is more valuable than mine, and everybody elses. It pleases me immensely.

Also, I'm back from a wonderful holiday, where we bought a house. More on that soon.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Re Blog: Rock Bottom

Muscat Jet driver posted a summary of the usual scene at rock bottom club.

Go, and read it, and laugh at the hysterical picture of a real, genuine bouncer.


I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Overheard in Muscat, ROP Edition

Ok then, how about KicksAss?
Rop Guy: So Renewal Iqaama?
Me: Yeah
ROP Guy: Smile! (takes picture) You want to change your last name?
Me: What?
ROP Guy: Do you want to change your name? (hands me my card, pointing to where my name is spelled out)
Me: Hmmm... How about HH Al Said?
ROP Guy: (laughing) Not that.


No, Really. I can even explain Baseball.
ROP Guy: You are Saudi!
Me: I'm American
ROP Guy: But really you are Saudi. (big smile)
Me: American. See? I have an American Passport.
ROP Guy: But, Why? (stamping my passport )
Me: I like Beer, and I like to drive.
ROP Guy: (Matter-of factly) Yes, That is good. Mabrook.


Getting your car inspected here is always interesting
ROP Guy: Nice car! V8?
Me: Yeah, I love it
ROP Guy: Where are you from?
Me: Mostly America
Rop Guy: I like Bacon!
Me: Good to know...?



Saturday, July 4, 2009

I Love New Zealand

In an effort to help passengers pay attention during the pre-flight Safety Breifing, Air New Zealand's Video features crew members wearing nothing but body paint.



Stone has suggested that it would be even better without the Body paint. Bless.

Friday, July 3, 2009

DC shoes Rallying Sponsorship

This is the slickest bit of Motorsport related film I've seen in ages.

Watch it from beginning to end, and keep in mind that Rallying is effectively unknown in the United States. If sponsors here were as proactive as DC shoes and sportswear, we wouldn't see the likes of Ahmed Al Harthy, Hamed al Wahaibi, and Nizar Shanfari suffering for lack of funds, and we'd have a lot more top-class racers coming up through the ranks.



Enjoy.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

When everything seems right

Stone took me to the Chedi last weekend. We stayed in a Suite, got a couple's spa treatment, and sat around in the enormous bath until we were giant pink raisins.

Saturday Morning, Tariq stopped by with a hard-to-find spare part and an invitation to come up to the family farm next week.

I went to the ROP in Qurm yesterday, and was called by name by everyone I dealt with. I got a hug from Aisha, the teller in the Ladies line. I completed the last details for the color-change for one of the company cars in under 15 minutes.

I took the baby down to the ocean today, and she and I swam in bathwater-warm water and rolling waves for an hour. Then we chased crabs and climed around the cliffs by the water's edge.

When we got home, Khalifa, our company PRO stopped by for a coffee and a chat. He made me laugh so hard I almost peed on myself.

It's days like this that make me so happy to live here, and so lucky to have such wonderful people around me.

Crankyness and bitching to resume tomorrow.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

One more reason to love your truck

I love my Abu Shanab. This is the best FJ 45 video ever, an oldie but a goodie.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Spam from the lovelorn, and some advice.

Does anybody else get spammy love notes like this courtesy of random trolls searching facebook / tagged / blogger? The note below came from Tagged, a program I signed up for accidentally. There's not even a profile photo.
Hope life treat u good,,

I'm half Omani man :-).. I lived most of my life outside Oman,,,,i'm
back now 2 Muscat.. I love everything beautiful in this life, accepting life in
all its glory and despair., Live for Love and die for it... I like to enjoy
every second of my life and make it the best moment if i could.. i'm single and
looking for a place for my heart :-).


I would like to know u and hope if we can be in touch..

YoursGentleman


Don't get me wrong, it's a sweet note, very respectful. I note the generally good spelling, something your correspondant could attempt herself of more often. But... Spell check or not, this is not a successfull strategy for picking up chicks.

  • because I don't know you, at all.
  • Because the only thing you know about me, apparently, is that I am female.
  • If your only criteria for a potential girlfriend is that she has a vagina, your standards are worryingly low.
  • Because if you have to resort to messaging random women who you don't know in order to get a date, you're likely not worth dating.

So, Mr, Lonley, If you want to get a nice and smart girlfriend, one who will stick around, and might eventually sleep with you or become your wife and have your babies, read on...

First you need a car. The car should not have any teddy bears or inflatable hearts on the parcel shelf or hanging from the rearview mirror. Likewise, your car should not have any stickers depicting calvin pissing on anything, or badly spelled slogans across the back "Bad Bayyyzz" "Rasing Teem Oman" etc...

Second, Buy and use an analog wrist watch. Practice being on time. Being on time is sexy.

Next, you need to start by looking in the paces girls are, and in environments where you can talk to them in the course of doing your job without coming across as a desperate weirdo.

  • Take your little cousins to the park to play on the playground, model good behavior.
  • Take riding lessons, hang around the stables.
  • Get a job or an internship in retail somewhere that the kind of girls you are interested in hang out. Bowling alley, grocery store, Porche service department, Chinese Massage joint etc..
  • Be a Volunteer Organizer at beach cleanups, fundrisers, charity walks, etc..

Now that you have strategically positioned yourself in the vicinity of your sort of girls, try to be the sort of guy you would want your sister to date. Seriously, if you wouldn't be ok with your mom or your sister checking out a guy who is acting / dressing like you, then you are doing it wrong.

  • Don't spend too much time on your hair, we don't want a man who takes longer than we do to get ready.
  • Don't wear one of those stupid-ass fedoras / bowlers that are so popular with the Shabab these days.
  • Don't wear a super tight Tshirt / jeans to show off your muscles / package. We like modesty in a man. And it's just gross.
  • Don't show off your flash Iphone, or other gadget.
  • No Posing. We can tell. You're working / organising / riding, remember?

OK, so you're in the right place, doing something that gives you an excuse to speak to girls, and looking like the sort of guy we might want to see naked. Now you have to act like the sort of guy we might want to get naked with. This is the hard part. Whatever you do, don't appear to eager / keen / desperate. You'll scare us off straight away.

  • Make Eye Contact, when you speak to us.
  • Give a Big, Genuine smile. Practice in front of the mirror so it doesn't look creepy.
  • When you speak to girls, especially here, your early interactions really really really need to be strictly business. "Welcome to McDonalds, Can I take your order?" or "Here is a trash bag for the beach clean up, do you have enough water?" or "I see your porche has a scratch, would you like that repaired as well?"
  • Smile, and without giving them any creepy lingering stares, shut the fuck up and move on to the next thing, be that fetching a cheeseburger, untacking your horse, or driving thier car away for an oil change.
  • Stay busy with whatever it is you are supposedly doing. You are a busy and confident guy, so act like it.
  • Don't ask our name, our number, or anything else the first time you see us. We'll be back if we like you.
  • You'll be able to tell if we are interested, procede with caution.

OK, so now you sort of know some women. You see them once or twice a week at work or social things, you have something in common, she thinks you are cute, and you have given her your phone number or she's given you yours.

  • Women are creeped out by guys who come on to strong. So don't act like a stalker and call us all the time, don't send 20,000 forwarded text messages
  • If she doesn't call you back, after you have called once and sent one text message, forget it and move on.
  • Don't buy us a gift on the first date. It's sweet, but desperate.
  • Don't ever buy stupid stuffed teddy bears.
  • Do pay for dinner or juice.
  • Let her meet your family. The best first date I ever went on I met up with the guy and a bunch of his cousins and siblings (Male and Female) for fattayer at Mermaid. Fifth date I met his Mom, tenth date we kissed.
  • Do interesting stuff on dates, take her fishing, take her to the indoor rock climbing, take her ice skating, Take her to Cafe Cermique'.

If none of this works, remember that you are in Oman, and Dating is hard and not part of the culture here. Also, if your friends or family wouldn't approve of who you are dating, you shouldn't be doing it because they won't let you marry her either. Trust me.

OK. I'm bored with this. Additional advice is welcomed and encouraged in the comments section. More from here as it happens.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mo Cars, Mo Problems

Our woes come not as single soldiers...they march in batillions. Or whatever it was Queen Gertrude said in Hamlet.

Because it's summer, and because clearly, God hates me, we are having some car troubles. I understand car problems are not quite as bad as say, coming down with a nasty case of AIDS, or suffering from simultaneous famine and plague, but still, automotive woes are something of a bummer for me.

Three weeks ago, the front left wishbone on Stone's sports car snapped while he was driving it. We've never been so happy to have a catastrophic failure of a critical suspension component. The wishbone snapped at low speed, a mere 2 kms after two hours of high speed driving on a crowded highway. So we were pretty lucky.

Stone rang the dealership, and they dutifully came and picked it up, but sadly don't have a replacement part in stock. Three weeks later, they still don't have the replacement part in stock, and Stone's baby is sitting in the workshop alone and forgotten slowly being covered with a layer of dust two inches thick. My only guess to the hold up is that the new wishbones are being handcrafted by virgins out of pure unobtanium in the NASA R&D workshop. Hope they'll be worth the wait when we get them.

Next, we have my car "Big Foot". For the last couple of weeks, whenever I park Big Foot or return home after a long drive, there is the unmistakable smell of Petrol wafting around my car. I love the smell of petrol, so I didn't really think much of it, assuming the petrol cap was a little loose, or the engine was running a tad rich, or maybe the fuel injection breather needed replacing. (I have no idea if there is even something called a fuel injection breather, but it sounds good)

But the smell kept getting stronger, to the point that other people would comment on it. So today, when I was in Wadi Kabir looking at the progress on the company car re-spray, I asked the guys have a look and see if we could isolate where the smell was coming from. Having checked everything under the hood, and the gas cap, we decided to check out things underneath. With much flailing of arms and swearing, we got Big Foot positioned over the pits, and climbed down, torches in hand to have a look.



My fuel tank is leaking. A lot. Thank god the engineers designed the exhaust to run paralell down the other side of the car, and not under, or across the fuel tank. Again, we are very lucky.

So I rang the dealership, and after hassling with the brainless fucktards that answer the phones for the better part of 45 minutes trying to be connected to " BRAND NAME SERVICE DEPARTMENT", I was indeed connected to the service department guys, who recognised my voice, asked me to stop crying, told me everything would be ok, and promised to take extra special care of me and the car when I bring it in tomorrow morning. They'll even let me go into the workshop when they put it on the hoist, and I can help take the fuel tank out if I want. Which is so sweet, really.

More on this, and other stuff, tomorrow.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wadi Kabir and Tariq Al Kiyumi Interview

I spent the morning today wandering through a million little repair and spare parts shops in Wadi Kabir. I was on a mission to find some impossible widgets, meet with a couple of garages regarding my company's fleet of cars, get one of the cars painted a different color and get an estimate for a protective coating extravaganza on the Abu Shenab .

On today's adventure, I was accompanied by none other than the legendary Tariq Al Kiyumi, who is the closest thing Wadi Kair has to a local Sheikh. Tariq runs a spare parts business selling genuine Toyota, Lexus, and Nissan spare parts , which I've written a little about before, Here . While we were collecting widgets and haggling over the price for a custom respray, Tariq caught me up on the latest news from his his corner of Muscat. I'm happy to report that the business is thriving, despite repeated attmepts by Bahwan Toyota to put him out of business.

Tariq only realised that this is my blog recently, something which really cracked me up. I'm going to Interview Tariq here in a couple of weeks, so he can tell the story of being an independent Omani entrepreneur, going up against the Bahwan Monopoly, and various Anecdotes about day-to-day life in Wadi Kabir. Tariq is a really funny, witty, and knowlegable guy, so If any of you have any questions you'd like to ask Tariq, Put them in the comments section, or email them to me Otheroman@gmail.com

Back to Wadi Kabir, places with a million little shops and junk everywhere fill me with insane ideas for what I could have fabricated there. Like how about a new bed with a powder coated steel frame and a headboard made of Galvanised steel with little gears form old transmissions all over it? I am inspired by al the weird old cars piled up and the possibilities for a new and interesting custom Hot-Rod.


When I go to Wadi Kabir, Stone literally feels ill with dread at the thought that I might find and purchase another automotive project. I have already spent next month's salary on some custom enhancements for Big Foot, but failed to secure the purchase of a Conversion Van.

Because wouldn't that just be Bitching???



Or how about this one?



Which has a dining table in the back!














Fabulous, Right? I neeed one.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Animals everywhere.

As Smattering of wildlife related news from here:





CATS AND DOGS AND BUGS


  • About three weeks before we moved, our cat Velcro went missing. We were all pretty sad about it. Although he wasn't a very good cat, he was the cat we had.
  • As of last week, we have a new cat. She's small, cute, friendly, and really really soft. She just showed up on our back porch one day. We have named her Spandex. That cracks me up.
  • Driving through Qurum, near the Crowne Plaza a few nights ago, we saw a pack of at least 20 Wadi Dogs cross the road. I'm sure they're harmless, but I was glad I was in the car and not walking.
  • We found a giant scorpion crawling along the back porch wall last week. Giant as in 4 inches head to tail, and totally creepy and disgusting. Stone trapped it, but then we didn't know what to do next so we stuck it in the freezer overnight. We were pretty sure it was dead the next morning, but decided better safe than sorry so we ran it through the garbage disposal in case it came back to life and attacked us in our sleep or something.

WILDLIFE WHO LIVE IN MY HOUSE

  • The toddler has an ear infection. No fun.
  • One of the teenagers continues to be a completely outrageous pain in the ass. She has a right to privacy so I'll spare her the embarrassment of having her behavior published here. But she's a pain in the ass.

LOCAL BUREAUCRACY

  • I think it's time that the ROP or Ministry of Creating Stupid-Ass Rules (MCSAR) repealed the law about expats owning pickups. If you have to resort to attempting to control the Labor market by making laws like that, maybe someone else should be in charge.
  • While we're at it, perhaps MCSAR could alter the law that you need permission from the ROP before you can paint your car a different color.
  • And also the law that you need approval from both the Ministry of Information and the Muscat Municipality before you can have anything printed, even if it's for distribution overseas. In the end, I had most of the stuff printed in Dubai.

More from here soon, and sorry for the Lame-O post.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Would you eat this?

Shopping at Al Fair makes me want to cry. Honest to god, I have never seen such staggering incompetence in Supermarket management / staffing in my entire life. It would appear that not a single person in thier management chain has any concept of food saftey, product rotation, or inventory management. How they have managed not to be shut down by the authourities for health code violations is beyond me.

Today like every other time I shop there, I saw:
  • Frozen foods not frozen
  • Moldy, soggy vegitables
  • Spoiled meat
  • canned goods waaaaay beyond thier sell-by date
  • And the Deli Offerings.... Words Fail me.

Have a look at the picture below: What you are seeing is a bowl of Artichoke hearts, completley covered in mould, with the ones at the bottom beginning to decompose in a bubbling froth of bacteria. When I was in the store yesterday, the artichokes were the same, and the spoon was in exactly the same location, with exactly the same smear of artichoke shmutz on it. Unbeliveable, and Dangerous.

The Seafood salad wasn't fairing much better, and the olives were mouldy too.

Trying to buy anything from the deli makes me want to reach across the counter and strangle the idiotic, lazy, rude girls behind the counter. I stood for five minutes in front of the Deli cabinet, hoping to tell them about the Artichokes, while they gossiped, toaked on thier phones, and flirted, pausing twice to lecture the Indian Baker on something or other. Can someone tell me where they find girls like this? Under rocks? Beauty School Drop outs? I finally tracked down the manager, who was kind and receptive to my feedback on the mold matter.

So, Spinneys? Al Fair? Want to hire a consultant? I'll work for 10% of the money I can save you if you'll let me restructure your ordering, stock rotation, and train your absolutley usless staff. If you give me free reign, I'll also increase your sales, reduce employee turnover, and lessen the odds that you'll kill someone through gross neglence. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Otheroman@Gmail.com

Sunday, May 3, 2009

In Honor of International Press Freedom Day

Did you guys know it's World Press Freedom Day?

Essa Al Zadjali, (Editor in Chief, and Owner of the Times of Oman) has excercized his right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press by publishing what is, quite possibly, his craziest "Viewpoint" article yet.

According to Essa, This whole Piracy nonsense was set up by the Jews to shut down the shipping lanes through the Suez Canal, thereby Financially Choking an already poor Egypt, and destabilizing THE ENTIRE ARAB WORLD!!!!!

The Editor in Chief of the Biggest English Language Newspaper Belives that Somali Pirates are actually part of a greater conspiracy by the Evil, Zionist Jews and the Evil Western Media. Why didn't I think of that? It's so obvious!


Israel is the main culprit behind piracy
Essa bin Mohammed Al Zedjali

A GREAT number of Arab writers and political analysts have not only accused Israel of sponsoring piracy activities that have recently been on the rise along the coast of Somalia but have also expressed their fears about the role of world powers in dramatising and internationalising the issue of security on the Red Sea in a way that gives Israel ample scope to further its own interests in the region.

The truth is that the Horn of Africa has not just been afflicted by the attacks of a few disparate marauders who surface randomly and try to make a fast buck through ransom. They are, in fact, orchestrated according to a definite strategy to control the navigation on the Red Sea.

The Western media has worked flat out trying to make us believe that a motley bunch of lawbreakers are behind the piracy activities and their aim is nothing beyond getting ransom.

The events on the Somali waters point to an Israeli hand, especially in globalising the issue of security of the Red Sea. The apprehensions raised to this effect are indeed legitimate, particularly when we take into account the theory of Israeli
security which is predicated on the idea of a Greater Israel extending from River Nile to the Euphrates as mentioned in the Protocols of Zion. This pernicious idea preoccupies the mind of each and every Israeli politician regardless of his party or the official statements he makes. Israeli politicians still believe in this theory and dream of making it a reality one day.....

Interested readers can read the rest of the tirade on the times of Oman Website, HERE


I want you all to Join me in applauding Essa Al Zedjali, Editor in Chief of the Times of Oman, for using front page space, on World Press Freedom Day to help spread ingnornace and hatred throughout the world with his Crazed, Psychotic, Paranoid rant on the evils of Israeli/Somali Piracy.

If he can write and publish these sort of lies and conspiracy on the front page of his newspaper here, then we really do have some astounding press freedoms.

What an ass.

I also want to know how anybody manages to meet him at a conference / dinner and shake his hand with a straight face. I couldn't.


Thanks to Muscati and Pinaki for the Link

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Abu Dhabi Baby!

How about a Quickie?

Not that kind you perverts...

A quickie post. I'm in the UAE for work for the next two weeks. Work will be flat out, so this blog will be dead until April, I expect.

See you in April!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy

I am so happy that I wonder if I am on drugs. Really really excellent drugs.

What is making me so happy? My new neighbourhood is beyond awesome. It's like dying and going to heaven, only better.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Things to do with kids in Muscat, from the Ordinary files.

Oh My God. Have you guys been to Qurum Park? Have you been there recently?

Because they have the most amazing playground I have ever seen in my entire life. Seriously, I like it as much as most of the kids playing there. The slides are terrifying, I thought I was going to die going down them.

We are going in the early evenings, and occasionally mid day, whe we sneak in via the stables in the park. We sometimes take a few table scraps to feed to the ten billion fish that are inhabiting the pond in the middle, and some carrots for the horses.

If you don't live near the Qurum Park, no worries! There are similar playgrounds near Mattrah in Riyam Park, Near Wadi Kabir, up the road from the Friday Market, and In Seeb at the big park near City Center.

Bravo Muscat Municipaplity, and Thank you!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Land Rover Discovery Review

THE LANDROVER DISCOVERY
MODELS TESTED: 1990, 1995, 1988


This one will be a quick review. They suck. The transmission, clutch and drive train feel like driving a Mac Truck without a trailer attached. The Air-con leaves much to be desired, and I have never ridden in one that did not smell like petrol.

How landrover could make and sell such total heaps of shit for like, 20+ years amazes me. Ours was in the ship more often than it was out of it. They are ugly, uncomfortable, and hideously expensive to repair. They come equipped from the factory, at no extra charge, with bizarre electrical poltergeists. Ours actually caught fire, twice.

On the rare occasions when they are running, they are a hell of a lot of fun, with balls of steel and troque to spare. Since you have hopefully n ot paid very much for your disco, you can beat the hell out of it and not be too sad when you have to abandon it in the middle of the empty Quarter.

If you have one you can trust not to break down (or a convoy), they are great for family camping due to the acres of cargo space and excellent ground clearance. The visibility from the driver's side is pretty good, lessening the chances of running over your own children, or a Daihatsu Cappuccino.

But really, they suck.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Landrover Defender Review

Today, by popular request, what I am hoping will be a quick review of a Landrover Defender.

THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER
MODELS TESTED: SWB DEISEL 2006 LWB PETROL 1995

When they were issuing cars at work a few years ago, one of the cars on offer was a Shorty Deisel Defender. I had to have it. I tackled a guy twice my size, sat on his chest, and threatened to hock a huge loogie in his hair if he didn't give me the keys to That Awesome Truck This Very Minute. I got the keys, amazed at how quickly he handed them over.

My brain, awash in visions of being Laura Croft, Badass Woman of the Desert, Defender Driving Sex Godess, was far too stupid to notice that everyone was laughing at me, not with me. The next morning, starting at 04:00 we had to drive 1,000 kilometeres. It was about 100 kms into the trip that I understood why everybody was laughing.
Sexy or not, I would rather ride a bicycle 1,000 kms than do that drive in that truck again. I don't know if it had a turbo, but I expect not, since the lag was unreal. It took 5 seconds after I pushed the gas for the engine to respond with a whine, as we gradually accelerated up to a whopping top speed of 150 kms per hour. Downhill, with a tailwind. Foot jammed to the floor for 7 hours, it was the next day before I could feel my toes again. Not kidding, it was really painfull.
The internal controls have not changed in the last 40 years, which is nice. Everything inside the cockpit is easy to reach, hard to break, and no bullshit like radios or sat nav to distract you from the endless roar of the engine, as mile after mile of totally deserted road drags under your wheels, and your ass slowly goes from searing pain to blissfull numbness.

Offroad, and on the sand, both the SWB and LWB were great to drive. Fun, with strong feedback, and a great sound to the engine, you could run them up anything. I might be mistaken, but I think that Defenders are made with an aluminum body, so are light on the ground and they don't rust out. If true, that would be a serious boon in the Sabkhas of the Um As Sameem, or around here, since the salt seems to get into everything.

Another really great thing about the Defenders, is that they are simple, intuitave cars and thus really easy to work on, or repair with whatever shit is lying around where you break down. There's no Computer, No power seats, No button labled "Suck it" and no other crap that will break as soon as the warranty expires.

I have to admit, that despite the awfulness of a Defender, I did feel and look pretty cool. And I love a Deisel Engine. If I never had to drive more than 50 kms at a time, and if it cost less than RO2,500 I would buy one tomorrow.

An open Letter to Chevy

Dear Chevy Marketing Team,

A frequent and heated topic of discussion in regional Service Parks, Bars and Pit Garages recently has been the reasoning behind calling the Chevy Lumina, a Lumina.

Say it with me. Luuuminah. Lewminuh. Luhmina. Lumina. WTF?

What does Lumina mean? How many Hairdressers actually drive one? Could the bad name be the reason it has yet to take America by storm? The thing is insanely Popular in Australia, badged as a Holden Commodore. It has our vote for Most Effiminate Name for a car, Ever.

We beseech you, in your wisdom, to enlighten us on the reason for giving such a horrible name to an otherwise Balls-Out car.

Best Regards,
Suburban Muscat

Monday, March 2, 2009

Briefly

Sorry for no the lack of promised updates / car reviews! I am really, really busy.

I love my job, I love my coworkers, and I love that each day brings a new adventure and that I can flex my skills in so many different areas. However, I did 60 hours last week at my "part time" job, and I'm looking at aother 60 hours this week.

I am suposed to be a mother to the kids, a best friend and lover to my husband, and a helpful daughter to my parents, but the only ting I have time to do right now is work, and beg my family to help out with both the housework and fend for themselves.

We've been thinking about hiring some (2-3) people to help out with the new arm of the business, as well as to take some pressure off of me and the boss on the day-to-day adventures of the main business.

Lots of friends (internet and non) have expressed interest in the jobs, and all of these people are eminently qualified. As an added bonus, because they are clearly smart, hardworking folks, they would not be total screw-ups, or the sort of lazy, mouth-breathing morons who seem to show up to every interview I have ever conducted here.

The thing is, I'm not entirely sure I want to expose my friends to my co-workers. I love my co-workers, and really enjoy working with / for them. But there is this one guy who is Bat-Shit Crazy, and a total asshole. A raging, screaming, nut-job asshole. And I don't really know if anyone wants to take the kind of abuse he dishes out without running to the labour courts, as happens with almost every single new recurit we have hired and a number of complete strangers with whom he has had altercations. Thus, I worry that my friends would not be my friends anymore after experiencing even one total mental meltdown from him.

Don't get me wrong, I adore Bat-shit-crazy guy, and like working for him! He is really, really really good at what he does. Also, having spent most of my chef career working for a deranged and drug addled psychopath, this is business as usual for me. But I don't know if anybody else would be willing to take the crap he dishes out.

But I neeeed to work less. argh. The solution, is to hire a total stranger, I guess, and keep cycling through new recruits until we find someone tough enough to deal with the day to day crazyness.

OK. clearly if I have anough time to write this blog post, i am not as busy as I would like to imagine. I'm such a knob sometimes. Gotta go.

:)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Other Seventh Circle Of Hell

The other day at Macdonalds, We listened to Air Supply's "All Out of Love" twelve times, so loud that it almost drowned out the ear splitting shreiking of my 2 year old, who was refusing to sit down and eat her goddamn happy meal.

As the song began it's 13th round on the PA system, I went to the counter and asked them if they could turn it down, or at least switch the song after every five repeat plays. And the guy behind the counter looked at me, shocked, and said "You don't like it??.. Whaaa?" He looked crushed.

What is the deal with the McDonalds playing 80's Power Ballads over and over and over again, at top volume, while the staff sings along?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Used Car Review, Expat Wife Edition

Time, at last for another used car review, with your host, Suburban Muscat.

This week we are reviewing 5 popular SUV's favoured by expat wives in MQ and Qurum. The Toyota Prado, The Jeep Wrangler, The Jeep Cherokee, the Landrover DIscovery, and the LR 3. Strappy top, Oversized handbag, and snotty attitude optional, but encouraged.

Today, The pervasive and bland Toyota Prado.

The Toyota Prados I test drove were 1998, 2002, and 2003 base models. 2 stick shifts, 1 automatic transmission, all in pretty good shape and dealer maintained.

A Toyota Prado is the first car people will reccomend that you should buy when you move here. And why not? They are reliable, economical, great on graded roads and in the sand, and have an excellent resale value. They are also boring and ugly.

I really enjoyed driving the prado, despite it's hideous looks and the fact that it made me feel like a total gomer. Good power, prompt takeoff, easy to park, and excellent air conditioning. The Gearbox on both the stickshifts felt a little loose to me, but slipped into gear easily both up and down, allowing me to engine break my way down some very frightening roads.

The turning radious and visual feild is great, meaning that I could always get into and out of parking spots, regardless of how the ass-clown in the next space over is parked. The brakes are sharp and responsive, but the steering feedback leaves something to be desired.

All three models had gone through a few clutches, something toyota R&D might be interestied to know about. All three were also beginning to loose some of the rubber trim around the doors and wheel wells.

Inside, it seats 2 in front, and 3 in the back, and another two in fold-down seats in the way-back. Life is pretty luxurious for front seat passengers, but I thought the back seats were very cramped. The prado claims a carrying capacity of 7 passengers, but 7 adults would be deeply unhappy crammed into the deceptively small interior space. And lord almighty, it's boring to drive and look at.

The cargo capacity is ok for getting groceries and short camping trips, but not for moving say, furniture or a washing machine. A Nissan Pathfinder has better, and more usable cargo space in my experience. The controls on the dash are simple, easy to understand, and sturdy.

Getting your Prado serviced means taking it to Bahwan Toyota in Wattiyah, which is the closest thing I can imagine to the seventh circle of hell. Seriously, it is Craaaaazzzzy there. I highly reccomend that you, yourself, double check that they have done everything they claim to have done, as we have occasionally received a half-serviced car back. The guys who do the servicing and washing have somewhat sticky fingers, so don't leave anything you want to see again in the car when you take it for service. Given the thousands of cars serviced there daily, they usually manage to keep track of your cars, and have only lost (temporarily) two of mine.

Bahwan Toyota also maintains the database from which there is no escape. I once took a friend's car in for electrical work there, and to this day I still get calls from them asking if I would like to buy a toyota, and reminding me that it's time to bring my friend's car in for an oil change. Bahwan Toyota usually has any part you can imagine in Stock. Because they seem to have a good system for inventory control they can find your part within say, half an hour.

Tomorrow, Two Jeeps. After the weekend, Two Landrovers, and later next week, A tale of Two Chevys.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

General Update

So, to those of you who celebrate it, Happy Valentines day. I must relate a short story that Stone brought home from work yesterday, regarding Valentines day.



Scene: In the coffee room, with various associates, Stone enters, and overhears two of his more religous coworkers chatting. Coffee in hand Stone wanders over to say hello.

Long beard (LB): So I didn't have it ready for 09:00 But she didn't seem that upset!
Short Dish-Dash (SDD): But she has to present to the board this afternoon!
LB: I know, I thought I really messed up... Why is everybody so happy this morning?
Stone: Hey Guys, how's it going?
SDD: Stone, have you noticed everyone is really happy today?
Stone: Yeah, it's valentines day.
LB and SDD: So?
Stone: Well... you know...Valentines Day?
SDD: No... Um...
Stone: Well, Did you notice almost everybody was late arriving this morning?
LB and SDD: Yeah!
Stone: That's because usually on Valentines Morning you spend extra time with your wife.... You know, In Bed.
LB and SDD: Oooohhhh! <uncomfortable silence>
Stone: Makes you feel a little weird looking at your coworkers...


In other news, a few random thoughts from around here

  1. I note that construction on the Minister of Tourisim's new house seems to have been halted. Is it realted to the investigation of OMRAN? Related to how she obtained the land? Related to the costs of construction and availability of qualified electricians? I have no idea.
  2. Stone suggested that we spend a romantic valentine's evening at the pub watching rugby. Despite this, I love him dearly.
  3. I am such an awesome wife, that I volunteered to cook the kids dinner and put them to bed so he could go watch rugby with the boys at the pub. .
  4. I got all four cars reinsured 3rd party. Stone's small, light 3.2 litre sports car cost RO170. My 6.0 liter, 2.5 ton extra-wide, extra-long tank which could take out a schoolbus if I let my attention wander for even a second, cost RO 65. WTF?

More soon, I really do want to publish a few used car reviews, but just have not had time.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Why I am an Idiot, #2

Read below, a short Vignette which is typical of my attemtpts to socialize with Adults.

We were invited to attend a lovely party last night. The great and the good of Muscat were attending, and I was super excited to go and put my best foot forward.

The theme for the party was black and white. I agonized all day about what sort of costume to wear. Should I go as a Domino? A Zebra? A bride? Ultimately, I decided to go as a Chef.

I Whipped out my lovely Chef's Jacket with my name embroidered on the front, I found some black pinstriped trousers, a super sexy long black apron with red accents, and put a black sharpie marker in the pocket for the final flourish.

Stone said I looked gorgeous, and truth be told I did look really pretty.

To my great horror and profound embarassment, It wasn't a Costume party. Everyone else was in black or white Ballgowns.

aargh.