Wednesday, May 31, 2006
A colleague introduced me to this website a couple of days ago, and it's amazing!
According to the website, We feel fine is an "exploration of human emotion on a global scale".
An extract from their mission statement:
Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling".
The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 - 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? What were people feeling on Valentine's Day? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.
Isn't this the coolest thing? You can search the harvested feelings through a series of "movements", formed by "particles". Each particle represents a feeling posted by an individual.
You have to check it out! www.wefeelfine.org
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I recently got a credit card renewal payment notice from my bank in Canada. But the thing is, I had cancelled my credit card before I moved here.
So I call my bank...(they even have a collect number! I didn't even have to pay long distance charges). The customer service rep was very friendly, asked for my credit card number, my date of birth, and my credit limit.
She apologized for the card not having been cancelled, said she would cancel it right away, and that she would reverse the charges so I didn't have to pay anything.
The whole process took 3 minutes of my time. Amazing!
Now that's what I call customer service! Something all banks in the UAE should learn about.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
On several occasions I've gone to some places in Abu Dhabi and Dubai where, as soon as I pull up to the entrance, I hear "no more valet", and I get asked to keep driving, and to find my own parking spot.
See, if there were empty spots, then I wouldn't need valet parking now would I??
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Let me start with the language: in Barcelona, they speak Catalan, one of 4 official languages in Spain. The other main language is Castillian, spoken by 74% of the population (versus 17% who speak Catalan).
I had no clue that these two languages were so different! I learned Castillian Spanish in high school (and I also took some courses in university), and although my Spanish is now very rusty due to lack of practice, I still understand most of it and can put a sentence together (albeit very slowly!). But even my limited knowledge of Spanish was pretty much useless in Barcelona.
Anyway, after disembarking from the ship, we dropped our bags off at the hotel and took one of those touristic hop-on/hop-off buses that take you to the city's important sites. We started off at the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic), next to the Plaça Catalunya. We visited the impressive Barcelona Cathedral, which started being built in 1298 and was completed in 1459.
After a brief stop at Plaça Catalunya, we headed off to the Sagrada Familia, while enjoying some Gaudi architecture along the way. Here's a picture of La Pedrera (Casa Milà), built between 1906 and 1910. The building (which has no straight walls or corners) is simply stunning.
We then stopped to visit the Sagrada Familia Basilica. Impressive does not beging to qualify this basilica, which, believe it or not, is still under construction. Gaudi began work on the basilica in the 1880's. He worked on the project for 40 years, and after he passed away in 1926, work on the Basilica continued with new architects taking over Gaudi's labor of love. The intricate carvings and the massive scope of the project are breathtaking.
The Sagrada Familia is expected to be finished by 2026, which also coincides with the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.
We then headed off to a part of Barcelona called Gracia, and decided to stop for some lunch. We had a few tapas, and as we walked out of the restaurant, my father got pickpocketed. We had been warned about pickpocketers in Barcelona, and we really felt that we had taken all our precautions, but these thieves have mastered the art of fooling unsuspecting tourists...and we fell for it!
Needless to say, this put a damper on our day, as we spent the next couple of hours calling credit card companies, and trying to find a police station to report the theft. We finally found one and managed to file a report.
By that point, I was exhausted and upset, so we decided to take the tour bus again to head back to the hotel. I had every intention of visiting Las Ramblas, the famous street at the heart of Barcelona, but all I wanted was to get back to the hotel and relax, which is what we ended up doing.
Despite all that happened, I still loved Barcelona. It's a gorgeous city and I could definitely see myself living there someday! One thing's for sure, I will make it a point to visit again to check out the places we didn't get to see this time around.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
OK...I know I promised a Barcelona post, but this will take me some time to write, and right now, I just don't have enough energy, creativity or patience to do so.
But I did want to say that I'm very very happy to now be part of the toot community.
Some of you must be wondering what toot is. According to their website, the toot story began in September 2005 when 4 friends decided to set up a website that featured handpicked blogs from the Arab world.
I discovered quite a few fascinating blogs thanks to toot, and I encourage you all to check the website out. It is updated on a regular basis, several times a day, with interesting posts as well as the most recent posts from the 119 blogs that are featured on toot.
And while you're checking it out, why not take a minute to vote for my blog :) OK, OK, I promise: this is the only time I will ask you to vote, and I will not shamelessly campaign for votes...unlike some of my fellow bloggers....(yes Keefie....you!)
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
As many of you guessed from my previous post, I did, in fact, go to Barcelona. But I didn't spend all my time in Barcelona.
My father, who is a travel agent, got invited on a 2-day trip to check out the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Voyager of the seas, and he took me along with him.
I had never been on a cruise ship before, and I must admit that I was impressed. First of all, that thing is huge! With more than 1000 feet in length, weighing in at 138,000 tonnes, and with a passenger capacity of more than 3000, it's really like a floating city.
There is enough entertainment to keep you busy at all hours of the day (and night!).
The first day, we tried to explore as much of the ship as we possibly could. It has 15 decks! There are countless bars and restaurants (including a Johnny Rocket's and a Ben and Jerry's!), shops where you can find everything from souvenirs to clothes, from perfume to jewellery, a libary, a casino, a theater which seats 1,350 people (it's called La Scala, just like the famous theater in Italy, which it was inspired from), an ice rink (yep, an ice rink!!), a mini-golf course, a rock-climbing wall, a gym/spa, and a basketball court among others!
The pool deck
The rock-climbing wall
We set sail at around 10:30 that first night, and about an hour later, we were delighted with a fabulous 15-minutes fireworks show. Before that, we had attended an ice-skating show, which was excellent.
The ice skating rink
The next day, we had the morning and afternoon free, so we were able to explore more of the ship, especially the few suites that were available for us to visit. The Royal Suite was absolutely magnificent, with a grand piano, a bar, a flat-screen TV, and a hot tub on the balcony. No one would ever want to leave that room! Our room was much, much smaller of course, and the bathroom was so tiny, I was just happy to be able to fit in the shower!
The grand piano in the Royal Suite
On our second evening, we were invited to a formal dinner at the main dining room, after which we attended a Broadway-type show at the La Scala theater. The performers were excellent.
The La Scala theater
On both evenings, there was a small parade right before midnight, with staff performing all along the Royal Promenade, the ship's main deck. Then, we had the choice of going to one of the many bars and clubs on the ship, which offered various forms of entertainment (Jazz music, merengue competition, Karaoke performances, sports bar, champagne bar, etc.).
We docked in Barcelona early on the 3rd morning, and dis-embarked after a quick breakfast.
The staff was very professional, smiling and helpful. And although it may sound like a dream job, I'm sure their work conditions are not the easiest. They spend 6 months on the ship then get 2 months off. They work long hours and often have to work in more than one venue. And although I did not see their rooms, I'm pretty sure they're extremely small.
All in all, it was a very well-organised trip and a once in a lifetime experience. Before heading back to Dubai, we spent a day in Barcelona, which I will write about in the next post. Now, I need to try to catch up on some much-needed sleep!
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
Yersterday I was driving on Sheikh Zayed Road, and at one point, traffic was extremely slow. I thought it was probably either another accident, or just the beginning of the rush-hour jam. After about 10 minutes or so of stop-start driving, the cause of the jam was revealed: shoes.
There were shoes scattered on the road. Black shoes. No heels. All the same model. About a dozen or so pairs, just lying there, getting run over by cars.
I don't know how those shoes ended up there, I guess the truck that was carrying them dropped them somehow, or maybe it had gotten into an accident earlier. I just thought it was odd to see so many pairs of the same shoe on the road like that.
And no, they weren't my kind of shoes.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Last night, the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi hosted Dr. Suad Amiry, the author of Sharon and my mother-in-law: Ramallah diaries, an autobiographical account of her life in Ramallah.
This is not a political novel. In fact, the novel itself started out as e-mails Suad used to send to her friends across the world, to tell them about her life in Ramallah, the struggles she has to go through on a daily basis, the curfews, the roadblocks, the ID's, the challenge of living with her mother-in-law, and the trials and tribulations of her tiny dog Nura.
Some of Suad's friends then suggested she publish these e-mails, and the rest, as they say, is history. Witty and sad, entertaining and maddening, this book is a must-read.
I actually came across the book a couple of years ago on one of my many trips back to Montreal. I was in the Abu Dhabi airport duty-free looking for something to keep me entertained on the long flight ahead, and bought this book, without having heard about the author or the book before. I couldn't put it down and I had finished the book by the time I landed in Montreal. So when I heard that Dr. Amiry was coming to Abu Dhabi, I made it a point to attend the conference (and to get my book signed by her!).
Dr. Amiry is actually an architect by profession, and is the director of Riwaq, a non-profit organisation whose aim is to protect architectural heritage in Palestine.
A great cause and a great book. Check them both out.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Sometime between yesterday evening and this morning, my stats counter turned into a 5-digit number. Yes, I hit the 10,000 mark almost 7 months after I began this blog. Woohoo!
Keep visiting, keep commenting, and I'll keep writing :)
Thank you....[solemn tone, single tear rolling down the right cheek]...thank you.
Friday, May 12, 2006
A few months ago, it was Brokeback Mountain. Then, to a certain extent, Syriana. And now, it's the Da Vinci Code.
The debate around these movies has been endless, spurring many a Letter to the editor in 6Days. The Da Vinci Code movie will be coming out here at the end of the month, with only one scene deleted (the part where the Albino goes to church and gets naked. I read the book a couple of years ago and don't remember that particular part with the Albino. I think I should re-read the book before the movie comes out. Or maybe after I've seen the movie, so I can watch it without comparing it to a freshly read book. We'll see.)
Anyway, going back to the Da Vinci Code movie: some people want to see it, others say it is offensive and should be banned from movie theaters. In Jordan, both the movie and the book are banned.
It's all pretty stupid if you ask me. Whether it be Brokeback Mountain, or Syriana, or Da Vinci Code, there's really no need to ban movies. We are all adults, we can all think for ourselves, and we can all make our own decisions. If I believe a movie will offend me, then I simply won't watch it. Period.
I, for example, don't like scary movies. I simply don't get the same kind of thrill out of them as some people do. Sure, there are exceptions (like the Sixth Sense for example, which I loved), but in general, I make it a point to not watch horror flicks.
Now, imagine if all the people who get freaked out by horror movies started complaining about whether they should be aired here or not. And then the censor guys decide not to play any horror flicks in cinemas here because a small section of the population hates them....
Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Well, so is banning any other movie.
Those who are opposing the airing of the Da Vinci Code should keep in mind that this is a work of fiction. It has been proven that many of the concepts Dan Brown writes about are made up. So everyone needs to just chill out and let each person decide for him or herself whether the movie is worth watching or not.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Abu Dhabi will have its own metro system that will be linked up to the Dubai metro system. This means easier travel between the two emirates.
In theory, this sounds great! I, for one, would love to hop on to a train every weekend to go to Abu Dhabi, instead of having to take my car.
But this will depend on a lot of things. Where will the stations be? How crowded will the trains be? How convenient are the timings? How quick are these trains? How much will the trips cost?
I guess we'll just have to wait and see how this whole metro project works out.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
The Cosby show: I used to love watching that show. I actually remember the first time I saw an episode, it was on Abu Dhabi Channel 2 (we didn't have Orbit or Showtime back then, and there were only 3 channels: Abu Dhabi 1's Arabic shows, Abu Dhabi 2's English shows, and Dubai's Channel 33 which now became One TV)
Three's Company: The first time I saw this show was in Vienna at my uncle's place. He had recorded a few episodes, and my siblings and I could not stop watching! We'd watch the same few episodes over and over and over again. I should try to look for episodes I've never seen before.
Charles in charge: I think I just had a crush on Scott Baio. The show was good too...well, back then it was good. Keep in mind that I was probably around 11-12 years old when I watched that show.
Mind your language: One of the funniest shows ever! I recently discovered that there are DVDs of this show and bought all the ones that were available. And I still laugh out loud at some of the episodes.
Friends: I can safely say that I have seen every single episode of Friends. And that I have seen many of them several times. When the show was still on, we'd sit and watch Friends every Thursday night at 8PM. Religiously. It was sacred.
Sex and the City: One of the best shows I have ever seen. Funny, witty and smart with great acting. This was a show that pushed the envelope. I can also safely say that I have seen every single episode of Sex and the City.
ER: I miss this show so much. Ever since I moved to Dubai, I haven't seen a single new episode. I have caught a few of the older episodes, when George Clooney was still on the show, but not the newer ones. I don't even know if the newer episodes are airing here.
Lost: This show is really good. Every episode ends with a cliffhanger that keeps you coming back for more. Season 2 started off slow, but now it's picked up again and the last couple of episodes were amazing!
Oprah: She is the queen of talk shows. I love watching her and I really think that she is an inspiration to all women.
OK that's all I can think of right now. Now your turn. What are your favorite shows?
Sunday, May 07, 2006
What's the first thing I do when I get home after a day outside the house and outside the office? I log on to the net, check my e-mails, and browse some blogs and other websites. It's like I feel disconnected from the world when a day goes by without me checking my e-mail once.
It's the same when I am on holiday. I have been to a couple of places where Internet access was limited, so I could only check my e-mail once in a while. It annoyed me! It's like I didn't know what to do with myself when I was indoors.
I remember one holiday where, after a couple of Internet-free weeks, my sister and I went to a relative's place who did have an Internet connection....and it was like we had found a pot of gold or something! We were so happy, we even argued about who got to log on first!
Am I addicted to the Internet?
Saturday, May 06, 2006
I had a doctor's appointment last Thursday at around lunchtime. I was there exactly 2 minutes before my appointment. I filled out the form and sat down. And I waited. And waited. And waited.
At one point I realised that the doctor wasn't even in her office! So I asked one of the nurses who tells me "yes madam, she is in the elvator now". That was around 40 minutes after my appointment time!
Why did the clinic give me an appointment if the doctor was not even going to be in her office at the time? I'm sorry, but my time is precious (especially when I take time off work to go to this appointment) and I made it a point to show up on time, so why can't the doctor also make an effort?
This phenomenon is obviously not UAE-specific. In Montreal, I used to get my nails done at a small salon down the street from where I lived. I'd always call ahead and make an appointment, and one out of two times, I'd have to wait anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes before finally getting my manicure!
Waiting at an appointment is definitely one of my pet peeves!
Thursday, May 04, 2006
So.....I left work relatively early today (woohoo!) and I am just gonna hang out at home for a bit, then later on, head over to a par-taaaay (if I manage to stay up for that).
What are you guys up to this weekend?
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
It's been almost a year since I've moved to my apartment, and I have yet to receive a single TV or Internet bill. No kidding.
Now, the thing is, I am an Orbit subscriber and I now want to switch to Showtime (I couldn't do it before because they wanted me to pay Dhs 500 to switch before the end of my contract). And now I am worried that, when I do make the switch, they'll find out about my year-long free ride and that they'll charge me for the past 12 months.
I am not being dishonest. I did mention my bill-less problem to Sahm/DIC a couple of times, and I was told "not to worry". And I do get my phone bills, so I know that I exists somewhere on their system. Is there no one to track these things?
And if I do get 12 months' worth of payments due all at once, is there any sort of regulation protecting me? I mean, if I were running a company here, and my supplier did not send me any invoices in over a year, then I would simply not pay him...it's his loss! Is it the same situation here?
What should I do? Any advice?
Monday, May 01, 2006
The Constant Gardener, with Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes is about a widower trying to uncover the secret behind his wife's brutal murder. What looks like a crime of passion is in fact a murder for the sake of hiding political and corporate conspiracies.
Rachel Weisz won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in this movie and she deserved it because she really does an incredible job. As for Ralph Fiennes, I've always liked him, and he is also excellent in his role.
I believe that any movie that makes me think is a good movie, and this movie definitely made me think. It made me think about how often this sort of thing happens, how often are poor countries exploited? How often are Western countries pocketing billions of dollars at the expense of poor, desperate people?
I also watched Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran a couple of months ago It's a French movie with Omar El Sharif playing the role of Monsieur Ibrahim, the Turkish owner of a grocery store in a poor Paris neighborhood, who befriends a young Jewish teenager called Moises (also known as Momo). The bond between the two grows and they both end up having a deep respect for each other.
This is a sweet, lovely movie that's very touching. If you need a break from overrated American blockbusters, then this is a great choice. And don't be deterred by the fact that it's in French...put the subtitles on!
So there you have it....if you don't know what to do this weekend, head to the movie rental place!