Thursday, August 21, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane...

...for a 10-day vacation (and to attend a good friend's wedding). Blogging during this period will be minimal to non-existant....

See you in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Great books

I've mentioned reading The Namesake before, and it was a great book. When I was on holiday, I saw a book by the same author called Unaccustomed Earth, and decided to buy it. Just like her first book, Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of short stories. I loved it. And I absolutely recommend it to anyone out there.

Within the span of a few pages, the author managed to get me hooked on the characters, transport me to another world, immerse me in their lives, and made me so attached to them, I didn't want the story to end. But then story did end, and I'd move on to the next one, and just like that, I'd become part of another set of character's lives and stories. Pure reading pleasure.

After I finished reading Unaccustomed Earth, I decided to get her first book, Interpreter of Maladies, which was also an excellent read.

And now, I can't wait for her next book to come out!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So what else was fake?

First we find out about some of the fireworks being fake at the end of the Olympics ceremony, to ensure better visibility according to the Beijing Times:

...members of the Beijing Olympic Committee said it was necessary to replace live video with computer-generated imagery because the city’s hazy, smoggy skies made it too difficult to see, according to The Beijing Times, which first reported the story.

And now, we find out that the little girl that sang during the ceremony did not really sing at all...She was used because she was cute, cuddly and lovable, but it was another -not so photogenic apparently- girl's voice that we heard.

While I may understand about the fireworks, I'm a bit disturbed by the little girl story... That's just so wrong!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Self-service gas stations

Apparently some ENOC gas stations have become self-service stations starting today. When I first read about this about a week ago, my initial thought was "oh...the UAE has finally discovered the notion of self-service"....

Having lived in Montreal, I'm used to serving myself at gas stations...No biggie...right? OK so I'll have to get out of my car, fill up my gas, then walk up to the store to pay for it...In a way, I'd much rather that than wait 3 minutes until the attendant is available to fill up my fuel, then wait another 3 minutes after my car's filled up for him to come take my money. Eventually, this will benefit the gas stations because they'll be able to fill up more gas for more cars.

But it seems that some people are completely against the idea for many reasons...One of them is the heat: getting out of the car, in the heat, to fill up gas, is not exactly enchanting some people... Not sure if this is a valid enough reason though, I mean, temperatures DO reach -30 in Montreal, and yet people still get out of their cars to fill up gas.

One thing that would be a deterrent to me is the payment system, which is just backwards! Here's how it's going to work:
- You pay the amount you'd like to fill up at the store
- You then proceed to fill up your car
- The pump will automatically stop once it reaches the amount you've paid for
- If you fill up less than you've paid, you get refunded for the balance

Complicated if you ask me! How am I supposed to know how much I need to pay if I'd like to fill up my gas tank, but it's not quite empty? And why the inconvenience of having to go to the counter TWICE if I've paid too much? Why can't gas stations follow the North American system of filling up your tank, paying then leaving? Or better yet, you stick your debit/credit card into the pump, and it automatically deducts the amount?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More metro developments

As I was driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai this morning, I noticed a bridge that crossed Sheikh Zayed road... It surprised me a bit because I didn't recall seeing it last week...but then again, I could have been distracted or not really paying attention to my surroundings.

But then I read this article and it explained it all!

It seems that I wasn't so distracted after all, and that the bridge was practically installed overnight! Pretty amazing:

The approved installation method involves full pre-assembly of the footbridge including the main structure of the bridge, the external cladding, internal fixtures and finishes, and electrical and mechanical items.

I had also always wondered how people would get from one side of Sheikh Zayed road to the other when taking the metro...and now I know :) One more question remains: how will people get to wherever it is they need to get to once they've stopped at a station? So say, for example, I take the metro and I stop at the Greens station....I then need to get to my place which is around 6 streets away...Now I know 6 streets doesn't sound like much, but keep in mind that:
a) Streets are pretty big here
b) Temperatures are unbearable in the summer

Will there be shuttle buses? How will this work?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Random stuff

Been back from my vacation for around 3 weeks now, and it feels like I've never left! Good thing I have anoter small vacation coming up in 3 weeks...Yay!

A few random things that I just want to get off my chest:

- Damn it's hot! Is it just me, or has it gotten hotter and more humid MUCH earlier this year compared to previous years? I mean, I remember that in previous years, it was the months of August and September that were really bad.... Maybe we just forget!

- I am sick and tired of the fact that the exit that leads to the Greens, which is where I live, is the last free exit before Salik. This means that all the construction vehicles go through it to avoid paying 4Dhs, because the companies they work for are probably too cheap to pay the Salik tolls. This means that traffic at the entrance of the Greens usually moves at snail's pace, at any given time. Last time, I got stuck there for 30 minutes at 8:30PM! There's not supposed to be any traffic at 8:30PM!!!

- I've noticed that there are a couple of cars in my car park that have been there for a couple of years now, untouched. It's as if the owners just picked up and left. And the cars are still there, gathering dust. I know that if a car is left untouched for a few months on the main road, cops eventually will tow it away. But what happens to cars in car parks? Who's responsible for them?

- My Du saga is still ongoing. It's gotten worse actually. They cut my line while I was away on holiday. I've called them again twice since I've been back. The problem is unresolved as of yet.

- After living in Dubai for more than 3 years, I had forgotten how it feels when you get great customer service. Especially when it comes to banking. While in Montreal, I had to call my bank there for some information. Here I was thinking I had to get an appointment, go to the bank and spend time with some advisor....But no. All I had to do was speak to a very knowledgeable customer service representative on the phone, who then told me that any transaction I needed to make could be done immediately on the web! A far cry from banking in the UAE, where you have to go the bank to fill up a form to get access to online banking!

- Here's a great thing about living in the UAE: low cost of telecommunications! I got a Montreal number while I was there, and it was so expensive! I wasn't making many calls... only necessary ones to get in touch with friends... But I must have spent around $100 on phone cards in 10 days! Ridiculous! And the other ridiculous thing is that you pay for the calls that you make as well as the calls you receive!!!

- Does anyone know if August 6th is an official day off (the day HH Sheikh Zayed became president in 1966)? I wouldn't mind another long weekend :)

That's it for now. I've rambled enough as it is. Be back soon!