This picture was taken by me in Greifswald, Germany last June.
...and this one of almost the same scene was
taken found on the internet by my friend Kathrin this December
This year?s third round of my Middle East student recruitment forays involved a trip to the UAE. Landed in Dubai to discover that the Hilton, responsible for arranging my visa, has ?slightly? screwed up and sent it to Abu Dhabi airport instead of Dubai. The good news is that the distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a little over an hour by car, so they sent it over in a taxi. No problem, its just another couple of hours in an airport.
Dubai is a city bathing in its own vanity. But there is somewhat of an artificial vibe about the whole place. Day one is a free day. What do you do with a free day in Dubai? Mission one: get a new digital camera to replace my Casio which recently met its untimely demise. Called up the shop to make sure they had the model I wanted and they delivered it right to my hotel room. I booked a 4×4 desert safari, where they take you on an offroad “adventure” drive through the desert in a large Land Cruiser, the they let you loose on a quadrunner, followed by dinner in the desert. Normally I would not partake in this kind of herded mass tourimsm, but it was better than spending the whole day in my hotel room.
So I got in the 4×4 with an elderly couple from scotland, a chinese business man and one crazy driver. After a 15-minute drive (on-road), the driver stopped, got out and said “20 minutes break”. WTF?! Break from what? Turns out this was a meeting point for other cars to convene and go off-road together.
After the “break” was over, we got back into the Land Cruiser, and the 4×4 convoy went off-road. It was then that our driver, with a big grin on his face, said “ready?”. Without waiting for an answer, he put the gas pedal to the floor. We went up, down, around and over the sand dunes, the driver making turns with as much speed as possible, kicking up sand and often jumping off the top of the dunes. I thought it was pretty cool, but the elderly couple in the back seat almost shit their pants. The one who seemed to be really enjoying himself was the driver. He was consumed in a shroud of adrenaline nirvana, oblivious to the people in the backseat who were about to hurl their lunch on me and him. Then he suddenly stopped on top of a very large and extremely steep dune, that’s when I realized how far we were from the rest of the cars. He gunned the engine while I thought to myself “He is not going down that dune at this angle…” Which he precicely did. The dune went down at at least a 70 degree angle, with a tilt angle of at least 45 degrees. The two right hand side wheels where almost in the air, going extremely fast down then up again as the dune formed a halfpipe-like shape with another one. The 3-ton monster caught air as we wnt off the top of the second dune.
With the front two wheels in the air, there was almost no way the driver could steer clear of the other car that suddenly appeard on the other side of the dune unless the driver of the other car quickly responded. Thankfully, he did. The maniac driver was laughing, the scottish couple were red faced, and the chinese almost fainted.
We finally got to the camp site, and it was quadrunner time. It was my turn to go crazy. Anyone going slower than I was on my demonic machine suffered the wrath of the sand spray kicked up by my rear wheels. Here are some pics of yours truely in action.
What followed was dinner, shisha and a bellydancing show. Back in the city, I went to the monolithic Mall of Emirates to check out the ski slope they have in there. Yeah, they built a friggin ski slope inside the mall, with real snow, a ski lift and everything. I signed up for a snowboarding lesson, which was great after about an hour of falling flat on my ass.
On my way out I somehowe wandered into the entertainment section of the mall. I saw a climbing wall and decided to give it a go to round off a day of extreme sports. There were three sections, easy (for wimps), medium and hard. I thought I’d warm up on the medium then I’d be steaming up the hard section. I scaled the medium section effortlessly, twice. Then I saluted the crowds and went for the hard section. Except the hard section turned out to be harder than I thought, and the only thing keeping me from falling spreadeagled face down was the saftey harness. My arms burned out on the medium section, okay!
Today in my International Business class (usually 120 minutes of pure, distilled boredom, but this particular class was rather interesting) the discussion revolved around the relative ease of starting and/or operating a business in different countries, and how you, as an international entrepreneur, might use indicators of transparency and ease of doing business to gauge any potential market before you actually jump in. So everyone was getting all sophisticated with cliche-ridden business lingo and citing outdated cases, when a student who usually spends most of class time almost sleeping came up with this “theory”: He basically said that when doing business in Third World countires, you should be looking for places where there is direct parallel correlation between the two above mentioned indicies. In other words, ideally you’d like to do business in countries which are high on both indicies (i.e. little or no corruption and a low level of bureaucracy), but you can still do business in countries with a high level of corruption and a high level of bureaucracy, since a little greasing of the palms will help get things rolling. However, should your business be cornered somewhere that scores high on one and low on the other will basically screw you. That is, in a low-corruption high bureaucracy country, that frozen fish shipment of yours will rot in its containers at the destination port while waiting for the agonizing customs clearance, and you can’t use bribes to get things done, thus your operations will eventually go belly up.
I thought this observation was funny and actually kind of true. Of course this guy was thinking on the assumption that business ethics are a constant.
My dog has a thing for rocks…
Idly browsing the Internet these days makes me feel like I was sleeping in a virtual cave for the past few months (which is an eternity in Internet time) and woke up in the new and improved world of Web 2.0 to see all those newfangled implements seemingly stuck at a perpetual beta (how may betas can you count in the above logo collage by the way?), where social software is king, and rss, rich media and Ajax programming are all the rage.
So I run from sign-up page to another, eager to benefit from all that Web 2.0 goodness, with apps that do everything from photo sharing to online to-do lists. Not all that shines is Web 2.0 though, many apps are all filler no killer, making me regret that 30 seconds I spent filling up the sign-up form. Sifting through the junk, here is what I think are some both cool and useful web apps, with some being higher on the cool than useful scale.
Now all I am missing is a website to do my laundry and fix me breakfast.
So lately I’ve acquired a taste for the frighful critter of ze deep. Forget about shark fin soup and all that gourmet crap. I know it is considered some kind of exotic food in the rest of the world, and that in some parts of the world it is commercialy fished in crazy numbers (Costa Rica reportedly processes 235,000 sharks a month 1). Over here its pretty cheap becuase there is not much demand on it. When I offered my friends some they wrinkled their nose and gave me that “are you serious?” look. So if any conservationists are reading this, relax…I don’t take the fins and dispose of a finless carcass, I eat the whole thing, and I don’t eat any kind of “fancy” sharks, like the dusky, white-tip or whatever. I buy your average, garden variety, “generic” shark, And I don’t do it like everyday, okay?
So, why do I like shark?
Well, it tastes good. Nothing beats half a kilogram of fried/grilled pure muscle tissue. There is a whole bunch of ways to cook shark meat. And remember, if you screw up the recipie, you can always set things straight with a little (or a lot of) soy sauce magic. It doesn’t have the pesky pin bones found in other kinds of fish, it is 100% muscle and cartilage around a single bony spine. Supposedly there are some active enzymes in shark meat that counteract cancer 2. And, the ultimate benefit of eating shark: if you are a diver like me, now sharks are scared to come anywhere near you, becuase you’ve aquired this demonic shark energy from devouring the peers of the beasts of the aquatic netherworld. Kind of like some parts of Africa where they believe that you derive the ferociousness of, say, a lion by eating its heart or liver or whatever organ wets your appetite (you have do eat it raw for full effect).
You are what you eat, right? You don’t want to mess with me now.
Comrade blogger Mike put me on to YouTube.com, basically its kind of like Flickr for video. Pretty cool. So I am trying it out with posting a video of myself displaying my amazing foot dribbling skills on the beach in Muscat, Oman, from last March. (I actually did about 12 dribbles, but how many can YOU do?!)
Video courtesy of Mike
With the icy coolness and steel-nerved agility of a seasoned Cairene urban warrior, Mike dodges a close call with death as he demonstrates the proper way to
kill yourself cross a main street in downtown Cairo…
Reiterating my rant on Cairo traffic from last April, driving and crossing the street in Cairo are awesome skills that Cairenes don’t actually think about until they witness a non-Cairene (try to) perform.